Your path to law school starts with a simple statement; I want to become a lawyer. Once you have set yourself on this path, there are several realizations that you have to make. Firstly, it is a seven year program involving the attainment of a bachelor’s degree in an ABA approved college and later a three year program at an ABA accredited law school to earn you the title of Juris Doctor. You will need to work very hard both in attaining the necessary GPA and LSAT scores followed by three years of studying blind in law school. To top it all off, you will need to take the Bar Exam, which is a rigorous examination that stands between you and legal practice. Not deterred yet? Good. Here are the steps you need to take to achieve your goal of attending law school.
1. Choose Your Major
When deciding to go to law school, many people will opt to go for an “easier undergraduate degree” so as to boost their GPA. One of the most common degrees is a political science degree or a liberal arts degree. This is one way to look at it, however, I never subscribed to such a perspective. If I am going to spend money on an education and spend four years pursuing a degree, I want it to be worth something. I would suggest looking at degrees that can supplement your legal career. I am hoping to get into corporate law. I decided to get a degree in business. Individuals looking to get into Patent law should be aware of the unique requirements to qualify for the patent bar, which is a separate examination for aspiring patent attorneys.
2. Mind Your GPA
You need to be very mindful of your GPA. Applying to law school is a very competitive process. Every grade counts. So, when the decision comes to attend the latest frat party, maybe you should first take the time to study for your upcoming bio midterm.
3. Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)
You need to know this website in and out. This is where you will create your profile. Through this website you will register for you Law School Admissions Test. Then, when the time comes for you to apply to law schools, you will need to register for the Credential Assembly Service. After paying the fee (there are a lot of those) to sign up for this service, you will have a profile created on LSAC. When the time comes to gather your transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, and personal statement, it will all be stored in your profile. You will also be able to fill out the primary and supplementary information forms. These save you a lot of time because when you apply to law schools through LSAC, most of the information on the applications will be pre-filled.
4. Letters of Recommendation
For most schools, you will need two letters of recommendation. These can come from anyone. Some individuals may seek out people of prominence such as local representatives in government and other “important people”. I suggest avoiding this pointless route. You need your letters of recommendation to come from individuals that know you and can attest to your positive qualities, work ethic, and moral fiber. When I was getting my letters of recommendation, I asked one of my law professors from college and a family friend that is a practicing attorney. The first individual was able to note my achievements in the classroom, while the second individual could go into detail about my personal characteristics.
5. Personal Statement
The personal statement required for your law school applications is very important. A lot of people didn’t take their undergraduate personal statements very seriously. A few friends of mine got accepted to the schools of their choice without submitting one. Law school is a whole different ball game. The personal statement is very important. It needs to be well written, formatted, and informative. It needs to tell the audience what makes you a strong candidate and what experiences transformed you into the individual you are. Lastly you need to explain why you would like to go to law school and specifically why you want to go to their law school. I made sure to comment on each separate school’s individual traits. When all was said and done, I had eight separate personal statements, each the same in their contents save for the last paragraph where I outlined the individual characteristic that drew me to that particular school such as their trial advocacy program. You need to treat this statement like an interview. If your statement stands out, it will set you apart from other applicants. I recommend looking at this site for guidelines and examples.
While you are worrying over your GPA, begging for letters of recommendation, and pondering your personal statement, you should be preparing for your Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This is the deciding factor that carries the most weight. You can have a high GPA but if your LSAT score is too low, you will not go to law school. The LSAT is comprised of four sections; logical reasoning, analytic reasoning, reading, and a final writing section (carries no weight on score). The highest score you can get is a 180. This is a timed test, so you need to be able to quickly think on your feet. One way you can prepare is by taking a class. Many people run to take the Kaplan classes, which are very pricey (around $1200). I opted to take the Cambridge prep course offered at my local community college. I would recommend this option. It was only three hundred dollars, had a practice book included in the price, and covered all of the material in five Saturday sessions. Other than the class, it all comes down to practice. You need to drill the material and learn how to answer each problem. Go to Amazon and order a bunch of practice tests and just start doing them, there is not shortcut to this part. One other catch, there isn’t a right answer for a lot of the questions on the test, there is a best answer.
This is it, the final step of the application process. At this point you should have had both letters of recommendation mailed to LSAC by the people writing them. Your most recent transcript should have been sent out to LSAC as well. You should upload each personal statement to each individual application. In addition, it is also advisable to upload a copy of your resume. My only advice regarding the resume is to have it professionally formatted and have it be as specific as possible. My resume noted my participation in the International Shotokan Karate Federation, National Dance Council of America, and United States Ballroom Dancing Association in addition to my work and school experience. The final decision to make is which schools to apply to. Don’t get too crazy. Most of the schools will have an application fee around sixty dollars and LSAC will also charge you a processing fee per application. I applied to eight schools. Make a list and realistically select the schools you want to get into the most. Make the list diverse. Don’t apply to all tier one law schools. Have a few safety schools “just in case”. As a final note, the application deadline is rolling for most of the law schools. Apply early and be ever mindful of application and financial aid deadlines. The best of luck to you all!