May 12, 2006
Advice for the Incoming Class of 2009
3L Epiphany offers a nice collection of Advice for the Incoming Class of 2009:
This advice is from members of the graduating Class of 2006, Ohio State University (Moritz Law School), and is intended as a gift to the Moritz Class of 2009. The majority of the advice is also applicable to other law schools.
If you're headed to law school you'll probably find something interesting there...
April 16, 2006
How to Find a Public Interest Law School
Blonde Justice offers some great advice on how to find a law school that will best prepare you for a career in public interest law. Definitely worth a look if you're thinking of heading in that direction.
UPDATE: Blonde Justice has posted a followup to the original post with more great advice.
April 04, 2006
Request: Is upper division GPA important to law schools?
Reader “halai” writes:
when applying to law school, is it the cumulative gpa which is taken into consideration or one's gpa in upper division courses only? i ask because i did very poorly my first two years of college, which obviosly killed my cumulative, however, my upper division gpa is not bad.
which is it?
I'm pretty sure most law schools want only your cumulative GPA. They get your transcript and that's going to give them the cumulative. If your undergraduate school breaks out an upper division GPA on your transcript, that's great, but if you're looking at those GPA ranges to determine your chances of getting into Your Dream Law School, you should consider your cumulative GPA b/c that's what Dream Law School's admissions folks will be looking at.
Can anyone add to that? Do you know of any schools who look at just an upper division GPA?
This is no reason to despair. Your personal statement is a great place to emphasize your great upper division GPA and to explain how it shows that you matured during college and are now on the same path of excellence that you will follow in law school. My understanding is that most law schools like to see that kind of development so this could end up working very much to your advantage.
How to use the rankings to choose your school
Professors Solove and Filler have posted a great summary of the past decade of US News Rankings of law schools, along with some great advice about how students should use that information:
When students choose law schools, they should remain focused on the forest and not get lost in the trees. Focusing on year-to-year changes can be misleading. For example, in 2006, Wash. U. moved up five spots from 24 to 19. But a year earlier, it dropped from 20 to 24. What is the real Wash. U? Over time, one can see a dramatic change -- Wash. U was in the high twenties and early thirties until it leveled out at 25 in 2002. In another example, if one looked at GW in 1998, it was ranked 20. But at that time the 20 was an anomaly, as Wash U was 24 in 1997 and 25 in 1998. After 2004, GW has been consistenly ranked either 20 or 19. To the extent that the US News rankings have any value at all, it is evident only in long-term trends, not in yearly fluctuations.
There are other instances where the US News rankings are simply game of musical chairs for certain groups of schools. For example, Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan have been have engaged in a US News game of cat-and-mouse over the past decade. When one school drops, students may become crestfallen. Prospective students may shift their preferences. However, over time, the ordering of these schools appears just to shuffle around a lot, with no discernible pattern. Relying on the US News rankings to choose among these three law schools is like choosing one's hometown based on today's weather report.
I'm personally not convinced that even using long-term U.S. News trends as a guide is worth much, but I will defer to the profs on that.
March 01, 2006
All About Law School
Jeremy Richey offers a short review of All About Law School, “a DVD which gives insight into the law school experience and gives tips for law school success.” In brief, he recommends it for those who have not yet started law school, but doesn't think it will offer much insight for those who have already enrolled and been through a few weeks of the regular law school rigmarole.
February 13, 2006
pre-law and pondering
A reader asks:
With the same GPA, would law schools give preference to Brigham Young University over University of Utah? Does BYU really make it harder to get good grades? I would be majoring Economics.Now, this is serious pre-law here. It's not clear from the question, but if this reader is a high school student, my first bit of advice would be that he should think about going to college before he thinks about going to law school. In other words, pick your school based on how happy it will make you, not your future law school. If you are happy as an undergrad, you're more likely to do well, make better connections with professors (who can write you recommendations), and come out of college a healthier, more well-rounded person.
As for the specifics between BYU and Utah, I don't really know. I know that law schools do take the prestige of your undergrad institution into account, along with the relative difficulty of your major. How much weight they give those factors, though, is a mystery to all, and is going to depend, at least in part, on what law school you're talking about. BYU's law school might not give preference; Harvard may. I honestly don't know though. Does anyone have any sense of how these two schools play against one another?
January 22, 2006
yet another Essential Adivice post
Even the lawprofs recognize the problem: too many law students don't want to be lawyers.*
Our universities produce a tremendous number of graduates in the humanities and the social sciences who have no marketable skills beyond some smattering of writing ability and critical thinking. (There is no shame in this. I studied mainly philosophy as an undergraduate, and I am very glad that I did. On the other hand, when I graduated none of the Big Five Epistemology Firms were hiring.) Some significant subset of these essentially skilless graduates are united by equally strong aversions to mathematics and business. So they go to law school, which they vaguely understand to be different than business (what they see on The Practice doesn't look like business). More importantly, law school is reputed to be equation-free. They didn't even have to study math for the LSAT. When they get to law school, they discover to their everlasting professional consternation that what you study in law school is the law. As it turns out they find the law boring. Learning its substance, structure, folkways, history, or theories holds no real interest for them. But hey, they got into Harvard Law School, so they couldn't not go, right? Three years later they emerge from saturation in a field whose only initial recommendations were "not business" and no math to find that they go into practice and spend their time with...the law. Misery and alienation result.
