If you are considering applying to law school, you likely have some questions about the process and your candidacy. We at Stratus have answered questions from hundreds of applicants over the years, and have compiled this list of our top 10 most-asked questions from law school applicants. Of course, if you have additional questions, we would love to speak with you personally. We invite you to sign up for a free consultation at https://www.stratusadmissionscounseling.com/free-consultation/.
1. How do I know to which schools I should apply to? How many reach and safety schools should I have on my list?
Of course, looking at rankings is a good place to start. However, we would say that geography matters more to some extent. Employers want to hire someone who will stick around, and having a nexus to the area goes a long way in showing that. If you look at employment statistics for most law schools, you’ll find that alumni tend to find work in the same area in which the school is located. If you have a sense of the type of legal professional you want to be, research the school rankings in those particular areas. Familiarizing yourself with school curriculum and extra-curricular offerings can be helpful in narrowing down your choices. Lastly, cost should be factored in. In most cases you’ll graduate law school with debt, so depending on your financial situation, consider schools that can help lighten your financial load whether through scholarships or in-state tuition rates.
While there is no magic number, we advise our clients to apply to 15 law schools, with 2-3 each of reach schools and safety schools.
2. When is the best time for me to submit my law school application? Should I apply Early Decision (ED)? If so, when should I submit?
The short answer is “when you are able to submit the strongest application possible.” There’s no magic date. Generally, Stratus recommends applying before Thanksgiving to take advantage of most schools’ rolling admissions policy. That said, if applying by that date means that your essays aren’t as polished and well-thought-out as they can be, you’re leaving behind a high probably of scoring significantly better on the next LSAT administration, or you’re building a rapport with a current professor who can write you a glowing recommendation, then it might be far better to wait.
As far as applying Early Decision (ED), this is a totally individual decision. If you are SURE that you want to go to a certain school, but your scores don’t instill confidence that you’ll get an offer, then ED makes perfect sense. If you want the freedom of choice, then ED is not for you: You’re foregoing things like scholarship negotiations and possible offers from reach schools. While schools rarely release ED-specific data, in our experience it does help to some extent (for example, a 164 LSAT applicant we worked with getting into NYU!). And, as always – the earlier you apply, the better!
3. Is taking the LSAT multiple times frowned upon by law school admissions committees? How do they view LSAT cancellations?
Multiple LSATs by themselves won’t be frowned upon – in fact, you can spin it to be a good thing (e.g., “I wanted to go to school X so badly that I took the LSAT four times until I got a score that gave me a realistic chance”). Just remember that every subsequent retake means less in that one good score out of five takes isn’t as good as one good score out of two. Multiple cancellations and absences are a bad idea unless there’s a legitimately great excuse; it shows lack of confidence and flakiness, not the traits you want in the school’s mind.
4. What advice would you give to a prospective law school applicant who is a splitter (high LSAT or GPA and low GPA or LSAT)?
The splitter scenario is very common. Applicants with a low GPA and high LSAT should do whatever possible to raise their GPA if time permits including maybe taking a gap year so that senior grades can be maximized and considered in the applications. If that ship has sailed, hopefully the applicant can write a GPA addendum that highlights their high LSAT score as the better predictor of their potential. If you have the reverse situation (and have done everything you can to raise your LSAT score), write a well-reasoned addendum explaining why your GPA is the better indicator of your potential (e.g., you have a history of low standardized test scores but have always done extremely well in school).
5. How important are the personal statement, letters of recommendation (LORs), resume and other materials in a prospective law school applicant’s admissions package?
We have to be honest: The numbers matter. If you got a 150 on the LSAT to go with your 2.5 GPA, it’s safe to assume you’re not getting into Harvard Law School. With that said, the personal statement, and to a lesser extent the other materials, are exactly what can and should set you apart from people with similar scores. Think of it as a possibility to add a couple of points to your LSAT by writing a stellar personal statement when compared to someone with a laconic application.
6. Should I always address “why law school” in your personal statement?
Your essay certainly doesn’t need to revolve around the question, but ideally it would at least allude to it. Admissions committees want to know not only who you are, but also what’s your motivation in applying – this helps them to better evaluate the fire that drives you and how engaged you will be as a student as an attorney. Remember that the main goal here is to sell yourself TO LAW SCHOOL, and not discussing your reasons for wanting to be an attorney risks the essay coming off as too generic. Often the most compelling personal statements provide some nexus between who you are and your choice to apply to law school.
7. How do I know if I should write the diversity statement?
Don’t bend over backwards to write a diversity statement that might make the reader roll their eyes; remember that your diversity statement is read alongside those of people coming from real hardship – poverty, refugees, discrimination, etc. – so a vanilla diversity statement could look disingenuous at best when juxtaposed with those. However, if you have a unique experience that has significantly impacted you, in the way that you think and/or behave, it’s worth exploring as a potential topic for a diversity statement.
For more advice, read our article 5 Secrets for an Awesome Diversity Statement.
8. How should I handle a disciplinary issue in the past? How much should I include in a Character and Fitness Addendum?
Applicants must be meticulous about reading the Character and Fitness prompts and err on the side of disclosing if unsure. We recommend being accurate and thorough but brief. Especially in criminal matters: be sure to include dates/time periods, exact wording on citations, and a clear discussion of the disposition of the case. It’s important to take responsibility for your actions and – if possible – briefly discuss the lessons learned from the experience and your personal growth. Focus on writing something thoughtful and concise.
9. What are some other reasons I would need to write an addendum?
The four most common types of addenda are an LSAT addendum, a GPA/transcript addendum, a reapplication addendum, and the above-mentioned disciplinary action/criminal record addendum. An LSAT addendum is often requested by the admissions committees if you have taken the LSAT multiple times. Account for your change in score, emphasizing that the higher score is a more accurate representation of your ability to excel in law school. You should write a GPA/transcript addendum if you have any dips in your academic record that need explaining. Account for the circumstances that contributed to any irregularity. If you are reapplying to law schools, do not make excuses or speculate on why you were not accepted in the past. Instead, highlight improvements you have made since your previous application such as an improved LSAT score, additional courses taken, professional milestones, involvement within your community, etc. But, don’t force it. If you’ve clearly noted changes elsewhere in your application, holding back on providing an additional item for review might be the way to go.
10. How much weight is given to interviews? What is the best way to prepare?
Using an analogy from Fantasy Football guru Matthew Berry: “You can’t win your league in the first round, but you can certainly lose it.” So too is the case with interviews. The goal is to alleviate concerns about your application and to show your social, personable side, which can’t really be done on the actual application. A good interview is unlikely to change a rejection to an offer, but bombing it can unfortunately be an application killer. The best preparation is mock interviews: Do some research about possible questions, grab a friend (or an admissions counselor!), have them interview you and give you feedback. Just make sure it’s someone you trust to not sugarcoat things, because you want to know what you did wrong!