The AU Career Center provides one-on-one pre-law advising. Whether you are just thinking about going to law school, or you are certain and need help with your application or deciding what type of law you want to practice, we are there for you. Call 885-1804 to schedule an appointment with the Career Center’s pre-law advisors, John Charles or Rob SanGeorge, or make one online.
You may also choose to first meet with a pre-law advisor in your school to discuss coursework options. Contact your academic advisor for more information.
The American University Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity International holds informational and networking events, co-sponsors law-related workshops with departments on campus, and do community service projects.
Resources developed for diverse student populations are provided by The Council on Legal Education Opportunity and The American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession.
Law schools look at your undergraduate GPA, as well as how challenging your coursework was--even if you take a year or two off after finishing your undergraduate program. The average GPA for admitted students varies by law school, so you'll want to check each school's stats before applying. The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools can give you an idea of the average GPA and LSAT scores of first-year students at several law schools.
The LSAT, which is offered four times a year, is the only standard measure by which law schools evaluate applicants. The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180, with an average score of around a 150. More than 50 percent of test takers receive scores between 145 and 159. The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools can give you an idea of the average GPA and LSAT scores of first year students at several law schools.
Some students prepare for the LSAT by purchasing preparation guides and completing practice tests and exercises at home. Others enroll in LSAT preparation courses provided by private companies such as Princeton Review and Kaplan. These courses can cost upwards of $1,300.00. The methodology and length of courses vary depending on which provider you choose. You may want to ask other students who have taken the LSAT for their recommendation. Some popular services include The Princeton Review, Powerscore, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, and TestMasters.
For more information on the LSAT, you can register for the LSAT online at www.lsac.org
Writing Exceptional Personal Statements
Your personal statement offers you a chance to distinguish yourself from other applicants with similar GPAs and LSAT scores. Strong writing, professionalism, and originality are key. The Career Center Pre-Law Advisor and the AU Writing Center can assist you in developing your statement.
Letters of Recommendation
Recommendation letters are vital. Most schools will ask for two or three letters of recommendation. Your recommendation writers should know you very well; they should know your academic and career goals and what you want law schools to know from your application. Academic recommendations from professors who know you well are usually best, but work supervisors and coworkers can also serve as references. A big name, like a senator or a president of a company, is not impressive or useful to you unless they can speak with specificity about your accomplishments and goals. Provide your recommendors with copies of your resume and personal statement, some general points about what you hope to convey with your application, and anything else you want to make sure they express. Remember to send thank-you notes to your recommendation writers!
Choosing a law school is huge, as it determines where you will live for the next three years of your life, the people who will become your colleagues in the profession, and often the area in which you will practice. It is important to carefully consider each of the following factors when choosing a law school.
You might want to browse these great resources as you research schools:
Internet Legal Research Group provides extensive information about ranking, admissions requirements, competitiveness, quality of education provided, minority opportunities, and area specialties.
American Bar Association provides a listing of law schools by state as well as an alphabetical list of law schools in the U.S. states and territories.
Likelihood of Admission
Compare your GPA and LSAT scores to scores of recently admitted students to get a sense of your chances for admission. Information about the median GPA and LSAT scores of students are available on-line in the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools . From this information, try to develop three lists of schools:
those where you will likely be admitted, or "safety"
those where you will be competitive for admission, and
those where you will be a "long shot" for admission.
On average, applicants typically apply to anywhere between 6 and 12 schools, dispersed throughout these categories. It is important to note that law schools do not always weight GPA and LSAT scores evenly. At most schools, LSAT score will be considered more important (thus assessed greater weight). At other schools, GPA will be given greater importance. Still other schools will treat these two criteria evenly.
Location is important for admissions reasons: publicly-funded law schools favor applicants who are residents of the state in which the law school operates.
Location is important for employment reasons: it is generally easier to connect with job opportunities in the city/state/region in which the law school is located since many of the law school career center's contacts may be local. Keep in mind how you plan to use your law degree and the industries in which you are interested. For example, if you are interested in practicing entertainment law, it might be better to research schools in California or New York than in the Midwest.
Reputation and Ranking
Although a law school's ranking may impact your employability down the line, you should judge rankings very carefully, and with some amount of skepticism. You should pay very close attention to the criteria upon which the ranking is based. Be assured that you will receive a quality legal education from any law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association. A holistic ranking system can be found at the Internet Legal Research Group, which ranks law schools based by admissions requirements, competitiveness, faculty information, minority resources, and area of specialty. Ultimately, the most important question is not "What is the best law school?," but rather "What is the best law school for me?"
Specialized Area of Law
There is a consensus among attorneys that one becomes a "specialist" in an area of law by practicing that area, not by taking a given number of courses in the subject during law school. While it is important to identify areas of law that interest you, you should not choose a law school because it solely specializes in that field. Most law schools require that you be exposed to a wide variety of substantive legal areas in addition to courses that hone legal skills. There is relatively little time to take a number of classes in one area of law. Also, most students change their mind during law school as to what type of law they wish to practice.