Right about now, lots of humanities and liberal arts majors are beginning to receive letters from law schools across the country. They are thinking that, because they spent hundreds of dollars on the LSAT, on LSDAS fees, on application fees and postage, not to mention invested dozens of hours into crafting a writing sample and recruiting letters of recommendation, they have no choice. They must go to law school.
Do your homework if you are considering law school. Some people can survive solely on their love of writing and critical analysis, but most need an actual interest in the law to make it through the three years required by the ABA.
I suggest a litmus test: If you read A Civil Action and find the second half to be interminably boring, you will probably not enjoy being a lawyer.*Oops. I posted in haste. Mr. Oman, the author of the linked post, is not a lawprof; instead he is an associate at a law firm. He has an academic bent, however, having been published in many fine journals.
January 09, 2006
a must read for the prospective law student
File this under the category of Really Good Advice.
No, make that Essential Advice.
October 26, 2005
Does Withdrawing From Classes In Undergrad Look Bad?
A reader writes:
I'm currently an undergraduate in Fall Semester of my sophomore year. I've maintained a 4.0 at my school.
But due to medical reason, I'm going to have to withdraw from my classes this Fall semester. Since I'm withdrawing, “w's” show up on the transcript to indicate the withdrawal from classes. MY QUESTION IS: Do all the w's look bad that show up on your transcript to indicate that you've withdrawn from classes?
First, I assume you're asking about how law school admissions committees will view those W's, and I can only say that if you've got a whole semester of W's on your transcript they're not just going to say “oh, that's bad,” they're going to look to your application letter or statement of purpose to see some explanation for that. You can use those writing opportunities to explain what happened and why it has made you a stronger candidate for law school.
Second, you're a sophomore in college! You've got a lot of time to think about what you want to do. Explore your options, enjoy undergrad, and maybe a year or two from now you can start worrying about things like this. ;-)
Of course, I'm a slacker and that's just me. Any other thoughts? Has anyone had experience explaining W's on a transcript for a law school application?
October 18, 2005
What's an Adequate Application Timetable?
Request of the day:
I have decided to take the December LSAT in order to apply for the 2006 admissions process. The admission deadline for my top choice is March 1st but I plan to process the application in January.
My question is: is this too short of a time table? I will have had about two months to prepare for the LSAT. Some people have advised that they prepared for three months, others have told me they only prepared for a month. What have some of you done?
Should I be concerned with such a small time frame to complete the entire law school application process?
October 14, 2005
How do I Get into Entertainment Law?
A reader has a few questions about getting into law school for entertainment law:
#1: Is there a site or does anyone know what law schools have specialties/programs in Entertainment Law? Which school is the best to attend?
#2: I've read various personal statements from people interested in studying criminal justice, international law, etc, which were very compelling and passionate. How in Hades do I write a statement about why I want to get into Entertainment Law? It's not a particularly glamorous field, nor is it geared towards “defending the good”, so there goes trying to look like a martyr.
#3: I read the blog about a low GPA; I am also in the same situation (a 3.3...I have yet to take my LSATs). Does the university attended make a difference at all (ex. a 3.3 at Berkeley versus a 3.8 at Cal State Chico)?
So what about it? Any entertainment law peeps out there?
October 11, 2005
Does School Matter for IP?
A reader writes:
I've heard that the quality of the law school matters less when it comes to hiring IP/patent attorneys. I even heard once that it doesn't matter at all where you go to law school, because the demand for such specialized attorneys is so high. Is this true?
Hmm. My impression would be no, this is not true. When I was looking at schools I remember some were singled out as good primarily if you wanted to do IP—some schools have a reputation for being strong in this area. That suggests to me that those schools will give a you a leg up in the IP job search, even if just a small one.
As far as which schools are better for IP and whether demand for IP attorneys is high, I'm not so sure. Does anyone know more?
October 05, 2005
Princeton Review Law School Rankings
Check out the TaxProf Blog for a summary of the recent Princeton Review Law School Rankings.
We surveyed more than 15,000 students at 159 law schools and used the information that they reported to us, along with school statistics provided by administrators, to create 11 ranking lists. None of these lists purports to rank the schools in terms of overall quality; but by using the lists in conjunction with the Students Say profiles and the school statistics, you will be able to identify the attributes of a law school that are important to you—and ultimately, generate a list of the schools that can best help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
It's an interesting picture of law schools. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford (HYS) are the hardest schools to get into (shock!), but Baylor, St. Johns (NY) and Yeshiva have the most competitive students? For best quality of life head for St. Thomas U. (feel the island breezes as you study your torts), U. of VA?, and Chapman U.? Hm.
Averaging LSAT Scores?
A reader wonders what happens when you take multiple LSATs:
I have read that some schools average LSAT scores which could end up costing one points instead of creating a better score. Is this true? Do some schools average the results?
I've heard this, too. I'd say you'd just have to contact the individual schools' admissions people to verify. Does anyone know more?
September 27, 2005
GPA: Is 3.0 to low for top schools?
Another concerned law school applicant writes:
I need some help! What are law schools are going to think of my situation:
- 5-year dual-degree B.S.,B.A. in Engineering and English
- But, Overall GPA dragged down to just 3.0 due to awful, terrible grades in several Physics and Math courses (including 2 Fs)
- 3.3 Engineering Major GPA
- 3.6 English Major GPA
- 165 LSAT
- Do consistently well in the humanities, literature, philosophy etc. courses, English Honors student
Since my overall gpa is grazing at 3.0, numerically, wouldn't I be weeded out of most top law schools? I know law schools look sympathetically upon engineering (really, it's painful staring at equations for hours everyday), but it seems like I am in a gray area.
