The Application Process
Things Worth Knowing
Start the application process as early as possible. The applicant should complete and submit an application by December for the following year's fall term, which typically commences in late August.
Many law schools operate on a rolling admission basis, while others offer early application/decision options to candidates. More marginal applicants (lower LSAT score and/or GPA) may stand a better chance of gaining admission to law schools with rolling and/or the early admission option. These schools will make the decision to admit as they receive the completed applications, i.e., a variation of the first come-first served approach.
Contact law schools directly for the application package. Many, if not most, schools now offer candidates/applicants the option of filing their application partially or entirely online through their respective web sites.
The LSDAS is a service that assembles and summarizes data from the academic transcripts and LSAT scores of law school applicants. It then transmits the LSAT score and related documentation for each applicant to the respective law school(s) to which that applicant is applying.
Subscribing to LSDAS is required for every applicant intending to apply to an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. This is easily done by using the same form that is used for the LSAT registration. Once registered, the candidate should arrange for official undergraduate transcripts to be sent to the LSDAS in Newtown, PA. These will be used to calculate that candidate's GPA [calculated on a 4.0 scale]. Law School Data Assembly Service will also summarize all other related information submitted by the candidate and forward the entire package to the law school(s) to which the candidate has submitted an application.
The LSDAS thus serves to summarize and standardize the information derived from each candidate. By standardizing the information, the comparative process is greatly facilitated as far as law school admission committees are concerned.
Please note that a GPA is not formally required, however, for comparative purposes-as mentioned above-it may be a good idea for Empire State College students thinking of applying to law school to consider requesting letter grades along with their narrative contract evaluations.
The LSAT is developed, prepared and administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) located in Newtown, PA. The LSAC is a nonprofit, membership corporation, comprising all of the 180+ ABA accredited law schools as well as the 15 Canadian law schools. Its board of trustees, chair and members are legal educators and administrators from member law schools. They can be contacted at http://www.lsac.org/.
The LSAT is a standardized aptitude test which is required from all applicants applying to LSAC-member schools, i.e., all ABA accredited law schools. Contact the ABA at http://www.americanbar.org/
The LSAT is offered four times per year, and it consists of five 35 minute multiple-choice sections, and a 30 minute writing sample. There is also a short break between the third and fourth sections, and other minor breaks for distribution and collection of the test materials. The actual test is three hours and 25 minutes in duration. However with the breaks, etc., a candidate can expect to spend four and one-half or five hours.
The LSAT consists of three types of approximately 120 to 130 questions of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning (also referred to as logic games) and logical thinking. These questions cumulatively seek to test the student's aptitude-not knowledge of the law-for success in law school. It tests verbal facility, logical reasoning, analytical skills and ability to think in an abstract manner.
The "personal statement" is one component of law school applications. It typically involves discussing one's objectives, reasons for applying to law school and entering the legal profession, or any topic the candidate feels is relevant to the admission committee.
Lately law schools have been indicating that they intend and are indeed placing (as a matter of policy) more importance on the applicant's personal statement. Therefore as this component of the application package gains more preeminence in the process, the applicant should dedicate the commensurate time and attention necessary to produce an effective statement.
One of the key elements in pursuit of the goal of making one's statement stand out is originality and the avoidance of tired old cliches, for example, "I always wanted to be a lawyer since the age of five" and "your school is the best there is." The admission committees have heard this a million times and are not impressed by what sound like insincere and less than profound expressions.
Talk about yourself with as much sincerity and openness as you can. If you are earnest in your desire to be admitted to their institution, that feeling will become evident through your forthrightness and honesty. Write carefully and make the essay flow. Keep the entire statement to a reasonable length of no more than two pages. Don't be afraid to acknowledge negatives in your life but also point out how those negatives have or can be turned into positives.
Avoid typos, sending photos, titling your essay, being too cynical, coming across as a victim, giving a narrative resume (it's already in the application), patting yourself too much on the back for all your past accomplishments.
The "personal statement," no matter how strong or convincing, will not compensate for a marginal GPA or performance on the LSAT, however everything else being equal, it can often make a significant difference in augmenting one's probability of gaining admission to the law school of one's choice.
Most law schools normally require two recommendation letters from people familiar with the candidate's academic performance. Typically this implies getting at least one recommendation from a former professor. As with the "personal statement" addressed previously, the letters that the admission committees will find most valuable in their decision-making process will not be filled with platitudes, but rather will give evidence that the recommending party has gained a sound grasp of the candidate's strengths (and weaknesses) and potential to perform well in law school. Letters that emanate from sources other than faculty, a political figure or other prominent official, should emphasize the candidate attributes such as integrity, overall intelligence, devotion to task, etc., while avoiding commentary on the candidate's academic prowess, since the former have no direct knowledge of same. The length of time that the recommender has known the candidate is also worth stressing, especially as it pertains to the non faculty recommender.
An increasing number of minority students are applying to law school and joining the ranks of the legal profession. Most schools actively seek minority candidates and many have programs tailored for that specific purpose.
To that end, LSAC has prepared and makes available a booklet which provides some insightful guidance for minority candidates applying to law school. Check their web site at http://www.lsac.org/ for the following publication [other related publications may also be available as they update their site on a fairly regular bais]:
- LSAC, Thinking About Law School: A Minority Guide, LSAC/Law Services, Box 2000, Newtown, PA 18940.
Additionally, there are a number of organizations that produce and publish materials/booklets/pamphlets aimed at encouraging and assisting the minority applicant. The following is a partial list of said organizations. They can provide candidates/applicants with reading materials as well as other services, including advice and other forms of support, including financial in many cases.
- U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Indian Graduate Professional Fellowships), 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Room 2177, Mail Stop 6335, Washington, DC, 20202, Ph: 202 401-1902
- PUERTO RICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, 99 Hudson Street, 14th Floor, NY, NY 10013, Ph: 212 219-3360
- MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL TRAINING AND EDUCATIONAL FUND, 634 S. Spring Street, 11th Floor, Los Angeles, CA, 90014, Ph: 213 629-2512
- NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PUBLIC INTEREST LAW (NAPIL), 1118 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC, 20037, Ph: 202 466-3686
- EARL WARREN LEGAL TRAINING PROGRAM, 99 Hudson Street, Suite 1600, NY, NY 10013, Ph: 212 219-1900
- COUNCIL ON LEGAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY (CLEO), 1420 N Street NW, Terrace One, Washington, DC 20005, Ph: 202 662-8630
Applicants may find this list helpful as they gather their materials, paperwork and documents required for completing the application process. This checklist is premised on the assumption that a student starts the application process 18 months prior to their targeted law school admission date i.e., the spring of the prior year for an August (fall) law school starting date. Of course the applicant should adjust the checklist accordingly for mid-year, summer or rolling admission.
|Month to be Completed||Things to be Completed||Check When Done|
||Prepare for LSAT.|
||Apply for LSAT (registration deadlines are usually one month prior to test date.)|
||Receive LSAT score.|
||Subscribe to LSDAS.|
||Have official transcript(s) sent to LSDAS.|
||Send to law schools for catalogs, applications and financial aid information.|
||Check LSDAS report for accuracy.|
||Talk to those you have chosen to write letters of recommendation.|
||Write personal statement.|
||Formally request letters of recommendation be sent to LSDAS.|
||Meet with admissions representatives at a Law Fair/Law Forum.|
||Fill out applications.|
||Formally request letters of recommendation be sent to LSDAS.|
||Check to be sure application file is complete, including letters of recommendation.|
||File your financial aid applications.|
||Be sure to pay your seat deposit on time.|