As the Pre-Law advisor I get a lot of questions about law school. This page is here to help some of our students with their interest. Take a few moments to browse the topics below to see if they answer your questions. If you still can't find what you are looking for then send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll try to help.
How do I get into law school?
Admission to law school is based on a weighted formula that evaluates your overall Grade Point Average (GPA), your score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and many factors from your personal background. Some of these additional factors include your race (some schools do give preferential treatment to racial minorities), your gender, your degree type, the school you came from, and your accomplishments in life up to this point. Each school weights these various categories a bit differently so there is no single formula that applies to every school.
Most law schools today seek to admit qualified students who will contribute to the overall academic experience. This means that some latitude is allowed for students who will meet the school's need. As an example, a major university in the west may give preference to students who apply from small universities in the east or south. Likewise, a school in a large urban area may give seek to admit select students from rural or suburban backgrounds. All of these factors will vary greatly from one school to the next, so it is important that you spend time researching the schools you are interested in.
Admission to law school is very competitive. Unlike some other graduate programs which admit a very high percentage of applicants, law schools can be very picky when it comes to their students. As a rule, most law schools set strict standards for admission based on the two biggest factors: GPA and LSAT score. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) provides online information about the various standards for all member schools. You should study the scores for the schools you are interest in as you make your plan for applying.
You will also find a wealth of information about the LSAT at the LSAC site. Because the LSAT test your ability to think, not just your knowledge base, the exam is very different from many that you may have taken. For that reason it is important that you do some practicing before you take the exam.
There are a number of good books that help you prepare for the LSAT. Start your search for material in your campus library. Because preparation can take several months there is a chance you will want to purchase some of the books you use. I strongly recommend that you review those available at the library before making a final decision on book purchases.
There are also a good selection of commercial preparation courses available all over the country. These courses range in price from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. They will also use different methods to help you prepare. Check with your on campus pre-law advisor for more information on these and other materials that might be available.
If you have not considered the types of classes you are taking to prepare for law school then it is time to do so. While it is true that any degree can be admitted to law school the fact remains that certain classes help prepare you to "think." This is more than Critical Thinking, which is a catch-phrase used in education all to often. The reality is that law school requires very high levels of linear, progressive thinking. Cause-effect, rationale, and logic are a very important part of the thinking process. The LSAT helps law schools distinguish those who have the skills and those that do not. To that end I often recommend several additional classes be considered by all of our students.
PHIL 1250, Reasoning and Rational Decision Making: Course description -- This course will introduce students to inductive and deductive logic. The course trains students to recognize, evaluate, and construct arguments. This course is taught by Dr. Kirk Fitzpatrick. Students will spend a significant amount of time learning "how to think." More importantly, students will learn how to analyze and critically account for solutions.
COMM 1310, Thinking and Listening Critically: Course description -- A study of critical thinking and reasoning skills toward messages delivered and received through various communication formats. The course is designed to aid the student in the ability to define a problem, select pertinent information for the solution of the problem, recognize stated and unstated assumptions, formulate and select relevant hypotheses, and make valid conclusions and inferences.
In addition, students are encouraged to consider taking classes which address linear, abstract, and logical thinking processes. In short, while these classes may not fill a graduate requirement they can help you become better prepared for the LSAT and success in law school.
Of course the GPA is also very important in the law school admissions process. Two simple rules should be followed as you take classes at the undergraduate level. First, do not overload yourself with classes in a way that will negatively affect your grades. Some students get in a hurry to graduate and they take too many courses in a semester. It is better to take fewer courses and make higher grades than to get lower grades but get out earlier. Law schools do not necessarily look at how long it took you to graduate, but they definitely look at your GPA.
Second, choose a degree program that meets your needs other than just for law school. Law schools no longer look for the true "pre-law" degree, and there is no preference in the types of degrees admitted. Because the law touches every part of our life then every academic discipline is appropriate for law study. The key is to find a degree program that meets your interest and potential career needs. Students also find that they make much better grades when they are in classes they are interested in.
Remember, law school admission is very competitive, so not everyone will gain admission. What this means is that you might have to look for other career options, and the degree you choose at the undergraduate level will greatly affect those options. In short, if the law school route does not work then you should have a degree that can still serve you in life.
There is one drawback to selecting a degree that is often overlooked in other pre-law advise publications. The degree can make a difference when it comes down to the final selection process. While most pre-law advisors tell students that any degree can get them admitted into law school the fact is that some degrees may have an easier time at admission. There are two reasons for this. First, law schools need students from a variety of backgrounds, and this means that they sometimes look for students with particular degrees. As an example, a school may have a well developed focus in international business, which in turn means that a student with an undergraduate degree in international finance may find admission easier than a student with a degree in music. This does not mean that the law school will not admit students with a piano degree, just that they will have fewer spots for those students than they have for business students.
Second, degree type may certainly affect the perception of grade point average. At the risk of inflaming the passions of my colleagues in different disciplines I must be honest when I say that the type of degree may affect how a law school looks at your GPA. As an example, a student who majors in Physical Education is seen very differently from a student who majors in Chemistry. While both degrees are valid the reality is that the ability to achieve a high GPA is very different in each degree. A Chemistry student with a 3.65 GPA may be seen very different from an Education major with the same GPA.
The final word of advise in this area is to be persistent. Sometimes it takes two or more tries to earn admission to law school; so have a plan of action in case everything doesn't go well the first time. If you fail to earn admission the first time then consider sticking around to earn a second degree. You may even wish to look at a masters degree program in your area of interest. This not only helps you in your chosen career path but also helps to boost your chances the next time you apply to law school.
Persistence also means expanding your choices. If you applied to only Ivy League schools and did not get admitted then consider applying to less prestigious schools. Remember, the person who graduates last in his or her class from the smallest law school is still entitled to take the bar exam. And some of our best lawyers did not graduate from the best schools.