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September 24, 2005

Request: Learning to live w/an LSAT score.

It must be law school application time because that seems to be what readers are concerned about. And the two things that people are most concerned with when apply for law school are the two things that law schools seem to care most about—GPA and LSAT score. The last request was about Thing One; here's one about Thing Two:

I'm a senior this year have been studying as best as I've been able. This process has taken a lot of soul searching, but now I'm confident that this is what I want to do. Unfortunately, it's hard not to be frustrated by unsatisfactory lsat scores. I know that there is a law school for everyone, and I'm certainly not suggesting that I'm just out for one of the top ten, but how do I know when I should take the lsat? To be truthful, I'm a bit panicked right now. I have a pretty high gpa from an ivy league school, but my lsat just isn't, in my opinion, reflective of my abilities. Cutting to the chase, isn't it important to break 160??

I'm not sure, but I kind of think the question in the middle is: “How do I know when I should retake the LSAT?” Not surprisingly, I have no good answer, but I have some thoughts.

First, U.S. News rankings are just not everything. Decide what you want to do w/a law degree, then find a school that will help you do that, then decide whether your LSAT is too low for those schools. You probably already know about the BC Law School Locator, which tells you what schools are looking for in terms of GPA/LSAT, so that can be a big help.

Second, remember that these things are never set in stone; just because you don't have the numbers, that doesn't mean for sure you won't get into a particular school. You probably have other things going for you—your Ivy League education, maybe some work or volunteer experience, a good statement or writing sample, etc. So the numbers aren't everything.

Third, you can always apply now w/the LSAT score you have, study like a demon and/or take a prep course so you can take the next LSAT. If you get a higher score, send a letter to your schools asking them to update your application file and to reconsider your application in light of your new numbers.

But really, the best plan is to only go to law school if you know what you want to do w/your degree and not just b/c you can get into a good school. Whatever you want to do, remember that you might get a lot of advantages out of going to a lower-ranked school. If you're a good student (which your “pretty high” GPA suggests you are) then you should be able to do fine in law school. Going to a lower-ranked school might help you be a bigger fish in a smaller pond so you'll end up in the top 5-10% of your class. Being top-of-class at a lower-ranked school can be more impressive than being mediocre at a better-ranked school.

Finally: Law school is not for everyone and it's very likely not the only or possibly even the best way to achieve what you want in life. Again, take this as an opportunity to reexamine what your goals are and make sure that this is really what you want to do. I think Should You Really Be A Lawyer can be a big help with this. Once you've figured out what you want to do and why, you can decide the best way to get there. If that still means law school, then make the most of the numbers, experience, and other assets that you do have and don't stress about rank. Do the best you can at the school you decide to attend and things will work out from there.

Of course, these are just my opinions. I hope other people have thoughts on this, as well...

Posted by mowabb at September 24, 2005 09:23 AM

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It must be law school application season because Blawg Wisdom is now featuring requests for your help on Thing One & Thing Two in the application game: GPA and LSAT scores. Please Mr. Please, don't play b-17.... I mean, please please please if yo... [Read More]

Tracked on September 24, 2005 09:52 AM


I'll second much of what has already been said. Don't pick a school based on your LSAT score. That's not a good way to find a school you will like.

Pick the schools you want to go to, based on the faculty, the location, the curriculum, etc. And *then* see what you "need" to get in as far as LSAT and GPA are concerned.

If the school you want to go to averages 178 and you only scored a 150, it's time for some soul searching--are you *really* going to be able to add 28 points to your score?! I recall reading somewhere that the average increase is only something like 5 points or so (annecdotal, check my facts!). So be realistic about how much you could actually increase your score--and if it is really going to make a difference.

And keep in mind, a low LSAT score *can* be countered by a high GPA (especially from a good school), good letters of recommendation, etc.

It's a standardized test, not the end-all-be-all of creation. Some people just aren't good at standardized tests and they make fine lawyers. Some people pull 180s are are shit for lawyers.

"Seek to clarify and comfort, not to obscure or mystify." :)

Posted by: Dave! at September 24, 2005 10:40 AM

I completely disagree. If you have a good GPA, take a course on the LSAT and really crack those books and get a 180. It's not impossible, it just a skill that has to be learned. Then, go to the best law school you can.

I say, you only get to spend those dollars once in your life. You might as well spend them for the best quality you can.

The corollary is that it's a silly idea to be a "big fish in a smaller pond." If you're as sharp as you say you are, you still may not be the top of your class at any school in the country, but you will be able to distinguish yourself from your classmates. Being able to distinguish yourself is a lot more impressive than being the top of the class in some mediocre future transactional lawyers of america law class.

Posted by: Lucas Burke at September 26, 2005 10:55 AM

I just received my scores from the Oct. 1 LSAT. I am not sure whether I should be relieved or dissapointed. From what I can tell from looking at the few law schools that I am interested in, I have what it takes to sneak in.

What I do have, however, are some great Letter's of Rec. at my fingertips. Can LoR's make or break your admission?

Posted by: Troy Starwalt at October 24, 2005 11:43 AM