Applying to Law School 101: What You Need to Know to Succeed

Pile of applicationsImagine, if you will, the plight of the poor admissions officer reading law school applications.

Day after day, she sits in her office, slogging through mindnumbingly tedious essays about how someone knew he was destined to be a lawyer from early childhood, because he loved to argue. Or because he believed in justice. Or because he read To Kill a Mockingbird. Or whatever.

Please, do this poor person a favor and write something interesting!

No One Wants to Read a Boring Application

What does “interesting” mean in this context? It doesn’t mean gimmicky, or weird for the sake of being weird. This is law school, after all.

What it means is that your application should sound like you, and reflect your personality.

It should tie together the disparate pieces of your background in a way that makes sense and answer some of the questions the reader would logically have about your application.

What it doesn’t need to do is use big words that you’d never actually say, in an attempt to sound smart. This doesn’t work – it sounds inauthentic, like you’re trying too hard to impress everyone.

When I see essays with convoluted grammar and fancy thesaurus words, I ask one question, “What are you trying to say here?” Inevitably, the response is much more comprehensible than what’s written, so I always give the same advice, “Great, write that down.”

Three Questions Your Application Must Answer

Your law school application needs to answer three questions convincingly:

Failing to persuasively address any of these questions could be fatal to your application, so be sure you’ve considered all of them.

(For more essay advice, check out our ongoing admissions Q&A with Eileen Conner, founder of Pen & Chisel.)

Optimize Each Component of Your Application

Perfect Your Personal Statement
The personal statement is your most direct opportunity to address The Big Three, and needs to provide a coherent and complete sense of why you’re applying to this particular program, at this particular school, at this point in time. It also needs to be technically perfect. Read on to find out how to make your personal statement as fantastic as it can possibly be.

Perfect Your Law School Résumé
Your law school application résumé should focus on what’s most important for law school success, not on what will get you hired. Learn how to tailor your résumé specifically towards what law schools are looking for.

Sample Law School Résumé Teardown
Unsure how your law school application résumé could be improved? Check out this sample résumé teardown, showing massive improvement with a few simple tweaks and additions, then apply the concepts to improve your own résumé.

The One Question That Will Improve Any Résumé
Think it’s complicated to create the perfect résumé? It’s not, if you ask one simple question (repeatedly).

Get Great Letters of Recommendation
Hopefully you’ve been nice to your professors and bosses, since you’re going to need some letters of recommendation. Find out who to ask, and how to get the best letters you can.

When to Use an Addendum
Sometimes you’ve got information to convey that just doesn’t fit in the body of your application. Luckily for you, there’s an addendum option! In the wrong hands, an unhelpful addendum can sink an application. In the right hands, however, it’s a powerful tool.

How to Pick a Law School

Where Should You Apply to Law School?
What’s best? Should you only go to a T14 school? What about money? Time to figure out what’s best — for you!

Selecting a Law School? Don’t Overlook What’s Outside the Classroom
It’s easy to get wrapped up in rankings and application details, but don’t overlook what’s outside the classroom. In my experience, that’s where a lot of the real learning takes place.

Prelaws: 10 Things to Do While You Wait for Acceptance Letters
Don’t passively await acceptance letters. Spend this time making sure law school’s really a good choice for you with these 10 tips.

Book Review: The Law School Decision Game
Unless you’ve been raised by two lawyers, you’ll probably benefit from reading Ann Levine’s book, The Law School Decision Game. She talked to hundreds of lawyers about their lives, and reports back in this practical guide to all aspects of the law school decision process.

Odds & Ends

Last-Minute Tips for Acing the LSAT
The LSAT’s rapidly approaching, and there’s no time to cram more information into your head. Avoid a test-day freak out with these last-minute tips.

On the Dreaded Law School Waitlist? 7 Tips for Getting In
Let’s face it, being waitlisted isn’t a lot of fun. Here are some tips for getting in!

Should Your Law School Apps Talk About Your Career Goals?
Potential law students often ask if it’s required that they know what type of law they want to practice before applying. John Rood of Next Step Test Preparation shares some thoughts on the topic.

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