What should be on my resume?
- Your academic accomplishments and potential. Your academic strengths can be documented through LSAT scores, GPAs, strong letters of reference from faculty members who know your work, academic awards, and academic publications.
- Your personal qualities and how those will contribute to a dynamic law school community. Your personal interests, experiences, and unique qualities can be discussed in your personal statement, in your resume listing of jobs/extracurricular activities/service, and in letters of reference.
- Attention to law school particulars which make you a good "fit" for the law schools to which you are applying. Your personal statement can highlight why the law school to which you are applying is a good choice for you, given the law school's mission, strengths, etc.
Once again, it's the quality, not the quantity, that counts. Law schools are looking for people who excel. You can excel in one thing (music, track, ceramics, etc.) or you can excel by being a leader and a well-rounded person. You are not judged by the length of your list of undertakings, but by what you did, how dedicated you were, and what you learned from your endeavors. Do not pad your resume! Law schools can smell that a mile away. You shouldn't need to, anyway, particularly if you worked while going to college. The law schools understand that, between working and studying (and maybe raising a family, too), there is only so much time left for extracurricular activities. That's why it's important to focus on one or two things that you enjoy.
You need an extracurricular activity of some sort. Maybe two. You can accomplish this easily by volunteering somewhere—anywhere. Show that you care about someone other than yourself. Work for a food bank, a battered women's shelter, the Humane Society, Big Brothers/Sisters. Volunteer at your church, synagogue, or mosque. Be a tutor to younger students. Take care of an elderly relative. All of these things count as extracurricular. It doesn't have to be a college-based group or activity, and it doesn't have to be in the legal field — just so you do good quality work and learn something from it. Should I apply to “safety” schools and “reach” schools?
Just like college, you should apply to both reach schools and safety schools. However, we also advise applying only to schools which you realistically think you would attend if admitted. There is no reason to waste time and money applying to a school that you have absolutely no intention of attending. How many schools should I apply to?
Most students apply to 7 – 10 law schools. This translates into approximately three safety schools, tow or three reach schools, three or four others. How do I select the schools to apply to?
There are many high-caliber law schools. It is important to find the right match for you. A variety of factors should be considered when selecting school. We find many students focus exclusively on one factor – the perceived prestige of the law school. The school’s prestige or reputation is certainly a factor to be taken into account, but there are many factors that you will likely want to consider including: size, location, cost of school, atmosphere, diversity of the student body, diversity of the curriculum, faculty interests, and specialty areas (e.g., international law, public interest, law and economics, intellectual property). Moreover, you should consider your long-term career goals and try to find a school that lines up with those goals. If you look at prominent attorneys – who work in the White House, who are now politicians, who run state agencies – you’ll find they went to a variety of law schools. Which are the best law schools?
This depends on a large number of factors. Obviously, some schools have better reputations than others, but that doesn't mean they are the best school FOR YOU. Some students prefer small classes and this can influence your decision. Some law schools spend more time on courtroom training (this is called advocacy training) so if this is, or is not, your interest, you may choose a law school on this basis.
Others may offer more courses in particular areas, e.g., tax law, environmental law, immigration law, and again, if you have special interests then this will be a relevant consideration. Private schools cost more than state schools, and this may be an important factor in your choice. Consequently, be careful not to be overly influenced by all those lists purporting to rank the law schools.
Rather, you should examine a school's curriculum, size, location, etc., when deciding where you would like to go. You are making a major investment here so you will want to make this choice with great care.How can I learn more about programs and specialty areas at specific law schools?
To learn more about each law school, visit the school’s website. Also, you can use on-line search engines to find more information about specific law school programs. (See FindLaw for Students
and Thomson Peterson’s I have a clear idea about what I want to do when I graduate. How should I use this to guide my law school selection process?
While many students enter law school with strong feelings about what they want to do when they graduate, few students leave law school doing what they initially thought they would. It is important to keep this in mind as you are choosing a law school. It is often wise to select a school that allows you to “keep your options open.” However, a small percentage of students actually do have a clear vision – based on research, previous experiences, and/or life circumstances – for what they want to do long-term.
I know I want to become a public interest attorney. Where should I apply and where should I go if accepted?
- Working in a Specific Geographic Location. If you are certain you want to work in a specific geographic location, you should consider choosing a law school near that location. For instance, if you want to live in rural Alabama, you may want to attend an Alabama school to develop connections with that local legal community. You can likely save money on tuition and living costs by attending a state school or getting a scholarship to a private university which isn’t “top tier.” On the other hand, some individuals choose to attend a school outside the location they hope to ultimately reside, but work at summer jobs in that community and develop legal ties.
- Going into Politics. If you are certain you want to go into politics after law school, where you attend law school may be important to your political career.
- Pursuing a Public Interest Job. Public interest jobs are low-paying. Therefore, if you know you want to pursue public interest, you may want to consider lower cost schools. Additionally, some public interest employers favor individuals with strong ties to the community which they are serving. On the other hand, some public interest employers prefer students who graduate from top-tier law schools.
- Pursuing Academia. If you know you want to be a law professor (which would be nearly impossible for you to know for sure before attending law school), the prestige of the law school you attend can be important.
There are a variety of considerations if you want to pursue public interest after graduating from law school. To determine if the law school is a “friendly” environment for public interest students, consider the following:
What opportunities exist for me as a minority applicant?
- The school’s public interest advising and career counseling resources. Schools’ websites often describe resources offered to public interest-minded students.
