Supreme Court Justice
Tenured Top-Tier Professor
Beyond that, the world is your oyster, so do not despair! Among those I know who are splitters (all non-URM), one graduated at the top of his class at a T30 and is now working comfortably in an in-house position, another graduated from a T14 with a clerkship, and I am attending my top-choice school along with my roommate who is an opposite form of splitter from myself. Together we would have made one really good candidate, but the good news is we still managed to be accepted, and you can too.
At the risk of repeating a lot of what has already been said out there, admissions deans are in the business of admitting students if they can. The key is, you have to give them a reason to let you in. The easiest way to do this is to be exceptional in some way. Because you probably will not be an auto-admit at any school as a splitter, do your best to stand out from the rest of the pack, whether it be with a:
- High statistic (GPA or LSAT above class median)
Unique work experience (while it is true that most admits have decent softs, only 1% of my entering class did Peace Corps, for example)
Compelling personal or school-specific statement (a significant factor mentioned by every admissions dean I spoke to)
Significantly diverse background (not necessarily URM, though it certainly helps)
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of focusing on the positive. In my case, this meant:
- High LSAT (10-15 points higher than my initial practice test after months of studying and teetotaling)
Strong upward GPA trend (though still <3.5 for the last two years)
Couple years of work and volunteer experience
Well-edited (if not necessarily well-crafted) set of statements
Most importantly, I applied early decision to my school. I was accepted to about half of the other schools I applied to (almost all with decent money), even though there were a number of negative factors counting against me:
- Multiple years of withdrawals and failures, in both undergrad and grad school (which I did not complete)
No single work experience longer than a year
Canceled LSAT score
Same-cycle February LSAT score (applied before receiving my score)
Applications submitted at the deadline (did not apply to several schools due to passed deadlines)
No in-person visits or interviews (though I did complete several phone interviews)
I mention these things not because the specifics of my application are important, but because any one of these factors are commonly cited as reasons that one should not apply to law school. While I would not recommend law school to everyone, it is possible to be accepted to a good school if you focus on what makes you a strong candidate rather than the other way around. On the other hand, if you go into the process defensively (as I first did), you may find yourself disappointed with the results.
Beyond these basic points of encouragement, I hope that my experience demonstrates that law school admissions for splitters is about more than just numbers. Yes, it is true that I would not have been accepted to a good school without at least one high indicator, but it is also true that my other extremely low indicator did not hold me back. I say indicator rather than determinator because for splitters numbers are just that. Looking at the numbers on law school predictors and charts can be misleading, not only because many applicants are not listed (I was specifically asked not to post my results by one school) but also because there are many other factors at play that cannot be represented by statistics.
Of course, some schools are more splitter-friendly than others. It is true that schools look at numbers as a way of sorting through applications and prioritizing candidates. As a result, I was only immediately accepted to two (top-tier) schools and wait-listed at many others. If this happens to you, consider it a good thing! It means you are still in the running. While waiting is difficult and not for everyone (I was attending my second-choice school before being admitted to my top-choice very late in the summer), the fact that you are still in consideration means that the school thinks there are enough reasons to accept you if given the space. Rather than give up, continue to express your interest in attending (my letters of continued intent consisted of a few e-mailed paragraphs), and do not be afraid to negotiate once you get in. I was never offered less money for asking, and sometimes I was given matching funds (such as here) or slightly more.
Finally, do not settle. Stick to whatever criteria are meaningful for you, and only apply to those schools which you could realistically see yourself attending. High splitters are most valuable to top schools in terms of medians, so aim reasonably high and you may be surprised at the results. This is not to discourage anyone from attending lower-ranked schools in regions or localities of interest (in my experience, I was much more likely to be accepted at local schools), but even splitters may find themselves yield-protected from schools that do not consider them likely to attend. Attending a top law school does not make you any more attractive, likable, or a better person, but it is possible to do so without having lived life to perfection. Like anything else worth doing, it just requires hard work, dedication, persistance, and a little bit of luck.
Too long; didn't read version: One-time poster rehashes several well-worn TLS themes.