What To Do if All of Your Law School Applications are Rejected

Published October 2006, last updated June 2010

  • This is a time for soul searching. Ask yourself if it is still your desire to attend law school even if your best shot may involve waiting a year or two and then attending a law school that is not one of your top choices.
  • Talk to someone in the pre-law office.
  • If your LSAT score was not optimal, consider taking the LSAT again. However, this option should only be considered if you’re willing to put a great deal of effort in preparing for the test and with practice LSAT test scores several points greater than your latest LSAT test score. Keep in mind that all of your LSAT scores are released by the LSDAS service and that many schools average your scores if you take the test multiple times.
  • You can wait for a year or two and then try again, or you can change your career plans. Note that there are choices (e.g. earning a graduate degree) that allow you to keep both of the preceding options open.
  • Many students who do not get into at least one law school on their first attempt do eventually get into law school.
  • A person can increase his/her chances of being accepted into an acceptable law school by successfully working for two or three years.
  • Some law schools loosen their requirements for students who seek admission at times other than in the fall or who apply to the part-time (four-year) program.
  • If you apply to law school again, apply to at least ten law schools and include many "safety" schools.

The Pre-Law Handbook of New College (of Florida) offers some encouraging words for those not admitted to a law school that they want to attend, "[I]t is not the end of the world--you can try again, and schools encourage taking time off after college anyway. But first, examine the reasons why you were not competitive. Was it a bad recommendation letter? A poor LSAT score? Did you apply to too few schools? Attempt to correct any problems before applying a second time and also try to get experience through a law-related job or internship. Don't get overly discouraged--it is not unusual to find well-known lawyers who did not get in the first time they applied!”

The University of Michigan Pre-Law Handbook gives advice to those who have been rejected by all the law schools to which they applied: "You also may want to reevaluate the law schools to which you applied. You may have set your original expectations far to 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 and it will give you the skills necessary to pass the state bar exam. Earning a successful living as a lawyer requires many attributes not taught in law school."
"Some students consider graduate programs to improve their competitiveness for admission to law school. Graduate school grades are not used in the admission process. Rather the degree is another characteristic about you to be weighed in the admission process."

The University of Massachusetts Prelaw Advising gives the following advice on reapplication to law school: "It is not uncommon for individuals to reapply to law school. A couple of reasons why an individual might decide to reapply can be due to the timing of their application or their academic credentials weren't as strong as they could have been. The admissions process to law school is extremely competitive. In order to be successful in reapplying to law school, your application needs to have changed in some significant manner. You will need to demonstrate effort to improve your application by taking classes, retaking the LSAT [and doing better], or gaining more experience. Applications that are resubmitted without any significant change do not fare well in the application process the second time around. It is highly recommended that reapplicants consider taking more than a year in between application processes. This amount of time will allow for the application to grow in its strength and provide the applicant with a better chance at being accepted to law school.”

I feel that those who do not get into their top choices should reconsider their motives for attending law school. If you have always wanted to be a lawyer, pursue this career and know that you can be a successful attorney even if you do not graduate from one of the top law schools. Conversely, if you are entering law school simply because you are uncertain of what to do next with your life, I recommend taking some time to determine what your best route is.
Know that there is a lot of dissatisfaction amongst lawyers, particularly amongst those who were not certain if they wanted to become lawyers in the first place. By graduating from one of the top law schools, you will have many options, both legal and non-legal to choose from. So even if you never practice law, it will likely have been a good use of your time and tuition money. However, these options are much fewer for those who do not graduate from amongst the top 25 law schools. Thus, if you do not get into the law schools you wanted to, you should truly be sure you want to enter the legal profession.

Transferring Law Schools

During your first year of law school, you may feel that in the garden of law schools, you picked a lemon. First, make sure that the problem can be solved by attending another law school. If this is the case, attempting to transfer to another law school may seem appealing. As might be guessed, the policy on accepting transfer students does vary from law school to law school. Some research will be required to determine to which law schools you should apply as a transfer student. If you have done very well during your first year, you may even be able to upgrade your law school. Also, note that some law schools have programs that allow you to attend another law school for a semester or year. Be aware that transferring to one of the top law schools is as competitive as originally gaining admission there. Thus, you should not enter a less prestigious law school (such as UC Hastings) with the intent of transferring to a more prestigious law school (such as UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall). You can have this hope, but do not put the pressure upon yourself of having to be a top-ranked student just so you can transfer elsewhere. Ideally, you should be happy with the law school you initially attend and only if you are unhappy or do exceptionally well and can upgrade should you plan on transferring law schools.

To conclude this section, because of the high stakes involved with the law school application process, it is best to take the application process seriously and thereby submit applications to many law schools and get these applications in early, thereby increasing your chances of getting into one of your top law schools.