Preparing for Law School
There is no one path to a great legal education or career. The American Bar Association does not recommend any particular major or set of courses. Rather, they recommend a set of skills, a broad range of courses from demanding teachers, attention to values, exposure to the law, and pursuit of your passions:
- Problem Solving
- Critical Reading
- Writing and Editing
- Oral Communication and Listening
- Organization and Management
- Public Service and Promotion of Justice
- Relationship-building and Collaboration
- Background Knowledge
- Exposure to the Law
Saint Joseph's University’s Justice and Ethics in the Law minor combines all these recommended skills, opportunities for legal internships and challenging professors by offering a wide variety of courses from both the College of Arts and Sciences and Haub School of Business.
We highly recommend reading this valuable resource that goes into more detail about the skills required for being a successful law student and legal professional.
Use this checklist if you are exploring law as a career option or are at least 2 years away from applying to law school. As you consider law school, the best way to make sure you are positioned for success is taking advantage of experiential, academic, and extracurricular activities while in school. As you get closer to applying, this checklist will walk you through the application process.
- Take challenging courses that interest you. Consider courses in logic (offered by the philosophy department), analytical thinking and writing (many departments), and game theory (ECN365 or MAT 132), which can help develop analytic skills necessary for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).
- Explore all the Study Abroad options that the University offers and let your advisor know that you are considering studying abroad as a junior or senior.
- Explore whether Service Learning might help you broaden your knowledge and create opportunities to see law in action.
- If you like a course, get to know the professor. Visit office hours. Repeat courses with faculty whom you connect with intellectually and personally. The strongest recommendation letters come from faculty who know you well.
- Explore majors that interest you. The American Bar Association insists there are no “good” majors for law – only challenging courses that develop your skills.
- Follow SJU Law on Twitter and join the SJU Pre-Law Facebook group to learn about lectures and events related to the law.
- Attend all kinds of events at Saint Joseph's (not just those that are law related) to help broaden your worldview.
- Create a resume with the help of the Career Development Center. Attend Career Development events and Pre-Law Events.
- After you have selected a major, consider courses that help you explore your interest in law. Explore Saint Joe’s Justice and Ethics in the Law as well as the Arrupe Center for Business Ethics, Faith Justice, and the many organizations on campus that address ethics and the law.
- Continue taking challenging courses that interest you. Consider courses in logic (offered by the philosophy department), analytical thinking and writing (many departments), and game theory (ECON365 or MAT132), which can help develop analytic skills necessary for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).
- Talk to your advisor and the Career Development Center about internships. Think broadly about the many ways law intersects politics, business, policy-making, education, etc. Consider a semester at the Washington Center interning in a law related field.
- Contact Ms. Falcone to explore informational interviews with alumni working in legal field.
- Attend the Politics, Government, and Law networking event in the fall. Update your resume before attending!
- Continue attending lectures and events. Check out the Pre-Law events happening each semester and attend.
- Continue engaging with faculty by visiting office hours and repeating courses with faculty you connect with personally and intellectually.
- Begin studying for the LSAT. The LSAT is a marathon rather than a sprint. A great score requires months of study and practice – at least 12 full practice tests in addition to studying and review. Plan to take the LSAT in June.
- Continue exploring internships that allow you to better understand the type of work that lawyers do and whether you really want to study law.
- Begin research of law schools and attend all events here at the University.
- Identify 2 or 3 professors who might write letters for you. Choose people who can speak to your strengths and who really know you.You should supply all your writers with a packet: resume, transcript (mark the courses you took with them), list of schools, reminder of any presentations or papers. Professors will send letters to the Law School Credential Assembly Service.
- Review guidelines for personal essays. When you have finished your draft, email it to your advisor for review.
- Attend Pre-Law events occurring each semester.
- See your advisor to discuss time off before law school and financing issues.
- Finalize your list and begin to obtain school applications.
- Write your personal statement; Discuss guidelines and best practices with your advisor before starting.
- Write or update your resume and have it reviewed by Ms. Falcone. Law school resumes may include some different information than a typical resume, so be sure to have it reviewed before sending in your application.
