Applying for law schools is a stressful and very time-consuming process. The average law school applicant will apply to at least five law schools. Law school applications are expensive, typically ranging anywhere from $60-$100, and they also require a significant amount of effort. Because of the heavy investment you put into your applications, we want to make sure that you are putting your best foot forward. Read on to learn about what exactly looks good on a law school application!
A Strong LSAT Score
There is not a single more important part of your application than your LSAT score. The LSAT is the law school entrance exam and it remains a requirement to gain entry into the vast majority of law schools. In the past couple of years some law schools have loosened up on LSAT score requirements but these schools are few and far between.
What does a “strong LSAT score” even mean? A strong LSAT score is relative to whatever law school you are applying to. Law schools vary significantly in median LSAT score and you should pay very close attention to this when you are applying. The higher your LSAT score is compared to that particular law school’s median LSAT, the greater the chance you will be accepted. The lower your comparative LSAT score, the lower the chance you will be accepted.
To fully prepare for the LSAT you will need several months of preparation. Students frequently purchase preparation courses, which can cost several thousand dollars. All of this time and money might sound like a lot, but the LSAT is so important to admissions committees that US News has an option to divide law school by LSAT score.
You can check out my article here on Tips for a Great LSAT Score.
A Strong Undergraduate GPA
Your undergraduate GPA is arguably less important than your LSAT score but at the very least it is the second most important part of your law school application. You can find online lists of where law schools are ranked by GPA and LSAT. The higher-ranked law schools in the top twenty or thirty tend to cluster around a 3.8 GPA and above. Below the Tier 1 ranked law schools you will find that median GPAs are all over the place. My recommendation is that you ensure that you are aware of a law school’s median GPA before you apply.
The good news about GPA requirements is that there is no hard and fast rule to them, and if your GPA is below a particular law school’s median threshold you can always make up for it with an above-median LSAT score.
A Well Proofread Application
Attention to detail is an extremely important component of being a junior attorney. It makes sense that law school admissions offices would pay attention to how clean your application is. Having a well-proofread application is not going to get you through the door of an admissions committee but a poorly written application is a fast-track to the “No” pile. Typos will kill an otherwise strong application and send a message that you are not serious about law school. So make sure that you review your application before you hit that send button!
High Quality Recommendation Letters
Most law schools will require that you submit two recommendation letters. Recommendation letters are an opportunity for you to really stand out from other applicants. Think long and hard about who you want to ask to write recommendation letters. A good obvious choice is an attorney that you have worked or interned for in the recent past. Before I began law school, I interned with a district court judge and the local district attorney’s office. These internships paid dividends when it was time to obtain recommendation letters. Stay away from friends or family for these and make sure that you worked closely enough with the person writing your recommendation letter so that they have a good idea of your work ethic and work product.
A Powerful Personal Statement
In my opinion, personal statements are the toughest part about a law school application. Most of the other application materials simply consists of filling in the numbers but the personal statement is not a document that you can whip up in thirty minutes. A well though out personal statement will explain in a concise fashion why you want to attend law school generally and more importantly, why you want to attend a particular law school.
High quality personal statements really come in handy (along with recommendation letters) when you are right on the fence at a particular law school. Admissions committees will typically turn to personal statements and identify ones that stand out from the rest.
A strong personal statement edges away from your academic qualifications and really hones in on your personality. If your curious about additional guidelines and examples of strong personal statements, check out this article here.
A Demonstrated Interest in the Law
A demonstrated interest in the law is another one of those soft factors that admissions committees consider. There is no specific document or application component that you will submit to showcase this but it is something that will hopefully appear due to your demonstrated experience, whether that be internships or working in the legal field, or in your personal statement.
The typical law student majored in a social science – political science, criminology, philosophy, history, and psychology are all extremely popular majors for law school students. Atypically, you will sometimes find law students who majored STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math. In today’s modern economy, STEM field knowledge has become increasingly useful and sought after in law firms. Law schools in turn, take a special interest in students with credentials from these fields.
Having a STEM degree does not just make you more competitive on a law school application, it will also give you a significant edge when you begin your job hunt during and after law school. I note that in my class, a majority of law students that obtained coveted 1L Summer Associate jobs had solid STEM backgrounds.
Substantive Engagement in Extracurricular Activities
Admissions committees like to see well-rounded applicants. This does not mean that you needed to participate in every extracurricular activity you could get your hands on in college. Extracurricular activities is not a numbers game in law school, it’s a quality game. A good example is my experience with a program called “Teen Court”. Teen Court is a diversionary program in North Carolina for juveniles who have been given a criminal citation. For misdemeanor violations, juveniles have the opportunity to go through the process of a legal case (and hopefully learn something) but without the consequence of having a criminal record. I began volunteering with this organization in middle school around the age of thirteen and continued to volunteer until I graduated college. This was a great extracurricular activity to point out to admissions committees because it was related to the legal field and I participated in it for nearly ten years.
You might not have participated in any extracurricular activities for such a length of time but that is completely okay. The goal is to show that you participated in beneficial activities outside of the classroom for longer than one-off events.
Additional Tips for Law School Applications
How Many Law Schools Should You Apply To?
The number of law schools you apply to is a very important consideration. Applicants should aim to apply to between eight and ten law schools. It is important to mix up the applications between safety, neutral, and reach schools, with reach schools composing a minority of applications, 1-2 is a good rule of thumb.
A safety school is one where your LSAT score is above the target school’s median. A neutral school is one where your numbers pretty much match the target school’s median. A reach school is traditionally one where either your GPA or LSAT score is below the target school’s median.
More applications is generally better than fewer but if you have your heart set out on a few specific schools, then it becomes all the more important to tailor your applications toward those schools.
When Should You Apply to Law School?
The general rule for the timing of applications is that you should aim to apply as early in the process as possible. Law schools operate on a rolling admissions cycle. This means that law schools review and accept applications as they come in. If you wait until February or March to apply, your chances of acceptance decline.
Hopefully, this article has helped you with identifying what exactly law school admissions offices look for in applicants. Now you can take this information and tailor it to your application to give you the best chance possible to get accepted into your sought after law school. Remember to have a plan for your law school application process and perform your due diligence on law schools that interest you. Good luck!