LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Law Schools generally require the following for the admissions process:
1. Competitive GPA
2. Competitive LSAT
3. Admissions essay
4. Letters of recommendation
6. Interview (very few in Canada, and not for all candidates)
7. Additional information
The application process is primarily a numbers game. Your LSAT score and your GPA have the most weight in your application process. If they are very high, i.e., far above the median for that school, you are very likely to be admitted, unless your other part of your file is very weak. Conversely, if your GPA and LSAT score are far below the median, it is very unlikely for you to gain admissions, unless there are truly exceptional factors in the rest of your file.
So, the best way to prepare for Law School is to start working hard from day one of your University studies. You need to do a very good job in all your courses. This will not only result in a very good GPA, but also in the possibility of having strong academic recommenders.
For most of you, who have GPA and LSAT scores around the median of the Law Schools you are applying to, you need to work very hard in the rest of your file.
You should make sure that you are conveying a message about why you will be an asset for the particular school you are applying to. This message should be very clear, and it should be evident from all or most of your application documents. Choose this message carefully.
The most compelling messages are those that show you have the intellectual capacity to shine in Law School and that you will add diversity to the class. Your message has to be carefully constructed, it has to be consistent, and it has to be supported by strong evidence –GPA, LSAT score, essay, letters of recommendation, resume, etc.
You really need to have a very high GPA. Generally, your average should be 80% or above. There are a few schools where the GPA average of entering students is a bit lower –77 to 79%. These are very high averages.
If you are seriously consider going to Law School, you need to work hard in order to get high grades in all your courses. Some schools also recalculate your GPA by including courses you retook or courses where you have a W. This is common practice in the US, but Canadian Law Schools are increasingly following this practice.
Unfortunately, many Law Schools do not take into account your graduate work for your GPA. This is a huge mistake, which also comes from US practice. For these schools, a student that graduated from a Bachelors program with 82% has an advantage over a student who graduated with a 70% from her B.A., but who also has a Master's degree where she graduated with an 85%.
The best advice is work hard to learn rather than become obsessive with grades. If you focus on learning, your grades will be very high. The reverse is not always true. And, please, please, don't be a grade grubber. Don't nitpick for every point. Yes, you may get a few extra points in some courses if you grub for grades, but if this comes up in your letters of recommendation –and it will, even if not explicit, it may come up in a weak letter- you will have ruined your chances for admission into Law School, and any other competitive graduate or professional program.
The LSAT has no correlation whatsoever with doing well in Law School or with practicing law. In my opinion, it is simply a way to make sure that you will not challenge the legal system, that you will not really question the way the system works. But you need to play the game and score high in the LSAT. Otherwise, you will not be admitted.
The best way to achieve a very high score is to prepare. The LSAT is coachable, and you can learn how to do well.
You can either practice by yourself or pay a commercial company to train you. If you have the money, taking a commercial course is the best way to prepare for the LSAT.
(from the LSAT website)
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all ABA–approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many non–ABA–approved law schools. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year at hundreds of locations around the world.
Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or October—is often advised.
Some schools place greater weight than others on the LSAT; most law schools do evaluate your full range of credentials.
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, in three different item types. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.
The three multiple-choice question types in the LSAT are:
1. Reading Comprehension Questions
2. Analytical Reasoning Questions
3. Logical Reasoning Questions
Letters of recommendation
Most Law Schools require letters of recommendation. The purpose of a letter of recommendation is to have someone –generally an authority- that tells the Admissions Committee that you have what it takes to succeed in Law School.
Some Law Schools have rules about the letters of recommendations. In general, they require letters, or at least one letter, from a University professor.
Your letters of recommendation have to be very strong. They have to come from professors that know you very well, and who know how to write a good letter of recommendation. Ideally, you should work collaboratively with your professor. Here are some tips to get outstanding letters.
Letters of recommendation tips
1. Choose University professors rather than employment or internship supervisors, unless the Law School also requires non academic letters.
2. Choose full time (tenured or tenure-track professors) rather than part timers, T.A., or adjuncts. If you don't know the status of your professors, check them in the school's website. If in doubt, ask.
3. Choose professors that know you very well, preferably those whom you took several courses with. Here is an article about how to choose an academic recommender.
4. Make sure that your recommender will write a very strong letter. Ask them if they will. If you are not sure that the letter will be very strong, choose another professor. A weak letter may ruin your admission.
5. Try to work collaboratively with your recommender. Find someone that is willing to work with you and understand why you are applying to Law School. Your recommenders need to know what message you are trying to communicate in your application. Provide them with enough information about your background. For example, here is a list of what I require. You can use it to provide your recommenders with similar information.
