- How do I know if law is right for me?
- What should I major in?
- What classes should I take?
- Do I have to have legal experience or work in a law firm to go to law school?
- What do I need to do to be a strong candidate for law school?
- When should I apply to law school?
- When should I take the LSAT?
The field of law is a varied one, both in terms of specializations and work environments. Some attorneys work in more traditional settings such as law firms and in the judiciary, while others work in corporate, government, and non-profit sectors. The decision to enter the field is a multi-faceted one and should not be done without serious consideration. To determine if law is a good career choice for you, consider the types of skills that would be needed for a successful career in law. The American Bar Association (ABA) cites the following list as core skills and values of the legal profession:
- Analytic / Problem Solving Skills
- Critical Reading
- Writing Skills
- Oral Communication / Listening Abilities
- General Research Skills
- Task Organization / Management Skills
- Public Service and Promotion of Justice
In addition, lawyers play a number of different roles in the lives of their clients. They may be called upon to act as counselor, advocate, and educator. Therefore, lawyers must also maintain a high degree of personal maturity, ethical responsibility, empathy, and professionalism. Although self-exploration is a necessary part of the decision to pursue a career in law, doing some career exploration by talking to those who have practiced in the field will greatly enhance your understanding of what it means to be a lawyer.
While your GPA and LSAT score will be key in determining where you are competitive for law school admissions, admissions committees will be conducting a holistic review of your entire application. You will qualify with such threshold items as your numbers, but you’ll want to involve yourself in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that will help to round out the picture. These include gaining professional work experience, embracing a service orientation, and developing leadership skills.
You are encouraged to gain some type of professional experience during your collegiate years. This can be done through internships and other part-time work experiences. Gaining this type of experience will communicate your maturity and professionalism to the admissions committee. You may also choose to get involved with student clubs or organizations to develop your leadership skills. You do not need to sign up for every organization in which you have some mild interest; be selective! Join organizations that you find compelling and in which you can see yourself taking an active role. Law schools would rather see an applicant be deeply involved in a few things than superficially involved in a “laundry list” of clubs. Because law is a service-oriented profession, having a penchant for serving your community is a great characteristic to showcase to law schools. You can do service projects through a club to which you belong, by contacting the Volunteer Emory office to find out about opportunities, or simply on your own.
If you intend to go to law school immediately after your undergraduate work, you should apply to law schools in the fall of your senior year. If you want to take time to work or partake of another type of experience before pursuing a legal education, you should apply in the fall prior to the year in which you intend to enroll (e.g. apply in fall 2016 to begin law school in fall 2017). You will not be less competitive by waiting to apply later versus applying as a senior. Whenever you choose to apply, it should be done at the time that’s right for you.
Ideally, you want to take the LSAT one time and do well. The best option for taking the LSAT is in the summer after your junior year (June administration), if you plan to apply as a senior. In addition to giving you the entire Spring semester to study, doing so will also give you the benefit of having a month to intensely prepare right before the exam without the distractions of schoolwork, once school ends in early May. If you take the June test and do not believe your score was truly reflective of your ability and opt to take the test a second time, you can do so without delaying your law school applications by taking the October test administration.
It is in your best interest to submit your law school applications by mid-November, if possible. Since most law schools work on the basis of “rolling admissions,” the earlier you submit your application, the better your chances for admission, especially at schools where you are not a numerically competitive. If you wait to take the October test as your first administration and you do not do as well as you wanted to, you will have to wait until the December test to retake the exam, should you choose to retake the exam. Doing this will delay review of your applications until schools receive your second score in early January. While it is still possible to be admitted at this timeframe, it is not ideal.