When should I see a Pre-Law Advisor?
You can see a Pre-Law Advisor at anytime throughout your undergraduate career to ask questions or discuss your plans. If you are a junior or senior, it is important to come in to discuss the upcoming application cycle for law school.
Who is responsible for ordering my transcripts?
You are! You need to submit the I-15 Transcript request form from Law Services website, to the Registrar’s Office at every secondary school attended. The Registrar(s) Office will then forward your transcript(s) to the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). No one other than yourself can order your transcript.
How do I prepare for law school?
While there is no required major for entrance in to law school, there are many skills, abilities and values you can develop during your undergraduate years to help you succeed. They are:
- Analytic and problem-solving skills
- Critical reading abilities
- Writing skills
- Oral communication and listening abilities
- General research skills
- Task organization and management skills
- Serving others and promoting justice
- Knowledge about current legal issues
Also, refer to the Your JHU Years section of this site.
When should I apply to law school?
You should apply to law school the fall before the September in which you want to matriculate. Stated application deadlines are rolling and usually fall between January 1 and May 1. However, it is advisable to get your application completed and in by the first week in November. Earlier applicants have the advantage of receiving an early and the best look for admission purposes, as well as consideration for scholarship and grant opportunities. The italicized portion of the Junior & Senior Years of the Your JHU Years section can give you more information about what steps you should be taking for the application process.
How do I choose a law school?
In mid-spring, most applicants have received their acceptance letters from various law schools and now must choose which law school to attend. This can be a very difficult decision for most people, but an extremely important one. Like any important life decision, there are many considerations to think about when selecting the right law school. It is important for students to understand that they are not just choosing a law school, they are choosing their home for the next three or four years. A student will want to select a law school where they will be comfortable and able to pursue a career in law successfully. Listed below are several questions that students may want to ask law schools before they decide where to matriculate and the follow-up questions and answers to pursue.
What is the atmosphere among students like? Is there much competition?
Even though some competition among students is natural in law school, law school student bodies vary in internal competition levels. Some are more supportive and congenial than others and offer mentoring and tutoring programs to incoming students as they make the transition to law school.
Does your law school offer any areas of special concentration?
There are many law schools which focus on certain practice areas or specialties. Some law schools have specialty programs in public health law, environmental law, international law, etc. Also, a growing trend among law schools are joint degree programs with international law schools, providing the JD equivalent in another country. Some specialize in writing programs and trial advocacy.
What type of clinical and externship opportunities are available?
Clinical and externship experiences are offered at most law schools after the first year of study. Clinic programs vary per school. Externship opportunities are usually available with a wide variety of government offices and agencies; courts; and non-profit organizations.
How do your law students finance law school?
Most law schools award merit based scholarships every year to incoming students including full-tuition awards, as well as to returning students based upon their academic performance in their first year of study. Generally, federal financial aid is also available to both full-time and part-time students including work study funds for those students interested in working at the Law School. Many law schools also offer a loan repayment program options to assist recent graduates, who are pursuing a career in public interest, with partial repayment of their federal loan debt. Be sure to check with individual law schools to determine specific award and available program information.
Is there housing available to law students?
Some schools offer on campus housing, usually available to students on a first-come first-serve basis. Off-campus housing options can usually be accessed through items such as www.craigslist.com, etc. Be sure to check with respective law school admissions offices to determine whether they offer assistance to students in securing housing for the academic year and/or offer roommate searching resources.
Does your law school offer career counseling to students and what is the placement rate for graduates?
Career development offices assist students in search of legal work both during law school and upon graduation. Job postings in a wide variety of legal and non-legal settings from across the country are available to students and graduates both in the office and online. Students also have free access to computers, copy machines, telephone, fax and online services while in law school.
What is the latest bar passage rate for your law school?
Obtaining the answer to this questions will not only indicate bar passage rates for law school graduates, but, perhaps more importantly, where the majority of graduates end up working. For example, Yale Law School (CT) publishes statistics for their graduates passage of the New York State Bar Exam, as does the University of Pennsylvania Law School (PA) and Georgetown University Law Center (DC).
There is no official ranking of law schools and prospective students should consider several factors in making their choice such as:
- Size and make up of enrollment/student body
- Library and other physical facilities
- Special programs and academic activities
- Support programs
- Student organizations
- Career services and employment opportunities
The Statistics section also has more information on and individual law school specific information to help in your decision.
My GPA is low but I still want to study law. What are my options?
If you are truly interested in studying law, there are several law schools nationally where competition for admission is not as great. This does not mean that the programs at these schools are easier, simply that they have different admissions philosophies that allow more subjective evaluations of your ability to be successful. The Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising can help you to identify schools to optimize your chances of admission.
Although GPA is important, other factors such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score, letters of recommendation, personal statement and extracurricular activities complete the picture. Law schools do not make decisions based on GPA alone.
What should I do if I don’t get accepted to one of my top law school choices?