6. Make sure your professors know how to write a very strong letter for Law School. If they do not know, educate them.
7. In general, your letters should talk about your academic performance, your intellectual skills, quality of class participation, maturity, work ethics, communication –both written and oral- skills, and potential for Law School study. They should be very specific, with concrete examples about your work. They should provide the context of your assessment, e.g., you are among the top 5% of 500 graduating B.A. students in the last five years. They should explain how they know you, and also who they are. The letters should also explain any weak aspects that your application may have. For example, your recommender could explain that your grades were very low during the first semester of your first year because you are an international student and your English was not very good at that time.
8. Your letters should support your case. They should reinforce the main message you want to convey in application. For example, if you are showing yourself as a social activist and leader in your community, the letters should mention this, and should not focus solely on your sports achievements.
Your essay has to show that you are passionate about law school, that you are mature, that you have outstanding academic and intellectual skills, and, in general, that you will succeed in law school. A personal statement is an open essay about any aspect of your life that will help the Admissions Committee see these characteristics.
A statement of purpose asks you why you want to go to Law School, and particularly, why you want to attend the Law School you are applying to.
There are hybrid essays where you have to combine aspects of a statement of purpose and a personal statement. In many cases, you have to answer specific questions. These questions generally ask you to tell the Admissions Committee why you are interested in that law school or what aspect of your background will be an asset for the legal profession or the Law School.
Most Law Schools call their essay a personal statement. However, in most of these cases, the actual nature of the personal statement is a statement of purpose.
Here are some tips for you to write the admission essay. The tips focus on the statement of purpose, which is the most widely required type of essays in Canadian Law Schools. If you are applying to US Law Schools, you may be required to write a true personal statement, i.e., an open essay about any aspect of your life.
Statement of purpose essay
1. Read the instructions very carefully, and follow those instructions. If they are specific questions or suggestions for your answers, address them.
2. Your essay must put forward your main reason why you should be admitted. This should be consistent with the rest of your application. For example, you have a record of working with victims in criminal justice and you want to change the way victims are treated.
3. You have to show that given your background and experiences, the next logical step for you is Law School.
4. Describe your skills that make you suited for a legal career.
5. Back up your claims with examples and anecdotes from your academic and work experience.
6. Make sure that you show that you have the academic skills to succeed in Law School. Many candidates emphasize their volunteer experiences and show nothing about their academic skills. Law School is, after all, a rigorous academic program.
7. Show that you have an interest in law, such as classes, volunteer or work experiences, etc. But don't simply mention that you took x number of law related courses. Mention something unique that you took out of these classes. Support this with concrete examples.
8. Please note that Law School professors are skeptical about University law studies. They don't think that this has anything to do with law as taught in law school. So, you have to show that you learned something unique and relevant from your University Law courses.
9. The same applies to legal work you did. The Admissions Committee will not like to read that you have experience in drafting sophisticated international contracts, even if you really do.
10. Do a lot of research about the Law School you are applying to. Find out something unique about it and tie it to your reason why you want to apply to that Law School. In a perfect world, this should not be necessary. There are only 16 common law Law Schools in Canada, and they all have a very competitive admissions policy. It should be enough to say this. But Law School is not a perfect world, and Law Professors are very self-centered. They want to be told that they are special and that their Law School is unique. So, find something unique that will make them feel special. Read their websites very carefully, contact current students, and alumni. Read some of the articles the professors wrote. You will impress them if you say something original that does not repeat what is on the Law School website.
While traditionally not part of the Law School admissions process, some Law Schools, such as Dalhousie, are now requiring interviews. So, here are some tips if you are asked to interview.
Research about the Law School and if you know who will interview you, do research about your interviewer’s background, too.
It will be very helpful to read, at least, one article written by your interviewer. You can search articles from Quicklaw database available at most libraries. The best way to impress the interviewer is to casually mention an idea or too from his or her article.
The interviewer will ask you general questions, which somehow arise from your file. So, if you read again your application from a third person's perspective, you can probably figure out what questions the interviewer will ask you.
Anyway, you should be prepared for questions about: your college education, extracurricular activities, motivation to go to Law School, career goals, etc. Also be prepared for general questions about current events and items of interest in popular culture. Other questions that I know some interviewers ask are:
1. How do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
2. Do you read regularly outside of school? What did you last read?
3. What guest speaker would you like to have come in and talk? What questions would you ask?
The interviewer will be evaluating how well prepared you are to succeed in Law School, more specifically, the interviewer will want to see your maturity, analytical skills, motivation, and communication skills.
