Q: How do I decide if law school is something I really want to do?
A: Only YOU can decide if this is the professional career for you. The best idea is to gather as much information about law school, talk to a variety of people who have been to law school, and then carefully decide how such a degree will help you reach your goals in life. (Haven't thought about life goals? Now may be a good time). This is a tough decision. Law School is expensive, starting salaries are not always as high as the public thinks, and it is three tough years of study. Some lawyers are happy with their career choice, and, frankly, some are not.
Information that may be helpful for your decision includes the attrition rate at law schools in which you may be most interested, how well students at those schools do on the Bar examination, and how many law students from those schools get jobs. Each law school must report that information, so go to the Official Guild to ABA-Approved Law Schools at http://officialguide.lsac.org/ to find that information for the school(s) in which you are interested.*
Q: What is law school really like?
A: Law school is definitely "different" than your educational experience to date. You will read, read, read, read, and then read some more. The pace can be grueling. You may also need to learn new terminology, as the language of the law is different than what you have previously experienced. To help with this transition, you may want to consider asking for a copy of Black's Law Dictionary as a college graduation present! You can also search for online versions, but be sure that you find the most recent edition. Law School presents a different academic experience, as classes are typically much more interactive, and often use a style known as the Socratic method. This method has professors asking questions of students regarding the cases, the facts of the cases, the legal holdings of the cases, and applicable rules of law, rather than always just lecturing to the class. The professors may also ask you to compare these holdings with other cases, and be able to distinguish the differences, however slight. The professors may also choose to be a "devil's advocate" by taking the opposite side of the case, and asking you to distinguish your side. Often this can be intimidating for students, since that is not the typical undergraduate approach. This requires you to assume the burden of doing all the necessary work, reading, etc. Many law schools have only one exam in each class, given at the end of the semester. Often students choose to create study groups for each semester to improve their study.
Q: When should I apply to law school?
A: At least one year before you plan to attend law school. Usually, the earlier a law school receives your application, the more attention it will be given.*
Q: How do I apply to law school?
A: You will apply through the www.lsac.org website, using the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). For a fee, you will provide them with all required information, such as transcripts, applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, etc., and CAS will submit that material, along with your LSAT results, to the law schools of your choice. For more information, go to www.lsac.org, or click on the icon on this website, "Applying to Law School".
Q: How do I find out how the law school I am interested in compares to other law schools?
A: You should certainly feel free to check out each school's website, and compare their selling points. In addition, U.S. News ranks law schools, and you can check out those rankings at http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/. In addition, you can check out www.prelawhandbook.com for overall rankings.
Q: Are there law schools that are highly ranked in certain specialty areas?
A: Yes. If you are interested in Trial Advocacy, Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, Health Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, or Tax Law as examples, you can go to www.prelawhandbook.com/law_school_ranking_specialties to identify potential law schools that match your interests.
Q: Are there any special programs that may help prepare minorities and disadvantaged populations and women?
A: Yes. Several organizations and law schools put together Summer Enrichment Programs, usually for little to no cost to the undergraduate student thinking about law school, and these multiple week programs assist undergraduate students to determine if law school is the right fit, to reach out to populations that may not be well represented in the legal profession, and then try to help that student improve his/her skill set to prepare for the challenges of law school. More information about such programs is summarized at www.prelawhandbook.com/prelaw_enrichment_programs. In addition, you may want to check out DiscoverLaw.org, which discusses what legal career options there may be. First and second year college student can even register at that website to gain more information.#
Q: What type of skills would be helpful for me to have if I am considering law school?
A: According to the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (2011 edition), the ability to read as well as listen, critically analyze fact patterns or situations, organize or synthesize a great deal of information, advocate for someone, counsel or give advice to people, write, speak (oral communication skills), and negotiate are critical skills for all lawyers. Strong library research skills are also important. Therefore, working to develop each of these skills, which can be done through a variety of majors and courses, should be a focus of your undergraduate college career. You may strengthen your candidacy for law school if you study a broad range of historical topics, politics, math, human behavior, and society. If you have experience or achievements in any of these areas, you may consider highlighting that as you prepare your personal statement.#
*Adapted from Grand Valley State University's Pre-law website.
#Adapted from the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (2011).Pre-Law Home