Your Top Questions About The Law School Application Process Answered
Applying to law school can be daunting. There are several core components to the law school application process that can be time-consuming (and sometimes nerve-wracking!) to complete. Preparing the best application is key so that you can increase your chances of getting into your top choice schools! In this post, we address the top questions applicants have about the law school application process.
Your Top Questions About The Law School Application Process Answered
Question #1: What is the difference between the LSAT and GRE—and which one do I need to take for my law school application?
Short Answer: The Law School Admissions Exam (LSAT) is an exam specifically for law school applicants, while the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) is a general test necessary for admission to many different types of graduate programs. Although the LSAT is the most common admission exam for law school (and thus, an exam you likely will need to take), a growing number of law schools in recent years have begun accepting GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT.
Long Answer: Below, we break down each exam and its role in the law school application process in more detail. You can also check out this accompanying YouTube video about the LSAT and the GRE!
What is the LSAT?
The LSAT is a skills-based, timed admissions exam that most students take as part of the law school application process. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete and has two main components: (1) multiple-choice and (2) writing.
What does the LSAT test?
Unlike many exams you have taken throughout your schooling, the LSAT does not test any substantive law. Instead, the LSAT tests skills like analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. These are skills that you will utilize as a law student and in your career as an attorney.
Who administers the LSAT?
The Law School Admissions Counsel (LSAC) is the organization that administers the exam. The LSAC frequently adjusts the exam to accommodate changes. It’s important to stay informed of the latest updates to the LSAT!
When can I take the LSAT?
The LSAT is offered four times a year: February, June, October (sometimes late September), and December. Trying to decide which LSAT to take? Read this post discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each test date!
Have there been any recent changes to the LSAT format?
For anyone taking the exam in 2023 or later, the critical reasoning section (commonly known as the “logic games” section) is no longer part of the LSAT. Check the LSAC website for up-to-date information on the LSAT for the administration you plan to take.
How is the LSAT scored?
Scores for the LSAT range from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score. The average score for each administration is around 150. The LSAT awards points in one-point increments for correct answers. Students do not lose points for incorrect answers. Instead, your total raw score on the LSAT is a combination of all of your correct answers which is then scaled into an LSAT score that falls within the 120-180 range.
What is the purpose of the LSAT?
Admissions offices use the LSAT as a tool to forecast your success in law school. Your LSAT score, along with your undergraduate GPA, are critical components of your law school application. Both of these components heavily influence your likelihood of admission into a school. So, you want to do well on the LSAT.
Can I take the GRE instead of the LSAT?
The LSAT remains the universally accepted entry exam for law school applications for law schools throughout the United States. However, in recent years, a growing number of law schools have started to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT.
Why are certain law schools accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT?
By accepting the GRE, law schools can expand their application pool. This makes some law schools more accessible to those from underrepresented backgrounds. Additionally, students who are not sure whether they want to pursue a law degree or another graduate have the flexibility to take one exam and apply to multiple programs. Since not all law schools accept the GRE, be sure to check each individual law school’s requirements!
If you do plan to take the GRE route, read this post about how to apply to law school with the GRE!
Question 2: How do I get the best law school letters of recommendation?
Short Answer: The best law school letters of recommendation to submit as part of the law school application process are professional or academic from a diverse range of authors who know you well and can write a tailored recommendation about your work ethic and work product.
Long Answer: Below, we discuss in more detail the top considerations to ensure you get a great letter of recommendation. You can also check out the accompanying YouTube video which answers the below questions about how to get the best law school letters of recommendation!
What are law schools looking for in a letter of recommendation?
Schools are looking for tailored and enthusiastic testimony to your future potential as a law student and a lawyer. They are looking for sincerity and authenticity, so it is very important to avoid submitting letters that are generic or boilerplate (such as those that merely state what class you were in and how you performed) from authors who do not know you very well.
When should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
Give your recommenders weeks (or even months!) to write you a strong letter of recommendation. You should ask for a letter of recommendation about 1.5 years before you want to enroll or approximately one to six months before you want to apply to law school.
You want to be considerate of the recommender’s schedule as well. For academic recommendations, avoid asking during the very start of the semester, midterms, or final exams, when professors are likely very busy. Thus, the best time to ask a professor for a recommendation is before the semester begins.
And remember to share your deadline with them, leaving a buffer in case they need an extension.
Who should you ask?
Letters of recommendation should be professional or academic, so they should come from professors or supervisors who are familiar with your work product and your work ethic. For academic professors, seek a recommendation from someone whose class you did well in, participated frequently, and attended office hours. For a professional or work-related area, seek a recommendation from a supervisor who oversaw your work and can speak to your day-to-day behavior (note, this will not necessarily be the most senior person or owner of a company, but rather, a direct supervisor).
How should you ask for a letter of recommendation?
Be sure to ask a potential author if they have the time to and feel comfortable with writing you a positive, personalized letter of recommendation. You want their honest feedback, but if they don’t have anything positive to say, they are not the best choice to write the letter.
