Are you grappling with the decision of whether you should apply for law school? If that’s you, you should learn what you need to know about applying to law school. If this is the beginning of your law school exploration process, here are the basics:
Know Your Law School Types
There are two kinds of law school applicants: those applying to ABA law schools , and those applying to state bar schools. If you graduate from an ABA school, you can take the bar exam in any state and practice law anywhere in the U.S. If you go to a state bar school, you will be restricted to that state, with a few exceptions after you’ve been a lawyer for a long time. Here is a great brochure from the State Bar of California for those considering law school that explains the requirements and other things you should be aware of if you are considering law school for your future.
I interviewed one lawyer that attended a state bar school; read more about her experience in the post Attending a Non-ABA School
The requirements to get into an ABA law school:
1. Bachelor Degree
To get into an ABA law school, you must have a 4 year Bachelor Degree by the time you would start law school. This degree really should come from a traditional, accredited college or university with actual in-person classes.(Even though this standard lists an exception to the degree requirement, there’s not a lot of incentive for schools to admit someone without a bachelor degree).
2. Decent Grades
Your grades during college matter. A lot. You can major in pretty much anything. The key is picking something challenging and doing well in it. If you already have a college GPA and it’s low and you are now in panic mode, regretting every little thing that distracted you from school, you should know that lots of people get into law school with Low GPAs. Read this Low GPA blog post and all 400+ comments to feel like you’re in excellent company.
3. LSAC Credential Assembly Service Report
There is an organization that governs the LSAT/law school application process called LSAC. They compute your GPA and take into account all of your college credits until you receive your Bachelor Degree, even if you transferred from another school and the school you graduated from doesn’t count those grades in your GPA. If your college years are behind you, you can’t hit the re-set button by taking new classes. They have a lot of other little funny rules like that, so if you attended more than one undergraduate institution, or if you failed and repeated courses, check out how LSAC will calculate those grades by visiting LSAC.org.
4. Law School Admissions Test
You will have to take the LSAT. Sorry. And you can’t just show up and take it any old time, either. It’s only given 4 times a year, which means you need to plan in advance when you will take it.
5. Time To Study For The LSAT
You also need to study for it. Plan to prepare at least 3 months for the test. It’s not a knowledge-based test; it’s an aptitude test. But you can learn the question types and coping mechanisms (I mean, strategies). There are a lot of commercial prep courses and tutors out there for the LSAT. Really. It’s not just a Kaplan and Princeton Review thing. Spend some time finding the option that’s right for your learning style, schedule, and wallet. Listen to these free podcasts for more information about LSAT Prep options:
6. Time To Dedicate To Applications
Law school applications are time consuming: you’ll be researching schools. You’ll be writing law school personal statements, maybe optional essays and diversity statements, resumes, asking people for letters of recommendation…. there are a lot of ingredients to the law school application process. I wrote a whole book about this – it’s called “The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert.” You can pretty much read the whole thing in 3 hours and have a great idea of what you need to do to get ready to apply to law school.
7. Confidence That Law School Is Right For You
While you’re deciding whether all of this is worth it, spend time and energy exploring whether law school is the right next step for you. I wrote a whole book about this, “The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers.” Don’t go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. Look into what a lawyer does to decide whether it’s the lifestyle and career you want. I interviewed 300 lawyers for the book and they provided great insights and advice so definitely check it out before you make any major life decisions.
Watch this 2-minute video of me discussing what you need to know as you begin to consider applying to law school.