The Application Process
Most law schools admit students once a year in the Fall.
Applications are submitted at least 6-12 months in advance of the desired enrollment date. To maximize your opportunities, you should apply to law schools the Fall before you wish to enroll. While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.
Requirements vary from program to program. Research schools early for specific information about requirements.
Before submitting applications, have people with an unbiased eye go over each entire application to catch any errors. Your Preprofessional advisor is happy to do this for you.
The Law School Application includes 5-7 components:
- The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
- Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Report
- Application form
- Personal Statement
- Letters of Recommendation
- Resume—Some schools
- Deans Recommendation—A few schools
Choose schools that are of serious interest to you, but give your list enough variety so as to maximize your chances for admission. It is wise to include one or two “reach” schools where your gpa and LSAT might be on the low end, at least one to two solid "back-up" schools at which your chances are very good, and then several where you are likely competitive, but in the middle of the pack.
Attend the UU annual Law School Fair in October and visit with some of the over 100 law school representatives attending; attend a National Law School Forum; visit individual schools if possible. Assess your credentials realistically and give your school selection careful thought.
- Size of school and size of individual classes.
- Location and environment--do you prefer a large metropolitan area or a smaller city atmosphere? What about surrounding area, quality of life, etc.?
- Library and other facilities--quality of library collections, computerized legal research services, adequate staff, study/meeting space, open hours
- General “personality” of school--what are your impressions from their literature, representatives you meet? Are you looking for an intense, more competitive environment or more of a community feeling?
- Special interest areas: combined degree programs; specialized courses, clinical programs, publications or student organizations in your area of interest; part-time or evening programs; early graduation.
- Student/faculty ratio. A full-time student to full-time faculty ratio of 30:1 or higher is not recommended.
- Student body--How do you fit in with GPA and LSAT averages of students previously admitted? How balanced and diverse is the student body? How is the student morale? Do students have input in operation of school?
- Faculty diversity—Are they largely all from the same background or relatively diverse with respect to race, creed, gender? Are they well-balanced in educational experiences or only from the same school or schools? What is the extent of their research and professional activities?
- Faculty-student relationships--Are faculty accessible and committed to teaching? Is there an “open door” policy?
- Opportunities for clinical programs, writing, law review, moot court, etc.
- What student support programs are available? If applicable, what minority or disabled student services are available?
- What placement services are offered for summer clerkships? What career services are offered to help you investigate your options and find employment at graduation? What are the bar passage rates? What is the placement record for graduates? Are graduates finding employment in the geographic areas you are interested in? What are the average or median salaries of graduates?
- Tuition costs. You cannot ignore the cost, but neither can you use it as your only criterion. Consider the cost and potential indebtedness along with the other factors, and make sure you are choosing the right schools for the right reasons.
The LSAT is designed to help predict your success in law school by measuring skills necessary to succeed in that program. It is not a measure of how good of a lawyer you will be. Register for the LSAT online at: http://www.lsac.org
The LSAT will be offered 5 times in the 2018-2019 year—June, September, November, January, and March. A July test will be added in 2019 and thereafter it will be offered 6 times per year. Deadlines to register are generally one month in advance, but you should register well in advance in order secure a seat in your preferred testing location. Always consult http://www.lsac.org to confirm dates.
Plan to complete the LSAT no later than November of the year before you wish to enter law school. Most schools will accept the January test, and a few might accept the March test, but you will put yourself at a disadvantage by completing a later application.
The LSAT will consist of the following 5 multiple choice sections, and a writing sample. The writing sample is not scored, but a copy is sent to the schools to which you are applying.
- Analytical Reasoning (1)
- Reading Comprehension (1)
- Logical Reasoning (2)
- Variable/Experimental Section (1) this will be an additional section of one of the other three.
- This section is not scored. Its purpose is to test out new questions. The test taker will not know which section it is, only that if they have, for example, 2 Analytical Reasoning sections, one of them will not be scored, but they won’t know which one.
The score scale is 120-180. The main competitive range tends to be the high 150s to mid 160s. Scores in the high 160s or the 170s are very high scores. A score 150 or below could seriously limit the number of schools that will admit you.
