Preparing for Law School
Law school preparation is an ongoing process. As you begin that journey, you will work closely with your Prelaw adviser to map out a path toward law school, beginning in your first year at Clark. You may want to use these suggestions and tips to guide you along the way.
First and Sophomore Years
As you being your preparation for law school, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to build a record of academic achievement. Your record is the most important factor in determining your later options for law school. Now is the time to correct any academic weaknesses. If you are a plodding reader or a mediocre writer, seek out classes that will help to strengthen your skills. Visit the Writing Center; enroll in the Learning Skills course in the Spring of your first year. Get help!
Join the Prelaw Society by signing up at the Student Activities Fair or by dropping a note, including your name, box number, class, and phone number, into the campus mail system. Address it to the Prelaw Society, Box B-42. The PLS is an important source of information concerning Prelaw developments, both nationally and on campus.
By your sophomore year, you should register with the Prelaw adviser by scheduling an appointment through Career Services. If you are planning to go abroad for your junior year, you need to make arrangements with the Prelaw adviser so that your Prelaw planning does not get delayed until your senior year.
Make an appointment with the Internship Coordinator in Career Services to discuss the possibilities of law-related internships or summer employment.
Begin studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). It is to your advantage to study all year long and take the June LSAT. Remember to register in advance for the June LSAT to insure that you get placed at the test center of your choice.
If you do not take the June LSAT, plan to study further for the exam over the summer and register for the September/October test date in your senior year. When you register for the LSAT, you should also register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). You can get a Law Service Information Book, complete with LSAT registration forms, in the Office of Career Services. When you do register for the LSDAS, please check the box that allows Law Services to release your information to Clark. Your information will be kept in the strictest of confidence and will be of great use to the Prelaw adviser in tracking our alumni and advising future Prelaw students.
In the Spring of your junior year, you should write your personal statement. Attend the workshop sponsored by Career Services and the Writing Center, "Writing the Graduate Professional School Essay." You should show it to a few professors with whom you are comfortable, as well as to the Prelaw Advisery Committee. Don't forget to allow ample time for those reviewing your statement to do so.
You should identify prospective faculty members from whom you would like a letter of recommendation. If you know that you will ask a particular professor to write you a recommendation, you may want to ask him or her before leaving for summer break. This will allow them adequate time to work on your letter and it will mean that you should not by delayed in getting a copy of your transcript, a draft of your personal statement, and a resume to each recommender.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year
Prepare a list of the law schools in which you are interested, using the materials on the Prelaw reading list. Fill out a Request for Information Card contained in the Law Services booklet for each school. Do not mail the cards until August since most law schools do not have their application materials ready until September. Be sure, though, that you do mail the cards before returning to Clark for your senior year.
If you take the June LSAT, and are unhappy with your performance on that exam, study all summer. Be sure to register for the September/October test date using the forms available in the Law Services booklet.
Summer is the time to visit each law school of interest and to talk with an admissions officer. The law school representatives have probably heard every conceivable question many times while traveling to college campuses. The best questions to ask are those which are truly most important to you. Think through your criteria for choosing a law school. There are many possibilities- job prospects upon graduation, size and reputation of the faculty, camaraderie within the student body, level of competition among students, curricular strengths, clinical programs, and others- but each student will rank these factors differently in terms of importance.
The following questions are offered as examples, but add some of your own as well.
- Please describe your review process for applicants' folders.
- How did your applicant pool change last year and what projections are you
making for this year?
- With my grades and LSAT (tell them specifically), what would be my chances
of gaining admission to your school?
- How do you evaluate the more subjective factors of an application and how
important are they?
- What advantages exist for applicants who apply early? What do you consider
- When do you typically let applicants know your admissions decisions?
- (If a state-supported school) How do you treat residency status in the admissions
- Do applicants with post-college work experience have an advantage over new
college graduates in your admissions process?