- The background and interests of the school’s law professors. Check the biographies of law professors at various schools. Almost all law schools have websites with professor biographies. Determine their research and writing interests as well as community involvement.
- The school’s clinical legal education program. Through law school clinical legal education programs, students can receive academic credit for being trained to and then actually representing low-income clients. Learn about law schools’ clinical programs. How extensive are the programs? How many students participate? Can all students who want to participate in a clinic have that opportunity or are there only a small number of coveted spots, whereby only some students are admitted after a competitive selection process? Does the school have in-house clinics (where law school instructors supervise students)? What type of externship placements does the school offer (where law students are placed at outside organizations)?
- Grants for summer public interest work. Does the school offer grants to students who want to pursue public interest during their summers? How many students are given grants each summer?
- Cost of school and financial incentives offered to public interest students and alumni/ae. Studies show that students typically graduate from law school with debt loads of $84,000. Moreover, there are wide disparities in the salaries between private sector and public interest attorneys. Based on 2001 statistics, the median salary for private sector attorneys was $90,000 while the median salary for public interest attorneys was $35,000. In light of these statistics, public interest minded students may want to consider the following questions: How expensive is the law school? Does the school have a loan repayment program (whereby the school helps relieve student debt if the student assumes a low-paying job upon graduation)? Does the school have special scholarships for public interest students? Does the school offer special grants or financial aid?
- Careers of students after graduation. One way to gauge the dedication of the public interest student community at a particular school is to consider the jobs students take upon graduation. What percentage of students assume public interest jobs their first year after graduating? Five years after graduation?
The under-representation of minority groups in the legal profession has been a long-standing and serious problem in this country. For this reason, over the past twenty years law schools have actively recruited minority applicants and have established policies to insure that qualified candidates are given the opportunity for a legal education. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholds the diversity policy of the University of Michigan Law School.
If you are a minority student, it is wise to be well-informed of the opportunities available. You should make certain to identify yourself as a member of a minority group at the time you register for the LSAT and with the LSDAS. This will enable interested law schools to contact you through the Candidate Referral Service. Thereafter, you might wish to contact minority student organizations at the law schools you are considering. It will be to your advantage to discuss your interests and application with members of these organizations because in some instances they will track your application and may have a part in the admissions decision. These students can also inform you of any special problems or special advantages for minority students at their particular school.
Many minority students have found a helpful resource in Thinking about Law School: A Minority Guide, which offers advice for applicants about the legal profession and admission to law school. Each year, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO)
helps economically and educationally disadvantaged students enter law school. This is done through a six-week summer program designed to introduce college graduates to the study of law (as well as through other programs). All participants who successfully complete the six-week program are awarded an annual stipend for each year of law school. Information on CLEO is available from CLEO’s national office at 740 15th Street, NW, 9th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005 or call (toll free) 866-886-4343 or (local) 202-216-4343, or email: email@example.com
. Should I take time off between college and law school?
In general, if you are even considering taking time off between college and law school, we suggest that you choose to take time off for the following reasons:
Few people regret their decision to take time off. In our experience, however, many students who attend law school immediately after college regret that decision.
I know I don’t want to attend law school next year. Should I apply now and defer or should I wait to apply later?
- Post-college experience may make you a more attractive law school applicant. Increasingly, law schools value work, community, travel, and other experiences. Law schools think that not only will individuals who have taken time off provide interesting insights during classroom discussions, they may also make better attorneys.
- Taking time off will help you enjoy and appreciate law school when you actually enroll. Some students who go straight from college to law school find the experience draining. Tired from Harvard College exams and their thesis, some of these students find law school to be an arduous three years. On the other hand, students who have worked for some years start law school refreshed and excited. They tend to appreciate the academic environment, intellectual freedom, and flexible hours of law school. (Of course, these are generalizations; there is certainly individual variation in student attitudes about law school.)
- Post-graduate work can help you ensure that law school is the right choice for you. Law school is a significant time, financial, and emotional commitment. In your time off, you can explore other possible career options, or you can assume a legal job to help you decide for sure that you want to be an attorney. Students who take time off tend to be more confident with their ultimate decision to attend law school and are less likely to second guess themselves.
- If you want to attend law school, you will, even if you take time off. A popular misconception is “if I don’t apply to law school during college and attend the year after I graduate, I will never go.” Based on our experience, that is simply not the case. In recent years, approximately half the students we advise each year are alumni/ae.
Our rule of thumb is that it is to your advantage to wait and apply only when you are ready to attend law school. Your application will only be enhanced by additional work, community, travel, and other experience; therefore, you will have a greater chance of being admitted to law school if you apply later. Moreover, you will be more confident with your decision to apply if you are making the decision after spending time away from school, when you have a broader perspective.
The reason many students like to apply, even when they know they are not yet ready to attend law school, is for peace of mind. Moreover, many students fear that if they do not apply to law school during college, they will never apply. In our experience, students who are committed to attending law school, apply as alumni/ae.
When determining when to apply, you should weigh all the competing factors and make a choice that is comfortable for you. What are law school’s policies on deferring?
Many schools will allow you to defer one, two, and sometimes even more years. You must petition the law school to get a deferral. Whether or not the law school grants your deferral depends on a variety of factors including: your proposed plan for how you will spend your time during the upcoming year; the law school’s policy regarding deferrals that particular year (school policies may vary from year to year); the number of students who have accepted admission to the law school that year; the number of other students petitioning for deferral.