You can repeat the LSAT, but you should be prepared to do well the first time. Even though many law schools say they use the higher score when evaluating applicants, they still see all scores, and some schools average them.
Allow at least 3-4 months for LSAT preparation. Students prepare either independently using published materials, or with a preparation course. Select the method most suited to your needs.
Familiarize yourself with the exam strategies, content and format. Practice with timed sample exams assess your strengths and weaknesses and get a good feel for the organization and pacing involved. Before the real LSAT, take several full-length timed exams, simulating as much as possible actual test-taking conditions.
All ABA approved law schools use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) to collect and coordinate application materials. You should subscribe at http://www.lsac.org when you register for the LSAT. Your CAS subscriptions is good for 5 years.
You will have official transcripts from every college or university that you have attended sent to CAS, even if classes were from concurrent enrollment in high school, and even if those credits are recorded on your U of U transcript.
Your CAS report will include:
- Biographical data,
- LSAT score(s),
- LSAT writing sample,
- Summary of undergraduate grades and credits
- Information on your degree granting university
- Photocopies of all your transcripts
- Copies of you Letters of Recommendation (LORS)
Your CAS subscription also includes online applications for all ABA-Approved law schools.
When a law school receives your individual application, they will request your CAS report from LSAC. It usually takes two weeks for the law school to receive this report.
We recommend that you also register for the Candidate Referral Service which authorizes the release of some of your data to law schools interested in recruiting.
NOTE: To help us advise other students, we would appreciate it if you would release your statistical information from your applications to the Prelaw Advisor when prompted. This information will always be kept confidential.
Each law school has its own application form. Your CAS subscription provides you with applications for all ABA Approved law schools. You will submit them online, attaching your supporting documents such as your Personal Statement and Resume directly to each application.
The information requested on the applications will include personal background, employment, activities, honors received, etc. Pay attention to the specific instructions for each school, and take great care in preparing your application to create the best possible impression. It is important to pay attention to all the details. Do not refer the reader to your resume. Fill out every space and use the same format if you need to attach an additional page.
The personal statement (unless otherwise directed) should be about you - who you are, where you're coming from, where you're going and why. It should be a reflection on your personal background, achievements, motivation for studying law and/or long term goals - not just a static list.
The PPA office has several resources to help you:
- Personal Statement Topic Ideas
- Making your Personal Statement Stand Out
- Strategies to Avoid
Try to choose a theme rather than random thoughts. Remember, your job is to sell yourself. Your resume which will provide the admissions committee with a list of accomplishments. Your personal statement is an opportunity to provide additional, more in-depth information. Law schools are looking for a diverse group of students who can contribute a variety of skills, backgrounds and ideas to the class and to the profession.
The essay is also a sample of your writing skills and should be written very clearly and concisely, generally not more than 2 or 3 pages, but read the instructions. It must contain NO spelling or grammar errors. PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!
If you have any concerns about your grades, or LSAT score that require an explanation, do it briefly and not defensively. Unless the school specifically instructs you to include these explanations in your personal statement, you should address them on a separate addendum.
REMEMBER, your audience is smarter, has more legal knowledge, and knows what is like to be a lawyer. Don’t try to impress them with your legal knowledge!
Get feedback! Have 3 or 4 people you can trust to be honest with you (professor, lawyer, law student, family member, advisor, Writing Center, tutor, etc.) read your essay and offer feedback. Do not ask too many people to read it. Having too many opinions can become confusing.
Dos and Don’ts
DO concentrate more on actual experiences rather than speculation about future accomplishments.
DO focus more on what you can give rather than on what you can get by becoming an attorney
DO limit the number of “I” statements you use
DO share your background if it is appropriate
DO describe meaningful experiences
DO use all five senses as you tell your story
DO pay careful attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation
DO NOT devote too much space to writing about other people (family, mentors, lawyers you know, etc.)
DO NOT summarize or simply repeat what is on the activity list on your resume
DO NOT use overly flowery language or words you do not know how to use
DO NOT try to use legal terminology
DO NOT assume everyone knows what you know
DO NOT try to make jokes
DO NOT use foreign language
DO NOT begin your essay with a quote
You will have your confidential recommendation letters sent directly to CAS to be copied and distributed to the law schools of your choosing.
