Applying to get into a US law school is a long and strenuous process but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it easier by planning ahead. In fact, in many cases it’s necessary to prepare in advance for the different parts of a law school application. This article is to help break down the different parts and when you should ideally start preparing for each one.
It is important to note that most law school applications open in late summer (August/September) and are due mostly by mid February to March. The summer before your application is a crucial time for your application.
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What Majors Do you Need to get into a US Law School
Any! You could be anything from a Biology to a History major. Law schools are known for taking all types of students, so do not let choosing a major in undergraduate be dedicated to a more traditional major for law school like political science. It will only help you to choose a major you are passionate about and know you will excel in.
When to Go To Law School
Figuring out when to go to law school is an integral part of the application process. Though there are pros and cons to both sides, generally taking a gap year or two can be a great option. A recent statistic by Yale Law School shows that only 8% of the accepted applicants came straight from law school.
Though experience is not required for law school it is highly encouraged. Taking a gap after undergraduate school not only gives you a break from being a student but also gives you an opportunity to earn experience and make money for law school (because tuition can be a huge financial burden). By working you can also gain more experience to offset any negatives from any other part of your application like your GPA or LSAT. You’d also have more time to study for the LSAT.
On the other hand, it also brings some disadvantages like uncertainty for the next year or more until you go off to law school. While having experience can add, taking a break with no demonstrated reason can also hurt your application more than going to law school straight from undergraduate school. It is also important to consider the lack of resources at your disposal because you won’t be
Choosing the Right School
Before really considering the different parts of the application, look into what law schools are the right fit for you. Knowing what law school you’ll be targeting will help determine other parts of your application.
- Location: A common misconception is that you will practice law in the state that you graduated from law school but more often than not this is not true. Do not determine where you go to school as it likely won’t have much of an impact on where you actually practice law.
- Type of Law: Looking at what schools are best for the type of law is very important. Some of the top 10 law schools may have good rankings but bad programs for the type of law you want to focus on. For example, Northwestern’s law school, Lewis & Clark, is ranked #1 in environmental law but #88 in overall ranking according to U.S. News.
- Admission Statistics: It is important to recognize your own goals and academic standing when determining what your target law schools are. Different law schools fulfill different needs so be realistic about what schools you will perform best in and are worth it for the type of law you want to practice. Just because a law school is not necessarily top ranking does not mean it is not a good school or the best school for you.
- Tuition: Law school is a huge financial commitment that should not be overlooked. Looking again at law school admission statistics can help determine what schools are more likely to give you more financial aid. Also looking into colleges with free public service law programs may be a great option as well.
GPA & LSAT
Before anything else it is important to look at the LSAT. Likewise you want to make sure your undergraduate GPA is in the range of previous admits. Though law schools look at the other parts of your application, LSAT scores and GPA are by far the most important, especially in top ranking schools.
It is recommended that you plan to study at least 3-6 months before you take the LSAT, allowing for 1-2 hours of studying per day for that period.
This is not to say that if your LSAT or GPA is not where you want it to be that you should not apply to certain schools. Consider writing an addendum explaining any reasons why you may not have had the best scores or highest GPA.
In addition, if you are international student where English is not your native language, most law schools will require you to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to get into a US law school.
Making sure you ask the right people for recommendations is a key part of recommendation letters. Choose someone who truly knows you and can advocate for you, going for someone who is likely to have one recommendation letter for every student is only going to hurt you.
Likewise, choosing someone who you are in contact with, choosing a professor from four years ago might not be the best choice. Recommendations are often an underrated aspect of US law school admissions.
Your personal statement should be about a part of yourself that has not been reflected in any other parts of your application. It is the one space you have to personalize your application so use it.
While the US certainly has great law schools, the UK also is an excellent place to attend law school. Lawyers will always play an important role in society, and attending law school is often required in order to be a lawyer. The law impacts every aspect of society, and if you are interested in society, there are many areas of the law to enter. Get into a US law school is the first step, and then you are on your way to impacting the world.