The Top 4 Do’s and Don’ts to Consider When Writing a Law School Addendum

Summary: Addendums can make the difference between you being admitted or refused by a law school. However with addendums you have to be careful what you discuss and the do’s and don’ts that go with addendums.

  • As you enter law school, you might find yourself in a circumstance in which you have to write a law school addendum.
  • While the reasons for a law school addendum can vary from one student to the next, addendums are usually written due to disciplinary issues or low GPA or LSAT  scores
  • If you find you need to submit an addendum, consider these 4 do’s and don’ts about writing a law school addendum
The purpose of the addendum is…

As an incoming law student, you will truly get your first taste of what it’s like to be a law student and later a lawyer through the application process.

That taste is going to come in the form of writing, which depending upon a lawyer’s practice field can be the lion’s share of his or her work.

According to an article that first appeared on U.S. News and World Report, applications to law school can offer incoming law students many opportunities to write about experiences through personal statements, short answer responses and supplemental essays.

The application process – particularly the writing portion – can be of benefit should you need to explain aberrations in your candidacy. In other words, you can proactively address potential red flags by submitting an addendum as part of your application.

According to the article, addenda should be short pieces that are typically no longer than 1 to 3 paragraphs.  

Their purpose is to provide objective explanations for any anomalies leading up to your application.

But all-in-all the reason addenda is traditionally brief and short is that perspective law students will want law school admissions committees to spend the bulk of their time reviewing  their personal statements, resumes, letters of recommendation and other materials that showcase their success, rather than reading a lengthy addendum.

When writing an addendum, you should state the topic and note the point you are trying to convey without listing excuses or justifications.

Thus, the purpose of the addendum is:
  • To acknowledge the irregularity and to account for the context in which the situation arose.
  • To succinctly explain why a particular issue in your application should not adversely affect your candidacy.

To that end, here are 4 common addenda topics and the do's and don'ts of each.
  1. Low GPA

If you have a low GPA compared with your LSAT score or the average GPA at the particular schools you are applying to, consider submitting an addendum.
The Do

You should bring up any extenuating circumstances, such as medical issues or a family emergency, which may have affected your grades.

Be sure to provide explanations and not excuses.

Bolster this by mentioning classes in which you excelled, particularly if those classes relate to your major.

If your GPA major is higher than your overall major, point that out. Subject matter specialties can go a long way into the positive for any law school applicant.

In fact, use any opportunity to shed a positive light on your college academic career. For example, perhaps you can highlight a significant upward trend in your grades.

Lastly, highlight your LSAT score if it is notably higher than your GPA.
The Don't

Do not by any means highlight your poorest grades.

You should also avoid writing a GPA addendum that sounds like you’re asking for others to feel sorry for you since you took on a difficult major while in undergrad or had a challenging course load.

Remember that you want admissions committee members to understand why your GPA is suboptimal and to also conclude that your GPA should have minimal bearing on your candidacy.
  1. Low or multiple LSAT scores

This addendum addresses a less competitive LSAT score or if you've taken the LSAT more than once.
The Do

If you received a low LSAT score, or have happened to take the LSAT multiple times, this addendum will provide a platform on which you can explain why your GPA is a better indicator of your intellectual abilities and a better predictor of success in law school than the LSAT.

To strengthen this argument, you could highlight extensive research and writing experiences.

If you have multiple LSAT scores, characterize the low score as an anomaly, if true, and explain why you might have done poorly on that particular exam, such as sickness or other extenuating circumstances.

Focus the admissions committee's attention on your higher, and hopefully most recent LSAT score and explain why this is a more accurate representation of your ability to excel in law school.
The Don't

Do not use your addendum to blame the test itself for your subpar results. Also, don't generalize your standardized test performance. That’ll turn off any law school admissions board.

Some schools like the University of California—Berkeley School of Law, will require you to substantiate any claims of historically poor performance on standardized tests.
  1. Disciplinary or criminal record

An addendum is going to have to surface if you have a record of disciplinary or criminal misconduct.

As the article reports, it is imperative to disclose this information not only to law schools but also when you apply for bar admission.
The Do

Try to be as clear and comprehensive as possible with this addendum.

In fact, if possible, err on the side of overinclusion when considering what to disclose for this addendum.

It is better to mention any and all incidents, however minor, than to risk appearing less than completely candid.

Give truthful accounts of each situation, detailing any mitigating circumstances without diminishing your acceptance of responsibility.

Also discuss the lessons you have learned from your past incidents, and show that you have since reformed your behavior and become more responsible.

Lastly, take the opportunity in this addendum to highlight your respect for rules and laws.
The Don't

Don’t downplay the incidents you were involved in as if they were small-time infractions you shouldn’t have to bother with in total. Also do not blame others for your mistakes.

Even as you explain the surrounding facts in the addendum, be careful to remain accountable and avoid deflecting blame.
  1. Other anomalies

While the first three addendum categories cover the most common subject matters, concerns that any aspect of your profile might raise questions for the admissions committee, such as a transfer from one college to another or withdrawal from studies for a period of time are warranted and should be addressed in an addendum.

If the topic of your addendum falls outside of the first three, it’s always wise to seek guidance from a counselor or from the law schools you are applying to about whether an addendum is appropriate.
The Do

Do make sure in your addendum to show your accountability and provide adequate explanation – without listing excuses – for any misstep.
The Don't

Do not flag aspects of your candidacy unnecessarily. Try to put yourself in the admissions committees' shoes to determine whether anything in your profile requires further explanation.

Addendums can occur for a variety of reasons that can in some instances go beyond the three categories provided in this article.

At any rate, should you decide to submit an addendum, keep in mind that you should be respectful, gracious, forthright and brief.

It’s only through these aspects of your addenda that your case will at least be listened to and with that considered by the law schools you are applying to.