Requirements for letters vary between schools, so research schools early and know what you need. Most schools require 1-3 letters.
The most effective letters are those from professors who can make detailed and objective comments on your academic work, personal achievements, and potential for rigorous graduate study. Other useful letters could be from employers, internship and research supervisors, or administrators with whom you've had a close working relationship.
It is best to think of these as letters of evaluation. Only people who have been in a position to evaluate you and your work are appropriate. Family friends with impressive titles are not the best choice.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
- Ask if potential writers if they feel capable of writing a strongly supportive letter. If anyone is hesitant, you should probably ask someone else.
- Get business cards with your recommenders’ contact information.
- Ask if recommenders would welcome any written background material. You could include a brief biographical sketch or resume, your interests and activities, career goals, and motivation toward your intended profession. You could also include a snapshot, a copy of a paper or assignment from their class, or transcript.
- For recommenders who are unsure of how to write a good letter, the PPA Advising office provides a Guide to Writing LORs for Law Schools
- Always give recommenders ample time. Two to three weeks at a minimum. Follow up to make sure that your letters have been sent.
- Send thank you notes.
Many law schools require resumes as part of their applications, and those that don’t will often accept one anyway. A resume allows you to highlight all your activities and accomplishments in your own way. It can’t be stressed enough, however, that the resume is not a substitute for completely filling out the school’s application form.
The format of your resume is not all that critical as long as the information is clear and concise. Generally, a chronological format is the best option. However, if you are already in a career, use the standard format for your field. If you are still in college visit Career & Professional Development Center, 350 SSB, http://careers.utah.edu to learn about standard resume formats
A resume for law school can be a bit longer and more detailed than a resume for a job. It is okay to for it to be 2 pages, or longer if you have been working for some time. In addition to paid employment, you can add sections to list volunteer experience and other important activities and significant hobbies.
Some schools require a Dean's form to be filled out for verification of your overall academic and student conduct records. These forms are completed by the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union, 801-581-7066 (mailing address: 200 S. Central Campus Dr, Rm 270, SLC UT 84112). Please remember to sign the "waiver of access" statement. Addressed, stamped envelopes are appreciated. Allow at least one week for completion.
Don’t worry if you do not know the Dean of Students. Law schools understand that most students at large institutions will not know the Dean. They are mostly interested in whether or not there has been any disciplinary actions taken against you at the school.
Some of these forms state that they can be completed by a prelaw advisors. Prelaw advisors at the U of U do not have access to disciplinary records, so we cannot complete the form.
Law Schools evaluate applicants according to many criteria, including academic performance, quality of program, Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, extracurricular activities and/or employment, overall accomplishments, personal statement and letters of recommendation.
You are advised to complete your applications as early as possible but within the guidelines of each school. Mid-October through November is usually ideal, especially for the more competitive schools. Most schools process applications on a rolling admission basis and begin offering acceptances well before their published deadlines. Therefore, it is best to file an application no later than early December if possible.
Many schools have two published deadlines, an “application” deadline and a “completed application: deadline. The Application deadline usually only requires your application form and application feel. The Completed Application deadline means all required materials have been received: application form and fee, personal statement, CAS report with a valid LSAT score, recommendations, and anything else the school requests. It is your responsibility to make sure your file is complete at each school.
The evaluation of applications varies from school to school. A few schools make most decisions solely on numbers (GPA and LSAT), others have no numerical cutoffs and scrutinize all aspects of the application. The majority fall somewhere in between, placing emphasis on subjective factors, but also making preliminary prescreening decisions based on numbers.
Once you receive an offer you will usually be asked to accept by a certain date and pay a deposit to hold your position in the class. Until April 1, those deposits should be refundable if you choose to accept another offer.
After April 1st you may have to forfeit your deposit if you change your mind about attending a school. If you receive multiple acceptances you should be courteous and inform schools of your decisions as soon as possible so those you decline can open up the seat for another applicant.
If you are placed on a waiting list at a school you may still have a decent chance of being accepted, but you may not hear until fall just before school starts. If you are very interested in the wait-list school it is usually acceptable to update your file if you feel you have something substantive to add, but check with the school first.
- Applications are submitted approximately 12 months in advance of your desired enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your degree and the necessary coursework, and successfully take the LSAT.