A mistake I have often seen is that students expand too much on extracurricular activities and do not stress their academic achievements. Law School is above all a rigorous academic program. So, even if you are asked about your summer internship or a travel to another country, try to focus on how that prepared you for Law School. But be brief, and try to turn the conversation to an academic issue. The most impressive answers are when you can tell that you got something unique from your university studies, which reflects that you have strong and well-rounded intellectual skills. For example, you could say that you took several courses in the area of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and International Justice and that you feel frustrated because the Canadian Criminal Justice system neglects victims and that when you compare the situation between Europe and North America, victims have a larger role in Europe than here. And what is even more frustrating is that the US is exporting its Criminal Justice solutions regarding victims to European democracies in transition as if their solutions were better than those in central Europe.
A response like this is more impressive than when a candidate says that after an internship in a victims' centre, he or she came to realize that the Canadian Criminal Justice system neglects victims. Again, Law School is an academic program.
The interviewer will also want to know how motivated you are about getting into Law School, so he or she will be looking at your energy level and communication skills. Try to be passionate about what you are talking about. The interviewer will conclude that you will be bringing that same passion to Law School.
Don't talk about insecurities or any weaknesses in your background or application.
You may be asked a question that may be upsetting. If so, this is to test how you will react to pressure and how you will handle conflict. Don't get defensive. Remember the motivation behind this question, and try to answer it in an analytical way.
Listen very carefully to the interviewer. Too many candidates ask questions at the end of their interviews on topics that we've already covered.
This is probably the most important aspect of the interview. You will be given time at the end of the interview to ask questions. But you may ask some questions before the interview begins or if you feel it appropriate, during the interview.
From the questions you ask, the interviewer will assess your interest in the Law School and your intellectual abilities. The best questions are those that show that you know about the Law School beyond what is obvious from looking at its catalogue or the website. For example, Dalhousie Law School offers a 1st year course on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, which is unusual in North America. If you took Criminal Justice, you could say something like “I am enthusiastic about your Criminal Law and Criminal Justice course. All other Law Schools offer only Criminal Law. I took Criminal Justice so I know that learning about parole, Restorative Justice, and corrections is very important. How do you approach the teaching of Criminal Justice, do you delve into Restorative Justice? Do you focus on the laws related to Criminal Justice or do you focus on the big picture and teach your students theoretical models of Criminal Justice as well, such as Due Process and Crime Control?
Resume and additional information
Your resume should not be an afterthought. You have to carefully design it. It should have the following sections:
Consider including additional information if it will help advance your main message. If you published a book or an article, you can send an excerpt. But don't bombard the Admissions Committee with documents they will not want to read.
For example, if your grades were weak in your first years of college, don't include any explanation here. Ask your recommenders to do so.
Comparison of admission requirements
Postby RTR10 » Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:26 am
LSAT: 165 (highest-Dec 06), 157 (Sept 06)
Accepted: Emory ($), Alabama ($), Baylor, Pepperdine ($), Mizzou($), South Carolina ($), Temple ($), Creighton ($), Hofstra ($), Quinnipiac ($), Washburn ($), Ave Maria ($), FCSL ($), St. Thomas-MN ($), SLU ($), Case Western
Waitlisted: Fordham, WUSTL, Catholic, Loyola Chicago, Wisconsin
Withdrew before decision: UIUC, Arkansas LR, Campbell
Attending: Alabama on a full tuition scholarship
During a time in my life that should have been filled with Saturday morning cartoons and Barbie dolls, I was picking up the pieces of the emotional disaster that was my mother. When I was four years old, my father was killed in a horrific accident on the drive home from his night shift at the Kraft plant. To this day, my mom feels like the accident was her fault because my parents, typically on cloud nine, had gotten into a colossal fight the night before he died. She spent much of the time after his death trying to cope with this guilt and devastation. How was I supposed to know this day would change my family’s cheerful home into a place that I avoided at all costs?
I am only twenty-one years of age, but I feel about twenty years older. I essentially had to raise myself, because my mom was far too emotionally traumatized to nurture me. My mother consistently left for work before I went to school and did not return until after I was in bed, so I spent the majority of my childhood in my grandparents’ home, cooking with my grandmother and watching “Days of our Lives” with my grandfather. In addition to the normal forty-five hour weeks and countless hours of grading papers and planning lessons, my mom served three terms as president of the Alton Education Association as well as several terms on the Region Board. She was not throwing herself into her work because she loved it; she was doing it to avoid the one person who reminded her of the life she had lost—her daughter.
When I was a kid, I was involved in absolutely everything. I played the flute, the violin, the piano, and the bassoon. As an all-star athlete, I competed in softball, soccer, basketball, golf, dance, and gymnastics. Remember that little girl looking into the stands or the audience hoping to see someone there who loved her and was proud of her, who had to hold back the tears when the seat was empty? That was me. My loneliness gave rise to remarkable creativity, however, which took the form of charcoal drawings, oil paintings, and black-and-white photography. My isolation also provided me with maturity and compassion. Instead of becoming someone who resented love, I yearned for it. However, even after years of begging to be loved by my mother, she chose to love someone else.
