Real Success Stories: The Benefits of Binding

Law School Expert Blog

Creative Commons photo by *_Abhi_*
Creative Commons photo by *_Abhi_*

I try not to brag too much about my clients and their successes. But, some days, even after 11 years of being “Law School Expert,” blow me away. And yesterday was one of them. It felt like the Academy Awards in my office, with all the tears and thank-yous going back and forth. And these 3 success stories, I think, are informative to other law school applicants. I’m going to share the first story today, and the other two later this week.

Mindy: In at a top 15 with a 4.0 / 151

Mindy graduated from a very good undergraduate school. She had transferred there after recovering from a serious health issue, and she was conquering the campus while working more than 20 hours/week to support herself. She also had a 4.0. And a 151. She was distraught: her highest LSAT score wouldn’t let her in the door of any school she would want to attend. She was sure she was going to have to transfer to make her way to a top law school. I thought otherwise. Her spirit, passion, and abilities showed me she was the outlier. We went for broke, applying binding early decision to a Top 25 school. She was denied – from a school that I’ve seen reject people who later get into Harvard Law School. I told her to think bigger. She put in her application to a Top 15, binding, and was admitted.

The Deal With Binding Decision

So what is the deal with binding early decision? A couple of years ago, I would’ve told you there wasn’t really much advantage. In today’s admission climate of more competition for fewer applicants, that has changed. This year, I had four clients with low 160 LSAT scores and very high GPAs who applied binding to Georgetown Law and were admitted. Clients with mid-160s and 3.8s (who applied under regular decision) are being ‘held’ for further review. Schools want sure-things, they want to fill seats. But binding means giving up consideration of scholarships from other schools, and in most cases minimal if any scholarship funding from the school you’ve bound yourself to. While George Washington University is an exception – they give full scholarships to those who are admitted under the binding program – they have a different purpose behind their program: they are trying to steal the higher LSAT people who would’ve otherwise gone to their T-14 competitor down the road.

Expanded Options For Binding Decision Programs

Schools are also creating “second round” binding programs, including Penn Law and Cornell Law, to catch those who didn’t get into Columbia under the binding program (for example). And Georgetown’s binding ED deadline pretty much goes into the 1L year (just kidding). This gives applicants a chance to test the waters at other schools before making a decision about submitting the binding application.

And, yes, people still ask me, “Can I only apply binding to one school?” Yes. That is the whole point. It’s insurance for the school that they will fill their seat – that’s what makes it worthwhile for a law school. It helps with yield rates; they know you are a sure thing and they don’t have to wonder about your level of interest and whether you are just using them to negotiate a scholarship to another law school. They’ve got you. But, the good news is, you’ve also got them.

14 Responses

  1. Ann,

    I know you recommend that retaking the LSAT is more often than not a good idea because schools have every incentive to use the highest score when coming to an admissions decision. That said, can an applicant realistically be admitted to a t-14 law school with two LSAT scores?

  2. Ann,
    Can one realistically be admitted to a t14 law school with two different LSAT scores? What about if the disparity between the scores is significant?


  3. Hi Ann,

    I am applying for Early Decision for a law school, because that school is my life dream.

    Aside from that, that school has an unique program and research center. The head of the research center is also a professor of law. He has published a lot on the issues I am dealing with. I really want to study with him and find solutions to certain practical problems.

    In this case, is it a good idea to email him?

    Thank you for your help Ann, I really appreciate it.

  4. Hi Ann,

    If I apply EBD to a school and hear back end of December that I was not accepted, am I able to apply EBD to Cornell in their “Round 2 Early Decision” cycle?

    Thanks for your help,

  5. Hi Anne,
    I admire the work that you do.
    I have a 2.6 GPA and I am taking my LSAT in December for the first time.
    I am applying during this application cycle. What I lack in GPA, I have made up with my resume and also with my future LSAT score.
    Would you recommend starting the applications in September or waiting till January once my score is reported.
    Also, I am taking the Pilot digital LSAT in October.

  6. Hi, Ann,

    I wonder if you have written,or plan to write a follow-on book, (to the one I believe came out in 2015), or is the latter one still relevant?

    Your 2015 book was really great.


    Robert King

    1. Hi! Thanks – do you mean The Law School Decision Game? That’s a tough one that will take a lot of work to re-do but I’m hoping to do it one of these days. There is a newer version of The Law School Admission Game.

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