- It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to medical school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline.
- Talk to potential writers of your Letters of Recommendation. Give them plenty of time to write the letters. The PPA Website has helpful information on asking for letters and guidelines that you can give to your writers.
- Continue with your volunteer, work, and other activities. Do not stop these activities until you have an official offer of admission. It may take two or more application cycles to gain admission, so you need to be continually improving your application until you do.
- Prepare for and take the LSAT. Take it by Fall of the year you submit your application.
- Research programs using the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools on the LSAC Website
- Set up your free LSAC account online
- Register for the LSAT at http://www.LSAC.org. (Take it by November if possible. June is optimal as you know your scores early and it allows for Fall repeat if necessary.)
- Subscribe to the Credential Assembly Service CAS at http://www.LSAC.org ..
- Start drafting your personal statement
- Make a list of potential law schools. You can use The Official Guide to ABA Approved Law Schools available online at http://www.LSAC.org as an aid.
- Start visiting as many schools as you can.
- Subscribe to CAS, if you haven’t already done so http://www.LSAC.org
September - December
- Familiarize yourself with the applications online
- Make a checklist and schedule for each application
- Send transcript request forms to all undergraduate and graduate schools you have attended. Transcript Request Forms are available through your CAS subscription
- Approach your recommenders and schedule an appointment to discuss writing a letter.
- Give them the Recommendation Form available through CAS or have CAS send them an electronic form
- Finalize your personal statement
- Put the finishing touches on your online applications
- Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in October at http://www.fafsa.gov
- Submit your applications. Thanksgiving time is a good time to shoot for.
- Request financial aid application materials from schools that require them, and make sure you read the instructions carefully.
- View your Master Law School Report from CAS online. It summarizes your transcripts, schools information, LSAT scores etc. Request corrections if necessary.
- Receive monthly updates from CAS
- Cross your fingers while you wait for the acceptances to roll in.
- Visit as many schools as you can
- Decide which offer to accept. Send in acceptance of admission and financial aid and seat deposit
- Until April 1, seat deposits should be refundable if you change your mind. After that they generally are not.
- Annual Law School Fair: Every Fall Semester law schools from across the country attend this event in the Union and are available to provide prospective students with information regarding their schools. Most years over 120 schools attend.
- Law School Application Workshop: Held at the U of U S.J. Quinney School of Law every Fall and Spring Semester. Dates and times can be found on the law school’s website at http://law.utah.edu/events/month/.
- Law School Financial Aid Workshops: Held at the U of U S.J. Quinney School of Law every Fall Semester. Dates and times can be found on the law school’s website at http://law.utah.edu/events/month/.
- University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law: http://www.law.utah.edu. For information on visiting the campus and sitting in on a law school class, select Admissions, then Visit.
- BYU, J. Reuben Clark Law School: http://www.law.byu.edu/. Contact the admissions office about visiting campus and sitting in on a class
- Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) http://www.lsac.org
- American Bar Association (ABA) http://www.americanbar.org
- National Association for Law Placement (NALP) http://www.nalp.org
- Internet Legal Resource Guide http://www.ilrg.com/
- Prelaw Handbook http://prelawhandbook.com
- Council on Legal Opportunity (CLEO) http://www.cleoscholars.com/
- DiscoverLaw.org http://discoverlaw.org/
- LSAC Financial Aid Information https://www.lsac.org/jd/financing-law-school/financial-aid-overview
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid http://www.fafsa.gov
- AccessLex Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) http://www.lsac.org
Guides and Locaters
- Boston College Online Law School Locator http://www.bc.edu/offices/careers/gradschool/law/research.html
- Law School Transparency Project http://lawschooltransparency.com
- AdmissionsDean.com http://www.admissionsdean.com/
- The Ranking Game http://monoborg.law.indiana.edu/LawRank/choose.shtm l
- The NAPLA/SAPLA Book of Law School Lists http://www.bu.edu/caspreprofessional/files/2013/08/2013-NAPLA_SAPLA-Book-of-Law-School-Lists.pdfNOTE: The PDF of this book tends to disappear from the BU website from time to time, and the url sometimes changes. If this link does not work, try doing an internet search using the book’s name to see if it is currently available online