3 Questions To Ask If You’re Considering A Specialized Law Program
A number of law schools offer specialized law programs that cater to niche practice areas in the legal industry. Specialized law programs can help law students gain necessary training and tools for focusing on such issues as cybersecurity and entrepreneurship.
These niche programs are competitive. To be admitted to one, applicants are often required to submit separate or supplemental applications. So how can you gain a competitive edge as an applicant to a specialized law program?
Michelle Kim Hall, director of law counseling at Stratus Admissions, recently published a U.S. News & World Report article advising applicants on three key questions they should ask themselves if they are considering a specialized law program.
1.) Why are you interested in a particular program?
Specialized programs allow students to explore a particular legal issue or practice area. Of course, one of the key aspects in an application should be an interest in a specialized legal practice or issue. But, Kim Hall says, it’s how you show that interest that’s crucial.
“Whether prompted or not, be sure to establish through concrete examples where your passion for this field comes from,” she says. “Did you start your own nonprofit or publish your thesis on human rights violations? Have you volunteered in women’s shelters or launched a successful startup?”
The word length for each supplemental application may differ. For instance, NYU Law’s programmatic scholarships require applicants to express interest in 500 words. In contrast, University of California Los Angeles’ Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy allows students four double-spaced pages.
Know the limitations and word lengths for each program you are applying to, Kim Hall says, but most importantly, “identify why you are interested in pursuing a career focused on the program’s particular emphasis.”
2.) What special abilities will allow you to contribute to this program?
It’s important to note that applicants applying for specialized programs won’t be competing against the general pool of applicants, but rather with candidates who are also interested in the specialized program.
Kim Hall says it’s important that applicants draw from their past experiences to prove what they can bring to the program.
“Elaborate on accomplishments that are listed on your resume to highlight what unique skills or perspective you have gained,” she says. “And don’t ignore experiences that may not be documented. Perhaps you escaped an abusive relationship and that informs your work in domestic violence.”
On top of demonstrating accomplishments, applicants should also highlight special skills such as “language skills, personal insight, specialized research and certifications or graduate degrees,” Kim Hall says.
For instance, Georgetown University Law Center’s Global Law Scholars Program asks applicants to demonstrate “proficiency in a language other than English” and complete a foreign language evaluation form.
However, identifying your special skills, Kim Hall says, is merely the first step. To gain a competitive edge, it’s important to connect your background with how you will contribute to a specialized program.
“Perhaps you have native fluency in three languages and are proficient in a fourth that enables you to facilitate cross-cultural communication, a skill that would be useful to human rights work that a program does in multiple countries,” she says.
3.) How will this program help you achieve your career goals?
Once you have discussed your background, it’s important that you articulate your goals. Discuss where you see yourself after graduation and how a specialized program will help you achieve your goals.
“This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have researched the program and understand the benefits, as well as to express your enthusiastic commitment to any academic or professional requirements,” Kim Hall says.
It’s important to know that many specialized law program require certain obligations post graduation. At the University of Chicago Law School’s Doctoroff Business Leadership Program, students are required to secure a business internship in the summer between their first and second years. At NYU’s Latinx Rights Scholars Program, students must commit to “at least two years of public interest work — or a judicial clerkship — or they must repay their scholarship.”
Rather than simply reiterate info from a program’s website, Kim Hall says, it’s important to know these obligations and incorporate them into how and why they matter to you.
“These programs know what benefits students will gain and any conditions to meet,” she says. “Instead, translate this research into terms particular to you. When my clients fall into the trap of generalizations — such as ‘students get access to unparalleled resources’ — I encourage them to use a first-person point of view and explain why those exceptional resources will position them to succeed in their individual careers.”
Sources: U.S. News, NYU Law, UCLA Law, Georgetown Law, University of Chicago Law, NYU Law
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