UCS offers pre-law counseling regarding the law school application process. Services are available for current students and alumni. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Academic Preparation for Law School
Although there is no required pre-law curriculum, law schools look favorably upon students who have acquired certain skills and taken a wide variety of courses. You should choose your courses, major, internships, and extracurricular activities according to your interests and strengths but also try to acquire these skills and knowledge areas.
In general, consider taking courses in the following areas, as your major permits: English, Literature, History, Political Science, Philosophy, Economics, Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, non-Western studies, languages, and natural sciences.
- Analytical and Problem Solving Skills: Includes critical thinking, tolerance for ambiguity, ability to structure and evaluate arguments, ability to apply principles or theories to new situations, and developing solutions to new problems.
- Critical Reasoning Skills: Includes experience reading and critically analyzing complex texts, whether in literature, politics, economics, history, or philosophy, and the ability to read and assimilate large amounts of material in short periods of time.
- Writing Skills: Ability to express oneself clearly and concisely, mastery of language, grammar, and syntax. Includes analytical and interpretive writing, and writing works of substantial length.
- Oral Communication and Listening Skills: Ability to speak clearly and persuasively, to understand and interpret others' communications quickly, and to respond in an organized, critical, and composed manner.
- Research Skills: Ability to complete projects involving significant library research and the analysis of large amounts of information. Skill at planning a research strategy, analyzing, organizing, and presenting a large amount of material, and familiarity with computerized tools of research.
- Broad understanding of history and the various factors (social, political, economic and cultural) that have influenced the development of the pluralistic society that presently exists in the United States. Examples: history, American studies, political science
- Fundamental understanding of political thought and theory, and of the contemporary American political system. Examples: political science
- Basic understanding of ethical theory and theories of justice. Examples: philosophy, ethics
- Grounding in economics and an understanding of the interaction between economic theory and public policy. Examples: economics, politics
- Some basic mathematical and financial skills. Examples: math
- A basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction. Examples: psychology, sociology
- Understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States, of international institutions and issues, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities of our world. Examples: African and African American studies, history, American studies, East Asian studies, ethnicity/race/migration, international studies, Latin American studies, East European studies.
(This content has been summarized from the Pre-law Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar)
The Components of the Law School Application
Students who register with Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service (CAS) can apply to law schools directly through the service, or students can download application materials from the website. Many law schools now prefer or require applicants to use the CAS system.
Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. It is required that you take this test as part of the application process for ABA- approved law schools. The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, including one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. An additional section,
known as the non-scored or variable section is typically used to pretest new test questions or pre-equate new test forms. While UCS does not endorse preparation courses or materials for the LSAT, the office does provide sample tests for students to utilize. Contact the UCS office at email@example.com, or (203) 432-0800 for further information regarding the sample tests. For more information visit www.lsac.org. Source: LSAT and CAS Information Book, 2009-2010.
Writing the Law School Personal Statement
Since most law schools do not include an interview as part of the application process, your personal statement is the only chance you have to "speak" directly to the admissions committee. It is best if you use this limited space to sell yourself, rather than as a place to "explain" a low grade or any other less than perfect aspect of your application. Effective personal statements usually read more like a story and less like a narrative resume. Be sure to write several drafts, and have several readers before finalizing your statement. Source: National Association of Pre-law Advisors
Transcripts from each higher education institution, both undergraduate and graduate schools, need to be sent directly to the Law School Admissions Council. For information regarding transcripts, specifically foreign transcripts, visit the LSAC website.
A resume should be submitted with your law school application. The resume can be up to two pages in length. It is advised that students use the two full pages if possible, elaborating on their education, experiences, community service, academic research and activities.
Dean Certification is needed for a few select law schools, and will be indicated on the application. A written request listing the names and addresses of the law schools must be sent or hand-delivered to the Dean's Office in order to have the certification sent to each law school requested.
Letters of Recommendation
Students should obtain letters of recommendation for their application file. Two of the letters should be written by professors who know your academic performance; an additional letter can be submitted by a recommender who can address other topics such as your professionalism, leadership, work ethic, interests, etc. It may be helpful to provide your recommender with the following:
- A cover letter that includes: Contact Information, Key points to address, a list of possible schools
- The official Letter of Recommendation Form, found at www.lsac.org
- Your unofficial transcript (note courses you took with them)
- A draft of your personal statement (if available)
- Copies of assignments from class
- Your resume
- Stamped and addressed envelopes to send letters and forms directly to CAS.
Make sure to ask recommenders well in advance to write the letters, and send a thank you once the letters have been received.
Additional Essays and Writing Samples
Dependent on each individual law school, applicants may be asked to write additional essays and writing samples. It is in applicant’s best interest to take advantage of writing these essays even though they are typically optional. General topics for these essays include what makes you a diverse candidate and why you are choosing to apply to a particular law school.
Applicants may choose to attach an addendum to their application to provide admissions committees with any necessary clarifications about the components of their application or any new information not mentioned in the rest of their application. The addendum should be a brief and factual statement.
The timetable for notification varies from school to school. Applicants may learn as early as December or as late as August (if an applicant is on a wait-list). If you are able, consider visiting the law school, talk to faculty, students, and/or ask their career services administrators about placement; get a ‘feel’ for the campus. Take advantage of the Law School surveys – a database of evaluations first year alumni have submitted about their law school experience. Often, alumni offer their contact information in case you have further questions or need additional information. The site is password protected; to gain access please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In comparing each school, take into consideration: the faculty, financial package offers, geographic location, student body, career placement opportunities, resources offered to students, clinics and other practical training programs, and type of schools – regional vs. national.
If you have been placed on a waitlist, submit a letter to the admissions dean informing them of your continued interest in the school. If the school is your first choice, tell them. Provide an updated transcript; send an additional letter of recommendation (one or two) only if you have not reached the schools accepted limit.
Deferrals are not granted automatically. It is a privilege offered to you by the law school. The policy for applying for deferrals varies greatly from school to school. Please be sure to research this thoroughly if you plan on asking for a deferral.