Any thoughts? The conventional wisdom is that a strong LSAT, statement, and letters of recommendation could make up for a lower GPA. Of course, if you really want to get in it seems smart to apply to schools that don't seem to have much problem w/a 3.0, as well.
Did anyone face a similar situation? How did things go? Any other suggestions?
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...
Request: Apply earlier, or apply w/higher GPA?
A reader writes in with the following dilemma about applying to law school:
I am applying to law school for entry into the fall 2006 class and was wondering if you have any advice concerning the classes I am taking at a community college for fun.
I took a calculus II class (let's not focus on why I view this as “fun”) this summer and received a D. Worried about how this grade would affect my undergraduate GPA (3.53 from the University of Pittsburgh), I am retaking the class for a better grade.
My question concerns strategy. Should I wait until I get a better grade this term before submitting my community college grades to LSAC? One negative to this approach is that I will not be able to finish my law school applications until all the data is in, which means early January.
A majority of the schoools I plan on applying to are center-of-mass on the US News top 100, but I would like to set my sights a wee bit higher. I'm concerned that waiting until January will be too late.
All thoughts you have would be appreciated.
In other words, will a low community college GPA hurt more than waiting until January to apply? I have no clue, myself, so if anyone else does, please share!
September 13, 2005
Admissions: Does undergrad GPA really count for non-traditional applicants?
Reader “Doc” is requesting your input on the following question:
How much does undergrad GPA matter in getting into a top law school? I goofed off during my BA and got a 2.6 GPA in English. But I went on to get a masters degree (3.78GPA) and a PhD in English (3.8GPA), I have numerous publications and I've been a visiting assistant prof of English for the last couple years. (I graduated with the BA ten years ago, now.)
I fully expect to pull a 170+ on the LSAT. Assuming I do, will I be able to get into a top-10, maybe top-15 law school, or will that BA GPA come back to haunt me?
I don't really know the answer to this question, but I would say that any school that's going to care about your undergrad GPA after you've accomplished so many other educational goals is a school you shouldn't really care about getting into. Sadly, my impression of law school admissions is that the process is often so rigidly processed that they really do just punch in the numbers (undergrad gpa and LSAT score) and weed from there. So my guess is it's going to matter, even though that's ridiculous.
The more important question is: What the hell is an English PhD thinking to jump ship from academia into law school? Are you really really really sure you want to do that, Mr. Doc? I'm thinking you're going to be sorry, but I could just be projecting... ;-)
August 23, 2005
Accepted Admissions Almanac: Law School Admissions
One of the first steps to a legal career is getting into law school. College and graduate school admissions consultant Linda Abraham offers a good collection of links and tips about doing just that (and more) on her Accepted Admissions Almanac in the Law School Admissions category. Ms. Abraham has been blogging for over a year so her posts cover a good range of topics related to law school, from admissions essays to LSAT prep to letters of recommendation to how to deal with waitlists (there are many more posts on each of those topics—the posts I've linked are just a taste).
A few more highlights include this post about the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), another post linking to an article about “a ten-year study of new lawyers in the first three years of their career,” and a recent post about law school rankings.
Thanks to Ms. Abraham for offering such a helpful blog for those thinking about attending law school! I hope she's finding that the blog is building her business because it's definitely a good resource.
August 07, 2005
Chapman v. Southwestern?
Reader Daniel writes:
I am torn between Chapman and Southwestern. I keep hearing bad things about SW on lawschooldiscussion.org. Chapman, although much less known, seems to be a happier place and is new. But I can't resist how nice the entertainment law looks in those glossy pages of SW's viewbook, not to mention its massive alumni network.
WHAT TO DO?! Any SW students out there want to give me some input?! I really need some candid comments on the school, the good, the bad, the ugly. If you want to email me personally, please do.
Any Chapman students out there with some input about their experience at the school?
So hey, can anyone help Daniel out here?
July 28, 2005
Perfecto Personal Statements
Josh at Bad Glacier offers a some thoughts on how to write a personal statement for the law school admissions process. It also links to his advice on the LSAT, so it's great reading for all prospective students just getting started down the road. Check out the comments for more goodness, and the followup grammar tips add an appropriate dose of school-teacher and wit..
If you find this sort of material useful, be sure to check the Pre-Law Wisdom archives for more. There you can search for “personal statement” or “LSAT” or “rank” or “choosing” (for choosing a school) to find more information from people who've been there.
July 07, 2005
Pre-law advice from a law prof
Prof. Michael Madison of madisonian theory has a series of posts for the pre-law students among us. The most current post is Welcome to Law School, Part VII, covering grades. The first six are absolutely worth reading, too:
- Part I: Get fit.
- Part II: Scientists should read some literature.
- Part III: Non-scientists should read some science.
- Part IV: Write.
- Part V: On law school prep classes.
- Part VI: On taking law school exams.
June 18, 2005
Request: What's the Effect of Multiple LSATs?
A reader writes:
How much are my chances going to be hurt by taking the LSAT twice? I did not do well the first time, and will be retaking it to hopefully get a better score.
This seems like one of those admissions questions that really can only be answered accurately by the members of the admissions committees at the schools to which you are applying. However, what I've heard and what makes sense to me is that 2-3 LSATs aren't that big a deal—especially when you show improvement. Perhaps you're right that a score of X won't get as much credit if you got it on your second or third try as if you got it on your first, but it's still an X and shows you're capable of that score.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Did you take the LSAT more than once, and if so, do you have any idea how that affected your application experience?
