Applying to Law School
Tips for Success
A law school application is a compilation of your academic achievements and your professional goals. Law school admissions counselors review applications with a keen eye for detail and reward those who follow best practices. Engage with both pre-law advisors on each of the components of your application to ensure your application will impress.
Create a Strong Application
Each piece of the application is an arrow in your quiver – so arrows can come from different sources, not just your personal statement. What is most important is attention to detail and a personal statement that is authentic (rings true to who you are).
Use this application checklist as a way to ensure you are making progress within your application process. Talk with the pre-law advisors about areas of confusion or concern.
Law admissions deans report that students do not follow basic directions. If you are asked for a three-page statement, don’t send a six-page essay. Law schools admissions officers want students to respect THEIR school’s instructions. They also want to see that you can follow instructions because lawyers must be precise and careful as they handle documents, analyze legal statements, and argue cases.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)'s website can be a cause of frustration for applicants. Take your time. Read the directions. This short video tutorial should help get you started. If you have any issues, contact LSAC - they are just a phone call away!
Professionalism is just as important when applying to law school as it is when applying for a job. Your actions demonstrate respect for those around you and a sincere interest in your candidacy.
Professionalism is more than just having an effective resume or strong interview; it includes editing emails and application documents, dressing appropriately for events and interviews and addressing individuals by formal title. Students are asked to disclose everything (e.g. Academic Honesty violations, open liquor, arrests, etc). Even expunged crimes must be disclosed. Handling disclosure honestly and appropriately is also a sign of professionalism.
Choosing a Law School
Before you apply to law school, it is important to have an understanding of where you will have a competitive application so that you can develop a list of competitive, reach and safety schools. Because of this, you must have an LSAT score in hand to discuss your school list with the pre-law advisors. A timed practice test score can be used to begin the conversation.
Once you have completed the LSAT, review the following links to determine the LSAT and GPA expectations of schools. This knowledge will help you evaluate where you might have the greatest chance for admission.
- LSAC School Finder - Search ABA-Approved law schools in LSAC utilizing your GPA and LSAT scores. Examine your schools of interest and your likelihood of admittance to help you determine your safety, target, and reach schools. Remember that this is predicting admissions based on numbers only, but the numbers are important.
- Law School by the Numbers - Utilize Law School by the Numbers to compare yourself to applicants from past years. Use the Admissions Predictor Tool and filter the graphs by application year and type of applicant.
- Analytix by AccessLex - This tool will allow you to do a side-by-side comparison of schools based on criteria important to you. The information is displayed visually in easy-to-read graphs to highlight key differences and similarities between schools.
When considering schools, there are multiple facets to consider in addition to the admissions criteria including: size of school, programs offered, types of clinics available, diversity, and cost of attending. Be sure to reflect on what is important to you in your ideal law school.
- Utilize this worksheet to determine the attributes you are looking for in a school. You do not need to check off five boxes in each section area, just focus on what is most important to you.
Now, build your list!
- Use the Google Sheet template here to build your school list. In the columns, list the components of importance for you in a law school so you can begin to easily compare.
- Share your school list with the pre-law advisors so they have access to it and can discuss it with you in an appointment.
Financing Your Law Degree
Most law schools offer some sort of financial assistance, but this is not always guaranteed for the length of the program. Many schools offer merit-based, need-based scholarships and loan repayment assistance programs. It is important to become familiar with resources available to you as you navigate this process.
Review Financing Your Legal Education to become knowledgeable on key terms, resources and the process in place to support your law school funding.
Create a custom financial worksheet for your prospective schools to easily compare your financial options and to clearly see differences in your options. Discuss your worksheet with the pre-law advisors in an appointment.
Utilize Analytix by AccessLex to view side-by-side financial information on each of your schools. Compare cost to matriculation, bar passage rate and outcomes to see how cost (and even rank) does not always mean "better".
If you want to discuss your financial situation as it relates to law school and your options with a financial counselor, schedule a free 1:1 conversation with AccessConnex by AccessLex.
Law School Resume
Law schools are looking for a set of skills, experiences, and exposure to the law. Revise your resume so that you highlight the depth and breadth of your coursework, legal exposure, ability to write and research, etc. General tips for writing resumes may be found here and Saint Joseph’s Career Center will assist you with editing and polishing your resume.
Review this sample law school resume and read through the best practices highlighted on the right. Watch this video tutorial to learn a little more. Edit your document to adhere to all best practices.
To get your law school resume reviewed, upload it to Handshake with the label of "Law School Resume". The Career Center staff will review and approve for you.
Letters of Recommendation
If you are applying to law school this fall, early August is the time to make requests for Letters of Recommendation (LOR). Your first step is to write an email to Dr. Patterson with the following information:
- Year of Graduation
- Names of Suggested Recommenders
- Brief paragraph about why the person would be a good recommender (what type of classes or projects? what type of work projects? how many classes/years you know the person?)
Dr. Patterson will provide feedback so that you can then make the requests to the three writers that represent you best. Once you and Dr. Patterson decide on the names, you will reach out to each one providing:
- Your Updated Resume
- Useful background information (you want to remind your reviewers of the exact classes (Fall 2021, course number, course name) and also the type of work that you did (name of special project, title of particularly good paper, copy of marked up paper with faculty comments). If possible, you want to reconnect with the faculty member so they have a good sense of who you are NOW and why you want to go to law school so they can write you the strongest letter possible.
