Demystifying the Law School Application Process by Kylie Thornburg

Target blog: Her Campus  https://www.hercampus.com 

So, you want to go to law school but have nowhere to start. Whether you were obsessed with Legally Blonde or just love to argue, you’ve decided, like me, that law school is the next step. Lucky for you, almost every law school across the nation follows similar guidelines and has similar application components. Also lucky for you, I have spent hours researching and “demystifying” the process so you don’t have to. In just five steps, you are well on your way to getting that Juris Doctorate and a step closer to having the same career as Elle Woods. Maybe you’ve heard that LSAT and GPA are the end all be all of law school applications, but there are so many other components that go into a stellar application. 

A typical law school application includes: 

  1. Personal Statement
  2. Letters of Recommendation
  3. Resume
  4. Law School Report
  5. LSAT

Write Your Personal Statement 

The personal statement is your chance to show off those writing and storytelling skills. This is not the time to recap everything that’s already in your resume or application. Personal statements range from 1-3 pages, but most are 2 pages in length. Some schools may have specific questions they want to be answered in the personal statement, but it’s mostly open-ended. This is your chance to tell a story about who you are as a person and convince the admissions committee that they should admit you. When telling a personal story, most applicants weave in why they want to go to law school, which lets the admissions committee understand your goal and what led you to apply to their school. It also never hurts to throw in a few sentences about why you are applying to their school. This lets the admissions committee know that you want to attend their law school, and it adds a personal touch that makes your personal statement stand out.

Request Letters of Recommendation

Oh, the dreaded letters of recommendation. Asking for them can sometimes feel like a burden or leave you wondering who to ask. Most law schools will require you to have at least one letter from a professor if you were in college within the past five years. Now, when selecting which professor to ask, consider who can speak on how you perform in the classroom and someone who can write you a positive letter. It’s not enough if the recommender is willing to write a letter, they need to have had a positive experience with you as a student. For me, I chose a boss who knows me very well and can speak on my writing ability and a professor whose class I excelled in. Now, the second letter can typically be any other person who can speak on your work ethic, writing ability, interpersonal skills, job experience, etc. Common recommenders include managers, academic advisors, coaches, or volunteer coordinators. Letters should never be written by family members. In order to better help your chosen recommender, consider providing your resume that they can reference to make their recommendation more specific. Don’t worry, we’ll get into how to perfect your resume next.

Perfect Your Resume 

It’s time to dust off your resume because some law schools will require it as part of your application. Now, a stellar resume is one that is concise (no more than a page) and specific. Include strong action verbs for each bullet point under your job experiences and include as many statistics as possible. Instead of saying you “managed a large group”, say “oversaw a group of more than 50 members”. A resume is also a good opportunity to highlight any prior volunteer experiences and relevant courses. 

Compile Your Law School Report

The Law School Report is compiled using Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This service assembles your transcripts and letters of recommendation and sends them to each of the law schools you want to apply to. CAS currently costs $195 for access to the service and a fee of $45 for each law school report it generates. Almost all law schools require applicants to send their application materials through CAS, so it is definitely something to budget for when considering the costs associated with applying to law school. Some students may qualify for fee waivers.

Take the LSAT

LSAT. LSAT. LSAT. When most think of law school applications, the LSAT is the first component that comes to mind. Yes, the LSAT is important but there are so many other factors that lead to an acceptance from a law school. The LSAT is broken up into 4 different sections, which are: 

  • Analytical Reasoning 
  • Logical Reasoning 
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing Sample

In addition to these four sections, there is a fifth, unscored section that is included in each LSAT exam that tests out potential future questions. The fifth section isn’t labeled, so it is important to give your all on each section of the LSAT because you won’t know which one will be unscored. LSAT scores range from 120-180, and the exam takes approximately 3 hours (each section is 35 minutes). Sign-ups for the LSAT begin 3 months prior to the exam date, but it’s recommended you sign up at least a month in advance to secure your spot. Now, you may be wondering how to get that 179 that Elle Woods received in Legally Blonde. There are so many options for test prep, but Khan Academy is one of the most popular. It is free, provides full-length practice tests, and is an official LSAT prep program. As the Vice President of Law Society at my university, I host LSAT prep meetings, and Khan Academy is the preferred method of studying for almost all members. I mean, who doesn’t love confetti when they get a practice problem correct?

And that’s it! Each law school will have different requirements for its applicants, but almost all will include these 5 components. Your LSAT score and GPA aren’t the only factors in the admissions process. With a concise resume, glowing letters of recommendation, and an inspiring personal statement, you are well on your way to a superb application. In the words of Elle Woods, we did it!!

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