An Investment Worth Making

I first became aware of Ann Levine when I saw her book on sale at Barnes & Noble. I read it cover-to-cover in a single night, and was very impressed by her realistic outlook and occasionally brutal honesty. Ann does not pull punches, and that’s the most important thing anyone should look for in a consultant. I filled out her initial consultation form with no real idea of what to expect, and waited for her reply.

She decided I wasn’t a completely hopeless case: I had been active in extracurriculars in college, and I was lucky enough to get a decent, though far from amazing, LSAT score. Unfortunately, my GPA was far below what is traditionally necessary to get into a top law school. I had suffered a brain injury early in college, and only really recovered in my senior and super-senior years. It was obvious that getting into a good school would be an uphill climb, and that my application would have to stand out from the crowd if I wanted to compete with the thousands upon thousands of college graduates who had both the LSATs and GPAs the top schools were looking for.

Ann’s advice was critical in helping me make the right strategic decisions. She’s seen tens of thousands of law school applications in her life, and she knows exactly what goes through an admissions officer’s mind when sorting through thousands of applicants. She also knows what goes through applicants’ minds during the long winter months when admissions offices are silent and your worst fears can get the better of you… her superhuman ability to calm and reassure even the most paranoid law applicant is worth the price of admission alone.  After getting to know my limited strengths and considerable weaknesses as an applicant, she felt bold risks were necessary to break through the GPA barrier. Ann does not use a cookie-cutter approach with her clients; on the contrary, I felt like she was throwing away the rulebook at times. She advised against devoting my personal statement to the brain injury, and instead suggested a short, clinical addendum that directly – perhaps even aggressively – addressed admissions officers’ predicted concerns about my ability to engage in serious legal study. She then threw me an even bigger curveball by encouraging me to use a decompressed, two-page résumé to communicate my personality… and to use my personal statement to communicate my professionalism and seriousness. While it sounded crazy at first, it made perfect sense once I thought about it more. Her advice was frequently contrary to the conventional wisdom found in law school books and on discussion boards, but it was perfectly tailored to the specifics of my situation. And it worked better than I could have imagined.

Law School Predictor said I was a “deny” at Duke and a “weak consider” at some other schools I was interested in. By the end of the spring, however, I had my choice of four T14 schools (with small scholarships at Duke and Georgetown), big scholarships at Top 18 schools, and a full ride at my state’s top-tier flagship. I was even waitlisted at Harvard and Columbia, despite having a GPA that should have led to immediate rejection if not outright mockery. Ann then helped me to rationalize the many school choices before me, and ultimately helped me summon the courage to reject a higher-ranked school in favor of the one that was the best fit for both my career interests and my personal happiness. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy to spend thousands of dollars on a law school consultant, especially given my limited financial means. But I would argue the opposite case: If you’re seriously contemplating using three years of your life to take out what is in effect a mortgage on a house you can’t live in, it’s crazy not to spend a tiny bit more to maximize your chances. Everything about applying to law school is expensive; Ann’s fee is a negligible amount to pay in exchange for the benefit of impartial advice from someone who really understands what’s going on. If I had listened to my law student friends and internet discussion boards, I would either be freezing to death or worrying about how I was ever going to be able to pay off my loans after graduation. But I didn’t… I listened to Ann. And I couldn’t be happier about that.