Law School Basics
Jan 08, 2016
Whether you’ve been dreaming of being a lawyer for years now or you’re just now considering if a career in law might be the right choice for you, this guide will give you foundational knowledge of need-to-know information on getting into law school.
What do I need to major in?
Some good news: you can major in any field and apply to law school. Additionally, there are no prerequisite courses you need to take in your undergraduate years, unlike applicants for, say medical schools, who must take specific courses in order to be able to apply.
What are important differences between law schools?
When you see a school is ABA accredited, it means the American Bar Association has approved the school. Some states require a J.D. from an ABA accredited law school in order to be able to take the bar exam. More information from the ABA here.
“T14” is a commonly used term that refers to the 14 most highly ranked law schools in the U.S. The most typically discussed is U.S. News', but it’s important to note different rankings prioritize different factors and that some rankings have been criticized for a variety of reasons.
What do law schools look for in applicants?
Most law schools look at a variety of factors, but the two most important are an applicant’s LSAT score and GPA. One useful website is Law School Numbers, which has user-submitted acceptance information. Basically, it provides graphs for schools which show you were accepted based on LSAT and GPA. While very informative, not everyone who applied to law school input their data, so the data given may not be accurate.
What is the LSAT?
The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is an exam with 6 timed sections, 35 minutes each, with a score range of 120-180. The sections are (in no particular order):
- two Logical Reasoning sections (which test your ability to understand arguments)
- one Reading Comprehension section (which tests you on how well you understand passages)
- one Analytical Reasoning section (commonly known as the logic games section, it contains questions testing your ability to understand four logic puzzles)
- one experimental section, which will not count towards your score. It can be Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, or on Analytical Reasoning. It is used to try out new questions and make sure the grading scale is consistent for future tests. The exam will not tell you which section is experimental.
- a Writing Sample, where you must write an essay arguing for one side from a given prompt (this section is ungraded and is given at the end of the exam)
Most people take a prep course or self-study (or both). Either way, it is recommended you take at least a few practice tests as part of your preparation.
Is there anything else I should know about law school applications?
Most law schools have what’s known as rolling admissions, meaning they accept applications and give decisions over a period of months. Even if a school tries to maintain similar criteria throughout the admissions process, later applications will be fighting for a lower number of spots. Because of this, it may be advisable to apply as early as possible in the cycle.
Is there any way to become a lawyer without going to law school?
Yes! California (among a few other states) allows people to take the bar exam after an apprenticeship under a lawyer. This route is appealing considering the critique that law school is too theoretical and the high costs of attendance. However, as the New York Times article linked to above explains, it does have its drawbacks as well.
There are hundreds of articles, dozens of books, and countless people that can give you more information on how to get into law school, what it’s like once you’re in, and succeeding after you graduate. Inform yourself and don’t be afraid to ask people who have gone through the process for advice.
Information for Pre-Law Students from the American Bar Association
The Girl’s Guide to Law School (despite the name, just about all the information here is helpful regardless of gender)
Information for Future JD Students from the Law School Admissions Council
The Law School Admission Council Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
Law Library Intern
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