Getting into Law School
Suggestions by Alexis Brown, Hanszen '97

Timeline for Applicants
Helpful Resources
Personal Statement
Importance of Economics & Accounting Courses
Cost of Applying to Law School
Scholarships for Law School
Suggestions & Advice
The Good News

What is a good timeline for applicants?

What resources did you find most helpful?

I found that Dr. Bass was a good initial resource. She can give you some direction and advice on how to start the application process. She also tries to make sure that you are applying to law school for the "right reasons." Because law school is so exp ensive and competitive, she is good at helping you evaluate your motivations for applying in the first place. Dr. Bass also completes all of the Dean's Certifications for Rice pre-law students, so it is good to get to know her early in your Rice career.

In the past year, I have found other pre-law students to be the best resources. We all shared information on the application process with one another, and most importantly, acted as a support network. Because the law school application process is so com petitive and, at times, difficult, using other students for information and support can really mitigate the stress.

Rice also has a pre-law society, Legalease, which is another wonderful resource. Legalease sponsors several mock-LSATs, which give you free opportunities to practice and prepare for the real thing. The LSAT is not something that you can cram for; you ju st have to practice diligently. Legalease also sponsors numerous panels of current law students, practicing lawyers, and law school deans. Additionally, Legalease distributes information on summer and semester internships in law-related positions. You c an get on the Legalease mailing list by contacting Emily Johnson or Donna Goggin this year.

Whom should I get my recommendations from?

Ideally, you need two recommendations from college professors who know you well. This may mean that you have to take more than one class from a professor to develop a good, personal relationship. Of course, you should probably pick professors from class es in which you did well, but your final grade is not as important as your professor's ability to write honestly about your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate. If possible, choose professors you had in smaller or seminar classes. They will be able to better assess your verbal and written communication skills. If you need help in narrowing possibilities for recommenders, consult with Dr. Bass. She might be able to give you some direction on whom to ask.

Unless specifically stated in the admissions literature, do not submit more than the maximum number of recommendations allowed. It is much better to have two strong letters from faculty than five mediocre ones.

What about the personal statement?

The personal statement is a two-page, double-spaced essay on a subject of your choice. It can be about a life experience, a meaningful work experience, a personal quality, or an issue you feel strongly about. It should not necessarily be a "Why I would be a good lawyer" essay, nor should it be your resume in essay-form. You can submit a formal resume, and if especially relevant, you can submit a supplementary statement on your career goals.

The personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your application because it has the potential to give insight into your personality. Of all components of your application, you should spend the most time on this. It is usually the only ess ay required, so give it your best effort. It should be conversational without being colloquial. There are dozens of books available on how to write a good personal statement. Consider reading one of these, but take all advice with a grain of salt. The most important things are to be honest, not be trite, write concisely with good grammar, and explain some facet of your life that is not evident from your resume or transcript.

The personal statement is not the place to make excuses or brag about accomplishments. Write honestly, and have as many people proof it as possible. The good news is that you can submit the same personal statement to every law school. Again, see Dr. Ba ss if you have questions or need advice.

What about the LSAT?

First, the LSAT is not the SAT. It is much harder and much more competitive. While most Rice students did well on the SAT, the LSAT is an entirely different ballgame. Success on the LSAT is directly related to the amount of practice and preparation you put in - it is NOT a test that you can walk into unprepared.

Second, the LSAT does not test your knowledge of law or the social sciences. It is a test of reasoning, critical thinking, logic, and reading comprehension. You can read about the specific sections of the test on the Law Services web page, in one of the many books published on the LSAT, or in the Law Services registration book. The most important thing is that you start preparing early -- you really only get one chance to take the test, and you need to do well to get into a top school.

A lot of people here at Rice take LSAT prep classes. For many, these classes provide the disciplined preparation you need to succeed on this test while giving you confidence as well. If you are unsure as to whether or not you need to take a class, take a few practice LSATs, see how you score, and talk to one of the major prep-class providers about how much they could help you. Many of these companies will give you a free diagnostic test to see if you really need to take the class. These classes are bi g investments ($800 or more) but can be well worth the money if you are aiming for a top score.

