Tips for Applying for Law School
- Personal Statement
- Letters of Recommendation
- Undergraduate Transcripts
- Be Ready to Take the LSAT
- Register with LSAC
- Get Your Application in by Thanksgiving
Advice about the Law School Application Process
By Larry Hayman
Pre-Law Advisor & Specialist in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture
Obtaining admission into law school is no easy feat. This page gives you general information. However, this page is not a substitute for meeting with a pre-law adviser who can assist you with your specific applications. Further, please consult the Pre-Law Student Timetable. The information on this page contemplates that you will have already taken most, if not all, of the steps on the timetable.
Submit your full and completed applications to law school early, this cannot be overstated. Law schools operate on a rolling admission process. This means they continually admit students as they receive applications from the fall, generally through the early spring. There are many more spaces (and scholarship money!) available for students in November than in late winter. A student with excellent GPA and LSAT score often is denied admission because the law school received the application in February, while a student with lower credentials who applied early is admitted with scholarships. You literally lose out by procrastinating. Plan to submit your applications no later than the Friday after Thanksgiving. Of course, most law schools will accept applications through February or March. However, early applications ensure the best chances of acceptance.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is a nonprofit organization of over 200 law schools across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Before you are able to take the LSAT, you are required to register with LSAC. This may be done on the LSAC website. Once you are registered, you are able to schedule your LSAT administration. In addition to administering the LSAT, LSAC collects all materials necessary for you to apply to law schools—personal statement, transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume, and LSAT score. LSAC sends these to law schools that you direct it to. An LSAC account is good for three years.
One of the most important factors about where you will be admitted to law school, and whether you are likely to receive scholarships, is how well you do on the LSAT. The LSAT, unlike most admissions tests, does not test knowledge. Rather, the LSAT tests skills—logic, reasoning, and reading skills under timed conditions. Because this is such an unusual test, many students find that they are ill-equipped to study for it themselves, so they take a test-preparation course. Some students are able to study effectively for it themselves. It comes down to the type of student you are. If you know you need the structure of a formal course, and can afford to, take the course. If you know you are able to obtain some books from the library and study on your own, you are able to save resources this way. Either way, take the LSAT to take it once. Do not take it until you have spent an extensive amount of time studying for it. It is far too important of a test to “wing it.” Read more information about the LSAT.
All undergraduate transcripts are provided to LSAC and go to law schools with your completed law school applications. All coursework, whether performed at Ohio University or elsewhere, will be seen and considered by LSAC. That is, if you retake a class at Ohio University, you will generally receive the higher grade if you do better. However, LSAC considers both grades in your GPA. Thus, your OHIO GPA and your LSAC GPA may be different.
Law schools require two to three letters of recommendation per applicant. It is important to start planning who will write your letters long before you need them. If you are in school or recently graduated, at least two should come from faculty members who have had an opportunity to observe and rate your performance. I recommend that all potential law students begin developing relationships with faculty members by their sophomore year. Students should also save work (exams, papers) that they have completed for a particular faculty members course. This makes it easier for the faculty member to write the letter when the time comes. A third letter writer can be someone other than faculty. However, law schools are looking for the following criteria in applicants: problem-solving skills, organizational skills, critical thinking ability, ability to write clearly and concisely, oral communication skills, and ability to research. Make sure that you choose letter writers who are able to advocate for you with respect to these skills.
These days, almost all law school applications are online. Many of them follow a similar format. Some of them are different. Some ask certain questions one way and some ask the questions differently. As in law school and legal practice, the words used are important. If you do not understand a question, please seek clarification. It is a good idea to start reviewing some law school applications early in the process. However, no applications will be considered by law schools until all information is received, including LSAT score, personal statement, transcript, and letters of recommendation.
The personal statement is your opportunity to tell the law school admissions officers about you. It should be personal. It should advocate for your admission into law school, though perhaps not directly. This is your opportunity to tell admissions officers why you want to be a lawyer. What adversity have you overcome on your journey? Was there a particular event that lead you to apply to law school?
Practically, the personal statement should be between two to three pages. Some schools give you a word limit, some a page limit, some no guidance. Some schools will give you a writing prompt. Some will not. It is very important to pay particular attention to each school’s requirements.
The Center for Law, Justice & Culture hosts workshops on writing a personal statement. Please plan on attending one your junior year and one your senior year.
Keep it to one page. Despite what Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) may say, do not used non-traditional fonts or colors. You are applying to a professional school. Keep it professional.
Use standard headings. A good rule of thumb is 5 or 6 headings. Do not make “objective” one of them. They know you are trying to gain admission into law school. This merely eats up valuable space. These should consist of your contact information at the top, including name, address, telephone number, and email address. Make sure to use a professional email address. You should also list Education, Experience, Extracurricular Activities, and Honors/Awards.
As with everything else in your law school application, make sure that everything that you list is accurate. The last place you want to be is before a committee of law school officials, lawyers, or LSAC officials answering questions about errors and omissions in your application.
The Center for Law, Justice & Culture hosts workshops on writing a resume. Please plan on attending one your junior year and one your senior year.