So you decided you want to go to law school! As you may have already discovered by talking to friends who are applying to other medical school, business school, or Ph.D. programs, applicants to each type of program must follow a process that is unique to that program. Here’s an abbreviated look at the steps you should take on the path to enrolling in law school.
Many of these steps should be worked on simultaneously, as they may require a substantial chunk of time to complete. Do not feel that you must finish one step before moving on to the next!
Step 1: Register for an account with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) manages many aspects of the law school application process, and their website includes a wealth of resources about this process.
You will need to register for an account to sign up to take the LSAT and use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which acts as an intermediary between applicants and law schools.
Rather than submit your materials to individual schools, you will upload your materials to the LSAC website, which will then direct them to schools according to your instructions.
Although registering on the LSAC website is free, registering for the CAS and then sending your law school report to each school via the CAS requires payment.
Step 2: Study for, register for, and take the LSAT*.
As noted above, you must create an account on LSAC.org to sign up for the LSAT. You can find out where and when the LSAT is being administered in your region here.
If you take the test more than once, most law schools will consider your highest LSAT score when evaluating your application, rather than averaging your scores. Nevertheless, it is generally a good idea to wait until you feel ready before you take the test, and you should aim to take the test only once. (It’s a stressful and expensive experience!) You will need to decide whether studying on your own, one-on-one with a tutor, or in a test prep class will work best for your schedule and learning style.
*While most law schools still require that applicants submit an LSAT score, some schools have begun accepting GRE scores in lieu of LSAT scores. If you are trying to decide which test is a better choice for you, please reach out to a pre-law advisor at your college or a Signet law school admissions consultant who can help you consider relevant factors.
Step 3: Polish your resume.
Make those action verbs pop! Also be sure your resume includes the most up-to-date information and highlights experiences likely to be most relevant to law schools. These might include writing a law-related research paper for a course in college, or working on a law-related project during a summer internship. Although it is not necessary to have law-related experience preceding law school, if you do have such experiences, consider rearranging the items on your resume so you can emphasize them.
Step 4: Make a list of law schools.
Similar to the procedure you probably followed when choosing colleges, the task of creating a list of law schools to apply to requires thinking about which schools are “reaches,” “targets,” and “safeties.” You can determine which schools fall into each category by using your undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, and a handy tool on the LSAC website that predicts your chances of admission based on these numbers.
Also think about other factors that are important to you, such the geographic region in which the school is located, whether the school is in an urban or rural area, and school size, when you are compiling your list.
Step 5: Request letters of recommendation.
Each school will likely require that you submit at least two letters of recommendation from individuals who know you well. If you are applying while still in college, these letters should come from professors whose courses you have taken recently. If you are applying after graduating from college, then one of your letters should be written by a work supervisor.
It is a good idea to ask for a letter at least two weeks in advance of the upload deadline; providing the writer with a month to write the letter is preferable. You should waive your right to view the letters; instead, provide instructions to the writers to help them upload their letters themselves.
Step 6: Draft and revise your personal statement.
Even though you will be uploading your personal statement to LSAC.org, you can find the prompt for your personal statement on each school’s website. For more information on writing the personal statement, take a look at our blog post for guidance.
Step 7: Direct your undergraduate transcript to law schools of interest via the CAS.
This step may require a phone call or visit to the Registrar’s Office at your undergraduate institution. You can use LSAC’s Transcript Request Forms when requesting transcripts.
Step 8: Submit your materials…and wait.
Although many schools post a winter deadline for receipt of applications, most law schools operate under a “rolling” admissions system. In other words, these schools begin extending offers of admission to applicants as soon as completed applications are received and evaluated by these schools. As schools generally release their application materials in late summer, this means that many seats in an incoming class may be filled months before the application “deadline” has passed. Plan to submit your materials by the Thanksgiving preceding the fall semester when you intend to matriculate.
Of course, if you are applying to any schools that have an early admission program or are offering scholarships with specific deadlines, pay careful attention to those deadlines, as they may be before Thanksgiving!
Step 9: Go to interviews (if schools require them).
Most law schools do not interview applicants, so devoting time and effort to preparing for a general interview is unnecessary. Instead, the LSAC recommends treating your personal statement as your primary opportunity to help a school learn more about you.
If a specific school to which you are applying includes an interview in the admission process, then anticipate questions you might be asked, such as “Why do you want to go to law school?” and “Why do you want to go to this law school?” Reviewing your own resume and personal statement can help you prepare your responses to these questions; take the time to practice your responses with a friend (or at least in front of the mirror!).
[OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED] Step 10: Visit schools.
Since you likely will not be visiting law schools for interviews, you should take the opportunity to attend information sessions and go on campus tours if you are able to do so. Although this is not a required step in the application process, how you feel as you walk around a campus and explore the surrounding area, observe a class in action, and talk to current students can help you decide whether a specific school is right for you.
Step 11: Celebrate your success!
Congratulations! You have reached the end of the admission process—and the beginning of your legal education! If you have been accepted to multiple schools, you may have some difficult decisions to make. Unless there is a response deadline looming, set aside the task of choosing a school and focus on feeling proud of your accomplishment. Enjoy a nice meal, hang out with friends, see a movie, etc.
When it is time to return to the task of selecting a school, consider why you included each school on your list in Step 4. Offers of financial aid must also be compared. If you are wondering how to make this choice, there are many people who will be happy to help you. Your friends and relatives might weigh in, and your pre-law advisor also can offer input. A law school admissions consultant at Signet can provide an objective view and assist you in evaluating the pros and cons of each school.