preLaw - Spring 2017 - 54
H E LPFU L ADVICE
A year-by-year pre-law checklist
BY HillArY MAntiS
I recommend you join your school's Pre-Law Society, a campus
club that holds events related to law school admission. It's a good
group to get involved with because you will meet other pre-law
students and because you can add it
to your resume. Also, consider joining
your school's mock trial team. This is
a great way to learn about law and get
some early experience. Meanwhile, you
should try your best to get good grades,
even as a freshman, because law school
admission is focused on academic performance.
This is the year when you pick your
major at most schools. A pre-law
major is not necessary for law school.
If your college has a pre-law major,
feel free to major in it, but there's
absolutely no requirement to do so.
In my experience, the most popular
majors for law school include Political
Science, English, History, Economics,
Philosophy, Psychology, Business and Communications. But, you
can major in whatever you want to and still apply to law school.
Law school requires good writing, research and analytical skills.
When you get to law school, most of the first-year curriculum
consists of required courses, so enjoy the fact that you can choose
whatever major you want now. Continue to keep up your GPA,
and start to browse through the Law School Admission Council
(LSAC) website, www.lsac.org, for information about the LSAT
and law school.
By now, many college students have acquired enough credits to
qualify for legal internships. It's a good idea to do at least one during college. Many students don't really know what lawyers actually do. An internship will give you insights you may not be able
to obtain through coursework. Check with your school's Career
Services Office for internship listings.
Junior year is also when some students take the LSAT. Taking
it in June before your senior year allows you to get applications in
early in the fall of your senior year. This is an advantage, because
law schools have rolling admissions.
Allow at least six months to prepare for the LSAT. It often
takes that long to get the timing down and to feel confident
about the test. I wouldn't recommend taking it until you have
fully prepared. All scores are reported to the law schools, so they
will see your scores from every time you took the test. Most law
schools, however, will focus on your highest score when evaluating your file.
This is the big year for decisions about law school. If you are
going to law school right after
college, it's time to focus on your
applications. The early fall LSAT
is very popular with seniors. If you
haven't taken the LSAT yet, this is
a good time to take it.
When you get your LSAT score
back, you can make your list of
schools to apply to. The LSAC website has a great resource to help you
judge which law schools will most
likely accept you. Called the LSAC
Official Guide to ABA-Approved
Law Schools, it evaluates your GPA
and your LSAT score and lets you
know what your chances are. Your
list should contain several safety
schools that you are pretty sure you
would be accepted to, because you
want to have options. Also include
several mid-range schools and some reach schools.
Meet with your pre-law adviser, if you haven't done so already,
to discuss your list of potential schools. Advisers have knowledge
about various law schools, and can help if you are waitlisted or
if you have questions about scholarships.
After you get your acceptance letters, try to attend the admissions open houses at the schools that accepted you.
Even if you have decided to take a gap year, it's good to start
getting organized for law school during your senior year. Get
your faculty recommendations done before you graduate, and
create a timeline for when you will take the LSAT and ultimately
apply to law school.
HillArY MAntiS works with pre-law students, law
students and lawyers. She is director of the prepaw program at Fordham University and author of
"Alternative Careers for Lawyers." You can reach her at
"What should I be doing now?" is perhaps the most frequent question I hear from students.
Whether you are a freshman or a senior, you want to make sure
you are doing everything you can to prepare for law school. The
good news is that in general, law school does not have academic
prerequisites. But there are still many ways to prepare for success.
Here are some tips, broken down by year.