Law School Applications: The Basics
Law school admissions can be a tricky process and It’s important to seek out professional advice prior to applying.
Luke Plotica, a political science professor and law school advisor at Virginia Tech, recently spoke to the Collegiate Times in a Q&A piece covering law school application basics.
When to apply
There isn’t any “right” time to apply to law school, but experts say the earlier the better. According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), applying earlier can offer a number of benefits.
“First, you will have more time to fill in any gaps in your application file,” LSAC’s website reads. “Second, you might have more time to evaluate the schools that have accepted you—or to apply to other schools that you had not previously considered. Third, you will reduce the chance that a problem or error in paperwork might delay the review of your application.”
Plotica tells the Collegiate Times that a year out is the “safe point” to apply.
“With the way that the LSAT cycle works and everything else that an applicant needs to worry about … the applicant benefits from having months and months on their side,” Plotica tells Collegiate Times.
Importance of GPA and LSAT scores
When it comes to GPAs, LSAC advises that a high GPA is just as important as the quality of courses you enroll in. For those with a low starting GPA, it’s best to work on an upward path.
“Many law schools also examine your performance trend throughout undergraduate school,” LSAC’s website reads. “That means they may discount a slow start in a student’s undergraduate career if he or she performs exceptionally well in the later school years. Similarly, admission committees may see an undergraduate’s strong start followed by a mediocre finish as an indication of less potential to do well in law school.”
There is no single score that applies to all law schools when it comes to the LSAT. Yet, Plotica says it’s an important and necessary part of the process. His advice on the exam?
“A lot of people struggle not because they’re not smart, but because it’s a particularly challenging task,” Plotica tells Collegiate Times. “The LSAT is inevitable, so the best advice I have is to allow yourself proper time to prepare.”
Letters of recommendation: Key steps
The first step to putting together letters of recommendation is to choose who you want to write your letter.
“You want it to be someone who knows you reasonably well,” Plotica tells Collegiate Times. “For academic references, which are what most people get for most of their letters, it should be someone you have taken at least one class with. I think applicants should really ask themselves, ‘Who are the faculty who have the best impression of me as a student?’”
It’s also important to build strong relationships with professors and supervisors early on. Strong relationships can lead to stronger letters of recommendation.
According to UC-Berkeley, there are a few ways to build strong relationships and get to know professors.
“Speak up in class, select courses with small class sizes, take more than one class from a professor, do research for a professor, take on optional projects (e.g., write an honor thesis or start an outreach program at work), and regularly attend office hours,” Berkeley’s website reads. “The best strategy you can use to get a good letter of recommendation, particularly if a professor does not have a long acquaintance with you, is to provide your letter writer with ample information about you.”
Law school is a difficult and time-consuming process. Plotica advises applicants to seriously consider whether a law career is the right career from them.
“The benefit [of going to law school] should really just be that you really want to go to law school and you feel that this is a meaningful thing to do with your life,” he tells Collegiate Times. “You feel that studying law is something you are genuinely interested in. You can see yourself spending perhaps the rest of your working life working with the law in some capacity.”
Sources: Collegiate Times, Law School Admission Council, UC Berkeley