- If necessary, take the LSAT in September or December. The December test is often the last one that law schools will accept for that year. If you plan to take time off, you can consider the February or June tests as well.
- Register with the Law School Credential Assembly Service.
- Have recommendation letters sent to the LSAC.
- Have transcript sent to LSAC.
- Applications should be sent in mid-to-late fall. Have an Excel sheet with all deadlines listed. Submit early since many schools have rolling admissions.
- Attend Pre-Law events scheduled and continue to network and make connections.
- Contact Ms. Falcone for an initial advising session. Meetings can be held in person, through Skype or on the phone. Together, you will review what you have done and your goals to help you shape your plan.
- More and more students work for some time to determine whether they want to work as a legal professional. Your work experience - in any field - is a valuable asset. Talk to Ms. Falcone about how you highlight that asset in your personal essay and your law school resume.
- Check out the Pre-Law events, open to all interested alumni, and attend.
- Refer to the list posted for seniors and be sure that you are up to date on all points.
This five-hour test has five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions: reading comprehension, analytic reasoning and logical thinking. Only four of the sections are scored, but the LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) uses that section to test new questions (you won’t know which one is not scored, so you must do them all!). There is also a 35-minute writing sample that is NOT scored but is accessible to all the law schools to judge your writing skills (and whether your personal statement matches this timed writing). More specifics on the test may be found on the LSAC website.
Law schools believe that the LSAT reflects the skills necessary for studying law especially the ability to read and analyze complex texts, reason logically and perform under stress. These are the skills that you have developed in your major and in the GEP here at Saint Joseph's. While it is hard for law schools to judge GPAs at different schools, the LSAT is the one common element.
First, register for rigorous courses -- in ANY department -- that push your writing, analyzing and analytical thinking. For example, all math beauty courses have a required component on logic and reasoning Math of Games and Politics (Math 132) and Math of Uncertainty (Math 134) may be of particular interest). Fundamental Ideas (MAT 225) or Number Theory (MAT 180) would offer more advanced skills. In the Philosophy department, Logic (PHL 220) and Symbolic Logic (PHL 240) would provide tools for logical reasoning. Courses in legal reasoning are also part of the Justice and Ethics in Law minor.
Months before the LSAT, buy a practice book, work through problems and take practice tests. While there are many excellent books, you may find The Official LSAT SuperPrep: The Champion of LSAT Prep to be a helpful start. Free practice tests are available from LSAC: http://www.lsac.org/. Familiarize yourself with the test format, instructions and the type of questions asked. This is a speeded test and it is difficult to finish without lots of practice. Understanding strategies for questions -- especially the logic games -- is essential. Make a schedule and keep track of the hours that you study and practice. Budget at least 3-4 hours a week for at least two to three months prior to the test date. Fifty hours is the minimum for self-study. Always practice with previous tests rather than “model” exams and recreate test-taking by using a timer, reading the instructions aloud, taking the same breaks, and finishing all the sections in the same 5-hour time frame.
Taking this type of test is like running 3 miles or playing a difficult piece of music. You might not be able to do it on the first day but, if you consistently practice, you can run the distance or hit the high notes. The more you practice, the better you do.
Commercial courses can be expensive (ranging from $900-1500) and offered by many test review companies (e.g. Kaplan, Princeton Review). When choosing a course, carefully examine the number of hours of course time (do not count practice test time as you can do that at home). Make sure that the practice tests offered are official tests from LSAC rather than “model” tests. Ask about refunds and score guarantees.
The pre-law program highly recommends the FREE and highly effective Khan Academy LSAT course. This course is self-paced and offers you personalized support as you prepare.
Courses do not guarantee success but they do provide structure. Think about your own learning style as you determine whether a course is right for you. Even if you do take a course, you must prepare and study outside of the class hours to be successful. You may find that you do well on practice tests on your own but one of the sections is difficult for you. In this case, you may be better off hiring a tutor.
Students generally take the LSAT after their junior year (the June test). If needed, they can retake the test in October. Students register online: www.lsac.org.