The road to your J.D. or LL.M. can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here’s a calendar of what law applicants should be doing, and when.
Don’t Forget: Some law schools will start taking applications in September and continue accepting them until early next year. Depending on your particular situation, the earlier you submit your applications, the better, especially if you’re applying to schools that use rolling admissions.
Registration closes on September 23 for the November LSAT at published test centers. To register, go to the LSAC website (lsac.org).
Are you unsure if you need a LSAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!
If you’re applying to law schools this year, you should have already finalized your school choices. If your top priority is to begin law school next fall, count on applying to several different schools. You don’t need to apply to every school out there, but you do need to be realistic about admissions statistics and leave yourself with some room to maneuver if you aren’t accepted at your top-choice schools. Apply only to as many schools as you can submit well-prepared applications for. You’ll get better results by applying to 5 stretch schools with applications that reflect 100 per cent of your best effort than you will by applying to 10 schools with applications that each reflect 50 per cent of your best effort.
If you’re applying to law schools next year, begin researching schools now. Define your most important search criteria to narrow down your school choices.
Visit schools. Try to meet with admissions staff and students, and see if you can sit in on a class. Begin networking with current students, faculty, and alumni from your targeted schools.
If you’re applying to law schools this year, you should begin formulating your story themes and ‘wow’ factors right away. Good ideas and deep introspections cannot be rushed!
The law school admissions committees will be taking a hard, critical look at your profile. You must do the same thing first. Only by understanding your candidacy from their perspective, can you best mitigate your weaknesses, highlight your strengths, frame your fit, and employ the ‘wow’ factors that differentiate yourself from the many other highly qualified applicants in your demographic.
Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.
Your strengths. You need to become a self promoter without coming across as arrogant. You also need to prioritize your strengths as you will not likely be able to highlight all of them in adequate detail within your applications.
Your story themes and ‘wow’ factors. What are the most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs, experiences, and reasons for pursuing law school? Have you adequately prioritized these points? If you attempt to convey too many different points, you risk coming across as disparate and not covering any points in adequate detail to successfully set apart your application. What makes you unique in a way that is going to make any admissions officer just really want to recruit you to their school?
Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the specific law school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the program?
If you’re applying to law schools next year, you need to take a critical inventory of your candidacy. Will you clear the academic qualifications hurdles at the schools you are targeting? Would you benefit from an alternative transcript? Can you find some additional extracurricular activities that will not cast a perception of expediency to the admissions committees?
“Letters of recommendation, in my experience, do not get enough attention in the admissions process. While the academic record, LSAT and personal statement typically carry more weight in a competitive process, I can’t emphasize enough how much difference strong letters can make.”
– Senior Admissions Consultant Heike Spahn, former Assistant Dean at University of Chicago Law School.
Draw up a schedule of what schools you want to apply to, when. Remember that it’s generally to your advantage to apply early to law schools that use rolling admissions policies, since the earlier you apply the greater number of openings available. We stress generally since it may be advantageous to wait until later in the cycle if you need more time to complete an alternate transcript, retake the LSAT, etc.
Most schools have released their applications and essay questions. Download the forms (or bookmark the sites) for the schools you are interested in.
If you haven’t yet already, start brainstorming for your personal statement topics. Oftentimes, you’ll want to use different personal statements at different law schools. (They are relatively unique and seek different traits in their student bodies after all.) The sooner you start brainstorming for topics, the more time you will have to polish your essays and still submit an early application.
Determine if you need to include an addendum to your personal statement. What additional points, if any, do you need to make? If you are attempting to mitigate a weakness, be sure you don’t come across as excusatory or whiney. Doing so will only draw more attention to your flaw.
Letters of recommendation. Will you benefit from an additional, optional recommendation to substantiate a story theme or ‘wow’ factor, highlight your strengths, or, possibly, mitigate your weaknesses? Can your selected recommenders discuss your candidacy in adequate detail? Sometimes, it’s in your best interest to submit recommendations directly to the schools and bypass the LSDAS. Whichever route you go, be proactive and advise them on what points they need to make to give your applications the best shot.
Our Law School Admissions Timeline page will be updated on November 1.