Whether you’re planning on becoming a paralegal, an attorney, a judge, or a politician, the long journey to law school should start as early as possible.
Getting through law school requires dedication, mental and physical endurance, organization, a mind like a steel trap, and excellent coping strategies.
If you’re the kind of person with those attributes, getting into law school shouldn’t be too difficult.
Still, let’s go through the process every step of the way, from undergrad to application.
Are You Sure You Want to Go to Law School?
It might seem like a silly question, but you’d be surprised how often people run full-speed into ambitions they haven’t fully thought out or researched yet.
Law school is difficult – everyone knows that, of course.
And there’s no question that attorney is a well-paying job: the salary averages from $75,000 to $176,000, with some outliers on the high and lower end of the spectrum.
Obviously, there are lawyers who end up making a lot more than that.
But it isn’t a winning lotto ticket.
On top of that, it’s an extremely difficult job that involves more tedious paperwork than exciting court room drama.
However, if you’ve done all of the research and couldn’t be happier with your career choice, then it’s time to ask the question:
“Google, tell me how to get into law school?”
What to Study in College
So, you’re a pre-law student, ready to slash through your undergraduate degree and get into law school.
Unfortunately, not all undergraduate work is created equal in the eyes of law school admissions. While there is no technical reason you can’t get your degree in communications or liberal arts, law school admissions officers are generally looking for something that has challenged the student, to show that they can handle a heavy workload.
Why You Should Avoid Getting a Pre-Law Degree
That’s also why you should avoid getting a degree in pre-law, despite it seeming counterintuitive. You’d think more law-knowledge would be better, but that’s not always the case. Because pre-law is widely considered to be a fairly easy degree, it could hurt your chances at getting into law school.
Other Courses to Consider
Consider, instead, what kind of law you intend on practicing, or what kind of businesses you’d like to work for. If you’re interested in intellectual property law for chemistry and science, or a career as a pharmaceutical lawyer, getting a degree in a scientific field could be of immense help. Plus, because science degrees are often considered challenging, you’ll score extra points when trying to get into law school.
Political science is a popular choice for a reason – many lawyers plan on eventually going into politics, through legislative, executive, or judicial branches.
Engineering is also a pre-law major that could do wonders for your application – it’s considered one of the hardest degrees, plus if you’re going into any law involving architecture or technology it would be a huge boon.
The amount of writing, reading, and evaluation and interpretation involved in law makes an English degree an excellent choice. You’ll be better at forming arguments, understanding what you read, thinking critically about understanding complex issues, and even learning a little more about what makes people tick.
History is another popular choice – a lot of the legal game is about knowing your history, things like precedents and landmark cases. There are also a lot of facts and dates to remember, alongside deep analysis, which is a perfect combination of skills for any would-be lawyer.
Economics and Finance
Financial and economic degrees can be ideal for students who plan to go into tax law. Plus, they can both be complicated and challenging majors, which as we’ve discussed, looks good on the application.
Philosophy tends to have an extremely high law school acceptance rate (86% of applicants with a philosophy degree were accepted according to recent number). No one is quite sure why this number is so high compared to other majors, but many presume it has something to do with a combination of factors. Philosophy is generally considered a difficult degree with a lot of work, plus it prepares you for critical thinking, logical assessment, and having an elastic mind.
Others think it may be correlation with causality. Philosophy is generally considered an elite degree in the intellectual community and may simply be drawing more intelligent people to it that would then have less trouble getting into law school. Or, that because it’s viewed as an elite degree by law school admissions officers, it may be simply a self-perpetuating cycle.
When it comes to questions of “how to get into law school,” it’s great to have extra-curricular activities on your resume. It’s not great to have a hundred extra-curricular activities on your resume.
You want to look good, of course, but you don’t want to look like you either can’t make up your mind, have no interests, or have trouble committing to something.
Essentially, more is not always better.
Is there a local political candidate or officer you agree with and admire? A mayor, selectman, Congressman, or Sheriff?
Consider signing on to their campaign and helping in any way you can. If you intended to have a future in politics it’s great experience, plus you never know when you can make connections that will aid you down the line.
Obviously, any charitable organization that is well known and vetted is going to be an excellent choice. Also, don’t be afraid to stay domestic.
While taking an international trip to a disaster area or 3rd world country can be good for the spirit, it’s not going to look as good on a resume as volunteering once a week at the local shelter. One of those international trips lasts a few days, maybe a week – it’s a big commitment, yes, but it’s a one-time commitment that can look like a last-minute admissions grab.
Instead, think of what you can do and where you can volunteer in your local area, and then make it a regular habit. If you can build up a 2-4-year habit at your organization or location of choice, it’s going to help with your law school admission more than one trip to Venezuela.
Intern or Work at a Law Office
Interning for a law firm – or just getting an entry-level job in one – will help you prepare for a law career in a number of ways.
You’ll gain a more solid understanding of the job, you’ll know what it’s like to be in the trenches, and you’ll already be building your resume for when it comes time to leave law school.
Plus, for admissions officers, it shows your commitment to the profession.
Choosing a Law School
Consider the main three factors when choosing a college – budget, location, and reputation.
- Budget: Search out any and all scholarships you qualify for or think you might be able to qualify for with some effort. There are online tools to help you find scholarships that match your situation, so don’t be afraid to do a little searching.
- Location: Obviously, this is going to depend on your lifestyle, family, friends, preference, and finance once again. If you’ve got a good home situation, take a look at something nearby – it’s going to save you a lot of grief.
- Reputation: Don’t be afraid to look up rankings and career placement statistics for any potential law schools. Don’t pay a lot of money for an education that isn’t proven to help you.
LSAT Test and LSAT Prep
The LSAT is the “Law School Admission Test,” and will be vital for your acceptance into law school.
More than your GPA and your extra-curriculars, the LSAT will be the #1 indicator to law school admissions.
Don’t rush into the LSAT – take as long as you need to prep.
Practice tests are a good idea, as are tutors, and reaching out to people have already taken the test and excelled. There are even programs that guarantee a score increase, which is a pretty bold claim that’s worth at least looking in to.
There are even classes you can take that specifically prep you for the LSAT test. Check out your local area and find any courses or tutors who can guide you through the entire process and get you ready for one of the most important tests of your career.
A Few Basics for Applying to Law School
First, you’ll need to put together a resume. This will include any jobs you’ve had (as usual), but it will also include awards and honors (academic or otherwise), and the degrees you’ve earned thus far.
Then, make sure to gather as many letters of recommendation from reputable and respected sources. Having a good relationship with your teachers is key here, so don’t neglect it. If you worked at a law firm, see if you can get a letter from a partner or other higher-up.
Then, of course, there’s the personal statement. It’s essentially a cover letter, letting you inject your voice and personality into an otherwise dry package.
Don’t neglect the personal statement – it’s what’s going to make you feel real, to separate you from the pack.
The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of How to Get into Law School
As you can see, the answer to “how to get into law school” is by itself a 4-5-year process that is better started as soon as possible.
To break it all down, anything that’s challenging, that makes you a better person, that teaches you to think critically, and demands a strong work ethic, is going to help you get into law school.
And of course, don’t neglect the personal touch.
Make friends wherever you go and cultivate relationships with everyone around you. You never know what could throw you over the top.