June 14, 2005
Request: McGeorge or Southwestern?
A reader headed to law school writes in with another “which school” dilemma:
I was offered a seat by McGeorge school of law in Sacramento, and they even offered me $10,000 for my first year, and will pay for my first year books. However, I don't really want to live or work in Sacramento. Southwestern U. school of law has also offered me a seat. They are located in downtown LA, which is where I would like to live and work eventually. McGeorge is ranked higher by the US News ranking, but I really don't want to go to Sacramento. Is the ranking really the most important factor to consider when choosing a law school?
So what do you think? Go with rank and some money in a place you don't want to be, or go to the place you want to be, pay more, and for less rank? Tough choice.
My answer would be to go with the cheaper option, which in this case has the advantage of being better ranked. But I only say that because I know I won't make more than $40k or so when I graduate. If you think you're going to make more than that, money isn't such a big deal. Yet, to make the big bucks, rank begins to matter. So??? Go where you want to go, I say, and make the best of it. The rank difference really isn't likely to be that much of an issue.
Of course that's just my opinion. Any other thoughts? Any readers out there going to either school?
June 03, 2005
A costs/benefit framework for choosing law schools
The Bricklayer, a few weeks ago, posted his reasons for choosing the University of Miami School of Law. His logic's worth paying attention to: how much do you want to pay for prestige and how much of a difference will it make in your career?
While on that subject, make sure to read Professor Froomkin's comment to the post as well -- which I think makes a lot of sense and is probably even more worth following.
May 30, 2005
Admissions myths debunked
May 27, 2005
Request: Loyola or Southwestern?
A pre-law student in the midst of deciding where to go to school writes:
I am a prospective student that has been admitted to both Loyola (second tier) and to Southwestern Law School(third tier) in Los Angeles. Southwestern has offered me a full tuition scholarship while I would have to finance most, if not all, of Loyola's tuition. I noticed that Loyola and Southwestern have the same bar passage rate (61 %)for first time test takers and the average starting salary for graduates is actually $10,000 higher at Southwestern. The schools seem very similar and I cannot understand why Loyola is ranked higher. Wouldn't it be better to choose Southwestern? Is rank really that important? Any thoughts?
If you have any thoughts on either of these schools or making school choices in general, please share it in the comments. Thanks!
April 29, 2005
Book Review: Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law
As part of her (I think her; so hard to keep track of genders sometimes) pre-law reading, CM at Magic Cookie
reviews Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law, a Nutshell book by Professor Kenney Hegland. The review follows CM's previous notes about OneL and includes brief comments about Law School Confidential, as well. CM writes:
This was the best of the three, although not as widely known. Unlike the other books, this one does not focus solely on what law school will be like. Instead, Hegland tries to explain the fundamentals of studying law: how to read and understand a case, how a trial works, how to write effectively.
It sounds like the book is not just intended for pre-law preparation, but contains information that law students and graduates might find helpful, as well.
Oh, and for you pre-law students who think you might not want to do any law-related reading prior to law school, you're in good company.
April 21, 2005
The Non-Traditional Application to Law School
Are you non-traditional? Will law be your second career? Kristine at divine angst has some advice about the application process when you're not just out of college.
First, Make a Case: Is Law School for You?
Schneider and Belsky encourage would-be law students to really consider the cost of attending law school. The debts you take on, and the opportunity costs of spending three years of your life pursuing this degree will have an impact on the rest of your life. Once you're in school, it's hard to fight the momentum that will keep you there, and then sweep you into a career you may not be suited for.
And yet, law school applicants rarely perform even basic number-crunching before signing up for the LSAT, Schneider and Belsky contend. As a result, while half of all law students come in saying they want to do public interest work, less than 4 percent wind up in such fields -- mainly because of their debt loads, which can easily reach six-figures.
This is the most complete and helpful review I've yet seen so if you've wondered whether you should buy this book, I definitely recommend you check out this review. Also, Deborah Schneider, one of the book's authors, will be doing an online chat on May 6th at 2 p.m. here. Get your questions ready!
March 25, 2005
First Day of Law School TutorialAlso via JD2B comes the Southern Methodist University Dedman Law School First Day of Law School Tutorial which claims to be “designed to help prospective law students understand how the Socratic method of instruction used in US law schools differs from the method of instruction used in most US undergraduate education or legal education outside the US.” This tutorial looks interesting, and possibly worth an hour or two of your time if you're starting law school this fall. It shows you cases and sample briefs for those cases, which is definitely helpful. It also tries to tell you what a professor is thinking when she asks a certain question and helps you find the “right” answer she's looking for. As JD2B noted, it's all a little bizarre, but law school is bizarre, and this is free, so, um, why not?
Guide to Law School Admissions:A lot of people have just finished (or are in the process of finishing) the law school admissions process, but if you're just thinking about it or just getting started, this new book may be for you. The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions: Straight Advice on Essays, Resumes, Interviews, and More promises to help you answer questions such as:
- What kind of essay should I write to set me apart from the rest of the pack?
- Should I explain my low LSAT score, my D in chemistry, my attention deficit disorder, my time in rehab?
