If you plan to apply to law school, getting ahead on the application process over the summer can give you a crucial edge when deadlines arrive. In this blog post, we at Stratus provide five action items to prioritize during the summer in preparation for your law school applications:
1. Register for an LSAC account.
All roads to law school go through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). You will use LSAC to register for the LSAT. In addition, you will submit your applications, transcripts, and letters of recommendation to law schools through LSAC. Therefore, you should register for your LSAC account today!
Once you have an account, LSAC will provide instructions on how to submit each part of your application. You should gather your transcripts now and upload them into your LSAC account so you will have one less thing to do later in the application process.
2. Come up with a program to study for the LSAT/GRE—and stick to it!
Fair or not, your LSAT/GRE score will play a major role in determining where you go to law school and how much scholarship money you receive. Therefore, you should aim to get as high of a score as possible on these tests. If you are taking the LSAT/GRE for the first time or retaking it in the fall, you should dedicate time every day to studying for the test.
The digital age provides an array of online resources for LSAT/GRE prep, such as apps, books, courses, and tutors. Of course, you can meet with a tutor in person or take an in-person class as well. Regardless, any type of tutor or course will start registering students during the summer, so start researching options now!
The LSAT has been administered in a digital format for about three years. If you are not familiar with the Digital LSAT, here is an article explaining the format. The GRE is also given in a digital format.
The GRE has only been available to law school applicants for a few years, and not every law school takes the GRE. So, when creating your study plan, you should consider whether it makes sense to even take the GRE as opposed to the LSAT given your schools of interest.
3. Start requesting recommendations.
Recommendation letters generally focus on your discipline and capacity to work hard. Law school applications require a minimum of two letters, but some schools will either mandate or allow for up to four, so we suggest that you obtain four strong letters of recommendation.
You should come up with a list of four or five key people who seem capable of writing strong letters of recommendation for you—especially any academic professors who can attest to your strong academic skills. Law schools want to see evidence that you can engage in the academic rigor of their programs, so professors who can share details about your drive and analytical skills will likely write the best recommendations. Outside of professors, a current or former boss can also be a good resource for a recommendation.
At the beginning of the summer, you should send a short email to each potential recommender asking them to write a letter of recommendation. In addition, specify a suggested deadline for the letter—ideally a month before your application deadline. If you do not receive a response after a week or two, you should follow up. And if you still do not receive a reply, then it is likely best to contact someone else. Once your recommenders agree to write the letter, be sure to follow up with them either at the deadline you gave them or a few weeks before. For more guidance on recommendations, see “Please and Thank You: Six Tips to Getting Stellar Letters of Recommendation for Law School Applications.”
4. Begin outlining your personal statement.
Your personal statement is a crucial part of your law school application, and it requires a lot of time and deliberation. You should utilize the summer months to get ahead on this component of your application, especially if you do not enjoy writing.
You can start building your personal statement by compiling a list of important professional, academic, and personal experiences that made you want to go to law school. From there, create an outline consisting of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion—and then develop each body paragraph using examples from the experiences that you listed earlier in the process. Be sure to follow a consistent theme based on your experiences and include smooth transitions between these paragraphs.
Your personal statement supplements your recommendations in showing that you work hard, are disciplined, and can handle the academic rigor of law school. It also allows the admissions committees to get to know you outside of your test scores, resume, and academic numbers—which is important to help them understand who you are and why you want to be a lawyer. For more information on writing personal statements, see “How to Write a Great Law School Personal Statement” and “Top 3 Clichés to Avoid in Your Law School Personal Statement.”
5. Keep researching law schools.
Although you might be set on a particular list of law schools, you should stay open minded about other schools that might make sense for you. If you receive an LSAT score that was not what you were expecting, you might have to substantially change your list. Once you have your score along with a realistic understanding of where you want to apply, you should research each school on your list to see if it meets your needs. You can create an Excel sheet that includes factors that are important to you for each school, such as the city, tuition, size of the class, post-graduate employment rates, and any other factors that might impact your decision on whether to ultimately attend the school.
Each school’s website should provide employment information on alumni, such as whether they are working for big law firms, corporations, judicial clerkships, the government, legal aid, policy organizations, and local law firms. In addition, school websites likely include information regarding scholarship potential, journals, and clinics. Many blogs and news sites also might compile this information or publish relevant stories on a school of interest to you.
If you have the time, it might make sense to visit the school. You can call the Admissions Office or check on the school’s website to see if tours are offered or if you can just visit the buildings.
Whether you are a student or are working right now, you are likely looking to have some fun this summer. You should use this time to relax, but dedicating even a small portion of it to your law school applications can make a huge difference in your legal career—so get started!