Have A Law School Admissions Question? Ask Shawn, Our Resident Expert

Shawn O'Connor, founder of Stratus Prep

Shawn O’Connor, founder of Stratus Prep

Shawn O’Connor knows law school admissions inside out. As the founder and president of Stratus Prep, he has more than seven years of standardized test prep and admissions experience. O’Connor provides personalized admissions counseling to hundreds of law and business school applicants each year, teaches LSAT and GMAT classes and tutors private individuals for these exams.

He showed an early proclivity for standardized testing, having score a 179 on the LSAT and a 780 on the GMAT. After graduating summa cum laude from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in 1999, O’Connor earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude from Harvard Law School, and his MBA from Harvard Business School where he was a Baker Scholar. O’Connor is admitted to the bar in New York and Massachusetts.

Prior to launching Stratus Prep, O’Connor worked for McKinsey & Company, Lehman Brothers, Mercer Management Consulting, and the Boston law firm of Sullivan & Worcester. In addition to his work in the private sector, O’Connor served as a legislative advisor to former Congressman James C. Greenwood and as deputy chief of staff and communications director for Pennsylvania’s former Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll.

In addition to his work with Stratus Prep, O’Connor represents clients on a pro bono basis in international human rights and political asylum matters.

Shawn has agreed to help law school applicants with questions at TippingTheScales.com. No question is out of bounds. Worried about your undergraduate record? Concerned about your LSAT score? Not entirely certain where you should apply to get your law degree? Unsure of how to approach your personal statement? Wondering who you should ask to write your letters of recommendation?

Fire away. Shawn will do his best to answer your queries.

  • William

    Hello Shawn, I have some questions regarding the Law School admission criteria. I am a international student who wants to apply to an LLM program in a top 10 school. As a student from a civil law country, I went to law school as a undergrad and my grades are not good given the fact that I work part time while studying as a full time student in the best law school of my country. So are grades a key factor that can affect my LLM admission in a top tier school? or can this issue be ignore if I have outstanding extracurriculars (for instance I speak fluently 4 different languages) or a recommendation letter from a summer program professor that went to Harvard?



    • Shawn-OConnor

      Thanks for your question. I am happy to help.
      Since LLM programs typically do not require applicants to take the LSAT, the only quantitative measure of your academic potential that they have is your GPA from your law degree in your home country. So, you will definitely want to do a grade addendum that explains why your grades were lower (since you had to work for financial reasons during school) and point to any other qualitative examples of your academic potential including noteworthy cases that you have worked on as well as your language proficiencies. Your recommendations as well as the strength of your law school in your home country will also factor into the law schools’ admissions decisions. But in terms of recommendations, I would choose professors and professionals who know you work best and not necessarily someone just because they attended Harvard.
      Good Luck,

  • Samantha Javier

    Hello Shawn,
    I just received my LSAT score from October and it was much lower than my prep test scores as I experience a lot of test anxiety. My score was a 157 (whereas my practice tests in a simulated test environment ranged from 164-167) and my overall GPA is a 3.3 whereas my upper division GPA is a 3.6. I am planning to write an addendum for the discrepancy and I do have an upward trend in my grades from freshman general ed classes to upper divisions in my junior and now senior year, which is a plus. I worked during my sophomore, junior, and senior years of my college career, have an internship, and have done well in the law related classes I’ve taken. So, I just want to know my chances at a top 10 and/or top 100 law school and how to make my application package very strong. Thank you very much for your time!

    • Shawn-OConnor

      Thanks for your email. I am more than happy to help.
      It is not at all uncommon to suffer from test anxiety the first time you take the LSAT. So don’t beat yourself up! Indeed, many students score 5-10 points lower than their PracTest average on their first LSAT.
      Even though you have good other facets of your application (internships, high upper class GPA, work experience) rather than writing an addendum, I would STRONGLY recommend doing two PracTests per week over the next five weeks and then taking the December LSAT and applying as soon as you get that score.
      With the decline in the number of law school applications, it will NOT hurt you at all to apply later in the cycle (late December/early January). If you have a score in the mid-high 160s, top 14 schools will be very ready to accept you in January, and some may even offer you full or partial merit-based scholarships.
      You can do it!

  • Tony

    Hello..my son, brilliant student, degrees from Univ of Mich..thinking of law school . Currently lives and works in LA. 37 years old. If your son would you recommend a career change like this? And if you do what law school would you recommend in the LA oarea kr in the state? Tony Gray concerned Dad.

  • Gabys

    Which college focused in banking, financial law do you believe accepts students that had lower grades?

  • Tanya

    Hello Shawn,
    I am a rising senior at Claremont McKenna College, and an Economics and Government double major. I have a 3.6 overall GPA (major gpa in government is a lot higher), and I wanted to know if this already puts me out of the game for the top five law schools. I haven’t sat for the LSAT yet, but plan to my senior year. I am extensively involved on campus and am working at a bank this summer. Any advice?