LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

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andthejourneybegins
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LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby andthejourneybegins » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:21 am

Enjoying the site, nice to know there are a few dramatic turnaround success stories out there, I’m thinking about joining that crowd. I’ll be spending time with some in-house healthcare counsel this summer (VA related), and if I like what I hear, then I’ll prob. want to go to law school.

Please review my personal situation and comment. Good, bad, ugly…I don’t care, just be honest. I’m trying to accomplish as much as possible before the summer.

Little Background:
I’ve been drifting the last few yrs and finally ended up in a long term inpatient rehab facility for ptsd and substance abuse. I learned two things while a patient. Walls really don’t care how hard you punch them, and for some reason, the LSAT is a breeze for me. I’ve been taking the Kaplan LSAT book tests, and after a few months I’ve been consistently scoring above the 170s. Highs are 179 and three 177. Limited research so far indicates I’m good for a 3-4 pt. drop on the real test, so if I fall into that range I should be able to spit out a 174-175. Also, my doc says my cognitive abilities should keep improving for the next six months as long as I stay on my meds and off the booze, so I’m hoping to raise my apparent ceiling. A 180, although unlikely, would be sweet, and may help with my troubled past. My main shortcoming right now with the test is time and test fatigue. When I hit my 179, I guessed on three questions and guessed right. On 180 Zen, that guy has a system set up to improve test fatigue…anybody have good results with that style?

I attended SHSU back in ’01, its known for its criminal justice program, I believe it was either 2nd or 3rd in the country when I attended. Got a 3.06, but we didn’t have the A+, A, A- system, so am I correct to assume my LSDAS will be 3.06? I was a two sport athlete, but not sure if playing sports will help mitigate my gpa. Also had an internship with FBI, it was kind of a big deal back then, the Houston and D.C. offices were the only two in country that had a direct internship with colleges. Could be a soft, but is it too old?

Joined the US Navy following 9/11. I’m classified as a disabled OIF/OEF combat vet. Two sea borne tours in the Gulf, and two tours in the sand box. I excelled while in service as an intelligence analyst, receiving both Sailor of the Year and Intelligence Analyst of the Year for Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Command. I don’t recall the numbers, but this was a huge deal. Another possible soft.

Honorable discharge in ’08…then things rapidly declined. I’ll save myself some embarrassment and just give the facts:
Lost/walked out on several jobs
Walked away from all financial responsibility, destroyed my credit
DUI
Multiple public intoxications/loitering charges in several states
Several hospitalizations in several states
Homeless student in two states, never went to class, just stayed enrolled long enough to get a va check before I skipped again

To sum it all up, I was a complete douche. Gonna take some time to pay for my sins…but now that I’m sober and under the care of a doc I do see some light at the end of the tunnel, however be it a very long tunnel.

I guess I wouldn’t be as psyched if it wasn’t for the LSAT test. Looks like my saving grace.

I’m gonna have to contact the schools I ditched…gonna ask for a medical withdrawal, anybody have any experience in obtaining a retroactive medical withdrawal?

Gonna have to contact some state bars this week, see if I’ll be able to pass the C/F…how does one correspond with the bar? Is it email or phone calls or both?

I will probably have to go back to school to prove to any LS I’m a capable student…but what type of degree and what classes would prove to any respectable LS that they should take a chance on me?

I have 3 yrs years of the gi bill left and the yellow ribbon program, which will pay for a lot of expensive schools. My targets as of now are T14 minus HYS and strong regional schools like BOULDER, UW, USC/UCLA, W&L, UB/BC…geographic location is not all that important to me as I have no ties. Biglaw is not a must, although a medium sized firm would be nice (just judging by pay). I will get a disable preference from uncle sam, so I’m a safe bet for a government spot if need be. I’m still researching all the possible type of jobs a lawyer can do…seems pretty broad and I’m still a little too green when it comes to the language but hopefully this summer I’ll receive some in person guidance.

Looking forward to your comments and suggestions, thanks.

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dietcoke0
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby dietcoke0 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:23 am

Nice story. I'll just give some quick thoughts, and then be on my way.

When you said you enrolled, but didn't go to class, did you get grades? If so, even if it has nothing to do with you, could destroy your LSAC GPA. If you got those enrollment grades after you received a degree, you may be fine, but get ready for writing an addendum, even if you just dropped them.

Don't worry about a 180, or "only" getting a 173. A 173 is 99 percentile. Law schools will forgive your past more easily if you have a high score.

