Law School Admissions ?s and Answers From Recent T14 Grad

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Law School Admissions ?s and Answers From Recent T14 Grad

Postby ChiSoxinDC » Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:22 am

Hey there,

As I enjoy my time in this fantasy land known as a law firm deferral, I thought I would come back to where my law school career started and answer questions. I'm open to anything, but thought I would focus on:

1) Should I go to law school?
2) Should I go to law school now?
3) How can I improve my chances of law school admission?

Initial answers below, but first a bit about me. I applied to law school after working for six years in the media. My numbers were 3.82 (from a national school in the USNWR top 50)/175, and I was admitted to Harvard, NYU, Columbia, UVa, Northwestern, Georgetown, GW, and George Mason but rejected from Yale. Having established myself in DC before law school and knowing that I wanted to practice in DC after law school, I chose Georgetown. (As an aside - I enjoyed my experience at Georgetown and I would make the same choice again, but for many Harvard would have been the better choice in that situation due, if nothing else, to the name recognition/reputation and strong alumni network).

I worked as a summer associate after my first and second years and received offers from two large law firms. I will begin my career at one of those firms next month.

1) Should I go to law school?

I've been asked this question numerous times by people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and the answer is that it really depends on your circumstances.

- If you have always wanted to be a lawyer and it is your dream to practice law, then there is little doubt that you should go to law school. Even if your grades aren't strong enough to get into a T-14 school, there are many opportunities from lawyers at other schools in BigLaw, MidLaw, LittleLaw, government, private sector, non-profits, etc. As long as you are pretty sure that this is your dream and that you will enjoy the law school experience, I would encourage you to follow that dream.
- If you are pretty sure that you don't want to practice law but you don't know what else to do, then you should only go to law school if you're on a full ride or someone else (other than a bank) is paying the bills. Law school is both grueling and expensive. If you don't care about your grades then I guess it might not be as grueling, but that also means you will be less likely to obtain employment that will help you pay off your loans.
- If you think an advanced degree will help you in a non-legal field, but law is most interesting to you, I would think long and hard before sending in that deposit. As I mentioned above, law school is a grueling experience. If your heart isn't really in it, you will not enjoy it and you will not do as well. Plus, if you are a full time law student, your costs will be about $200,000 plus the opportunity cost of lost salary. It is highly unlikely that the value you will gain in a non-legal field from having a law degree will justify the cost and effort required for law school.

2) Should I go to law school now?

So you've gotten through question one and you still want to go to law school. Is now the right time? I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I will say that now is not as bad a time as some might lead you to believe. After all, when the current 3L class applied to law school is seemed like the perfect time, so things can change in a hurry. But the answer to this question likely depends on your alternatives and your aspirations. While the traditional path into BigLaw was through a summer associate position, you can get in as a lateral - especially if you have some other job in a relevant area of law or industry. So if your other option is to bartend for a year, maybe you are better off getting started and seeing where things go. You can always bartend in three years while looking for something better. If you already have a career and this is a change of careers, then there is more reason to wait out this recession, but remember that you are then trying to predict what will happen three to four years out, and if you are able to do so then you can make a lot more money as an investor than you ever will as a lawyer!

The two caveats here transitions to the next question nicely. First, consider whether waiting and gaining work experience will help you get into a better law school. Second, consider that law school applications are at an all time high, so even if someone with your qualifications got into a school two years ago, you might not get into that same school today.

3) How can I improve my chances of law school admission?

The two obvious things that will improve your chances most are higher GPA and LSAT. If you are still in school for your undergraduate degree, work your ass off this semester. Many schools will consider your grades from this fall and if you have ever had an incentive to do well, now is the time. If you took the LSAT and are happy with your score but can probably improve by at least 5 points, consider taking it again. A few points can be the difference between admission and rejection or the dreaded wait list.

Speaking from experience, work experience goes a long way both in law school admissions and legal employment. I would strongly urge all applicants to consider taking at least a year or two off before law school. As a side benefit, it will help you clear your mind and approach 1L year with a different and fresh perspective.

The rest of my advice is pretty generic. Read your applications and then read them again. Any time you make a change in an essay, reread the entire essay from start to finish until you don't make any changes. Have someone else read your essays - preferably a couple different people. If you make changes, have someone proof read each "final" version until they come back with no changes at all. [Disclaimer: I am not proofreading this post and there will likely be several errors.]

Finally, remember the purpose of your application. You are trying to sell yourself to a law school as a strong candidate for admission. Emphasize those things about you that will impress the reader about your ability to succeed and to contribute to a community of legal scholars. Many admissions reps (but not all) attended law school themselves, so make them feel like they would want you as one of their classmates.

Good luck! Feel free to ask any further questions.

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