It is best to take some time off from school and work. Law school can remain an option in another year, after you gain some experience. Sort out your personal strengths and interests and investigate professional opportunities for yourself. Work experience will make you far more competitive in the lawyer job market once you graduate from law school as well. Some students further investigate law by becoming a paralegal. There are paralegal educational programs, but there are also law firms which hire bachelor degree candidates for a one or two year period and train them as paralegals. Ultimately, whatever you choose to do will add perspective to who you are and, if you can articulate it well in writing, strengthen you as a candidate for admission.
You also may want to reevaluate the law schools to which you applied. You may have set your original expectations far too high and in reapplying you may need to set more realistic admission goals. If you are truly interested in studying the law, there is a law school for you that will give you the skills necessary to pass a state bar exam.
Some students consider graduate programs to improve their competitiveness for admission to law school. The degree is another characteristic about you to be weighed in the admission process.
One last option is to attend a less competitive law school your first year and look to transfer for the second and third year. This plan is generally only a good one for students who truly excel in their first year of law school, and who still want to move to a different program.
How do I pay for law school?
According to the PreLaw Insider magazine (Winter 2004, Vol. 7, No. 3), “today’s law students will graduate with an average of $85,000 in debt. But there are positive steps you can take now to manage that debt and keep borrowing to a minimum.”
Resources to limit your law school debt are:
- Fill out the FAFSA: this is a free application for federal student aid, www.fafsa.ed.gov
- Apply for federal Stafford loans, www.staffordloan.com
- Apply for federal Perkins loans
- Ask about state aid
- Investigate scholarships and grants
- Think about work-study programs
- Consider private loans
- Other resources
What kind of work experience and extracurricular activities do I need?
Although a law-related work experience or internship is not a requirement for law school admission, such “field experience” offers students an opportunity to test their interest in law. This type of position may involve real responsibility in a legal environment: interviewing clients and gathering salient facts, legal research, writing memoranda, counseling, and negotiation.
Employment in a job not law related may play a role in an admissions committee’s decision if such work shows significant entrepreneurial ability or involves situations where employers have given the applicant real responsibility in a company’s operations. If a student has found it necessary to work in order to pay for college tuition or expenses, it is important to bring it to the attention of the admissions committee. Demonstrating maturity in accepting responsibility for college expenses and learning to balance employment and academic commitments can have a positive impact on an admissions officer.
As for extracurricular activities, law schools neither require nor are impressed by long lists of them. However, admissions committees are looking for significant leadership ability and activity, and a commitment to something other than a high undergraduate GPA. Whatever the activity, it needs to indicate meaningful community involvement, leadership, and responsibility in order to have a significant impact on the admissions process.
Note of caution: We wish to warn pre-law students not to make choices concerning courses or majors, work or internship experiences, and extracurricular activities from the standpoint of impressing law school admissions committees. There is disparity among law schools about the comparative weight put on a candidate’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Remember: Do what you feel comfortable and happy about doing. If you are interested in what you are doing, you will be successful!
What is the LSDAS?
The LSDAS prepares and provides a report for each law school to which you apply. The report contains information that is important in the law school admission process. Your report will include:
An undergraduate academic summary (UGPA)
Copies of all undergraduate, graduate, and law school transcripts
LSAT scores and writing sample copies
Copies of Letters of Recommendation if processed by LSAC using the Letter of Recommendation Service
Your LSDAS report period will extend for five years from your registration date. If you register for the LSAT at any time during your LSDAS period, the LSDAS report period will be extended five years from your latest LSAT registration.
What is the LSAT?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times a year (June, September/October, December & February) at designated testing centers throughout the world. All ABA-approved law schools require applicants to take the LSAT. The LSAT is designed to measure skills 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 test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section (variable section) typically is used to pretest new test questions or to pre-equate new test forms. The placement of this section in the LSAT will vary. The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, with 180 being the highest possible score. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies are sent to all law schools to which a candidate applies. Below are important, base facts (some dispelling misperceptions!) about the LSAT.
10 LSAT Facts You Should Know
- The LSAT is not an IQ test.
Contrary to popular belief, the LSAT does not measure intelligence. Therefore, the test does not render those with higher scores smarter than those with lower scores. The LSAT is one of many factors relied upon by law schools to predict a person’s chances of first-year success. The LSAT’s predictive value is limited, however, and small variations in scores are insignificant. Other factors being equal, a person with a 157 has about the same statistical odds of first-year success as someone with a 160.
- The LSAT does not test substantive material.
The LSAT is a skills test; it does not test any specific subject matter. It seeks to measure your reading comprehension, analytical, and logical reasoning skills. Most test-takers already have high-level grasps of these skills, but must hone diem within the context of the test itself. All of the required skills are learnable and able to be honed.
- Time constraints are what make the LSAT difficult.
