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Although this may be frustrating to some, there is no prescribed path towards law school. There are no specific majors that law schools suggest for their applicants. It is best to study something that you are interested in (you will also most likely do better if you are studying something that you have a legitimate interest in). Law schools generally do want to see you demonstrate excellent writing skills and reasoning skills, whether you do this through a writing-intensive major or through outside work.
If you are interested in a major that incorporates the study of law, Stanford does offer two tracks within two different undergraduate majors that have a particular focus on law: the Law and Legal System track in Public Policy and the History and Law track within the History major.
As stated above, there are no majors or classes that law schools require you to take. However, it is important to include coursework that demonstrates writing, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
It is unclear that logic classes help law school applicants. Some people claim that they help both in cultivating an analytical mind and, more specifically, in preparing the applicant for the logic games section of the LSAT. Others who have taken the logic classes say that they provided no particular help in either way.
One thing to keep in mind is that all applicants will need to ask for letters of recommendation. Taking seminar classes or research classes is one way to get to know a professor better and, more importantly, for the professors to get to know you better so they can write detailed recommendation letters.
Deciding to Apply
You must earn a bachelor’s degree (which must be completed before starting law school) and take the LSAT. Your law school application will also include letters of recommendation, a personal statement, resume and any other additional materials required by specific schools in addition to your LSAT score and transcript.
The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) is offered four times a year and it is widely believed that taking the test in the June before applying to Law School allows you the most time to work on your application. Your application will not be complete and won’t be reviewed until you take the LSAT, so taking it too late can put you at a disadvantage.
It is also important to note school-specific Early Decision and Early Action deadlines and plan to take the LSAT accordingly. There are various ways that students choose to prepare for the LSAT, including classes, private tutors, and studying by oneself.
An applicant can use an LSAT score that is several years old. Many law schools will accept LSAT scores that are less than five years old.
Keep in mind that people usually improve their LSAT scores a lot by spending a great deal of time preparing for them. The applicant should use her judgment in deciding when she’ll be able to best prepare for the LSAT—while in college, or during the gap year.
Many students do take some time after their undergraduate education before applying for law school, but it is not required. Law schools such as Michigan Law School, Harvard Law School, and Georgetown Law, report that approximately 30% of entering students are entering right after completing their undergraduate education, with a majority of the rest taking one to two years off. If you do choose to take time off, law schools will want to see how you made use of that time.
There is no specific type of work experience that will inherently raise one’s chances of getting into law schools. Different experiences shape people differently, though, and, more importantly, different experiences will fit differently into the applicants’ overarching life themes. Of course, the work should be rigorous. But the admissions officers will want the applicants to be able to explain their life choices (e.g., college major, work experience, extracurricular commitments) in a coherent narrative. The applicants should choose accordingly.
There are some common work experiences that successful law school applicants share. Many applicants commit to Teach for America for a few years; many take consulting jobs; and many take paralegal positions at law firms.
There are several components of the Law School application. These are:
No one of these is given priority over the others and if you are lacking in one area, law schools will want to see you make up for that in a different category.
Law schools will also take into account other factors such as extracurricular and curricular activities, work experience, and college attended.
One piece of conventional wisdom is that an applicant’s LSAT score and her academic record (GPA taken in the context of the applicant’s major, her potential graduate studies, her college, etc.) amounts to about 2/3 – 4/5 of her application. Some law schools will resist such a mechanistic formulation of their admissions standards, but others point out that such a formulation has been historically accurate in predicting admissions offers.
This of course depends. To get a sense of the admissions standards of the different law schools, you can browse the law school websites. Many of them will list the 25-50-75 percentile numbers (for LSAT and for GPA) of their accepted applicants. You can also email Kathy Wright (Pre-Law Advisor at Stanford) for admissions statistics of Stanford undergraduates.
You should also consider geographic location, law school size, and law school atmosphere.
It’s never too late to apply to law school—at least not inherently late. There are some people who come to law school after having a full career because they want to pivot to a different career. The law schools will of course want to know what the applicant has been doing since her undergraduate years, and will expect that the successful applicant is one who has been constantly challenging herself to meet her goals.
The choice should be made when there is sufficient information for the choice to be made. Humility is important. Almost every single undergraduate will not have enough information to commit to a specialization within law. Undergraduates will, at the very most, have justified interests in certain subfields—and these interests might come from their studies or their work experiences.
Law school graduates can, firstly, practice law in many different ways. They might join a firm. They might go straight into government—as an Assistant District Attorney, at the Justice Department, the State Department, etc. They might also join NGOs.
Many politicians are lawyers. Many businessmen are lawyers. I’m not sure how the study of law has helped them, but I imagine that a part of it is the skills you learn (in reading, thinking, and writing precisely) and the people you meet.
Law schools look primarily for letters of recommendation from individuals who can comment on your academic work and testify to your success in a rigorous academic environment. Such letters can best be written by those you interact with in an academic setting, such as professors and teaching assistants.
Below are several additional websites with in-depth answers to some additional frequently-asked-questions from the Deans of Admissions at several top law schools. The questions answered in each link are listed below the link: