Applying to Law School
Law school applicants need to become familiar with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). LSAC administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and operates the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). The LSAT is the most widely accepted admission test and CAS is the most widely used system for producing and submitting applications. CAS allows you to enter information commonly requested by law schools only once; information entered on the first application will automatically be filled in on all of your other applications. You then respond to school-specific questions.
Completing application forms is a fairly straightforward process. Schools seek basic information about you, including your academic background, extracurricular activities, and employment history. Many schools will also ask for the names of your recommenders, the date(s) on which you took (or plan to take) the LSAT, your intention to apply for financial aid, and any criminal convictions on your record. It is a good idea to provide a resume with your applications, but do not use it as a substitute for responding to questions on the applications. Be truthful as you complete the applications.
There are several components to the law school application process including an admission test, your undergraduate GPA, personal statements and supplemental essays, and letters of recommendation. It can be helpful to review schools’ websites to learn about their specific selection criteria and contact schools about your specific questions. Each component is addressed briefly, here, and in more detail in the “Admissions Criteria” section, below.
Admission Test. Applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a half-day standardized test with scores which range from 120 to 180. The LSAT is used by law schools as a common measurement of potential for success in law school. Alternatively, some applicants opt for taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Details regarding these tests, and changes related to COVID-19, are discussed in the Application Criteria section, below.
Undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA). Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts to the Law School Data Assembly Service (CAS), which converts grades to a cumulative grade point average using a set of consistent values. The GPA offers admissions committees another numerical basis for comparing applicants.
Personal Statement. Applicants submit a personal statement as part of the application process for almost all law schools. Admissions committees look for a concise, detailed, well-written statement revealing the applicant's individuality. They want to learn from the statement who the applicant is and what makes her qualified to study at their law schools.
Letters of Recommendation. Most law schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from professors or employers to gain a different perspective on the applicant’s academic strength, intellectual curiosity, motivation, communication skills, and personal qualities.
Experience. This factor may encompass a wide range of pursuits–from undergraduate curricular and extracurricular activities, to internships, to full-time work experience, etc.–which demonstrate that the applicant has skills and abilities relevant to the study of law and will contribute to the diversity and strength of the class.
There are, of course, other factors that may be used to evaluate applicants, depending on the policies of individual schools. For example, most law schools have programs to increase diversity in the legal profession, and some state schools may reserve seats for state residents. Review schools’ websites to learn about their selection criteria, and you may want to contact schools about your specific concerns.