Most test-takers would do well on the LSAT if there were no time constraints. The reading passages are not terribly complicated. The required analytical and logical reasoning skills are possessed by most people with college-level educations. Alas, time constraints are a significant element of the exam. And they require that you not only possess the required skills, but that you hone these skills to the level of being second-nature.
- Logical Reasoning questions make up half the LSAT.
It is vitally important that you master the Logical Reasoning question type. These questions make up two of the four scored sections on the LSAT. Practicing problems, as well as developing an understanding of basic logic will help you score high on these sections.
- The easiest LSAT section on which to improve is the ‘games’. The Analytical Reasoning or “games” section is frequently considered the most difficult part of the LSAT. While most of us engage in reading comprehension and logical reasoning as part of our daily lives, the skills required to do well on the games often seem unfamiliar. Fortunately, the formulaic method of analyzing the games allows for dramatic improvement, once the method is mastered. On the flip side, the reading comprehension section generally yields the least improvement, as it tests skills that must be honed early in one’s educational career.
- There are no “secrets” to success on the LSAT.
There are many well known LSAT prep strategies and tips which are effective. For example, it is no secret that practicing actual LSAT problems under simulated test conditions is the best mode of preparation. Thus, rather than wasting time and money searching for so-called secrets to LSAT success, use the tried-and-true methods to scoring high.
- You do not have to take a prep course to be successful on the LSAT.
Prep courses can be helpful, but they do not assure LSAT success. Prep courses are effective at providing a structured program of study and helpful test-taking tips. They are usually most valuable to those who benefit greatly from classroom instruction. The downside to most prep courses is their costs, which are prohibitive for many people.
- A significant component to LSAT success is mental state.
High-level anxiety can negatively affect your LSAT score. Thus, in addition to your regular preparation, you should engage in mental exercises that can help reduce test day anxiety. Set your routine for test day, and rehearse it. Travel to the test site a few times before the exam. Visualize taking the test and receiving a positive result. Hone stress-reducing stretches and breathing exercises that can be implemented on test day. And lastly, stop telling yourself, “I don’t test well.”
- A significant number of schools accept the highest of multiple LSAT scores.
When taking the LSAT, the rule of thumb is that you should endeavor to take it once because most schools will average multiple scores. However, a significant number of schools accept die highest of multiple scores, particularly when the difference in scores is significant and the last score is the highest. If you have taken the LSAT more than once, contact schools in which you are interested to ascertain their policies.
- The LSAT is not the only factor considered by admissions committees.
The LSAT is a significant admissions factor, but other factors are important as well. Personal statements, letters of recommendation, and transcripts are pored over considerably by most admissions committees. Thus, it is important that all aspects of your application are as strong as possible
How should I study for the LSAT?
The only way to prepare for the LSAT is to familiarize yourself with every component of the test. The National Association of Pre-Law Advisors’ Handbook recommends two hours of concentrated practice a day for three months as the bare minimum.
There are a number of ways to study for the LSAT. The most popular way is by home study. You can use any available materials for home study. The LSAT/LSDAS Registration Booklet contains a practice LSAT. You may also order previous LSATs on your LSAT/LSDAS registration form. These released LSATs come in what is referred to as “The Official LSAT Prep Packages,” complete with an actual, not simulated, exam, answers, and explanations to the questions and correct answers.
Another popular way to prepare for the LSAT is by taking an LSATreview course. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) argues that review courses are of little or no use in preparing for the LSAT. Advocates of the review classes dispute this, claiming that they can help a student prepare for the LSAT. For the most part, if you are financially able, a professional prep course may be a good idea if you feel you may benefit from the structure and time management-anything you can do to improve your LSAT score is a good investment. Two popular professional LSAT prep courses are PowerScore and TestMasters. There are many others out there. Prices for such classes can range from $350 to $1400. Scholarships may be available from the preparatory course based on demonstrated need.
How do I get recommendation letters?
Throughout the course of your undergraduate study you should be developing good bonds with faculty members, supervisors, etc. These will be the people you will approach to ask for recommendation letters to law school. On the Forms page, you can access the Letters of Recommendations Guidelines & Forms for Word Document: you and the Word Document: recommender. On the Word Document: Waiver of Access form, it is strongly suggested that you waive your right to see your recommendation letters because law schools will then think the letters are an honest assessment of your skills and abilities as determined by the recommender. Visit the Letters of Recommendation section of this website for more complete information.
Where can I find other resources about the law profession?
The Further Resources section has several suggestions for books and web links available for you to find out more information about the law profession.
What is a Dean’s Certification Form?
Several law schools require Dean’s Certification Forms to advise them of your status. Please have the Dean’s Certification Forms forwarded to the Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising. In order to complete the forms, you must provide a copy of your transcript and resume. In addition, a Dean’s Report form (as developed by our office) will need to be completed by you and forwarded to Dean Dorothy Sheppard. She will complete the form and forward it on to us, indicating whether there are any violations on your record. Visit the Dean’s Certification Forms section of this website for more complete information.