Law Admissions Lowdown

Top Law Coach advice for aspiring lawyers, published by U.S. News & World Report

Whether shopping for new shoes or a car, most people prefer to try something out before making a purchase. Considering the cost of law school tuition, it is unwise to choose a law school blindly. In the past, law school applicants typically visited law schools – either before applying or after receiving a decision – to determine whether they felt at home. Law schools provided tours, information sessions and special events for interested and admitted students.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has left applicants unable to tour campuses closed to visitors. So, applicants need to be more creative and proactive in determining whether a law school is right for them. In particular, they should: (1) Research the school’s website; (2) Speak with current students and alumni; and (3)
Visualize day-to-day life at the law school.

Lawyers are as ubiquitous in America as yellow school buses and large coffees to go. From small offices near rural courthouses to skyscrapers in major cities, lawyers practice everywhere. Law schools, however, are less evenly distributed. Most states have three or fewer. While law graduates are not bound to stay in state, it can be hard to get clerkships and job openings out of state unless you graduate from a top-ranked law school. Studying law near where you plan to build a career makes sense. Your law school's clinics, internships and local alumni networks may give you a foot in the door. And law school classes may be geared to the rules and subjects tested on the state bar exam.

Q: I’m in my first year at an unranked law school, but I'm hoping to transfer into a top law school. My first semester GPA is less than perfect at 3.0, which I think I can bump up to 3.2 or 3.3 by year's end. I am an older student with considerable work experience in investment banking and corporate finance and I already accepted a summer internship at the U.S. attorney’s office. Can my work experience and a fairly good 1L summer internship boost my odds of getting into a top law school, perhaps top 30? I’m willing to go out of state for the right opportunity. – SH

A: Congratulations on your internship with the U.S. attorney’s office! Clinching such a highly competitive internship, despite admittedly unspectacular grades, reveals two things about your career potential. First, you must have excellent interpersonal skills like networking and persuasive speaking and writing. Second, discerning lawyers recognize what you bring to the table. As I have advised other transfer applicants, the most important things you can do this semester to strengthen your transfer application are raise your grades, secure a favorable recommendation letter from a professor and develop a compelling argument for your transfer.

Life is full of logical arguments. Logical arguments are simple chains of statements people make to explain something they believe or notice about themselves, other people or the world at large. For example: "I love to hike, except when it rains, so I had a great hike last weekend." "Practice makes perfect. If my sister practices the piano, she will become a concert pianist." "I feel sick. I should not have eaten the whole pizza."

People normally respond to such arguments with a reassuring nod or smile. Not lawyers. Lawyers say things like: "Do you still like hiking if it snows but does not rain?" "Does everyone who practices become a concert pianist?" "How do you know it was the pizza?" Lawyers love to pick apart arguments to see how they work the way engineers deconstruct machines and football coaches analyze plays. This is the ability tested by the logical reasoning section on the LSAT.

ASPIRING LAWYERS WITH Native American and Indigenous heritage may have understandable concerns about how welcome they would feel in law school. But even if law schools still have a long way to go toward supporting and empowering such students, there has never been a better time for Native American and Indigenous students to apply. Many schools offer such applicants dedicated resources, scholarships and mentorship opportunities.

The Native American Law Students Association, or NALSA, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and boasts 34 active chapters with 226 student members. At least two dozen law schools have programs, classes or clinics in American Indian and Indigenous Peoples law and tribal law. Some offer specialized certificates or advanced legal degrees in Indian law.
Here are five things for Native American and Indigenous law school applicants to consider:

Every law school requires a personal statement, typically limited to two or three double-spaced pages. Nearly all law schools also allow for an optional diversity statement of one or two pages, double-spaced. Prompts for diversity statements vary among law schools, but typically concern an applicant’s identity and background, past hardships or potential to contribute to a diverse and inclusive campus environment. Beyond those two essays, some law schools also allow or require extra short essays. Most commonly, a school might ask about why an applicant would be a good fit for the school, but others may ask unique hypothetical or offbeat questions, like an applicant’s favorite books.

A classic mistake is to write as much as allowed, hoping that something will stick. Many law school applicants fear that if they fail to maximize every possible opportunity to write about themselves, they will appear lazy or disinterested. Therefore, they sabotage themselves by padding their application with redundant and repetitive text.

Start for Free

Email me here or submit this form to schedule a free brief call or get straight to work.