How To Prep For Law School, According To A Judge
You want to attend law school, but you aren’t sure how to best position yourself to get into a top school.
Judge Layne Smith, a judge of Florida’s 2nd judicial circuit, recently discussed with the Tallahassee Democrat on how law school applicants can make the most of their undergrad education to best position themselves for a legal education.
Evaluating Undergrad Schools
Positioning yourself for success in law school starts at the undergrad level.
Smith says it’s important to choose an undergrad school where you can thrive and obtain a quality and affordable education.
“Most law school admission committees will be more influenced by how you perform in college than they’ll be by where you went to college,” he writes.
When it comes down to choosing a school, you’ll want to consider reputation versus annual costs.
“I suggest researching and applying for school specific scholarships and grants,” Smith writes. “If your budget is tight, consider attending a community college for two years, and then completing your bachelor’s degree at a state university. By working part-time jobs, you can cover some of the costs of your education while strengthening your resume. Student loans are an option, but don’t run up too much debt or waste borrowed money.”
Choosing A Major
Once you’re in college, you’ll want to choose a major that you’re interested in.
“Law schools don’t prefer one major over another,” Smith writes. “What matters most is that you push yourself. Take courses that interest you and will require you to read, write, think, and excel at communicating by the spoken and written word.”
Kari VanSickle, the admissions director at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, says it’s most important to find a major that you’re passionate about.
“Students who know that they want to attend law school should not choose their undergraduate majors based on what they believe law admission officers favor,” she tells US News. “Potential law students should follow their passions, curiosities and strengths while always seeking academic excellence.”
Above all, Smith says, law school hopefuls should try and learn as much as possible while maintaining a degree of skepticism.
“Don’t ignore your common sense and remember the lessons and moral grounding that your family taught you,” he writes. “Be open minded, and soak up all the knowledge you can, but don’t believe everything you hear or read. Great lawyers are confirmed skeptics who live by the words, ‘show me,’ ‘prove it,’ and ‘justify yourself.’”
Pursue Leadership Roles
Extracurricular activities are a great way to exercise leadership skills that law schools seek in applicants.
“Emphasize your leadership role and the impact you have had, as well as any other skills that are relevant to your ability to succeed as a law student and attorney,” according to Accepted. “Examples of these skills include public speaking, writing, and organizational skills.”
Pursuing extracurricular activities can help you convey why you’re different than other applicants who may have similar numbers to you.
“Extracurricular activities provide you an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other prospective law students,” Smith writes. “Seek out extracurricular activities that you will enjoy and become actively involved. Assume a leadership position or two and be a difference maker.”