Applying to Law School
The law school application process is simpler than it may seem initially. There are essentially six parts to the process.
1. Registration for the LSAT and LSDAS
2. Completing Applications
3. Writing the Personal Statement
4. Requesting Faculty Letters of Recommendation
5. Requesting Dean's Letters
6. Awaiting Notification
Registration for the LSAT and LSDAS
Registration applications are available from the University Career Center in Barnes Hall or you may register at the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) Web site. Registration materials for the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) may be submitted at any time up to a month before any test administration (see schedule on Web or in application materials). You will probably register with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) at the same time. LSDAS is the service that reports your LSAT scores, forwards your letters of recommendation from faculty, and copies your transcript for forwarding to requesting law schools (those receiving applications from you). LSDAS registration is good for one year only, so pay for that service only when you know that you will be using it in the following year.
You may order, when registering for the LSAT, a CD-ROM that contains application materials from all law schools. You may submit applications on-line, if you choose. The CD carries information about the schools and the applications process, and offers suggestions about schools that might be best for you. Most ILR students apply to between five and ten schools, spanning the spectrum from "reach" through "safety", based mostly upon the LSAT experience of the law schools.
Writing the Personal Statement
The "Personal Statement" is both a writing sample and a statement of purpose. Your goal is to explain what motivates you to study law and why you believe you will be a successful student and practitioner of law. Humor and quotations should generally be avoided. Write and re-write your statement until you have made a strong and accurate statement about your motivations and beliefs. Asking others to read your statement for critical comments is often very helpful.
Requesting Faculty Letters of Recommendation
Letters from faculty can be sent to LSDAS for distribution to law schools. You don't have to be on close terms with a professor to ask for a letter of recommendation. Most ILR faculty will write letters for students if they have information to work with. You may be asked to provide the professor with a copy of your transcript, a resume, and a draft of your personal statement. Once a professor has agreed to write you a recommendation, give him or her the LSDAS forms. A professor will mail the completed forms to LSDAS directly.
Requesting Dean's Letters
A Dean's Letter, written by the Pre-Law Advisor in OSS, is not a recommendation letter. It is a "record review", giving your GPA, rank-in-class, information about academic honors, awards, difficulties, activities and employment (the latter of which may be good indicators of how you have used your time as a student or how you have explored the law practice as an intern, etc). Dean's Letters are compiled from information supplied on forms distributed at an information session early each fall semester.
Most law schools make decisions between December and early April. Many applicants are placed "on hold" which means that the school has yet to make a firm and final decision. Others will be wait-listed, which means that the school may offer them admission, if other students do not accept their offers. Some applicants remain on the wait-list well into the summer, hoping that they will eventually be offered admission at a preferred school.