2020 Hindsights for Law School Admission
I am constantly re-evaluating how I do the “Law School Expert” thing. I’ve been doing it since 2004, and over time some things have changed in the law school admission world – and in the world in general, if I’m being honest – that have led me to evolve my philosophy and even the way I work with clients. Actually, the way I interact with people in general. This post is a result of that, and I’m sharing it to help law school applicants make good decisions while also explaining how I approach my work with people who are applying to law school.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here. When you’ve kept the same blog for fourteen years, it can be hard to find something new to say. I check and respond to comments, and post links to new content on other outlets, but I don’t often feel inspired to share something entirely new that I haven’t said before in a dozen different ways (through this blog, four books, videos, Facebook, etc.). There’s a high threshold for what’s worthy of an entire blog post in this age of Instagram (which I do use) or Snapchat and Reddit (neither of which I use).
In the last few weeks, though, I’ve been thinking about some things I’d like to share with prospective law students. Some of these thoughts are related, and some may seem random – for that, I apologize in advance.
- Applying to law school is getting more complicated. Instead of only being able to take the LSAT three times, you can now take it as many times as you wish. This extends the admission cycle, the decisions applicants are making, and now – with the digital LSAT arriving this summer – means some changes that we can’t anticipate in advance. Also, schools are introducing more optional essays, more interviews, and more waitlisting into the process. It’s more time consuming – for applicants, but also for me. As a result, I’m making some changes in how I work with clients.
- I’m going to work with fewer people this cycle. I always limit the number of people I work with (I’m a one-woman show here, after all), but I’m cutting back an additional 25 percent this year so that I can give my full attention to the clients I’m committing myself to helping. Also, it’s probably my last year with a child at home so I’m going to try to enjoy that a bit. Because she’s kind of fun right now. But that might change.
- Speaking of change, I’m tweaking my package options for law school admission consulting. Instead of The Personal Statement Plus package having an option to upgrade and include a diversity statement, I’m bumping that into the existing package (yes, at a price bump to match) because pretty much every law school applicant needs an optional essay for at least one application, and I believe that the more aspects of the application I’m helping someone with, the better their overall application will be, and the more likely it is that they will be successful getting into law school. The Works Package really stays the same since it’s unlimited by nature, but because the needs of clients have been increasing (see #1, above), they need more from me. In order to do my best work with the people I take on, I want more time to dedicate to them. Naturally, there are some clients I get to know better than others – those who take more advantage of having me by their side, those who engage with me on social media in addition to using our project management portal, who grab more time on my calendar to talk things through. And I love that some of my former clients are now really good and important friends in my life. (I’m talking to you, Zoe, Anu, Fawn, Tiffany and Jon, amongst others). I go to their weddings and meet up with them as I travel. I want to know as many of my clients on that level as possible, and at the very least I want to feel truly a part of each person’s journey – rather than a temporary and limited sounding board. This is why I do what I do – to launch talented and passionate people in their careers. I love learning their stories and supporting them through this process, and I want to have the time to make sure each of my clients feels that acutely.
- This means I’m going to be even more picky about who I work with. I always turn away more clients than I take, but I’m going to be more stringent. And this isn’t just because it’s my personal preference, or my time is limited. In the last two years, I’ve seen that law schools are (rightly) not putting up with as much nonsense now that applicant numbers are back up and the pool is more competitive. Not just anyone can – or should – get into law school. I’ve always screened for this, but this year I’ll be screening even more diligently. Because applicants with only one thing going for them (for example a respectable LSAT but no work experience and terrible grades, or ok grades from an ok school but nothing else to speak of) are just not getting into the schools they want to get into. And I can’t – and won’t try – to make something out of nothing. If you should be going to law school, and you need help pulling things together and maximizing your chances for success by putting your best foot forward and making good decisions throughout the process – even if you’re not a “perfect” applicant but you do have potential and passion and reasonable goals for your credentials – great! But too many people with lackluster (dare I say, weak or problematic) backgrounds seem to feel entitled to go to law school. And, to be honest, those aren’t the people I want to help. So I’m putting my time where I can do the most good for the people who are most worthy. If you’re not sure whether you’re on of those people, start by filling out a contact form on my website. I always respond in some way to every contact form just as I do to every comment on this blog. If I think there’s potential for you, I’ll email you set up a free initial consultation. You have nothing to risk by asking me the tough questions. In the end, I just want to help all potential law school applicants make good decisions about how (and whether) to proceed.