- Is law school worth the debt I'll face when I graduate
March 20, 2005
Classic Legal Texts OnlineProfessor Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy recently noted that several classic legal texts are available online for your enjoyment, including:
- Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England
- The Nature of the Legal Process by Benjamin Cardozo
- The Path of the Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes
- The Common Law, also by Holmes
March 03, 2005
Pros and Cons of LSAT Prep:An anonymous reader wrote in to submit three interestsing posts on the pros and cons of lsat prep:
- Narkoleptomania asks: Are LSAT Prep Classes Worth It? He/she didn't pay for a class and did fine.
- Bad Glacier didn't take a class either, but has some good thoughts on preparation w/out them.
- WhyLaw didn't take a class, either. She (did I get the gender right?) suggests taking a logic class, offers strategies for building reading comprehension skills, and cautions care in the days before the test so that nothing unexpected will decrease your score.
February 26, 2005
Timetable for the law school application processChicken Magazine of Magic Cookie offers a helpful step-by-step guide to making it through the convoluted law school application process. CM writes:
I found the application process overwhelming at first (what's this LSDAS thing? When should I take the LSAT?) So I decided to write a schedule for people who are at the same point I was last year around this time.The guide includes a pointer to this Letter to a Young Law Student from Professor Corinne Cooper, a first-year law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law. Although I don't have time to read it at the moment, it looks excellent. Overall, another terrific resource for 0Ls. I would simply clarify for the absolute neophyte that the timetable starts in late winter two years before you'd actually like to start law school. This is probably the ideal plan (especially ifyou're applying straight out of college) because it provides plenty of time for everything; however, the process can also be condensed into one year if you prefer. Thanks CM!
February 24, 2005
Brief Review: Should You Really Be A Lawyer?Attorney blog May it Please the Court offers a brief review of the new book, Should You Really Be A Lawyer? The gist:
“Should You Really Be A Lawyer?” is written by a lawyer, for lawyers and law students. It covers the gamut from helping you decide whether you should try to get into law school, stay in once you're there and what you really should be doing afterward. It gives solid guidance on how to deal with the cost of law school, and destroys the bubble that everyone who graduates from law school starts at $150,000 or more (the book pegs the actual average at $61,000). But you'll get no other spoilers here. You'll have to read it and go through the exercises. The authors point out that you're going to spend some 80,000 hours working. Why not invest a few hours figuring out what to do with all that time?It's hard to argue with that, isn't it? UPDATE 3/03/05: Additional reviews at Al Ny the Lawyer Guy (a longer, more in-depth evaluation that's positive overall) and Ernie the Attorney (a very short recommendation). [links via Notes from the (Legal) Underground]
February 23, 2005
Choosing Where to Apply“Law Student” offers an extensive primer on how to find the best schools for you. It explains the concept of safety, target, and reach schools, using the LSAC data search to match your numbers (GPA and LSAT) w/school preferences and past trends, and other factors you should consider in the process.
February 22, 2005
Michigan v. Chicago & UTFoxes for Now posts an email from a Michigan law student comparing Michigan to University of Chicago Law and Texas Law. If you're considering any of these schools, you'll likely find the information at least a bit interesting. And if you find that interesting, you should also read these thoughts from Michigan 2L Heidi at Letters of Marque for a more balanced view of the issues addressed in the email mentioned above. Also check out Foxes' correspondences category for more tidbits about how various schools handle the application and admissions process.
February 21, 2005
Law School Admissions: How much do numbers matter?Hopeful law school applicants everywhere are all aflutter right now with happiness or anticipation because of the acceptances they've already received or because of those for which they're still waiting. The anxiety has sparked several 0L blawggers to speculate on how much the hard numbers (LSAT and GPA) really matter to admissions. Divine Angst rounds up the posts from Foxes for Now, Very Unnecessary, and Bad Glacier.
Georgetown and Section 3Attention everyone who applied to Georgetown (GULC), everyone who might consider applying there in the future, and all those who are in or have finished law school but are less than satisfied with what they found there: The Scoplaw has recently begun removing the veil from GULC's “alternative” first-year curriculum, describing what it is and why you might consider applying. It's great stuff for prospective students, but also for current students and graduates who care about how and whether legal education benefits society (or doesn't). The Scoplaw may be writing more on this in the future, in which case the posts will be collected in the Section 3 Category. 2-24-05 See also: More from one of the Scoplaw's colleagues, including a link to How Law School Can be Different, a wiki “for a group of Georgetown Law students who would like to carry on the reforms to legal pedagogy begun by our professors fifteen years ago.” For what it's all about, see the call to action.
February 20, 2005
Pre-Law ReadingNew 0L blawgger “Law Student” recently published reviews of two books that often appear on pre-law reading lists: One L by Scott Turow and Brush With the Law by Robert Byrnes and Jaime Marquart. “Law Student” recommends both books as good preparation for law school, largely because they provide insight into the emotional and psychological stresses that might be involved. I read both books myself before starting law school and wrote about them here. I found One L less interesting and useful than it seems “Law Student” did, but it still seems almost obligatory to give it a read if you're going to law school. I also mentioned a couple of other books I read before starting school which may be of interest to some of you 0Ls. At this point, with the benefit of hindsight, I'd recommend reading the following books before starting law school: Should You Really Be A Lawyer? (I'm still reading this, but it seems worthwhile so far.) “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties” (Lisa L. Abrams, National Association for Law Placement, National Association for Law Placement, NALP) “What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law” (Deborah Arron) Those will all help you decide whether you really want to/should go to law school. If you decide to go, I'd also recommend: “Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams” (Richard Michael Fischl, Jeremy Paul)
February 19, 2005
Does Law School Rank Determine Success?Anayat Durrani, writing for LawCrossing, considers whether law school rank determines career success in BigLaw. [link via JD2B] The answer? Yes, and no, leading once more to the apparently universal bit of advice:
“The bottom-line advice I would offer is this: go to the best school to which you are admitted and do as well as you can academically. All this will help in landing the first job. After that, it's what you individually can bring to the marketplace,” said Mr. Wiley.Related: Ambivalent Imbroglio offers more thoughts in school rank and other factors to consider when choosing a school.
