How to Choose and Apply to Law School
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC for short) is a nonprofit, membership organization composed of all ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. LSAC provides many services to the member schools, including the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Students register for the LSAT and apply to all law schools through the LSAC website.
LSAC also hosts many free resources that are centered around helping students apply to law school: including free practice tests, forums to learn about different schools, LSAT study prep and tips, financial aid and scholarship information, and more. They also sponsor multiple different programs intent on making legal education more accessible to more people, such as LawReady, Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS), and more. It is in your best interest to familiarize yourself with all of the resources that LSAC has to offer, as it might benefit you and your applications later on.
LSAC also provides the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which is a centralized system that combines all of your application materials and generates Law School Reports. In short, the CAS summarizes all information from your academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and your LSAT scores and sends them to your selected law schools on your behalf.
The CAS costs $195, and you can apply for fee waivers here. After all of your data is assembled, the CAS generates what are called Law School Reports. Ordering these and sending them off to your schools costs an additional $45 per school, so make sure to factor this number in when considering how many schools you are applying to. After making an LSAC account and purchasing the CAS, you will then be able to add law schools to your list and begin your applications. The site is very user-friendly, but for a demo of this site and where everything is located, please consult this Zoom webinar where I walk you through everything.
How to Choose a Law School:
There are several factors to consider when deciding which law schools to apply to. The biggest piece of advice to maintain is that admissions are a two-way street. Not only is a law school evaluating you, but you should be evaluating them in return! Ensuring that the law school you decide on is the best fit for you is paramount to your overall success. Below are some factors to consider when navigating this process.
This is a good factor to keep in mind when beginning your search. Evaluate schools within a feasible location—that will narrow down the pool considerably. Are you limited to any particular city? Can you live at home to save money?
Another reason to consider a specific location is employment. Law schools typically have very close ties to the firms and employment opportunities in the area. For instance, New York schools are going to have closer relationships with firms in the New York area, vs. the D.C. area. Although it might be tough to think so far into the future, if you have an idea of where you might want to practice law, you should factor that into your list.
It is no secret that law school is expensive. Before you even begin to determine the where, it might be more prudent to start with the how. Loans, familial assistance, and scholarships are all ways that students finance their legal education. You also might even want to consider part-time programs so that you can work while you go to school.
Law schools do offer financial aid: both merit and need based. For the former, there are both external scholarships that you can apply for, as well as ones that are bestowed by the school. Some require separate applications, but some you are automatically considered for.
Law schools are required to disclose relevant data about each year’s admission class. These reports are known as Standard 509 Disclosures. Financial aid, enrollment and ethnicity, tuition fees, class size, and more are all included in this report. If you are curious as to how much financial aid and scholarships a school gives out each year, these disclosures provide an accurate piece to the admissions puzzle to help factor into your decisions.
Another aspect to consider is the percentage of students that graduate from law school and have a job in the legal profession lined up within six months of graduation. These stats are also published in the 509 Disclosures. Law school is quite expensive and time-consuming, so you want to ensure that your time is well spent post-graduation.
As you may know, in order to become a practicing attorney in the US, all prospective lawyers must pass the Bar Exam in the state they wish to practice law in. A notoriously difficult exam, you also want to ensure that the school that you choose is setting you up with the tools necessary for success in order to pass the Bar so that you may continue your employment. A school’s bar passage rates can affect their ranking, so your school in question will also want to ensure that you are as prepared as possible.