preLaw - Winter 2011 - 4
Law school applicants
look past poor economy
Two recent surveys show that the economy is increasing the number of law school applicants, and that letters of recommendation are the biggest application killers. BY MICHELLE WEYENBERG
wo recent surveys show that the tion would be $75,000 to $100,000, while gloomy job market is not scar- 29 percent expect $100,000 to $145,000. ing away law school applicants — But 50 percent of law school graduates curin fact, it’s driving more people to law rently earn less than $62,000. school. Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law proMore than 80 percent of current appli- grams for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, cants said they would still apply said law school admissions has taken to law school even if a a roller coaster ride in the last significant number of ber couple of years with the law school graduates uates incredible uptake in peoincredib were unable to ple ta taking the LSAT find jobs, accordand then applying to ing to a survey law school. by Veritas Prep Law school Admissions applications are a Research expected to cone in partnertinue to climb, t ship with according to a a MORE THAN 80 PERCENT Law School Kaplan K survey of current applicants said they would still Podcaster. which shows that wh apply to law school even if a significant The sur56 percent of admisp number of law school graduates were vey of 100 law w sions officers predict unable to find jobs. school applicants nts an increase in applicaincr shows that 12 percent tions this year. Only 6 ercent thi said they would postpone percent predict a decrease. pred applying until placement rates lacement Seventy-five percent say the lagperce improved, and only 4 percent said they ging effects of the recession are responsible would not apply to law school. for the recent and predicted application Fourteen percent of respondents said increases. parental support will help them finance their degree, and only 54 percent said A warning about letters affordability played a role in their law of recommendation school selection process. “So, despite all of the chatter these days Aspiring lawyers need to be more careabout runaway student loan burdens, it ful about who they call as their own seems that the majority of those who do character witnesses for their law school apply just accept the high costs of life,” recommendations. Nearly 90 percent of Veritas Prep surveyors stated. law school admissions officers report they But law school applicants may be hop- have received a negative letter of recoming to make more money than they likely mendation about an applicant, according will — 44 percent of respondents said a to a survey of admissions officers by Kaplan reasonable desired base salary upon gradua- Test Prep and Admissions. Fifteen percent 4
report that a poor letter of recommendation is actually the biggest application killer. “While your LSAT score and GPA are by far the most important factors in your application, letters of recommendation do factor in, and what these results show us is that students need to be much more self-aware about who they choose to advocate for them in their applications,” said Howard Bell, executive director of pre-law programs for Kaplan. “First rule: Do no harm. Only ask for recommendations from people who like you personally and think highly of you.” Thomas said there are many common misconceptions about the letter of recommendation. Most importantly, he said, is to find individuals who know you well and can speak with a great level of detail about your character and accomplishments. “Often students look for people with a great name,” Thomas said. But these people end up not necessarily knowing the applicant well enough to detail it in a letter. “It’s the connection to law that makes the letter strong. All you need to find is people who know you well and can speak well of you. [They do] not have to have any connection to the law whatsoever.” Still, 64 percent of admissions officers report that an applicant’s LSAT score is the most important admission factor. GPA placed second with 23 percent. The Kaplan survey also reports that 73 percent of admissions officers have discovered claims on an applicant’s application to be “exaggerated or untrue.” And 84 percent of admissions officers say those who claim the undergraduate school as their alma mater have no advantage in the admissions process over applicants who do not.