February 18, 2005
The Practice of Law SchoolThe New York Lawyer (“For lawyers on the verge”) is serializing a new book about law school called The Practice of Law School:
Take charge of your legal career right away -- starting with law school! Find out what to expect, how to succeed at every stage, and how to make your law school experience fulfilling and relevant to your development as a lawyer. We are serializing this book with a new installment every Wednesday. This week: Does law school matter?The first installment explains what the book is about and what to expect. In a nutshell:
A student who approaches law school focused only on what she needs to do to graduate and get a job is likely to find that that is exactly what law school will be to her: a ticket to punch. She will have paid her dues and moved on to what she deems the “real” experience -- the practice of law. However, if she wants a relevant experience, in which her money and time will be spent to her best advantage, and one that is economically and personally rewarding, then she should read this book. By employing the methods presented in this book, students will learn how to take a big-picture, practical approach to applying to and thriving in law school. And that, in a nutshell, is the practice of law school.Sounds pretty good. Check back next Wednesday for more.
Outrageous Things Professors SayTony of Parenthetical Statement recently posted a list of comments he and his classmates received on their contracts exams, which Tony describes as “some of the most blunt, outrageous and snarky comments ever to grace a bluebook.” If you're planning to go to law school, you might want to read these comments and the discussion that follows them where Tony's readers (including some law professors) exchange opinions on whether these comments are typical or helpful. If you're a 1L or beyond, the comments might show you that you're not alone in receiving crazy comments or in thinking that professors can be, um, a bit lacking in empathy.
February 13, 2005
Personal Statements, LSAT Blog, School RankFrom JD2B:
- Anna Ivey discusses how to write a personal statement for law school applications.
- The LSAT Blog offers help with LSAT questions and is “written by a pre-law who scored in the 99.9th percentile on the LSAT in order to help you do the same.”
- Ann Israel says you should attend the best-ranked law school to which you are accepted. That's probably true if you're accepted to a top-10 school, and/or if you're sure your main goal in attending law school is making the most money you possibly can. However, if you plan to do public interest work or know you want to build your career in a specific region, I think Israel could be very wrong. Then again, no one's paying for my opinion, so there you go.
February 11, 2005
LSAT Logical Reasoning PrepEugene Volokh is seeking some advice on good study aids for the LSAT:
A friend of mine is planning to take the LSAT, and I'd like to get her a book that can help her prepare for the Logical Reasoning section. That's the only section I'm interested in right now. Can anyone recommend a book that's worth trying on this, or tell me to stay away from certain books?If you have any ideas, please add them to the comments here, or if you'd like some tips yourself, check out what readers have already suggested there.
January 22, 2005
Visiting SchoolsNow is the time (or recently) when people who have applied to law school for fall '05 are visiting potential schools. Lucky for us, some of them are also posting reviews from their visits. Check out the reviews of Georgetown and George Washington in D.C. at Divine Angst (complete with links and pictures). And see Aspiring to Become A Lawyer for some impressions on Boalt Hall at Berkeley, with pictures in the posts starting here and going backwards. If you've written or recently read a law student review of a law school, please share.
January 06, 2005
Should You Really Be A Lawyer?Should you really be a lawyer? Doesn't that seem like an overasked but underanswered question? I mean, how many times have you asked yourself that? Whether it was when the idea of going to law school first hit you, or a thousand times in your first semester of school, or three years after you started your first job, I'll bet everyone who has been connected with the legal profession in any way has asked themselves this question. That's why it's such a great title for a book. Should You Really Be A Lawyer: The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During and After Law School promises to be a good read for all of us who have asked the question. I'll try to get my hands on a copy and let you know what I think; meanwhile, if anyone else reads it first, please share your thoughts. Does it offer anything we won't find in other similar books on this subject? One thing the website offers is some online resources for people at different stages of the legal career track. For example, Humanizing Law School seeks to “maximize the overall health, well being, and career satisfaction of law students and lawyers.” Sounds like a good thing to me.
November 26, 2004
So You want to be a law student?Submitted by helpful reader Dan: Advice from a law school admissions committee member, Professor Christine Hurt of Conglomerate, about what matters to her when she's looking at an application. She briefly covers the LSAT score, your letters of recommendation, your essays, and how you handle any “criminal incidents.”
October 21, 2004
Choosing A School: Rank and SpecializationA reader writes:
How much does it matter which school I graduate from if I know with absolute certainty that I want to focus on, for example, "soft" Intellectual Property law (trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc.)? So, for instance, George Washington University is ranked #2 in IP law. Would I be silly to turn down a technically higher ranked school like Northwestern or Duke in order to go to GW for its strong IP law program, assuming all things are more or less equal -- e.g., same overall costs, no preference in going to school or living or working in any particular part of the country, no strong desire to be associated to (or to be disassociated from) an undergraduate campus, etc.? Or for any lower ranked school with a strong program in X for any higher ranked school with a weak program in X? Where do you draw the line?Excellent questions! Any thoughts out there?
