What do you need to get into law school?

What is the best major for law school?

Law schools, unlike medical schools and some graduate programs, do not require that a student take a certain set of courses. Instead, law schools accept a diverse pool of applicants who major in anything from engineering to political science to film and television. Law schools do not focus on what your major is but rather look at your cumulative grade point average as an indicator of a person’s likelihood of succeeding in law school. (GPA is a big factor involved in getting accepted to law schools!) Do not major in political science solely because you think the admission committee will look more favorably on this major than another. Choose a major that you find interesting and intellectually stimulating. If you choose a major that does not entail much writing, we strongly suggest you take writing courses as electives. Otherwise, you will be at a disadvantage in law school, especially in your legal writing classes.

*Do law schools only use an applicants GPA and LSAT score as criteria for admission?

Law schools focus on the applicant’s LSAT score and GPA. On a typical undergraduate’s application, these two factors are paramount. However, most law schools will tell you that the student’s entire application is reviewed and considered. As a result, it would be to your advantage to supplement your curriculum with activities that demonstrate leadership, initiative, creativity, responsibility, analytical skills and research ability.

Some students do not apply to Law School directly upon their undergraduate graduation, and choose instead to work for several years before applying. Generally, the longer you have been out of college, the less emphasis law admission officials will place on your GPA. In these cases, it is possible that more weight will be placed on your LSAT scores and outside activities as these are much more current reflections of your ability.

The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all law schools that are members of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year (February, June, October, and December) at hundreds of locations around the world.

Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December (at the latest!) for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or October—is often strongly advised. Many students opt to take the October test because studying for it does not conflict with the academic year. Also, taking the October test gives you the summer months to prepare.

You can register for the LSAT at the LSAC website. The cost is approx. $112. Signing up early will give you a better chance of getting your top choice test location site.

Can you take the LSAT more than once? Yes, but typically it’s recommended that you only take it once. How the law schools interpret multiple scores varies. You cannot assume they will simply accept the highest score. Be advised that the LSAC recommends that schools interpret multiple scores by averaging them.

What Non-Numerical Requirements/Qualifications do law schools also evaluate?

Law schools will also be evaluating you in terms of research, leadership, initiative, diversity, interests, involvement in law-related and non-law related activities. The Law Schools will use the following to evaluate these non-numerical qualifications.

1. Law Schools will ask you to submit anywhere from 0-4 letters of recommendation.

2. Personal Statement

3. Resume (some schools require). Help with pre-law resumes can be found in the Career Center.

4. Individual Law Schools will ask you to respond to supplemental essay questions that focus on topics including: work history, extracurricular activities, leadership, disadvantaged status, etc.

5. Dean’s letter – Only a small number of schools will require a Dean’s letter. Usually this request calls for a routine certification of the fact that you are a student in good standing. You should take such requests to the Dean of your School, which routinely completes such forms for UC Merced undergraduates. Law schools will not expect that you know the Dean personally.

What is the LSDAS?

The Law School Data Assembly Service is provided by the LSAC and is required by most ABA-approved law schools. For a fee, the service will assemble a report containing your transcript, LSAT scores, writing sample, and letters of recommendation. LSDAS also compiles what is known as the “Master Report” for each applicant. The master report is a 1-page profile on your numerical data. It will list your LSAT scores for each time the test was taken. It will also list, by school year, which institution of higher education you attended, and what was your cumulative GPA for that given year. In addition, there is a cumulative GPA and a percentile ranking for the institution from which you graduated. The master report will list your GPA and what percentage of students from your institution have that GPA or below. Again, you can find the required forms at http://www.lsac.org. After you apply to the law schools of your choice (application process covered in more detail later), the schools will contact LSDAS on your behalf and ask that your file be sent to them. After you have sent in all required information, it is always best to check with LSDAS to ensure your file is complete. Once your file is completed (and applicable fees are paid) you don’t need to worry about this service, because the law schools will contact them on your behalf, and LSDAS will send your file directly to the law schools.

The Application Process

When you are ready to apply for law school, you can fill out your applications through the LSAC website. The LSAC has created an on-line application process called “LSACD on the Web.” All ABA-approved law schools provided their official application for use in the LSACD on the Web and welcome applications prepared using this time-saving software. One benefit of this program is the “common application form.” This form allows you to type in common information, such as biographic information, once, and the program will then place your answers in the appropriate section for each school’s application. After you complete each school’s application, you will electronically attach any necessary information (personal statement, resume, etc). You then have the option of submitting your application electronically, or you can choose to print it out and send it via mail. Remember to apply early!


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