In order for your application to be ready for review, the law schools must have:
- A completed application.
- A check for the application fee or a fee waiver form.
- A personal statement essay (or other essay as indicated).
- The required number of letters of recommendation.
Most law school applications ask for routine information. While filling out the application is not particularly taxing, you should exercise care when doing so.
Admissions officers will inevitably notice an application that is illegible, contains errors, or is incomplete. So, be sure to provide the required information in the correct place and in the correct manner.
Enclose a check made payable to the law school for the amount of the application fee to ensure that your application will be processed. If you are unable to pay the application fee, follow the instructions outlined in the given law school’s application materials to obtain a fee waiver. Fee waivers are granted in circumstances of demonstrated need.
Almost every law school application asks for an essay. A majority of law schools ask for a personal statement; a few, however, ask a specific question to be answered in an essay of specified length. Preparing your personal statement essay is the longest part of the application process and may take several months and many revisions.
The critical elements in writing a personal statement are what you say as well as how you say it. As a college senior or graduate, it’s assumed that you are capable of writing proficiently. Failure to do so will hinder your chances of admission, so proofreading is vitally important.
A good essay is a factor in helping to positively sway the committee on cases that are “middle-of-the-road.” The personal statement is the only opportunity you have to allow the admissions committee to get to know you as an individual. You should use this opportunity to the fullest advantage! Make yourself come alive; let the committee know something that it could not learn from reading the other parts of the application. Since very few law schools grant personal interviews, the personal statement is an opportunity to introduce yourself in writing to the selection committee.
Essay Dos and Don’ts
- Express yourself honestly and authentically
- Write about an activity or experience that speaks to your motivation, maturity, and character
- Be as specific and detailed as you can
- Communicate a fresh, original idea in a clear and logical manner
- Apologize for weak spots in your application
- Write an essay like “Why I have Always Wanted to Be a Lawyer” or “Why I Believe Your Institution is the Best Law School”
- Use generalizations or cliches
You may write on any topic you wish, so long as it expresses information about yourself. If you have a weak spot or two in your application for a valid reason, explanations for them should be addressed in your letters of recommendation or in a supplementary statement from you. Your personal statement essay should put your best foot forward and portray you in a positive light.
Some law schools do not indicate a specific word or page limit for the essay; others do. As a general rule, your essay should fit on one page, single-spaced with one-inch margins all around on two pages, double-spaced.
You do not have to prepare the personal statement on your own. The Writing Center can help with grammar, clarity, and overall structure. After that, you should share your essay with members of the Prelaw Advisory Committee, who can offer suggestions for improvements.
Law schools typically require three letters of recommendation. The Prelaw Advisory Committee suggests that two of these recommendations come from faculty members who are familiar with you. The third letter of recommendation may come from another professor, an internship supervisor, an employer, or someone who is familiar with your academic or job-related skills.
The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), the same organization which reports LSAT scores to law schools, has recently started a letter of recommendation service.
- You should have your recommenders send their letters directly to LSDAS.
- The recommender should include the LSADS recommendation form with their letters.
- If a recommender is writing a letter targeted only at a specific law school, then they should send the letter directly to that law school but should also send a general letter to LSDAS.
- Some law schools will not review applicant files until they have received at least two or three letters from the LSDAS letter of recommendation service.
Obtaining your recommendations
When obtaining your recommendations, you should ask instructors who are not only familiar with your work but are impressed with your academic abilities.
Your recommenders should address:
- Intellectual and analytical abilities
- Writing aptitude
- Research skills
- Ethical integrity and maturity
- Commitment to the study of the law
- Leadership qualities
Recommenders need to be specific about such information, citing examples whenever possible.
Sometimes faculty members are away on sabbatical, so don’t wait to obtain your letters of recommendation. The Office of Career Services maintains a letter of recommendation file service, so that you can ask faculty for letters throughout your four years at Clark. It’s best to obtain them while your academic work is fresh in the minds of your professors.
The letter of recommendation is the proper forum to address any shortcomings in your application. Your recommender should explain any circumstances that led to faltering academic performance. By doing so, law schools may overlook these weak spots. Your personal statement essay is not the place to bring up shortcomings, so make sure to share relevant information with your recommender if you want these issues addressed.
Giving your recommenders time
You should give your recommenders at least a month to complete their letters. These are some basic guidelines regarding timing:
- If possible, approach faculty members in the late spring of your junior year – this will give them the whole summer to work on your letter.
- Alternatively, ask for letters as early as possible in your senior year so that your applications will be ready for December.
- Provide the date you need the recommendation by, especially if you are applying early.
Some schools have a special form known as the “Dean’s Certification Form” or “College Questionnaire.” The purpose of this form is to verify your status in college. It will ask a dean or deans to provide information on your disciplinary record and an estimate for class rank or percentile rank. Please note: Clark does not rank its students.
While law schools are mainly interested in whether you were the subject of any disciplinary action during your time at Clark, most forms will also invite the dean to add any additional comments that will serve as a supplemental letter of recommendation. Applicants should send all of these Dean’s Letter requests to the Prelaw Advising Committee. The committee will forward these requests to the appropriate deans for their comments.
*You will need to allow at least two weeks to have letters processed and sent to law schools.