FYI, the LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180, with a 150 being the 50th percentile. A 166 puts you in the 95th percentile, a 167 in the 96th percentile, and anything over a 173 is usually in the 99th percentile.

Do I really need to take an economics or accounting class? Why?

Law schools want well-rounded students. While traditional "pre-law" curricula composed of English, political science, history, sociology, and philosophy (writing-intensive classes) are important, law schools apparently also look for some evidence of quan titative skills as well. Since most lawyers meet and interact with business people on a daily basis, and since law and business are interconnected, lawyers are expected to have some business sense and quantitative proficiency. For that reason, law schoo ls apparently like to see some economics, accounting, business, finance, math, or statistics course-work as well. Also, most law schools require some form of accounting to graduate- for this reason as well, having an undergraduate background would be hel pful. Of course, law schools do claim that there is no preferred undergraduate major for admission, but taking courses in numerous areas cannot hurt.

How expensive is it to apply to law school? How many schools should I apply to?

Applying to law school is not as expensive as applying to med school can be, but the costs do add up. All applicants are required to register with Law Services and to pay for the LSAT, the total of which is about $150-200. In addition, each school has a n application fee ranging from $50-75. If you score well enough on the LSAT, some schools may waive your application fee, but you can't count on this happening. There are also little charges that add up - the cost of transcripts, for example. Law schoo ls do not require interviews, which saves travel expenses, but even without any travel, you can expect to spend $400-700 applying. If you take an LSAT prep course, you can expect to pay an additional $800-1000.

Most Rice students apply to 5-8 law schools. Most apply to at least one or two "safety schools" -- schools at which you clearly exceed the school's median admission numbers (LSAT and GPA). Just as in college admissions, you should consider applying to 1- 2 safety schools, 1-3 reach schools, and 1-3 schools that you feel fairly confident about but are not guaranteed admission. Because the application process is expensive and time-consuming, applying to more than 10 schools is probably not the best use of resources.

What money is available for law students? Are there a lot of scholarships available?

Unlike PhD programs or even some medical schools, law schools rarely give merit-based scholarships. Of course, there are exceptions, but the general rule is that grants, scholarships, and loans are all need-based and consider your parents' income. Even if your parents are not planning on supporting you through law school, almost all law schools consider your parents' income if you have been a dependent at any point in the past seven years. The federal government, however, considers you independent of y our parents once you are in graduate school and gives subsidized and unsubsidized loans regardless of parental income.

Law school is expensive. At a top, private school, you could expect to pay $120,000 for three years of tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. While most law schools and lawyers would probably tell you that any debt incurred by students during law sch ools is easily paid off with post-law school income, financial considerations are still important in choosing a school.

What would you have done differently?

I wish I could have taken the June LSAT. I was working in London at the time, and Law Services does not offer any test sites in Europe. I thus took the October test instead. I think that October is a really busy month for Rice students - between midter ms, applications, and fun, social stuff, it can be hard to concentrate on the test. The LSAT is a one-shot deal: unless something goes really wrong the first time, you should not take it again. If you can take the June LSAT, do so - you'll be able to c oncentrate more and probably do better as a result.

What one piece of advice do you have for pre-law students?

I think the major theme here is "start early." Start looking at schools early; register for Law Services and the LSAT early; apply early; get your recommendations done early; etc. The earlier you start, the less stressed you will be about the entire pro cess. And, since many law schools fill their classes before the final application deadline, it is in your best interest to apply as early as possible.

The Good News....

Although the law school application process is competitive and time-consuming, Rice students usually fare well. You can get exact admission statistics from Dr. Bass, but many Rice students each year get into top schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Chicago , Columbia, NYU, Duke, Michigan Georgetown, Vanderbilt, UVa, and UT. While chances of admission depend on your personal test scores, major, GPA, and circumstances, the process is worthwhile and there are numerous resources for support. Use your friends, alums, the pre-law society, Academic Advising, faculty, and Career Services as resources - collectively, they can make your senior year much easier.
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