How well should the author of the letter of recommendation know you?
In addition to knowing your work product and work ethic, the author of the letter should know enough about you personally to be able to speak to your interests and life experiences. If the author does not know you very well, the letter of recommendation will not be be as personable.
Can I submit a personal letter of recommendation?
No, the letters of recommendation that you submit with your law school application should not be personal letters of recommendation. Do not ask a friend, family member, or neighbor. You also should not ask a family friend or acquaintance who is a lawyer unless you worked with that individual in a professional capacity.
Can I send different letters of recommendation to different schools?
Yes, you can designate which letters of recommendation are sent to which schools, so obtaining more than the minimum number of letters of recommendation is an option.
Read this post for more about how to get great recommendation letters as part of your law school application process!
Question 3: How are law school applications reviewed?
Short Answer: Law schools review applications holistically, considering each component that you’ve submitted during the law school application process.
Long Answer: Below, we break down how law school admissions offices review applicaitons. You can also check out the accompanying YouTube video on how law school applications are reviewed.
What does it mean that law schools review “holistically”?
Each component of your application—from your LSAT score to your GPA to your resume to your letters of recommendation to your personal statement and everything else you submit—are considered together.
Why do admissions standards appear to focus solely on GPA and LSAT scores?
If you are looking at law school admissions standards, it may seem as though GPA and LSAT scores are what matter most. These two components are often the primary focus in admission statistics (as opposed to your resume or other materials). This is because they are quantifiable and standard among all applicants, making them the easiest to use for admission standards. It is more difficult to quantify relevant work experience or a glowing letter of recommendation, but those components are still incredibly important for a strong application.
What is the two-fold review of a law school application?
Law school applications are given a two-fold review: (1) a vertical layer of review and (2) a horizontal layer review. Vertical review involves evaluation of you as an applicant based on your own credentials (i.e., law schools look at all of the materials that you submitted during the law school application process to determine law school success).
Horizontal review compares you to all other applicants in the applicant pool to determine how you stack up against your peers. Because there are limited numbers of seats for each class, all qualified candidates based on a vertical review may not be offered a seat for admission. Horizontal review helps narrow down those candidates that will ultimately receive offers.
How can I help ensure that I pass the “vertical” and “horizontal” layers of review during the law school application process?
To pass the vertical layer of review, you need to submit polished, well prepared, and error-free application materials. For the horizontal layer of review, apply early because the applicant pool is smaller and there are fewer applicants to compare you to.
When should I submit my law school application?
Generally speaking, the earlier you submit your law school application the better. In particular, you can use the rolling admission process (where law schools send out acceptance letters in waves rather than all at once) to your advantage by applying early. It is impossible to know how competitive each application pool will be, but by applying early, it helps ensure you are part of a smaller pool with a larger number of open seats remaining.
If you are looking for experienced help, consider JD Advising’s law school application process assistance options!
Question 4: What do I need to apply to law school?
Short Answer: Every law school is different so you should read each school’s application requirements very carefully. Generally speaking, however, law school application process involves submission of the following components: (1) e-application, (2) character and fitness addendum (if applicable), (3) entrance exam scores, (4) official transcripts, (5) personal statement, (6) resume, (7) letters of recommendation, and (8) optional essays (if available).
Long Answer: Below, we break down what each component requires. You can also view our YouTube video discussing what you need to apply to law school here!
What makes up the e-application?
The e-application through LSAC will require you to provide information such as your name, date of birth, past work experience, character and fitness questions, and other identifying factors.
What type of misconduct am I required to disclose as part of a character and fitness addendum?
With respect to the character and fitness section of your application, two categories of misconduct are required to be disclosed: (1) academic and (2) criminal. If you have any past or pending areas of misconduct, you will be required to submit a character and fitness addendum. Not all applicants will need to submit this; it depends on where you’re applying so make sure to pay close attention to their requirements!
What is required of transcript submissions?
You must submit official (not unofficial) copies of transcripts from all institutions and programs which gave you credit toward your degree(s). If you graduated several years ago, be sure to reach out early for a copy of your transcript in case your institution needs extra time.
What is a personal statement?
A law school personal statement is an essay that you write that allows you to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and express your interest in attending their law school. Many schools do not conduct interviews, so your personal statement may be your only chance to present yourself. Check out the do’s and don’t’s for writing a personal statement here.
What should I include in my resume?
Your law school resume serves as a highlight reel that demonstrates how you are a strong candidate for law school. Your law school resume will differ from your employment resume. After all, when you apply to law school you are not applying for a specific position. If you are not sure exactly how to approach this, check out our five tips for preparing a law school resume here.
Should I complete and submit “optional essays?”
The answer to this is a resounding yes! This is a great opportunity to bolster your application and stand out in the law school application process. The more information you provide law schools, the eaiser it is for them to see what a great candidate that you are!
Ready to apply? Read this post with 9 steps for submitting your law school application!