For Non-Traditional Law School Applicants

Law School Expert Blog

Have you been out of school for a few (or more!) years? Then my next Blog Talk Radio Show is for you. We have a panel of three non-traditional law applicants – now entering 1Ls – who will be attending law school at Columbia, UCLA and Mississippi College of Law. Each led very different careers and lives before applying to law school and had to deal with very typical issues faced by non-traditional applicants to law school, including:

  • No professors who could write them letters of rec
  • Careers that did not immediately appear to be connected to the law in any way
  • Deciding what was most important to emphasize in their law school personal statements
  • Making their career resumes “speak” to law school admission committee members
  • Leaving behind making money to take out loans
  • Making time to prepare for the LSAT (more than once!) while balancing career and family obligations

Can you relate to this? So can Joy, Eugene, and Abby. Tune in on Thursday, August 13th at 6 p.m. EST / 3 p.m. PST to ask questions via phone or chat. All you need to participate is a phone or Internet access or both. If you can’t join us live, you’ll be able to listen after and you can even download it as a podcast from iTunes. If you have specific issues or questions you’d like addressed during this program, please leave them as comments to this blog post and I will try to incorporate them into our panel discussion.

Have a wonderful weekend.


11 Responses

  1. Hi Ann-

    I am 30 yrs old and have spent the better part of my professional career as a teacher, but recently I quit teaching and have been bouncing from job to job (entry-level) trying to figure out what I want to do. I’ve always been interested in law, but never took the time to consider a career as an attorney. I took some career/personality assessments and some signs point to a career in law as a viable option for me, including my own strengths and interests. So I enrolled in Kaplan’s LSAT prep course and I plan on applying for the fall 2010 semester. Some of my questions include: 1.) I might be able to get an academic LOR, even though I am almost 8 yrs removed from school. Should I? 2.) How should I sculpt my resume in order to de-emphasize my apparent lack of professional focus? 3.) Like many non-trads, I’d like to go to school sooner than late 2010, but some of my friends (recent law school grads) have told me not to enter mid-year, as most programs that offer mid-year admissions are of lesser quality than those with only fall admissions, effectively hobbling me from the outset. Thoughts?


    1. Rick! You must have ESP. You just repeated the exact agenda for today’s BTR show. I hope you’ll be joining us. Feel free to ask questions if you’re able to listen live. I’ll absolutely make a note to include the mid-year start issues too.

  2. Ann, thanks for today’s radio show. I will have to replay it later since I found out about it about 15 minutes in. Pardon if this question was already answered: I am self-employed and have been for over 10 years. My husband and I own a title examination business in an attorney-only state (hence my decision to finally go to law school). How would you suggest I handle the resume requirement? Prior to being self employed, I worked FOR someone doing title examination/paralegal work for 6 years and before that I was in my late teens/early 20s doing menial entry-level work. While I know my self-employment speaks volumes about me personally (ability, drive, choice of industry, etc), my resume will be hopelessly short. Advice?

    1. Wendi – a great question! Thanks! If I do say so myself, self employment says A LOT about who you are and what you are made of. You need to emphasize what it took to be your own boss and build your own company. For example, I may be the Law School Expert but through that job I think I became a marketing expert, master editor, and avid business writer. Don’t sell yourself short – quantify your success when you are able – # of clients, level of business taking place, # of employees supervised, etc. I hope this helps.

  3. Hi, Ann. I thought this show was very informative and gave me a sense of reassurance that I wasn’t the only person trying to balance work, organizational responsibilities, and family with studying for the LSAT! I am contemplating on taking the LSAT this December, which gives me a little over 3 months of studying. My plan is to squeeze in as much studying as I can. Before going to work, lunch breaks, between incubation times (I’m a graduate student in the life sciences), and before and after dinner really work for me. Hence, I carry my PowerScore LGB and a binder full of practice tests to the apartment, lab, and back!

    I also thought you made a great point on the resume issue. While one-page resumes used to dominate, that does not seem to be the prevailing trend anymore. According to a Career Development specialist in my University, a two-page format does not automatically translate to having your CV thrown into the can! On average, people have 3-5 careers in their lifetimes so having more than 1 page in your resume is not the “kiss of death” that it used to be.

    I do have a question, which I also relayed to you via Twitter. Is being an international applicant to JD programs considered non-traditional as well? I know that there are more international applicants to the LLM programs, but I was wondering if you would know of a resource for international applicants to JD programs.

    Thanks and looking forward to future episodes of your Blog Talk Radio show!

    1. Hi Jenne,
      I kept trying to respond to you on twitter but it’s been acting so sporadically and slowly that I’ve lost patience with twitter recently. I’m glad you heard the show and I definitely appreciate your comments.
      I would say that being an international applicant adds to the non-traditional nature of your application, yes. I help people with international degrees apply to JD programs. I’ve worked with people everywhere from Korea, Taiwan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Egypt – so many places!
      I will be scheduling additional BTR shows soon – thanks so much for your feedback.

  4. Ann,

    thanks for the great blog and the podcasts!
    I’m also what you’d call a non-traditional applicant -I’ve been out of school for 8 years, I have a MS in chemistry from Finland, I’m a single mom of two, work in the biofuels industry (in the US), etc. One of my worries is that in Finland, your college grades are really de-emphasized (I can’t remember how many times I was told “nobody is ever going to look at those”; GPA’s and class ratings aren’t even calculated), plus I think that my major is one where very high grades are hard to get (at least where I went to school), and are quite rare. As a result of that and some other factors, my GPA is really not very stellar. So the question is, how closely do admission boards look at foreign transcripts, where grading systems -both scale and philosophy -are different, and hard to compare to US grades? How much does everything else matter in comparison? I will of course highlight my diverse background in my personal statement, but if I want to get into a top law school, is my lackluster GPA going to kill me, even if I would do well on the LSAT? Is an addendum going to help? How much can you really expect to patch up, and how low is too low? Are there instances where the selection is made by basically leaving one component of the application out, if it doesn’t seem to fit the rest?
    Thanks for your advice in advance!

    1. Hi Lotta,
      While your grades won”t be disregarded, your LSAT score and non traditional factors and diversity will help in a subjective evaluation. Concentrate on using the LSAT to show what you can do, then pick schools based on your LSAT score. Put together a strong application and go from there. It might also help you to go ahead and have your grades from Finland evaluated so you know how they will translate into a LSAC GPA.
      Please let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck!

  5. I am interested in law school and am set to take the LSAT on Dec. 7th of this year. I do have reservations about applying to law school however. I would be applying as a non-traditional student–I believe–since I obtained my B.A. (with a 2.9 GPA) almost five years ago. Since I have been out of the academic world for so long and my professional career has not grown as it should have I worry that I am not a strong candidate. I am already 28 and I was hoping you might have some suggestions for my situation.

    1. Eddie, I think this is more common (given the recent economy) than most people are willing to acknowledge. I think you apply and see how it goes! And see if you can do some volunteering or something meaningful for a cause that interests you.

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