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Pre-Law Preparation

Freshman Checklist

  • Meet with your academic advisor and your pre-law advisor.
  • Begin basic courses.
  • Join the pre-law club and/or other organizations.
  • Take study skills classes.
  • Subscribe to and read journals and/or news magazines.
  • Seek volunteer experience (and continue throughout undergraduate years).

Sophomore Checklist

  • Choose a major (if you haven’t already done so).
  • Begin to form relationships w/ professors.
  • Explore career options; write resume.
  • Seek internships or research experience.
  • Become involved in campus/community activities (and continue throughout undergraduate years).
  • Start researching schools – a good way to begin is on the web, such as on the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) website.

Junior Checklist

  • Meet with pre-law advisor to assess your preparation and discuss the application process.
  • Attend law school fairs held at the University and in San Francisco.
  • Reality check - What are your chances?
    • GPA:
    • LSAT:
    • Activities:
  • Consider taking valuable electives: Computer classes, Philosophy, Communication, Statistics, Ethics, Economics,
  • Visit as many of the law schools to which you plan to apply as possible.
  • Pick up LSAT/LSDAS Information booklet
  • LSAT-sign-up, study, take exam in February or June.
  • At the end of the school year and over the summer start working on your personal statement.
  • Attend appropriate workshops to help with application process.

Senior Checklist

  • Late summer or early fall sign up for LSDAS and send transcripts
  • Request catalogs, application materials, and financial aid information.
  • Ask people to write letters of recommendation.
  • Retake the LSAT if necessary.
  • Check out your graduation requirements.
  • Send out all applications by late November.
  • Make sure your LSDAS report is accurate.
  • Early Spring semester -contact all schools to which you have applied to check on the status of your file.
  • Send appropriate people thank-you notes and inform them of your success or future plans.

Overview

Law schools require a bachelor's degree and the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) for admission. Law school normally takes three years but 4-year part time programs are available at some schools. Information about American Bar Association approved schools may be found in The Official Guide to US Law Schools. Reference copies are available in the bookstore, or can be ordered from the Law School Admissions Council (www.LSAC.org).

Undergraduate Preparation

Pre-law students are encouraged to challenge their thinking and reasoning skills by pursuing a rigorous and diverse undergraduate program. There are no specific course requirements or recommended majors. Students are urged to choose a major in which they are truly interested and will do well in academically, since the grade point average plays a significant role in the admission process. Suggested courses are those that help develop analytical and logical reasoning skills, composition skills, public speaking ability, understanding of human nature, knowledge of business and the economy, and an understanding of historical contexts. Pre-law students should develop a foundation of basic skills and values through educational and life experiences which will prepare them to become competent law students and legal professionals. Those seeking to prepare for legal education should develop a strong command of the English language, and acquire the ability to read with understanding, to think logically and critically, and to perform research and analysis competently.

The Application Process

  • Law Service Data Assembly Service (LSDAS): LSDAS provides a means of centralizing and standardizing undergraduate academic records. LSDAS provides the law schools to which you apply with a report of your undergraduate academic work, transcripts, and LSAT Scores, and the LSAT writing sample. The LSAT/LSDAS booklet which contains full details and applications is available outside 202 Thompson. Read it carefully. Your LSDAS registration is valid for 12 months. Send all college transcripts to LSDAS (don't wait for fall grades). Fall grades can be sent later resulting in an updated LSDAS Report, which will be considered by some schools.
  • Law School Admission Test (LSAT): The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions. The sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. A 30-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. The score scale for the LSAT is 120 to 180. The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others. Take it early! The LSAT is given four times a year: February, July, October, and December. The February and June tests have advantages, in that the scores are available in plenty of time to plan application strategy.

    Never Take the LSAT for Practice!

    With the importance placed on the LSAT it is difficult to choose schools effectively without the score. Repeat scores are calculated differently from school to school. Some schools will average the scores, others may take the highest, while others may use a formula.

  • Grade Point Average (GPA): In determining a student's potential, law schools often consider the LSAT score and GPA together. The GPA on its own can be interpreted many ways. In addition to the cumulative GPA other factors are considered, such as your major, if there were external factors that brought your GPA down in a given semester, or whether you had to work to pay for your education. In some cases, a high GPA can compensate for a low LSAT score. Through the LSDAS, grades are converted to allow law schools to uniformly compare applicants' grades earned at any undergraduate school. Most law schools use this "converted GPA" for admission purposes.
  • Personal Statement: The personal statement is a critical component of your admissions package. There are no personal interviews, so the statement becomes an important substitute. Your essay should include how you became interested in the field of law, what experiences you have had that confirmed your interest in pursuing law, and significant life experiences, whether they have been scholarly, personal or in the workplace. These experiences demonstrate growth, values, motivation, time management, and other characteristics and skills that are important. This is also the place to discuss any hardships you have had or struggles that you have overcome. It would also be appropriate to address a weak academic record or low LSAT score. Remember, your statement should be concise, yet interesting, and tell the committee something about yourself that is not included in your application or resume.

Letters of Recommendation

Most law schools require one to three letters of recommendation. Individuals who know you well and can assess your ability to succeed in law school should write them. Letters from professors, internship supervisors, or employers would be appropriate. At least one letter should be from a professor who can assess your academic potential for law school. These letters are important because they provide different perspectives about who you are to the admission committee members. LSDAS now includes a Letter of Recommendation Service at no extra cost. Unless a school requires you to use the service, it is optional. Letter of Recommendation forms and instructions are included in the Registration and Information Book, or you may visit http://www.lsas.org. You may also consider storing your letters with a document collection and delivery service such as Interfolio. With the use of Interfolio your letters can be kept on file for multiple years and delivered to the programs you are applying to at your convenience. Students can learn more about the service at www.Interfolio.com

Which Law School?

The decision of which law school to attend can be more complicated than the decision to apply to law school. The best advice on how to select a law school is to choose the school that is best for you, which involves researching the different schools and deciding what your priorities are. You need to determine what you are looking for in law schools: a certain specialty? location? reputation? small student/faculty ratio? cost? job placement after graduation? To help you gather some of this information, you may want to attend the annual Professional and Graduate School Fair at UNR or the national law school fair in San Francisco. If possible, visit the schools you are considering. Although most schools do not include a formal interview as part of the admission process, many admission officers will be happy to meet with you. Many of them will arrange for campus tours, class visits, financial aid appointments and other guidance.

Final Thoughts

Apply Early! There are many critical dates in the law school admission process. Remember the easiest decision is not always the best one. More information is available at http://www.LSAC.org and with the counselor in Pre-Professional Advising.

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