You sound like a great candidate for a fee waiver from the LSAC for taking the LSAT and applying to law school. Make sure you take advantage of that, and blanket every school you can.

Research Law School Numbers, and find out what schools are taking. Schools I would look into are Northwestern, Georgetown, Washington U in St. Louis. Good schools that like high LSAT, and a good story.

Here's a kicker though, a lot of your past is really recent. Usually people screw around, THEN go to college, and get it all figured out. Your past is really recent, and you need to write one hell of a PS telling schools what you've learned from your past, and why you've changed. You have good softs (Sam Houston State is SHSU?) but leave them on the resume only, and work on a dense, concise and compelling personal statement about how you are a different person. You might take LSAT, get a job for a year, then apply, just to show you've changed.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby Doorkeeper » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:50 am

Perhaps enrolling and doing well in a Master's program might convince some law schools that the OP's undergraduate GPA is far behind him? It would be largely paid for thanks to the GI Bill and it would also give you a good academic recommendation or two, which are always good to have when applying to law schools.

bp shinners
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby bp shinners » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:03 pm

With such a unique background, it's hard to really give you any idea of what you're in for.

I can tell you that law schools like people with strong military backgrounds, so that's a definite plus.

What I can also tell you for sure is that the tone you present in your post is the one you'll want to take when dealing with law schools. It's respectful and mature, and it owns up to your past mistakes while looking forward to the future. Keep that tone through any correspondence, and you'll definitely have the best possible outcome considering the circumstances.

As far as dealing with the Bar and law schools, call them up and talk to someone. You probably want to meet in person, since you've got a long and involved story to tell.

And good luck with the whole process - I know people who have stuff like this in their backgrounds can easily get disheartened. Keep the positive attitude from above.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby Tiago Splitter » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:23 pm

dietcoke0 wrote:When you said you enrolled, but didn't go to class, did you get grades? If so, even if it has nothing to do with you, could destroy your LSAC GPA.


This jumped out at me too. Really work hard to avoid having all of those bad grades on your transcript, as a 3.06/175 is still a great candidate for highly ranked schools. If that GPA is instead a 2.2 or something you will really be fighting an uphill battle, even with a 180. Best of luck.

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ThreeRivers
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby ThreeRivers » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:38 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:
dietcoke0 wrote:When you said you enrolled, but didn't go to class, did you get grades? If so, even if it has nothing to do with you, could destroy your LSAC GPA.


This jumped out at me too. Really work hard to avoid having all of those bad grades on your transcript, as a 3.06/175 is still a great candidate for highly ranked schools. If that GPA is instead a 2.2 or something you will really be fighting an uphill battle, even with a 180. Best of luck.

I think this (and making sure you'll pass C&F) are the 2 most important items

andthejourneybegins
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby andthejourneybegins » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:07 pm

Thanks for all the replies, and yes SHSU is Sam Houston State.

In terms with my LSDAS/LSAC UGPA, according to their website, ANY work after the completion of the first bachelors degree is not considered…so I should be safe at 3.06.

I spoke with both schools today, at one university there is a slight chance I could receive a retroactive medical withdrawal and the other university says my best option is to apply for a redemption program and retake the classes…BUT I think I would rather save my GI Bill $$$ for grad/ls school…As it stands right now, all my grades have been converted from incomplete to failure.

I could get into a grad school program, but only those programs that wouldn’t require me to submit all my transcripts, just the degree granting transcript. I’m sure those two red flag transcripts will just be as hard to deal with at grad adcomms as it would be to LS adcomms, and would likely require the same time consuming resolution to be accepted.

Questions: And if I’m missing any ideas, please feel free to list your own.

1. Work/Volunteer at a law firm for a year? Could provide stable WE and LORs. What position at the volunteer level would be best?

2. Apply to an undergraduate school that has a built in internship program at a respectable law firm. Will waste some GI Bill $$$, but could be worth it in the end. Could provide WE, LORs, and post rehab academic success.

Thanks

Asleep
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby Asleep » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:25 pm

I'd keep working on the schools about those grades. Calling again wouldn't hurt - I don't know how far you went up the chain, but you might be able to get a different answer from someone else. I would not use up a year of the GI bill. Law school is expensive and I don't think more years of school would look better than getting a job. Speaking of which, I would definitely suggest a year or more of work experience. I don't think it matters if it is necessarily at a law firm. Your primary goals should be to (1) put time between you and your past problems and (2) demonstrate to law schools that you have really changed and are a responsible, trustworthy person. Holding down a job would be a great way to do both of these things and secure some solid, timely recommendations.