Each school offers different educational and experiential opportunities, including joint-degree programs and internship/externship programs. Some even offer study abroad opportunities. The American Bar Association provides a directory of specialized programs that may help to guide you in your search.
In addition to your personal interest in facilities, three key factors to consider are: the library with access to appropriate resources and study space; the relative importance of the law school to the rest of the university; and state-of-the-art teaching facilities.
Student Body and Campus Life
The profile of a law school's student body is an important determinant of a school's fit for you. Your classmates in law school often become your colleagues in the field and your network of professional contacts, so you want to make sure they are people with whom you can see yourself working. Consider each school's attrition rate, the percentage of students who transfer or leave the school each year. Talk to current students or visit a class at the school to get a sense of the student culture and how competitive students there are. A very competitive law school atmosphere may drive some students, while a collaborative atmosphere would be better for others. It is important to find a school where you can see yourself spending three years happily and growing intellectually and personally. Also, make sure that your law school provides exceptional career services.
Look at the faculty’s work and the faculty-student ratio. Where did the faculty receive their training? What are their specialties and where is their expertise? Is the faculty accessible to students?
School Populations and Class Sizes
Decide whether you're looking for a small or large school. Pay attention to class sizes and the opportunity for student-professor interactions.
Consider a school's extracurricular offerings. These activities can enrich your overall law school experience, connect you to other students and the school community, and provide some fun amid the heavy load of law school work. Activities might include such things as Law review, moot court and various other student organizations.
When investigating a school's potential financial aid, be sure to look deeper than the percentage of students receiving financial aid awards. This figure counts all students receiving aid but does not indicate the amount of those awards. Look for an average financial aid award figure.
Some schools offer loan forgiveness programs for work in public interest law or other public service programs.
It is never too early to begin exploring your desire to go to law school, your interest in law, and potential law schools to attend. The following is a suggested timetable if you are considering applying to law school for the following year.
Begin preparing for the LSAT at least three to twelve months (depending on your schedule, needs and when classes are offered) prior to taking the test.
Academic achievement in your junior year is also very important, especially if you are planning to attend law school right after graduation. Often, your junior year grades will be the most recently completed and reported at the time of your applications to law school.
Start reviewing school catalogues and Web sites. Continue to investigate the legal profession, whether by academic courses, research, interviews, shadowing, or internships.
Begin to think about whom you might ask for recommendations. Be sure to maintain and/or strengthen those relationships, while working on your networking, writing, or critical thinking skills as preparation for the application process and the LSAT.
It is recommended that juniors planning to apply in the fall for admission for the following September take the test in June when preparation is complete. Many students do take the LSAT in September/October as well.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year
Familiarize yourself with the LSAT/LSDAS registration process, and if you have not already done so, register for both.
Develop a preliminary list of law schools that you are interested in attending. At first, do not try to limit your list too much, and make sure that at least 10-15 schools are schools in which you believe you could reasonably be accepted. Your list should include a few safety schools and a few "reach" schools, but the bulk of your schools should be those with whom your qualifications are well-matched. Order catalogues and information from them.
If you did not take the LSAT in June or plan on taking it again, prep with books, courses, online tests, or whatever method is most effective for you. Seniors who have not taken the LSAT and who want to meet early action or early decision deadlines should register for the September test.
Develop a record-keeping system to track your applications and registration.
Meet with a pre-law advisor to discuss your application plans.
Seniors who have not taken the LSAT and who want to meet early action or early decision deadlines should register for the October test.
Identify your recommendation writers, meet/correspond with them, and start collecting recommendations.
Attend any Law School Forums available in the local area. Narrow down your list. Again, although there is no strict rule on the number of law schools to which to apply, many applicants apply to between 6-12 schools, including one or two "safeties", one or two "reach" schools, and a handful of schools where they believe their qualifications are well matched. It should go without saying, but do not apply to any schools that you would not accept an offer of admission even if they were the only school to grant you acceptance. Begin writing (and rewriting) your personal statement.
Compile application packages. Deadlines vary by school, so be sure to identify each school's deadline. Also, consider applying "early decision," in which an acceptance is a commitment to attend the school, or "early action," in which an admissions decision is returned earlier but is not binding. Visit law schools if possible.
Early decision and early action application deadlines often take place in November. Even if you choose not to apply under either of these processes, many applicants try to have their applications all sent out by Thanksgiving.
Although the LSAT will be offered again in February, the December test date is generally the final opportunity to take the LSAT if you plan to meet the application deadlines for most schools. You may still be sending out applications, depending on each school's deadline.
February and early March
Application deadlines for most schools, and wait as patiently as possible for admissions decisions.
March and April
Law schools begin to notify students of admissions deadlines. Begin to weigh your options, visiting schools again if possible and meeting with your pre-law advisor(s) to discuss your plans.