Applying to Law School

 

 

Students should begin the process of applying to law school at least a year in advance of the time of their desired enrollment. Consequently, those who intend to enroll immediately after the completion of their undergraduate degree should begin the application process near the end of their junior year and should take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in June after that year or in October of their senior year. Information on how to apply for the LSAT and for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), which compiles supporting materials for applications and supplies them to the law schools for which a student has applied, is available from the College’s pre-law advisors, as well as from the LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) site. 

1. Timeline
2. Selecting a Law School
3. Grades and Transcripts
4. Personal Statement
5. Recommendation Letters

Timeline:

During the first years of college, select courses that will help you develop skills in writing, critical thinking, reading and analysis, and quantitative reasoning. Read about the law school admissions process and the format of the LSAT, think about your reasons for pursuing a law career, and develop a "Plan B" career option. Be sure to take a sample LSAT before your junior year, to give yourself time to identify and work on any weaknesses.

Prepare for the LSAT during your junior year, and plan to take the test in June following your junior year, or October of your senior year. Register with the LSDAS. Use the LSAC site to search for law schools which match your criteria, and narrow down your final list. Contact these law schools directly to obtain all necessary information and application forms. Draft the applications before your senior year begins. Contact those who will write your letters of recommendation, and provide copies of your resume and other information they will need. Mail your applications, the earlier the better, in the fall of your senior year. Update your file with fall semester grades.

Selecting a Law School:

LSAC provides extensive information about the over 180 ABA approved Law Schools in the U.S. Think about where you want to go to school and what size of school you prefer. Examine available information about average GPAs and LSAT scores to compare yourself to the students at various law schools, and consider each school's acceptance rates. However, use these numbers with caution, and only as a rough guideline, as many factors can affect the competitiveness of an application. Students sometimes apply to a range of schools: a few very competitive schools, a few with more generous acceptance rates, and some in between. Visit the schools in which you are interested, if at all possible. Also visit local schools (Creighton Law School and the University of Nebraska Law School are both excellent schools in Nebraska) to learn more about the law school experience. Both Nebraska and Creighton offer special course sessions for visiting students to observe.

Grades and Transcripts:

Your transcripts will be sent to the LSDAS, where your grades will be converted to a standardizing system, and assigned a GPA. This GPA may or may not be the same as your UNO GPA, depending on a number of factors. Grades of 'W' from UNO are not, at present, penalized in the LSDAS conversion system. However, you want to avoid having withdrawals on your transcript, because law school admissions committees will still see and take note of them. You may wish to explain special circumstances behind a W grade, in your application. Courses which are re-taken at UNO will be counted twice: both the original grade (e.g. D or F) and the new grade (whatever it may be) will both be included in the LSDAS calculation of GPA, which will probably reduce your overall GPA compared to the number which appears on the UNO transcript. You may also wish to explain these grades in your application.

Personal Statement:

This statement offers you another chance to demonstrate your writing ability to the admissions committee. You can also present more information about yourself than would otherwise be available on the application. Explain anything about your education, experience, and background that makes you unique, and would contribute to your success as a law student. Use specific examples to illustrate your claims, rather than making general assertions of interest that the committee probably hears from everyone. Write clearly and concisely, and organize your ideas according to some plan.

You may briefly explain any discrepancies or problem areas on your application or transcript. However, if these problems require more than a very brief mention, you should attach a separate page with an explanation. It is imperative that you honestly disclose any possible criminal history, including things like driving under the influence, or incidents addressed by campus security. If you are admitted to law school without fully disclosing your background, you may be refused admittance to the bar exam, and thus would be risking your entire career.

Plan to revise your personal statement repeatedly before submitting it, and pay close attention to page and word limits. Make sure that someone else proofreads your statement and your entire application packet. Every part of the application should be free from errors and neatly organized.

Recommendation Letters: You should try to have three letters of recommendation in your LSDAS file, even if some schools only request two. At least two of those letters should be written by professors who have seen your best work, and can communicate detailed information about your academic performance. The third letter may be another professor, or an employer or supervisor who knows your work well. Through LSDAS, you may designate certain letters as "targeted" to particular law schools. Do not seek recommendations from, for example, a lawyer you happen to know, unless that person has also been your employer or teacher, familiar with skills relevant to your academic performance. Remember that law school admissions committees are trying to determine how well you will succeed in the extremely academically challenging environment of law school.

As early as possible in the fall of your senior year, ask your prospective letter writers if they can write a strong letter for your law school application. Provide them with your academic resume, a copy or draft of your personal statement if feasible, and any other information which may help remind them of your specific academic performance (for example, a successful paper you wrote for their class, the name of their course and the term in which you took it). Consult the LSDAS for recommendation letter procedures, and make sure the recommenders understand how to complete the form and where to send their information. Follow up in the spring with your recommenders, and let them know the results of your application.

For more information, please contact the Pre-Law Advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences:

Dr. Carson Holloway, Department of Political Science, ASH 275, (402) 554-4862, cholloway@mail.unomaha.edu

Dr. Laura Grams, Department of Philosophy, ASH 205, (402) 554-2629, lgrams@mail.unomaha.edu