Applying to Law School
The previous section described criteria used by law schools to evaluate applicants. This section revisits those criteria from a different perspective, spelling out in greater detail what you as an applicant should do to file a strong and complete application.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required for admission to all American Bar Association approved law schools. The test is administered four times a year by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and is offered in October and December at Cornell. Detailed test information–dates, sites, registration forms, fees, and deadlines–and registration is available online through the LSAC website.
It is advisable to take the LSAT during the summer or fall of the year you apply, though scores from the December administration will reach law schools in time to meet application deadlines at all schools. Taking the test in October will allow you to see your LSAT score before applying by early November. If you take the December test, plan to submit at least some applications around the time of the test; you can then submit additional applications after you learn your LSAT score.
The LSAT is designed to provide law school admissions committees with a common measure of applicants' aptitude for legal study. The test consists of five multiple-choice sections, each thirty five minutes in length:
1) one reading comprehension section
2) one analytical reasoning section
3) two logical reasoning sections
4) one experimental test question section (not scored).
A 35-minute writing sample at the end of the test is also not scored; copies of the writing sample are distributed to schools where you apply. Your score is computed on a scale of 120 to 180, based on the number of questions you answer correctly; there is no deduction nor penalty for incorrect answers, so it is advantageous to guess even if you do not have time to answer a question.
In general, LSAT questions attempt to measure your ability to read complex material accurately and critically, and process information effectively to draw logical, reliable conclusions. The LSAT does not test you on a specific body of knowledge; instead, it evaluates your ability to use skills relevant to the study and practice of law, skills that you likely already possess. You should, however, practice to develop those skills further and to familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked. It is essential to spend adequate time in preparation since your score can improve significantly. Using multiple strategies to prepare has proved to be most effective.
The best approach is to work through examples and explanations carefully, then take actual disclosed tests under simulated conditions while observing time limits. A new resource, The Official LSAT Handbook, provides an introduction to the LSAT and the skills it’s designed to assess.
There are several options for submitting applications to law schools. The most widely used approach is CAS’s electronic applications at the LSAC website. While not a common application, electronic applications allow you to enter common information requested by law schools, and the information is entered in the applications of all schools to which you are applying. You then respond to school-specific questions. Electronic applications allow you to begin applications even if you haven’t made final decisions on schools. Information you enter will be saved each time you work on your applications. You can also complete applications located on law schools’ websites, or download their application forms.
Completing application forms is a fairly straightforward process. Schools seek basic information about you, including your academic background, extracurricular activities, and employment history. Many schools will also ask for the names of your recommenders and evaluators, the date(s) on which you took (or plan to take) the LSAT, your intention to apply for financial aid, and any criminal convictions on your record. You may be asked to list other schools to which you are applying; responding to this question and/or indicating an interest in receiving financial aid will not affect your chances for admission. Be truthful and forthright as you complete the applications.
It is a good idea to enclose a resume with your applications, but do not use it as a substitute for responding to questions on the applications. If you apply using hard copy applications and find you need additional space, use separate sheets of paper and label each page clearly.
With the exception of a few law schools, interviews are not part of the application process, primarily because of the large number of applicants and the limitations of staff time. In lieu of evaluative interviews, personal statements requested by most law schools provide the opportunity to go beyond the objective aspects of the application to discuss who you are and what is important to you.
Schools will be seeking information about your background, personal qualities and leadership skills to learn what is unique and distinguishes you from other candidates with similar GPAs and LSAT scores. Your goal, then, will be to write a concise, detailed statement establishing yourself as an individual. An interesting and personal discussion about yourself, one that reveals your personality and character, will help you come alive to the admissions committee.