Applying to Law School | College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Applying to Law School

I) Conduct research about the best law school for you

Reputation - The prestige of your law school may open doors (or limit options) when you graduate. This is particularly true if you don't know where, geographically, you want to end up afterwards. Keep in mind, however, that prestige often costs a lot. For certain types of practices (such as family law), the prestige of your law school will matter considerably less and may not be worth the premium tuition you might pay. This is a good conversation to have with your pre-law advisor.

Cost - Declaring bankruptcy after you graduate tends to inhibit brilliant legal careers! While there are some great loan repayment programs out there, you still want to be mindful of your debt load. Again, your sensitivity to cost may depend on the type of legal career you want to have. No matter how much money you might make after law school, though, less debt is always nice. Consider schools where you will be an exceptionally strong candidate and from which you may end up getting a sizeable scholarship offer. Be sure to consider the cost of living in the area in which the law school is located; you won't just be paying tuition, so you have to think about the overall cost of attendance.

Keep Options Open - Consider applying to several law schools both in-state and out-of-state. Law schools are looking for diversity in their classes. While local law schools may receive lots of applications from UNT students, more far-flung law schools may see you as a bit of a novelty. That said, under no circumstances should you apply to a law school that you have no intentions of attending if accepted.

Clinical Programs/Specialties - All law schools cover the basics of the law, and you can practice any type of law with a degree from any law school. However, you may want to look at the clinical programs, certificates, and programs offered by individual law schools. If you are particulary interested in intellectual property law, for example, a school with a program in that field will offer a lot of courses that may be exciting for you and connections to the types of firms in which you want to practice. The "Book of Lists" (link located on the Resources page of this website) provides a nearly comprehensive list of specialities and programs.

II) Take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is offered four times each year: in June, September/October, December or February. You should plan to take the test, if possible, at least one year prior to your admission to law school. As a practical matter, the December test is often the Saturday before UNT offers final exams, so it may not be a good option for you.

Increasingly, law schools are refusing to accept February scores for the following academic year. Be sure to check with the law schools where you are applying to confirm when you need to take the LSAT. Also, be sure to sign up early since the testing locations fill up quickly.

III) Write a Personal Statement

Your personal statement (a.k.a. application essay) may be the first document you will write where you are an advocate. You should advocate why your law school of choice should choose you! The most important thing to consider in writing your personal statement is to think about what distinguishes you from the other thousands of individuals who are also applying to law school. You want admissions panels to remember you. Telling the committee that you have "always wanted to be a lawyer" will not distinguish you from the other candidates.

Your statement should illustrate interesting aspects of your life, any ways that you have overcome obstacles, and why your experiences will add to the unique group of individuals that have decided to study at any particular law school. The admissions committee will be looking closely at your ability to be imaginative, informative, creative, and coherent. This is the strongest opportunity you have in your application to give yourself human form beyond the numbers and statistics that typify the application process. Be sure to be enthusiastic and positive about your life experiences. Even in difficult and troubled times, there are lessons that you have learned about yourself which contribute to who you are as a person.

The statement should have some sort of theme that ties each of your key points together. Do not duplicate information that appears somewhere else in your application. Your personal statement is an opportunity to expand on some interesting part of your life. Be sure to talk to your friends and family about ideas for your personal statement theme.

In addition to your personal statement, you will want to prepare a resume describing your career and academic accomplishments. The UNT Career Center can help you prepare your resume.

Finally, you will have the opportunity to submit "addenda" with your application. If you have bumps and bruises on your record, you may want to use a short addendum to explain what happened (for example, "my sophomore grades do not represent me as a student because . . . "). If you have a "character and fitness" issue (a criminal record, history of conduct violations, or past allegation of academic integrity), you will need to disclose this on your applications and provide a statement explaining what happened, what you learned, and why it will never happen again. Read these application questions carefully to determine what needs to be disclosed. While most of these "issues" will not keep you out of law school, the failure to disclose something--even something relatively minor--may be grounds for action by the law school later or prevent you from sitting for the bar. When in doubt, disclose.

Your pre-law advisor can help you brainstorm and refine these documents.

IV) Request Letters of Recommendation

Typically you will only need two letters of recommendation, though you may be able to submit more. Every law school is different, and you should check each school to ensure that you are following their instructions. Law schools look negatively on persons who have not followed the instructions for their admissions process. If a law school only wants two letters, then you should only submit two.

Generally, at least one of your letters should be from someone who can speak knowledgably about your academic ability: a professor. If you have been out of school for at least five years, it is acceptable to have letters from individuals outside of academics. You want letters from people who can speak to your analytical and critical reasoning skills, your problem-solving skills, your communication skills, and your character. If you have ever held supervisory positions, or jobs of responsibility, law schools are very interested in receiving letters from people you worked with in those positions.

You want to ask for letters from people you feel confident will write you a good letter of recommendation. For professors, choose those from whom you received an "A.". If you had the same professor for more than one course, and did well in those courses, that professor is ideal.

Don't be tempted to go for letters from "fancy" people. If you interned in a Senator's office, you should get your letter from your supervisor rather than the Senator. The writer's knowledge of you is more important than their position of influence. However, letters from personal friends, family members, and spiritual advisors are not appropriate.

Give your letter-writers plenty of notice (at least four weeks) before you need their letters.

V) Apply to Law Schools

Information on applying to law school from the Law School Admissions Council can be found here. You will have to sign up with LSAC and register for their Credential Assembly Service. You will send all of your application materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) to LSAC. When it is time to submit applications, you'll log in to LSAC.org, access your account, choose a school from a drop-down menu, complete their one-page application, attach your materials, and hit "submit."

Be sure to pay attention to the application deadlines and requirements of individual law schools. It is your responsibility to know these dates and abide by the rules.

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