October 07, 2004
In Defense of IRACAs 1Ls start to get back their legal writing this year, Three Years of Hell writes a partial defense of the not-much beloved IRAC method. If you're not sure what IRAC is or why it might be a useful way to approach legal writing tasks, this is for you!
October 03, 2004
LSAT RejoicingVery Unnecessary offers some thoughts on keeping the LSAT in perspective and just enjoying the fact of that it's over (at least for those who took it yesterday). [link via Why Law]
September 25, 2004
Request: Personal Statement v. Statement of Purpose?Here's an "applying to law school" dilemma for you. CM writes:
I have a question about applying to law school, not law school itself. The applications I've seen are vague about the personal statement topic, so I wrote an essay about why I want to go to law school and how my past experiences fit in. I was hoping I could use it for all the schools I'm applying to. I just read an article on vault.com about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose -- one is about you as a person, the other is about why you want to go to law school. The article recommended keeping these two separate, and trying to figure out which one a school wants based on the application. That's news to me. So my question is, should I write another essay that's more personal and doesn't talk much about law school? And should I have one of each type of essay to send to different schools, or is it okay to use the same one?I wrote about personal statements here during my own application process, and I still think the advice quoted there (from a book by Donald Asher) is pretty good. The long and short of that is there's no formula; what works for you and seems to "fit" with your application and make it shine is going to be different from what worked for me, but if you're "honest and forthcoming" you're on the right track. Can anyone offer more helpful advice for CM or respond to his/her specific questions about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose? Does anyone know any admissions counsellors who might be willing to respond to something like this?
In praise of "older" law studentsJeremy Richey has a message for law students "in their thirties, forties, fifties, etc.": Welcome! As Jeremy explains, the "older" law students he knows are friendly and successful in law school. If you're thinking about going to law school but are worried you're too old to fit in or succeed, please read Jeremy's post!
Measuring CompetitivenessIn response to this request from Sui Generis, Nuts and Boalts offers:
A few ways you can measure relative comeptitiveness among law schools using the schools' own policies. Of course this is probably about as valuable as location of water fountains or emergency evacuation plans.I'd say it's much more helpful than the location of water fountains ... unless you're really thirsty. Thinking about more about this topic, I think the competitiveness variable might depend somewhat on what you want to do w/law school and your legal career. If you're hoping to be top of class, law review, big firm job, and all the trimmings, every school will be competitive for you b/c you'll have to fight like hell w/the other people who want the same things. If your goals are different (say, if you want to do public interest law and aren't bothered by a 3.0 GPA and less than $100k in salary on graduation), you should be able to find a good group of peers at most schools who share your goals and will be less cutthroat about things. If this is true, a school's support for public interest might be some indication of how competitive you'll find it, but this is pure speculation.
September 23, 2004
Request: Measuring Competitiveness at Law SchoolsSui Generis writes:
Much like "k" at "I hate stupid people," one of the most important things I'm looking for in a law school is a cooperative (or at least non-hostile) student environment. In general, I thought this post sounded like really good advice but it got me to wondering: What is the easiest/most reliable way to learn how competitive a school really is? Thanks!So does anyone have any suggestions on this? It seems like a tough question because just about everyone I could think of to ask (current students, professors, administrators) would seem to have a sort of vested interest in answering more one way than another. Also, everyone has their own experience; where one student will say School X is hyper-competitive, another student may say the same school is chill and cooperative. So are there any statistics or reliable sources measuring the competitiveness variable?
September 19, 2004
If they only knew then...Although not a direct response to CP's request, lawgeekgurl recently posted some thoughts for those considering whether to go to law school. An excerpt:
So you want to be a lawyer? Are you insane? Check that, you ARE insane if you are thinking of a law career. Have you sought treatment? If you've already decided treatment is not the answer, well, okay, here are my tips on what to expect upon entering law school, and some websites that might be of use to a newbie law student.The rest includes links to some other helpful sites (including Blawg Wisdom—thanks!) and lots of tips that really seem geared more toward those who have already decided to go to law school and want some attack strategies for the first year. Speaking of attack strategies for the first year, don't miss If I only knew then... by the Uncivil Litigator. Great advice about getting practical experience while in school and why you should think carefully about picking your classes. Includes helpful comments from readers, as well. See also:
- Uncivil Litigator's Likes and Dislikes about being a litigator.
- Anonymous Lawyer's recent discussion of what BigLaw lawyers do, including tons of comments, plus these from Yeoman Lawyer. (Note that Anonymous Lawyer may or may not be real, and what he writes is probably best described as satire, which means you can learn a lot from it, just so long as you take it for what it is. As satire, it may be even more revealing than if it was just a straight report of life in a big firm. YMMV.)
- Yeoman Lawyer who cautions young lawyers against taking jobs w/out any planning.
September 18, 2004
Request: Is law stable, and what is it really like?This just in from "CP" on the Wisdom Request Wire:
I'm a network admin right now, but am afraid that the computer/IT industry is going downhill or will go even more downhill than it already has been going downhill. My question is: do you think the legal field is a more stable one in the long run than computer/IT? I don't see too many 50+ year old IT professionals, unless they're in management, but I do see a lot of lawyers in their 50s and still enjoying what they're doing (well, "enjoy" is such a dodgy term... just joking). Also, where can I find info on what it's actually like to be a lawyer on a day to day basis? I've checked out two websites that friends recommended: Vault.com and WetFeet.com, and while they do have attorneys writing about what they do, it somehow still doesn't seem to let me know what it's "really" like. I'm mostly interested in working for a corporate law firm. Arguing cases in court isn't my thing. (I hope that doesn't mean I can't become a lawyer? Gulp.) Thanks in advance for all your help and advice!If you have thoughts or comments that might be helpful to CP, please respond in the comments to this post, or in a post on your own site that pings this post (via trackback), or just submit your wisdom via the Submit Wisdom Form. Thanks!