- What do you look for in the personal statement or essay to accompany the
- Can you give me examples of the kinds of recommendations that can make a
- What should I anticipate that it would cost over 3 years to attend your
- How do most of your students pay for law school?
- How does your office handle financial aid awards? Can I expect to know your
aid award before I'm required to pay a deposit?
- What merit scholarships do you offer to incoming students?
- What are the curricular strengths of your faculty?
- How much (or what kinds of) contact with faculty would the typical law student
have outside of class?
- How many students are typically enrolled in each entering class?
- How are first-year classes organized and taught?
- How many graduates practice law in your state or region after graduation?
- What factors shape the career interests and options available to your graduates?
- What complaints do your students have about your law school?
- What is the atmosphere within your student body concerning competition?
- How are students selected for your law school journals/reviews?
- Can students leave their books and notes in a study carrel without fear
- When your students say what they like about your law school, what things
are frequently mentioned?
- When students turn down your school in favor of another, what reasons do
they cite for doing so?
- What features do you believe set your school apart from "comparable" schools?
- What is the job search experience like for your law school's graduates who
want to work here or any specific place?
- How many (what percentage) of your graduates have their jobs lined up before
December of their final year?
- To what extent do your students get their summer jobs through your on- campus
- What kinds of jobs do your first year students line up for their first summer?
- To what extent does rank in class effect your students' job search success?
Senior YearMake an appointment with the Prelaw adviser to review your individual application process strategies. Be sure to schedule follow-up appointments as necessary throughout the year. It is your responsibility to seek help. And we are happy to help!
If you have not already done so, register for the LSAT and with LSDAS. Continue studying for the LSAT.
Take the LSDAS Transcript Request Card to the Registrar's Office during the first week of school. This will ensure that LSDAS will have your candidate profile ready to go when your law schools request it.
Revise your personal statement, based on feedback you have received, as soon as possible. When you have completed the revision, submit it to the Prelaw adviser one last time for a final review. This process takes much longer than you may think, so make sure that your personal statement is in final form, ready to be sent to the law schools before the end of September.
If you have not already done so, solicit your letters of recommendation. Meet with your recommenders to set a deadline. Explain to your recommenders that the deadlines which appear on the forms are not the deadlines you intend to use. You must allow your recommenders ample time to write a strong letter. Do not wait until November to finalize this step in the process!
Once you receive your applications, begin filling them out as if the deadlines were Thanksgiving. Exercise extreme care in completing applications. All applications should be typed. If possible, all of your applications should be completed and mailed no later than early December. If you complete them earlier, then by all means, send them out as soon as they are ready. The earlier you apply, the better, but be sure you have researched schools and can reasonably project! Before actually mailing the applications, you should make photocopies of the completed application for each school in the event that there is a problem with the mail.
Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to see to it that the law schools to which you have applied have indeed received all necessary information. Most law schools provide a number of update-notification postcards in their application materials. Complete all of them with your mailing address, affix proper postage for return, and enclose them with your application. When your LSDAS information and recommendations are received by the law schools, you will then receive a postcard notifying you that your application is complete and under consideration. If you do not receive this card, call the admissions office and inquire as to whether your file is complete.
Once your completed applications are reviewed, there isn't very much you can do until you hear from the law schools with their decision. If your grades from the fall semester of your senior year were very good, you may want to send an official transcript to the law schools to update them on your academic progress. If your cumulative GPA went down as a result of your performance during the fall of your senior year, do not send an updated transcript unless you are required to do so.
Maintain regular contact with the Prelaw adviser. Keep the adviser updated on where you gain admission, where you are wait-listed, and where you have been rejected. You may want to visit those law schools where you have gained admission and are seriously considering attending so that you are better prepared to make a final decision.
Monitor the deposit deadlines at the schools to which you have been accepted- some require a deposit by April. If you are waiting to hear from a school after April, it may be necessary to send a deposit to a school at which you have been admitted. It is better to forfeit a deposit at a law school than lose your space there while waiting for another school's decision. Discuss such decisions with the Pre- Law adviser before acting on them.