On Thanksgiving of my sophomore year of high school, my mother asked me if it was okay for her to go on a date with Robert. It had been eleven years since my father had passed away, and I wanted my mother to be happy. Little did I know that Robert was only nineteen, a convicted felon, and her former student. Robert pulled a gun on me over Fall Break of my sophomore year of college, has sexually harassed me several times in front of my family, and conned my mother out of thousands of dollars for drugs and other terrible habits. Despite several attempts to leave him, my mother is still with Robert six years later, even after two severe beatings and several death threats. I left home in August of 2003 to attend Saint Louis University and to escape the detrimental environment my mother’s relationship had created.
Right before I left for college, my mother financially abandoned me and informed me that I was always a burden to her. This declaration devastated me and I found myself dealing with loneliness, hatred, and sadness. Each day brought with it reminders that I now had no one to run to or to confide in. My heart was broken and I had to pick up the pieces single-handedly. With this friction in mind, I redirected my energy toward helping others and improving myself.
I longed for a fresh start and an opportunity to provide others with the love, compassion, support, and protection that were absent in my life. I found success in my academics with time, once I discovered coursework that captured my interest and provided me with a newfound happiness. Several involvement opportunities arose all over campus, and I was quick to dedicate myself to numerous organizations. Through countless leadership positions within these organizations, I was able to help others immediately. As the Freshman Executive Delegate to the Honors Student Association, I organized a toy drive for 150 children in the Children’s Hospital who were unable to spend Christmas at home with their families. Perhaps one of my favorite activities involved providing golf lessons to local terminally ill children with SLU Women’s Golf and the DreamWorks Foundation. As the Internal Vice President of Pan-Hellenic Council, the governing body of the sororities, I worked diligently to improve the Greek community. This involved anything from instituting a campus-wide collection of Yoplait lids for breast cancer research to planning every detail of Greek Week to bridging the gap between the Greek community and the Administration. However, my biggest impact on the SLU community rested within my position as a Resident Advisor. I found the opportunity to assist incoming freshmen in their transition to college incredibly rewarding. Saint Louis University became the family that I never had, and I finally felt like I belonged. As I continued to grow, I decided that I was ready to readdress my tumultuous relationship with my mother.
On April 11, 2004, my mom broke the news to me that she had colon cancer over Easter lunch at the Olive Garden. Regardless of the anger I felt towards my mother for the disappointments during my childhood as well as her inability to leave the man who was completely ruining her life, I did not want the September morning in 1989 in which my father did not return to recur. I spent hours upon hours in the hospital during my mother’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as during two surgeries in which most of her colon and intestines were removed. The second surgery during January of my junior year resulted in my mother being placed into a drug-induced coma for a month to fight off the infection. Seeing my mother so vulnerable forced an awareness of the time I had wasted avoiding her. I once again sought after the ideal mother-daughter relationship, but I would have settled for her just to be conscious so I could have told her how much I loved her. Luckily, she was released from the hospital shortly after March began. Ever since, I have spent more and more time with my mother, learning whom she is, how she feels, what she wants, and most importantly, how much she really loves me.
Several people think my mother is a failure, and I used to be one of them. I never wanted to be like my mother; in fact, I wanted to be the complete opposite of her. There are many things I wish she had done differently, but I now realize that many of those lonely nights developed me into the person I am today. My mother lived for me, even though we both thought she was living to avoid me. She failed at many things so that I could have the life that she and my dad had always dreamed for me to have. My individuality, independence, strong motivation, desire for success, leadership ability, maturity, ability to love, and my efforts to help the less fortunate were all derived from my mother’s absence.
My life’s experiences have undoubtedly shaped me into a compassionate person who yearns to protect women and children from domestic violence by providing them with a voice to fight against those who control them. However, these experiences in no way limit me from achieving my personal and professional ambitions. The same resiliency that has helped me to attain my past goals will certainly assist me in my determination to practice law. I have already drastically impacted the Saint Louis University community, and I long to do the same at XXXXX Law School as a dedicated student and within the community as a proud lawyer. Even though I have had to take a few steps back along the way, no obstacle has ever prevented me from accomplishing my dreams. Although my experiences have not been entirely unique, my response to these challenges definitely sets me apart. I consider my past a means of shaping me into the individual I am today. I realize that attending XXXXX Law School will provide many more obstacles. Nevertheless, these barriers will help to mold me into the lawyer I will be tomorrow.
Last edited by RTR10 on Fri Jul 27, 2007 12:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.