September 14, 2004
Super Size The LCDIn a response to yesterday's request for advice on buying a laptop for law school, Nuts and Boalts offers Super Size My LCD Screen, "a non-engineering perspective on laptops for law school." There you'll find a thorough discussion of many different variables to consider when buying a laptop, from hard disk size to quantity of RAM to weight to, yes, the size of the screen. Thanks to all the other good souls who have left such great advice in the comments to the original request. This is all something of an experiment and it appears to be working just great so far—thanks to you! So, um, thank you!
September 13, 2004
Laptop Recommendations?Blawg Wisdom's first ever Wisdom Request reads:
Hello all! I am a senior in college planning on attending law school in the fall of 2005. I have no computer and desperately need one NOW. My question is this: is there a certain kind of laptop that is recommended for law students by law schools? I want to get a laptop that I can use for the next four years. I know next to nothing about computers; all I know is that I want a PC that can play Sims 2! Thanks.Any suggestions anyone? If so, please write about it on your own blawg and submit the link, or just reply in the comments.
September 10, 2004
Application ChecklistThe Princeton Review offers an application timeline and checklist to help guide people through all the steps of taking the LSAT, writing essays, and applying for schools. Of course, they'd like you to take some Princeton Review courses along the way, but that's not required in order to benefit from these materials.
August 25, 2004
Jeremy's LSAT Advice
Jeremy Blachman, who will begin his third year at HLS very soon, offers a detailed discussion of how to prepare for the LSAT, including sections on logic games, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. If you still have to take the LSAT, be sure to read this advice first.
August 21, 2004
Things You Wish You'd Known
CtheJ, a 1L at the University of Minnesota and author of Foot In Mouth offers What I Wish I'd Known, tips for making it through the application process, including specific advice about how to deal with your undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, and writing a personal statement. CtheJ will even share his/her personal statement with you if you'd like a successful example to help get you started. That's what I call sharing the love.
Personal Statement: Say Something
August 19, 2004
Choosing A School (aka, Rank Isn't Everything)
As he begins his first semester at AU, Tony at Parenthetical Statement ponders the question every law student must ask: Did I choose the right school? Tony thinks the answer to that for him is "Yes," but if you're reading this in the future (since by this time most people have made their choices for this year), Transmogriflaw has some great things for you to think about in her post: Law School Decision Time Myths. It's a pithy list of five myths you're going to hear as you decide where to apply and where you'll ultimately enroll, including thoughts on how you should weigh those crucial variables: money and rank. Definitely consider the possibility that money can matter more than rank, no matter what you hear from practicing attorneys. And, as Tony suggests, perhaps what should matter most of all is what feels best for you.
If you have some time, you may also want to read about my own experience choosing a school and how Transmogriflaw's myths operated on that decision.
August 12, 2004
Lucky to Even Get Accepted?
Ex Mea Sententia (from the blog of the same name) is starting law school very soon and offers some anti-advice from his experience studying for the LSAT and applying to schools. His bottom line:
Basically, do as I say and not as I do.
If you're just considering taking the LSAT or if you haven't yet decided to apply (or where to apply) to schools, visit Ex Mea Sententia (which means "in my opinion") — you just might learn from his mistakes.
August 11, 2004
More LSAT Prep
Monica at Buzzwords offers her thoughts on preparing for the LSAT (including a link to the outline she created for that purpose) in response to this extensive LSAT prep guide from Neo Tokyo Times, and this perspective from Jeremy Blachman.
What's a future LSAT-taker to do with all this seemingly conflicting advice? I can't tell you, but my suggestion would be the same for this as for all the other advice linked here: Read as much or as little of it as you find useful, pick and choose the bits from each source that strike you as helpful, and build your own strategy for success (whatever that means to you). There is no magic bullet, but there's no sense recreating the wheel, either. (Yes, you have entered the "figure of speech" zone!)
August 10, 2004
LSAT Prep and Choosing Where to Apply
Em at a mi parecer has written a nice account of her experience preparing for the LSAT and taking it—twice. Learn about her preparation strategies, as well as her thoughts on how to manage applications to schools when you're applying w/out knowing what your LSAT score will be.
August 07, 2004
Letters to Wormwood
Anthony at Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil is now entering his second year of law school at Columbia. He offers an extensive series of commentaries and tips for getting through law school, all of which he's kindly collected into a category of its own. It's called Letters to Wormwood (cf. The Screwtape Letters), and it contains bits of wisdom on a variety of topics, including new student mixers, the Socratic Method, public interest requirements at Columbia, feeling overwhelmed, and much, much more. Read the whole category to get it all.
August 02, 2004
Blachman's thinking about law mega-post
The "So I'm Thinking About Law School... Or At Least Thinking About Thinking About Law School... But I'm Not Even Really Sure What That Means" Mega-Post, Part 1
I don't have time to read it all now, but all you need do is look at the source to know this is good stuff. Go there, all ye who seek potential pre-law enlightenment!