I want to second the comments about your tone. You have presented your problems better than any other poster I have ever seen on this site. Make sure you don't lose the honesty and genuiness that you had here when you are applying.

andthejourneybegins
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Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:09 pm

Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby andthejourneybegins » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:47 pm

Thanks

I’m curious, would volunteering at the VA medical hospital on a daily basis be viewed on the same level as actual employment?

Cause if so, that would simply just rock. Those guys love me. It does concern me though, the lack of post rehab academic credentials and the lack of an official job title…but it would show reliability and trustworthiness, two characteristics I’m currently lacking on paper. Thoughts?

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Doorkeeper
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby Doorkeeper » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:23 pm

andthejourneybegins wrote:I spoke with both schools today, at one university there is a slight chance I could receive a retroactive medical withdrawal and the other university says my best option is to apply for a redemption program and retake the classes…BUT I think I would rather save my GI Bill $$$ for grad/ls school…As it stands right now, all my grades have been converted from incomplete to failure.


No! Retake these classes and boost your GPA! You'll get into a much better law school with a 3.2 or 3.3

snehpets
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby snehpets » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:30 pm

Doorkeeper wrote:
andthejourneybegins wrote:I spoke with both schools today, at one university there is a slight chance I could receive a retroactive medical withdrawal and the other university says my best option is to apply for a redemption program and retake the classes…BUT I think I would rather save my GI Bill $$$ for grad/ls school…As it stands right now, all my grades have been converted from incomplete to failure.


No! Retake these classes and boost your GPA! You'll get into a much better law school with a 3.2 or 3.3


They won't count, they were taken after he received his bachelor's.

Your story is actually pretty cool. I know nothing about this, unfortunately, so I can't help, but best of luck to you, seriously.

Schools like NU want actual work experience, but if you have trouble getting a "real" job, it definitely wouldn't hurt to do that literally every day (excluding weekends or whatever), especially if you could get a really killer rec letter from it.

nsbane
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Re: LSAT isn't the problem, recent past is...

Postby nsbane » Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:22 am

My advice:

1) It is a waste of time to try to fix those grades. They don't count against your LSAC GPA. The only reason to fix them would be for appearances sake, yet you also have multiple arrest/citations that you will have to write an addendum for, which stem from the same root cause of the grades. And the grades are small potatoes compared to the arrests. With that in mind, I recommend ....

2) Register with LSAC right now and begin sending your transcripts to them for processing. Your registration is good for 5 years; I registered and sent in my transcripts 3 years prior to applying for law school. This is tedious and time consuming if you've gone to more than 1 institution, which you have. This way you will not be estimating your GPA, you will have a definite number. LSAC also screws up its calculations sometimes - it took me a year communicating with my undergrad institution and LSAC to get them to accept my study abroad grades. So this way you get it done soon.

3) Take the LSAT as soon as convenient. The score is good for 5 years. I took the LSAT two years ago, and only applied to law school this cycle. Your application will consist of grades, LSAT, and your background (personal statement, recommendations, job history, etc...). Get the first two taken care of, and then you can focus for a year or two on getting your background stuff together.

4) Communicating with a state bar is so painful. I worked in a statewide prosecutor's office, and attempted to communicate with them. They were non-responsive. I do think this is something you should look into, but also don't be put off if you don't get a response right away ... or ever.

5) I'm not sure why you are concerned with post-rehab academic credentials. Even going so far as to consider applying for a masters program. This is a waste of time, in my opinion. Look for a job instead, preferably the beginning job of a career you wouldn't mind having if law school doesn't work out. I was 7 years out of undergrad and had no academic recommenders. I also had something a little shady in my past - pm me if you want to hear it. Still got into a T6 so far.

6) Once you have a job, look into fixing your credit. Law school is expensive, and you will probably need private loans.

Basically my advice is register with LSAC and get the grades and LSAT done. Then you can focus on developing your background, personal statement, recommendations for a year or whatever, and apply when you feel ready. You will have to write an addendum on your screwups, but like what other people have already told you, I think you explain it very well.The worst thing people do in an addendum is write as if they are wringing their hands and use emotionally charged sentences, which can be painful to read. Sticking to the facts shows a a good level of maturity. If you get a stable job for a year, I don't think any of your history will be considered against you.




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