- Why would I take the time to do this? Because, frankly, I still believe in law school. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but it’s one I stand by. For the right people, going for the right reasons, when you can make the finances of it work, this is an amazing profession. Just as I wrote shortly after the 2016 elections, lawyers are the ones who will change this world for the better – through policy and politics, yes, but also through people. Working with people individually to better their lives, in a way that has the potential to impact the lives of others, sometimes exponentially. (As an aside, I’ve included, below, a copy of my personal FB post from November 11, 2016 because it’s relevant here). After being the Law School Expert for fifteen admission cycles, I’ve gotten to see my former clients accomplishing amazing things – working in the appellate courts, fighting for immigrant rights, spending pro bono hours helping asylum victims, opening up shop and helping those who have been injured or wronged, and generally getting involved in making their communities better places.
- Also, I loved my law school experience. It stayed with me even after I stopped working for law schools, even after I stopped practicing law. I learned to think. I had professors who literally inspired me to change my life. I gained academic confidence I’d never felt before. I experienced failures but learned lessons from each one, and those lessons stay with me today. I would go back and do it all over again, and would appreciate the experience more. I’d appreciate my peers more. I’d focus on grades less, perhaps. Or at least, attribute less importance to them. I see the value in the education I received, not just the degree I earned. And I want that for other people, too. I’m not a “means to an end” kind of person. It actually makes me sad when someone says they just want to go to law school to make a lot of money. That doesn’t make me want to wake up in the morning (I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like sending my kids to private schools and traveling the world, and I even like nice shoes, but I don’t do what I do for the money). I want to help people who are making conscious decisions about going to law school, and not just doing it for lack of anything else to do. Even after all these years, it’s hard to kill an idealist at heart.
- That being said, I’m a brutally-honest idealist. It’s kind of a crazy combination, but I think it’s effective for my clients. I will encourage you to reach for the stars, but I’ll tell you where the stars should be, and I’ll prepare you for the actual expected outcome. I’ll talk to you about how expensive law school is, how much or how little the law school rankings matter in your particular situation, and I’ll encourage you to be authentic and insightful in your application materials rather than boastful or painting yourself as a savior. I want to be a thoughtful person, and I want to work with people who have seriously considered law school, and therefore it’s not a chore to them express this career choice as deliberate and purposeful.
If you’ve actually taken the time to read this, thank you. Perhaps I’ll have more “deep” thoughts to share in the coming weeks. Until then, be kind to each other and to yourselves, and let me know how I can help you through your journey.
P.S. November 11, 2016 Facebook Post (for help with 2020 Hindsight Lessons in ways that may be relevant outside of the law school admission landscape):
So, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a tough week. But, from the chaos, I’ve had some moments of clarity and even hope and joy. For example:
1. I’ve talked to dozens of my clients this week who are incredibly thoughtful, inspiring, motivated people who will spend their lives and careers fired up by these election results, and they will put their legal educations to good use.
2. I noticed people being a little more careful with each other, a little more honest about how they were really feeling and really doing. (But of course, I live in California, where people feel safe in doing so because 70 percent of voters felt the same).
3. Feminism is now alive and well again. I’ve been lamenting its loss for years and I think young women feel it more keenly now, that in addition the the current sexual assault crisis on college campuses, they now see that all is not equal – we can be our best selves and be better than a man, and still not be good “enough” – so they are more prepared than ever to run for office, to be leaders, to speak up.
4. We didn’t feel the world was ending on 9/11. But we felt shock and sorrow and we were scared for our Muslim neighbors and friends. We grieved. Many law school applicants were too young to remember what it felt like 15 years ago, I now have some wisdom from being older and it is this: We got through the shock and confusion, the nightmares, the complete re-shifting of our sense of the country and the world, and we will come through this as well.
5. Lastly, for my clients who had nothing better to do than read this ridiculously long post, and who can’t understand why the biggest Hillary supporter they know is so calm about all of this, I tell you this: I’m calm because I trust in you and in your generation. And in mid-term elections.
Ann Levine is the author of the best selling law school admission guide book: The Law School Admission Game and made admissions decisions at two ABA-approved law schools. In 2004 she founded Law School Expert and has helped thousands of applicants navigate the tough process to get into law school. She has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, US News, Above the Law, Blueprint Prep, and more.
Get a free consultation with Ann on your own law school admissions journey today.