Preparing for Law School
- Letters of recommendation
- Character and fitness
- LSAC account
- Application process
- Prepare for the LSAT
- Writing Your Personal Statement
- Get Involved
1. It is never too soon to consider letters of recommendation.
Law school applications typically ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation. Letters that will carry the most weight will be from your professors who know you well and can speak to your critical thinking, oral and written communication skills, motivation, judgment, and maturity. Getting to know your professors during your undergraduate tenure will make this task much easier to accomplish and will allow your professor to write a letter that presents a much more vivid picture. Visit during office hours or ask questions after class and make it a point to build relationships with your academic community.
If you are a graduate and have been working, you should have a letter from your supervisor. Professional colleagues may serve as a reference, as well as mentors.
Do not wait until the last minute to ask for letters. Be respectful of your professors’ and supervisors’ time – they should not be expected to drop everything because you need the letters immediately. Also note, it takes approximately two weeks for CAS to process letters so allow yourself plenty of time to complete this step without creating a stressful situation.
Law schools want to see evidence of your academic ability. Most law schools do not consider a GPA below 3.0 competitive.
Once you graduate law school and apply to take your state bar exam, you are required to submit to an in-depth background check. Each state bar considers the character and fitness of every applicant prior to being admitted to practice law. While each state’s requirements vary, bar examiners are considering whether the applicant has an honest demeanor and good moral character necessary to represent clients and practice law in an ethical manner. As a result, most law school applications will ask for disclosure regarding any legal issues which may impact your admission to the bar. This includes legal matters such as a MIP (Minor in Possession) or a DUI. It also includes any disciplinary action while attending school, such as plagiarism or cheating on exams.
You must disclose any event which might have a bearing on your character and fitness from the standpoint of a law school admissions committee. In most cases, you may submit an addendum to provide an explanation. If you are in doubt, it is better to err on the side of disclosure on the application.
It is even better to have a clean record so you have nothing to explain.
The law school application process is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The LSAC administers the Law School Admission Test, oversees the Credential Assembly Service, collects your letters, and hosts the application websites for law schools.
Register with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for a Student Account. Your student account will enable you to register for the LSAT online, get your scores via e-mail, assemble credentials, and track your applications. Be sure to check out all the helpful information for prospective law students on the website. All ABA accredited law schools require the LSAT exam and most require the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through LSAC.
Typically you apply to law school one year before the fall you wish to attend:
- If you want to go to law school right after graduation, you will prep for the LSAT the summer after your third year (junior year), take the test in October, and apply to law school by the end of December.
- If you plan to take a year off after graduation, you will prep for the LSAT the summer after graduation, take the test in October and apply to schools by the end of December.
- If you've graduated and have been working for a while, it's the same timeline as a year off after graduation, but you have more flexibility in when to take the LSAT.
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test that is given four times per year. (June, October, December and February) In Montana, the test is administered at four locations around the state: Montana State University, the University of Great Falls, Carroll College in Helena and the University of Montana in Missoula. You must pre-register for the LSAT, walk-in registrations are not permitted.
For more information about test dates and deadlines or to register for the LSAT exam visit www.lsac.org.
The test has five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Multiple choice questions will assess reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. Four of the five sections are scored. The section not counted in your grade is used to test new questions. You will not know which section is unscored. Students complete a writing sample at the end of the test. The writing sample is not a part of your LSAT score but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply.
If you believe your test score is not an accurate reflection of your ability, for example you were ill when you took the test, you may want to take the test again.You may not take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period.
Your GPA and LSAT score are the two most important components of your law school application. Therefore, it is imperative that you take the time and effort to prepare for this exam.
The LSAT tests thinking skills rather than knowledge. The bad news is you can’t really study for the exam. However, the good news is that you can (and must) spend a significant amount of time preparing to take the exam. Preparation is the key to success on the LSAT.
There are numerous practice aids available for the LSAT. A visit to the MSU bookstore, a local bookstore or an online bookseller will give you a good idea of the resources available to assist you in preparing. You can also review sample tests.
Plan on a minimum of three months prep time to do practice questions and take timed tests. Take a timed practice test to set a baseline score from which you can gauge your progress and your strongest performance areas.
Set up a schedule, a time that you set aside to do practice questions daily without interruption. You should plan to spend 12 - 15 hours per week. Be disciplined about following whatever schedule you set up. Try to spend a longer practice session on the weekend or as your schedule allows..
You should expect to complete numerous timed practice tests over the course of your preparation. Try to simulate test conditions the best you can. Take breaks exactly as the test schedule permits.
Some students prefer to take prep courses. An internet search will reveal a selection of LSAT prep courses. This is a personal preference. Bear in mind, even if you do take a class, you will still have to put in prep time on your own.
Along with your GPA and LSAT, your personal statement is another critical piece of the application puzzle. Since most law schools do not conduct face-to-face interviews, you should treat the personal statement as your interview. This is your opportunity to communicate information about yourself beyond your GPA and LSAT scores that tells the committee who you are as an individual. Accordingly, you should plan to spend a great deal of time in preparing your statement.
When writing your personal statement, consider that the committee will read your statement only once, and most likely somewhat quickly given the number of applications a school receives. Therefore, it is important to write a memorable piece that quickly catches, and keeps, the reader’s attention. Law school admissions committees are human, and like most people, appreciate a well-written narrative.
Plan on writing several drafts of your personal statement. Regardless of how many times you proofread, always have one or more proofreaders review your personal statement prior to submitting. Your personal statement should be error-free, grammatically correct and contain proper punctuation. Spell-check is not a substitute for careful proofreading.
The MSU Writing Center can assist you in writing your personal statement.
The pre-law advisor is also available to review your personal statement.
Your resume should document all of your significant work and educational experiences in chronological order. It should highlight your unique experiences and show that you are a well-rounded individual. Be certain to include your leadership experiences, academic awards, writing achievements, sports accomplishments, cultural interests, language abilities, and travel experiences. If gaps exist, consider addressing them in an addendum. Consider scheduling an appointment with Career Services to review your resume.
Law schools want students who not only excel in the classroom but who have a variety of interests beyond their academic pursuits. Pursue your hobbies, interests and passions.Volunteer and join student organizations to gain real-world experience and give back to your community. The Office of Student Engagement can help you find experiences that are right for you.