The two most important factors determining your admission to law school are your GPA and your score on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). If you plan to attend law school, you should devote yourself to doing well in your undergraduate course work from the outset. You also will need to prepare diligently for the LSAT. (See LSAT below.)
You must register to take the The Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and it is offered four times a year. Most students take the LSAT in the summer (typically June) or fall of the year preceding when they plan to enroll in law school. You can register on line at www.lsac.org or by phone. It is important to register early to insure that you can select a convenient testing location. Most students take the LSAT in the summer or fall of the year preceding their planned enrollment in law school. It is important to pay close attention to registration deadlines and to be well rested on the day of the LSAT. Preparation is essential to doing well on the LSAT. You should begin by becoming familiar with the instructions for the test and studying the descriptions of the types of questions found at the LSAC website .
The LSAT has five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, four of which are scored and one which is unscored. A 35-minute unscored writing sample concludes the test. While writing samples are not scored, law schools may use them to evaluate a candidate's potential. The unscored multiple-choice section is used to test out new question types or forms. The order of the sections, other than the writing sample, will vary. There are three multiple-choice question types on the LSAT: logical reasoning questions, analytical reasoning (logic games) questions, and reading comprehension questions. There will be at least two logical reasoning sections, at least one logic games section, and at least one reading comprehension section.
The best preparation for the LSAT, in addition to rigorous coursework and independent reading and analysis, is becoming familiar with the test format and taking official practice tests, which may be ordered from LSAC. Some free study materials are available at the LSAC website. Students are advised to take at least one official practice test under conditions approximating those of the actual test.
For students who desire some additional study materials, there are a variety of prep manuals and self-study guides available in libraries and bookstores. A few such guides can be found in FLC's library.
Additionally, there are a number of LSAT prep programs offered by private companies for a fee. Depending on the company, they provide either live classroom or on-line tutoring, or a combination thereof. These courses include but are not limited to: Blueprint, Kaplan, PowerScore, The Princeton Review, TestMasters, and 7Sage.
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180. Test takers with on-line LSAC accounts will receive their scores electronically about three weeks after taking the test. If you are unhappy with your score, you may take the test again, provided you have time before applications are due. Repeat test takers may find that their scores increase but large score differences are unlikely. Law schools will receive all your scores, not just the most recent one. You may not take the LSAT more than three times in any give two-year period. More information about the LSAT is available here.
The Crediential Assembly Service
The LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is a dossier service that compiles your LSAT score report, transcripts, recommendation letters and evaluations into one report that is sent to the law schools to which you are applying. A report must be purchased for each school to which you apply. More information about costs can be found below.
Participation in the CAS is required by almost all ABA-approved U.S. law schools. You should sign up for the CAS at least four weeks before any applications are due. It takes the service about two weeks for CAS to process transcripts and letters of recommendation. Once you register with the CAS, your account will remain active for five years.
Ideally, you should sign up for the CAS when you sign up to take the LSAT. The CAS also provides electronic application processing for all ABA-approved U.S. law schools. You are still responsible for application fees to individual schools. These fees are in addition to the CAS service fee and report fees.
The Personal Statement
Law school applications require an admissions essay in the form of a personal statement. Schools may also require or allow diversity statements and other addenda. The personal statement is your opportunity to tell law schools something about yourself in professional, well-written prose that will distinguish you from other applicants. Keep in mind that your essay will also serve as a writing sample. Thus it should be direct, concise, engaging, and well written grammatically. You do not need to have climbed Mount Everest to have something interesting to say about yourself. Think about your life, what you have accomplished, your experiences, things you have learned (whether about the outside world or yourself), your interests, your hobbies, your convictions, what motivates you, your distinctive personality traits, and the like. Then create a list of possible topics. Review your list and choose the topic that conveys your personality or identity in ways that go beyond what other application materials include. Make sure to check with the school's parameters for essay length. Then draft and revise your essay. At some point, share it with family members, friends, instructors (especially those you've asked to write letters for you), and others who know you well. The pre-law advisors and other career counselors can also help at this stage. Then revise your draft until it is polished.
What do great personal statements look like? Take a look at some of the standout examples provided by the University of Chicago law school.
Many schools will require that you submit letters of recommendation in support of your application. The number of letters required may vary by school. In most cases, letters of recommendation can be submitted to schools through the CAS. Be sure to check carefully each school's application requirements. Also, it is usually advisable to sign the waiver of access, making the letters confidential. Otherwise, those reading the letters might not treat them as seriously.
The strongest recommendation letters are from professors who know you well enough to write something specific about you. How well the letter writer knows you is more important than the status of the recommender. Thus a letter from a teaching assistant who knows you well may be more helpful than a letter from a senior faculty member who does not know you well. Recommendation letters from employers may also be useful, especially if they can write about your demonstration of skills important to succeeding in law school and in a legal career.
You should request letters from recommenders well in advance of application deadlines. When asking for a recommendation, remember to ask politely, provide the recommender with any information about yourself that may be helpful (e.g., a draft of your personal statement, your resume, an unofficial copy of your transcript), and give him or her instructions and a clear deadline for submitting the letter. It may be wise to make this deadline earlier than the application deadline. Give your recommenders adequate time to write their letters for you (e.g., two weeks or more, depending on the circumstances). If necessary and as appropriate, remind your letter writers of applicable deadlines. Finally, make sure to thank your letter writers for their help.
Recently, law schools have also begun to use an on-line evaluation tool available via the CAS. The tool allows recommenders to rate applicants across six categories: intellectual skill, personal qualities, integrity and honesty, communication, task management, and ability to work with others. The electronic evaluations are sometimes combined with letters of recommendation. It is advisable to ask your recommenders whether or not they think it would be advantageous to do an on-line evaluation in your case.