- Log-in to your LSAC account.
- Click "Credentials and CAS"
- Click "Manage LORs"
- Scroll down and click "Add/Edit My Recommenders"
- Choose whether to waive your rights to see the letter (if you are unsure about this, feel free to email a pre-law advisor to discuss).
- Fill out the recommender information.
- Letter description - this is helpful if you have recommenders that you only plan to send to a specific school. Otherwise you can label "send to all schools". This is a reminder for you.
- Click "Submit"
- This will redirect you back to the original page you were on. Scroll down and you should see the recommender name in your list. In the "Action" section you will see either "view to print" or "email". Typically you will choose email, which will email the recommender information on how to submit the letter electronically. If your recommender prefers to mail it, click "view to print".
Requesting Your Transcripts
You will need to have your official transcripts available in the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through your LSAC account. Your will need to request transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions, any schools where your transferred credits from (community college courses, if you are a transfer student, etc), and from your study abroad institution if and only if you were at a US institution abroad.
If you are a current student:
- Log-in to the Nest
- Go to the Students section
- Find Academic Resources (listed under Classes & Registration)
- Click "Order/Track an Official Transcript"
- Click "Order a Transcript"
- When you get to the page that says "Select Transcript and Deliver Details" choose "Education Organization, Application Service and Scholarships" and then select "Law School Admission Council". From there, fill in your LSAC Account Number (found after logging-in to LSAC in the top right corner).
If you are an alumni:
- Go here.
- Scroll down to "Requesting an Official Transcript"
- Click "Click Here"
- Enter "Saint Joseph's University" as the school name
- Follow step 6 above
Your statement communicates information the admissions officers cannot find anywhere else in the application. Repeating the resume wastes space. DEPTH rather than breadth is the key to a great essay. Think of the personal statement as an interview. Why should they choose you? How can they better understand you as a person? The essay helps the law school figure out who you are, what skills you have, and how professional you are as a person.
- Tell YOUR Story in an Authentic and Sincere Voice. Tell them who you are. Tell them what you think rather than what you think they want to hear. Don’t ever copy sample essays – law deans read the same internet sites.
- Don’t write an essay about saving the world or overcoming an insurmountable obstacle (unless you have an extraordinary case). Law admissions officers report that 60% of student essays discuss horrific accidents or illnesses. Law schools don’t need such stories – just a better idea of who you are. If you write about saving the world but your resume indicates experience and interest in business, this will not ring true to law schools. Write about social justice or a commitment to civil rights but make sure your experiences (coursework, internships, jobs, and volunteer work) provide evidence in the resume. When writing about obstacles, show you’ve overcome them and are prepared for the challenges ahead. If you are explaining a problem (a gap in education, a period in which your grades were low, an illness) handle it succinctly and emphasize how this issue has been resolved. The majority of your essay should be positive and directed towards what makes you an excellent candidate. Don’t raise questions or doubts. Demonstrate your qualifications; you are ready for law school.
- Be personal not confessional A personal statement helps the admissions officers understand you as a person – rather than a GPA or a LSAT score. We often confuse what is personal with what is private or intimate. Anything personal should be linked with the main theme and/or your desire to study law. This is NOT a confession.
- Be remembered but don’t be weird Don’t use gimmicks or emoticons or write about shocking events or extreme situations. You want to be remembered – but the essay must connect to your decision to pursue a legal education.
- Be Careful Talking about the Law or the Law School Don’t speak about the law as if you “know” based on one or two classes or an internship. Your statement should be tailored to the law school but not about that law school. They do NOT want material from their websites. They want to know you are serious about the study of law, prepared for the challenges of law school, and interested in THEIR program. If there is something particular about a law school (e.g. a prosecution program, a joint health ethics degree) that interests you, you can reference this but it must be linked to the overall theme in the essay. Don’t tell the law schools what you might do in 10 years.
- How to develop an idea for an essay? Don’t read “samples.” It is hard to get that voice out of your head or inadvertently copy. Take a piece of paper and write reasons for going to law school or why I will succeed in law school in the middle. Draw seven lines with seven reasons. For the next 7 days, free-write for 30 minutes a day (one reason each day). Look at the 7 and order them (your favorite on top).
- What do I with these ideas? When you have your WORD document with 7 ideas, send the essay and a list of your target schools and LSAT score to Dr. Patterson with a request for an appointment. Together you will decide which idea(s) make a compelling statement. You may also be able to use one of the paragraphs for a diversity or supplementary essay.
- Proofread and Edit Make sure the name of the law school is correct. Do NOT rely upon autocorrect. There are admissions officers that red line each error. They look down on these mistakes (e.g. I am looking for a city school – but the school is rural or I am enthusiastic about Notre Dame but the application is to Catholic University). This should be the best essay – in terms of content and prose – you have ever written. Language should be polished: each sentence the best it can be. Read the essay aloud and listen to how it sounds. The editing should take hours, not a few minutes. Do not plagiarize or have someone extensively edit. Your personal statement will be compared with the timed LSAT writing section. If the writing doesn’t match, admissions deans will be suspicious.
- The final essay. Once you have chosen a topic, you will write your essay. This draft should be edited for grammar, spelling, and organization. You should have already have read it aloud and then edited the content. Make an appointment with Dr. Patterson. Send him the essay with the appointment request. He will provide comments and suggestions.