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Applying to law school requires a
significant amount of research. You should
plan on spending several weeks investigating
the potential schools to which you intend to
apply. Each law school has its own
application forms as well as
institutional-specific criteria for
admission. Most charge an application fee
and have specific deadlines for the
submission of application materials. More
importantly, the overall cost of attending
law school (tuition, board, living expenses,
etc.) varies greatly.
Step 1: Research the Options
There are many factors to consider and you
must determine which factors are most
important given your unique situation. In
general, however, there are some common
factors that should be considered in
selecting law schools.
Factors to Consider:
that beyond tuition you have to take into account the cost
of room and board, expected living expenses for that
location, and additional costs like study aides and books.
Consider too the reputation of the law school in relation to
the expense. Most law schools disclose information on
placement statistics - the rates at which their graduates
pass the bar exam and average alumni salaries. It is highly
recommended that you fully assess your financial situation
and prepare for the management of debt in selecting a law
school. Remember that full time study and the necessity of
doing well in law school will limit your ability to engage
in additional employment.
Availability of financial
assistance: Scholarships for law school are generally few
and very competitive, but some schools do have scholarships,
grants or assistance programs like federal work-study.
Contact the individual schools for a complete listing of
available financial aid. You may also want to contact the
schools' career development offices for information on paid
research, part-time and/or summer employment opportunities.
Most law schools recommend that first year students not hold
any outside employment and emphasize that it is unrealistic
for students to work more than 20 hours a week while in the
J.D. program. Many students rely on federal or private loan
options to finance their legal education. Always research
the conditions and terms of a student loan. Thinking ahead
about the financial ramifications of your choice is sound
Admission criteria: When debating schools keep
in mind that the criteria on which each institution bases
admission will differ. In other words, there is no uniform
formula. Some schools have pre-determined standards for
eligibility (i.e. a minimum LSAT result). Thus, these
schools will not even consider applicants who do not meet
the minimum criteria. Remember that there are typically
hundreds of students applying for a single slot and the
strength of your application may be judged relative to other
applicants. Not all schools make immediate decisions; rather
they will grant admission to some students, placing others
on a "waiting list" for admission. The standards for
admission and decision making policy should be stated in the
schools' admission catalogs. For official clarification
consult that institution's admissions office. Although the
formula will be different for each, schools typically base
their admissions decisions on some combination of the
G.P.A. (Grade point Average)
Letters of Recommendation
Admission Letter/Personal Essay (written statements by
the student which accompanies his or her application)
Class ranking and College attended
Background and experience (or strength of the applicant)
Extra-curricular, professional and leadership activities
Citizenship, race or ethnicity
You should assess the probability of your being admitted
to this school based upon a realistic assessment of your
academic record and test scores. The goal should be to
identify institutions that best meet your needs and offer a
fair probability of admittance.
Law School Ranking/Reputation: The American Bar
Association (ABA) is responsible for granting accreditation
to law schools and is a good source of information regarding
the curriculum and facilities of approved law schools. The
LSAC also offers an "Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools."
There are numerous alternative rankings of law schools and
these various guides are typically available in the legal
section of most bookstores. Additionally, publications such
as Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report offer annual
evaluations of law schools. There is no single, agreed upon
ranking system. Law schools do, however, have established
reputations. Generally speaking, the "better" the school,
the more competitive the admissions standards. Beyond the
reputation and ranking of a school, consider the factors
that are most important to you, including class size,
faculty access and faculty to student ratios.
Program Specialities: Many law schools offer
concentrations or special programs in specific areas of the
law (such as environmental law or criminal justice).
Additionally, many schools allow students to pursue joint
degrees (such as a joint J.D./M.A. or J.D./Ph.D.) or
advanced legal degrees such as the LL.M. (Masters of Law).
Some institutions offer part-time enrollment, evening
classes or clinical programs which may be attractive.
Depending on your goals or interests, your decision may
include schools that match your areas of interest or desired
expertise or which allow program flexibility.
Location: A very basic consideration should be the
location of the school. Out-of-state tuition increases the
cost of a legal education and location will affect
associated expenses as well (i.e. travel and cost of
living). For some individuals, the environment will strongly
influence the overall experience. You may also want to
consider long-term plans. Many students opt to study law in
the state in which they plan to take the bar.
Other Factors of Importance: Because every situation is
unique, there may be additional factors for consideration.
Try to identify all of the factors that matter specifically
to you. Take the time to look for schools which meet your
most important criteria.
Where to Obtain Information About Individual Law
Official Guides to Law Schools: There are commercial
publications which distill relevant information such as the
location, size, admission criteria, application fees,
program specialities and pass rates (the percentage of
graduating students who passed the bar exam). There are
several publishers that offer these guides and are available
through most bookstores. Additionally, many guides have a
companion cd-rom version which includes the admission forms
for each school.
Online: Virtually all law schools have web sites which
include basic information and online admission
information/materials. Most of these can be found via a name
search using any commercial search engine (i.e. Yahoo! or
Excite). You may also want to try www.LSAC.org (the Law
School Admission Center) for links to law schools and law
school guides which are available for purchase.
Writing to the Law School: You may also call or write the
law school directly to request admissions catalogs and
materials. Contact with a school, whether in person or by
phone, is a good way to get a better "feel" for the place.
Consider too visiting the school or talking directly with an
admissions counselor as a way to obtain more information
about a particular institution.
Ask Around: Talk to individuals who have gone to
law school. Check the alumni registry of your undergraduate
college for names of individuals who have attended a
particular school. Ask the admissions officers whether their
school provides any contact sources for prospective
Department of History and Government: Daemen's Department
of History & Government has a number of admissions catalogs
from various schools available in the department's suite
area (Room 235 Duns Scotus Hall). The Department's pre-law
advisor will also have copies of the LSAC's "Official Guide
to U.S. Law Schools" and "Law School Directory" available
for student research. The Department will continue to make
available new and updated catalogs and materials for student
Step 2: Choosing the Schools to Which To Apply
It is recommended that you narrow your choice of law
schools based on your particular situation. Begin by
identifying schools which meet YOUR selection criteria. When
it comes time to submit applications, remember that each
application takes time and there is usually a fee (anywhere
from $15.00 to $90.00, depending on the school).
It is highly recommended that you apply to a range of
schools. Even if you have your heart set on a particular
school you should give yourself options and prepare for the
possibility that you will not be admitted to your first
choice. Most students apply to 6-12 schools as a way of
increasing the probability of gaining admittance.
You may want to prioritize and divide your final
selection into tiers. Include one or two schools that
reflect your "dream choices." You should not necessarily
avoid applying simply because you recognize admission is a
"long shot." You should, however, concentrate your efforts
on solid choices. The bulk of your applications, in other
words, should be to schools that are a strong match for your
criteria and record and for which you have a realistic
chance of admission. You should also apply to one or two
lower tier or "safety schools" (schools which would not be
your first choice but to which you know you have a high
probability gaining admittance). Step 3: Submitting the
All schools have their own individual application forms,
requirements for material to be submitted, and deadlines for
submission. IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU MAKE A SCHEDULE
OF APPLICATION DEADLINES AND REQUIREMENTS. Failure to have a
complete file to the school by the specified date will
result in your automatic rejection. You must therefore keep
close track of what information the schools require and the
deadlines for submission of those materials.