Is Going to Law School Easier for Some and Harder on Others?

Is Going to Law School Easier for Some and Harder on Others?This week we welcome back guest writer Zoila Sanchez to talk about how different people can have an easier or more difficult time getting in to law school and how to handle that.

If you are a prospective law student and in the process of applying to law school — then you know that the path to get into law school is a major commitment and requires several, difficult steps! As a prospective student, you have likely discovered by now that the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) was only the beginning, and that law school can be competitive and takes a lot of hard work to excel.

Challenging or a Walk in the Park?

Does the law school path seem easier for some when you compare it to your own experience? Was the experience easy for you in some ways but harder for your friends?

Know that whether the pre-law or law school process comes easy to you or is an uphill battle—it does not determine your success in the legal field. For example, some students end up changing career paths later down the road after realizing they only attended law school because they enjoyed arguing and others that don’t start out knowing what they want to practice and later refine their practice area and really make a name for themselves.

So, what if this whole law school process doesn’t come naturally to you? I remember attending a pre-law event at Columbia Law School. The guest speaker from another law school stayed after the event for Q & A. I was next in line and overheard the student ahead of me sharing how challenging the process of applying is for her as a foreign exchange student, and she was really interested in bringing her personal experiences into a human rights law classroom someday. I was inspired by her! To my surprise, the speaker –a lawyer and a law school dean—responded with “[w]ell law school is not for everybody.” I left the line to encourage her. Having graduated from law school, some of my most enriching experiences were hearing the stories from fellow law students with practical experience or an otherwise true passion for the field. A comment from anyone, including a lawyer or representative of a law school, doesn’t dictate what her future contributions can be, despite the challenges she faced entering the field.

If the process is not easy on you, the benefit is that you are not alone and such a challenge is truly preparing you for the real thing- becoming a lawyer takes grit. See obstacles as a blessing in disguise.

Competitive Application Process

Nationwide, the 2021 incoming law school class reported the highest undergraduate Grade Point Averages and LSAT scores than it had seen in the previous years. Specifically, 167 schools reported an increase in their average LSAT scores. To be a strong candidate, you will want at least a median or higher LSAT score. The commitment requires your time to prepare and study. While many may have time, they don’t always have the financial means. For example, it is expensive to register for and prepare for the LSAT, and to apply to schools. Taking the LSAT can cost $200 plus materials and $45 in fees to send your score to schools. Not to mention the cost of a course which can range anywhere from $500 to $2K. Fees per application can be as high as $100 and can be astronomical if you are applying to several schools.

Financial resources help make the process more comfortable because it can pay for a comprehensive program that properly equips you with the preparation needed. This may include a reputable LSAT program, opportunities to take simulated exams under testing conditions and to assess your progress over time with the help of a tutor or program. I recall how a scholarship gave me the financial means to cover an LSAT course.

Although finances can make the LSAT process “easier” for some, remember that you can still make meaningful progress without spending as much as others. Having the money for a tutor does not guarantee high scores if you are not committing yourself to studies, as it can be easy to rely on a tutor to do the work for you. Ultimately test-day performance can be impacted by your determination to pass the exam, as well as the practice and time you put into it.

If you need financial resources to make it there are some ways you can get assistance. Some bar prep companies give away a free course through legal pipeline programs or on their website for students in need as demonstrated in a personal statement. Additionally, when it comes to saving money submitting your school application, you can try emailing or communicating with an admissions counselor through the LSAC admissions fairs and request a waiver from the school’s application fees. Such pathways made it possible for me to apply to several schools.

Preparing your Application

While the exam score can be challenging to improve, and you may not be able to wait for another administration to submit your law school application—be encouraged that there are additional aspects that law schools care about!

Components of your application that tell the story of who you are include:

  • Diversity Statement
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement
Diversity

If you are sitting in law classes experiencing the real thing—you likely have noticed that the legal profession is not as diverse as it could be. When it comes to selecting a law school you are likely trying to make an informed decision. Be sure one of the aspects you look for includes diversity of the student body as it can enrich your legal education. For example, the exchange of dialogue and learning someone else’s point of view will impact your worldview.

As a minority, having representation in the field can help you find mentorship, and to feel welcomed and not isolated. However, if you find that you are underrepresented, you can be the change from the inside out. One way I made a difference in law school was starting a Social Justice Alliance student organization to address issues of importance to minority communities. Here, students engaged faculty and peers to discuss issues through town halls, creating a space for important dialogue.

Success in the Legal Field

No matter how you started out on the law school path, remember that there is not just one perfect applicant nor perfect law student nor ideal lawyer. There are students from all walks of life who put in the hard work and make a meaningful footprint in the law because of their life experience and how they utilize the law to impact change. Use your disadvantages as tools to move you forward, and use your privileges to help others.


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About Zoila Sanchez

During law school, she served as a Legal Clerk with the federal government at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Counsel to the Inspector General in Washington, DC. Currently, she works for a health and business law firm. She enjoys spending down time mentoring students sitting for the bar exam through the American Bar Association Council on Legal Education Opportunity program and taking it easy with her three poodles.

Ms. Sanchez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona and Juris Doctor from Hofstra University.

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