Getting Started

If you are just beginning to think about law school, the following questions may be among the many on your mind.

For additional information about the law school application process, click on the links below.

Once you have made your decision that law school is indeed something you will want to pursue, you will need to begin the law school application process.

Most law schools have a variety of application requirements and deadlines that you must meet to be considered for admission. If you are applying to a number of schools, the various deadlines and requirements can be confusing. It probably will be helpful if you set up a detailed calendar that will remind you of when and what you must do to complete your applications.

The first step is preparation for the LSAT. There are a number of ways to prepare, but you may want to begin by taking a sample test under simulated conditions. When you are ready, you can also purchase previously administered tests for practice, which is probably the best way to get ready for the actual test.

Once you begin the application process in earnest?which usually begins with registering to take the test?you will need to register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). You may want to register for this service at the same time that you register for the test to simplify the paperwork, but you don't have to. The important thing is to understand that this service will compile your academic and biographical information, as well as your test score, for the law schools to which you apply.

You may register for the test online or by phone or by mail. LSDAS registration is available online or by mail.

In registering for the LSAT, be sure to give yourself enough time to select a convenient testing location and prepare for the test. You also should determine whether each law school in which you are interested will accept scores from the February LSAT administration, which is the last test date in each admission cycle.

You also will want to give some thought to which law schools you might be interested in attending. There are many things to consider when choosing a law school and many ways to go about researching the information. One way to begin is to attend a Law School Forum. The best source of information on law schools is the law schools themselves.

Finally, review carefully the LSAT/LSDAS Checklist to make sure that minor details are not forgotten.

Where can I go for advice?

Prelaw advisors at undergraduate institutions are a good source of information about law school. If you are considering law school, you should introduce yourself to a prelaw advisor as soon as possible. If you are not currently enrolled at a university, you can locate your prelaw advisor by contacting your undergraduate degree-granting school.

How do I prepare for a law school education?

Law schools want students who can think critically and write well, and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human experience. These attributes can be acquired in any number of college courses, whether in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, or the natural sciences.

An undergraduate career that is narrowly based or vocationally oriented may not be the best preparation for law school. As long as you receive an education including critical analysis, logical reasoning, and written and oral expression, the range of acceptable college majors is very broad. What counts is the intensity and depth of your undergraduate program and your capacity to perform well at an academically rigorous level.

What does a legal education cover?

Although you may choose from several different paths to a good legal education, whether the law school you choose is public or private, large or small, faith-related or independent, or affiliated with a university, you'll find that the basic curriculum focuses on certain legal skills required of all lawyers.

A legal education is designed to develop your analytical, creative, and logical reasoning abilities. Going to law school will also strengthen your reading and debating skills.

Lawyers must know how to analyze legal issues in light of the constantly changing state of the law and public policy. They must be able to advocate the views of individuals and diverse interest groups within the context of the legal system. They must be able to synthesize material that relates to multifaceted issues. They must give intelligent counsel on the law's requirements. Moreover, lawyers must write and speak clearly and be able to persuade and negotiate effectively.

Is there a standard law school curriculum?

Not exactly. But in nearly every state, graduation from an ABA-approved law school is required for admission to the bar. Each ABA-approved law school provides basic training in American law sufficient to qualify its graduates to take the bar examination in all states. Most law schools require three years of full-time attendance, or four years of part-time study, if a part-time program is offered. Although law schools differ in the emphasis they give to certain subjects and in the degree to which they provide opportunities for independent study and clinical experience, nearly all law schools have certain basic similarities. Most law schools rely on the case method approach to teaching. First-year curricula usually include courses in civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and criminal procedure, legal methods, legal writing and research, property law, and torts.

Most law schools share a common approach to the task of training lawyers. Many emphasize particular teaching methods, placing students in legal internships for academic credit, or using government or legal resources of a surrounding community. A number of schools have developed specialized programs of instruction combining law with other disciplines such as business, public administration, international relations, science, and technology.

Who is applying to law school?

For Fall 2007, about 26 percent of all law school applicants were 22 years old or younger; about 38 percent were 23 to 25; and about 19 percent were between ages 26 and 29. Applicants who were 30 to 34 years old made up about 8 percent of the applicant pool, while 9 percent were over 34 years old.

A growing number of women began to apply to America's law schools beginning in the early 1970s, when only 10 percent of all law students were women. Currently, nearly one-half of all applicants are women.

For Fall 2007, there were over 84,000 applicants of which almost 24,300 were minority applicants. The proportion of all applicants who identified themselves as being from a specific minority group has been relatively stable over the past 10 years at between 27 percent to 29 percent of the total applicant pool. And, the number of minority applicants has nearly tripled over the past 22 years.

How can I find out more about law schools?

Look widely and inquire carefully. You really cannot spend too much time or effort gathering and studying information on law schools. Select the law schools to which you will apply only after reviewing the admission material available from each law school on your list of possibilities.

Visit law school websites or write to law schools for their bulletins, catalogs, or other materials that include complete and current information. A complete list with addresses for all LSAC-member schools in the US and Canada is included here.

Consult your college prelaw advisor. Undergraduate institutions with prelaw advisors or career counselors encourage students and alumni to contact them for assistance?even if you have been out of school for a number of years.

Visit law schools. You can learn a great deal by talking with students and faculty members, and by visiting classes. Talk to alumni of the schools, preferably a recent graduate or one who is active in alumni affairs.

Attend a free LSAC law school forum. Law school forums are excellent opportunities to talk with law school representatives from around the country in one central urban location.

For law school contact information you may visit the law school links area of this website or you can access the ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

How do I choose a law school?

For some people, the choice of which law school to attend is an easy one. Applicants tend to select the schools they perceive to be the most prestigious or those which offer a program of particular interest, or the greatest amount of financial support. Some need to stay in a particular area perhaps because of family or job obligations, and will choose nearby schools with part-time programs.

However, the majority of applicants will have to weigh a variety of personal and academic factors to come up with a list of potential schools. Once you have a list, and more than one acceptance letter, you will have to choose a school. Applicants should consider carefully the offerings of each law school before making a decision. The quality of a law school is certainly a major consideration; however, estimations of quality are very subjective.

You should consider the size, composition, and background of the student body as well as the location, size, and nature of the surrounding community. Remember that the law school is going to be your home for three years. Adjusting to law school and the general attitudes of a professional school is difficult enough without the additional hardship of culture shock. Don't choose a law school in a large city if you can't bear crowds, noise, and a fast pace. And, if you've lived your entire life in an urban environment, can you face the change you will experience in a small town? You also may want to ask yourself if you are already set in an unshakable lifestyle or if you are eager for a new environment.

Other significant factors are the particular strengths or interests of the faculty, the degree to which clinical experience or classroom learning is emphasized, the nature of any special programs offered, the number and type of student organizations, the range of library holdings, and whether a school is public or private. You may wish to consider a school with a strong minority recruitment, retention, and mentoring program, or one with an active student organization for students of your particular ethnic background.

At any rate, you should actually select more than one law school where you think you could succeed. Today, the average applicant applies to four or more schools.