Tips for Future Applicants
Getting a head start on preparing for law school? Smart choice.
There’s not one perfect way to get you ready to study or practice law. Successful students and lawyers come from all educational backgrounds and professions. Law schools want to enroll a diverse group of incoming students, and wherever you come from, you’ll bring valuable insights into the classroom. Here are a few ways to maximize your experiences to get ready for the law.
Meet your pre-law advisor.
Most undergrad schools have an advisor who can help students (and alumni) to explore the law and prepare their applications. They can help you with:
- researching law schools
- exploring legal careers
- connecting with lawyers
- recommending classes
- developing your application materials
Maximize your coursework.
There’s no single undergrad major that will get you into law school. Sure, lots of incoming students are traditionally political science majors, but other common majors include pre-law history, English, and philosophy. Successful law students come from all educational backgrounds. Pick something that you can excel in, and challenge yourself. Undertaking valuable coursework is at least as important as which major you choose. Pick classes that develop your research abilities, writing skills, and analytic thinking processes. And get used to challenging yourself academically – legal education is a demanding process. End goal: obtaining the highest undergraduate GPA possible.
Get to know a lawyer.
If you want to practice law, it’s important to start meeting current practitioners. Build relationships with relatives, family friends, alumni of your undergraduate school, and employers. They can give you the lowdown on the challenges and rewards of the profession, how they got through law school, and how they balance a demanding career with a personal life.
It’s also valuable for you to job-shadow lawyers and sit in on court sessions so you’re aware of the daily realities of legal practice. You need to know if you’d actually enjoy legal practice before you undertake the considerable stress and expense of a legal education. However, remember that not everyone that goes to law school goes into practice or wants to practice, so if you are looking to utilize a law degree for a different purpose, touch base with professionals in the field that interests you so you can get an idea of how a law degree will benefit you.
Build core skills.
You’ll learn how to be a law student – and a lawyer! – once school begins. But there’s no time like the present to start thinking like a lawyer. Here are a few of the foundational abilities that will help you succeed in the law.
- Critical reading: You’ll need to read great quantities of text rapidly and with strong comprehension. Law school shouldn’t be the first time that you’re engaged in close reading and analysis.
- Writing: Lawyers need to write cleanly and with precision. Language is a lawyer’s best tool, so start honing those skills before school begins. You’ll also need to get used to doing substantial revising in response to constructive criticism.
- Oral communication: No matter what kind of law you intend to practice, being persuasive and listening are valuable assets. You can build these skills by participating in debate groups, making presentations in class or at work, or doing public speaking.
- Research: You’ll learn how to perform legal research in law school. But get used to being in the library, defining research questions, and analyzing large amounts of information. It’s going to come in handy.
- Task management: You’ll need to manage time efficiently, prioritize, and organize large amounts of information constantly as a law student. Start working on that now by undertaking ambitious projects (research papers, professional reports, community projects, etc.).
Master the basics.
Law operates within a broad historical and political framework. Spend some time developing an understanding of US history and the factors (social, political, economic, and cultural) that have shaped it – and continue to shape it today.
Speak with a law school admissions professional.
It’s never too early to reach out to a law school admissions professional to learn more about the admissions process and what you can be doing now to prepare yourself for that process. Set up a phone consult, or better yet, set up a time to visit a law school and meet with someone in person.