Today’s guest LSAT blog post is by Shawdi Vara, a former Blueprint LSAT Prep student who is currently attending UC-Davis Law School.
Here are the top five things I learned about applying to law school. Specifically, here are five things prospective law students don’t do, but absolutely should (there is some overlap between each, but that’s to be expected):
#1 Thing Prospective Law Students Don’t Do, But Should: Spend more time thinking about the law schools you would actually go to
So many of us just blanket apply. Don’t do that. Really think about what type of law you wanna do. Think about where you wanna practice. If you want to practice in California, don’t apply to George Mason. You want to put yourself in a position where you can find a job come graduation. GMU is a great (bites tongue) law school, but only if you wanna practice in the Virginia area.
#2 Thing Prospective Law Students Don’t Do, But Should: Only apply to law schools you think you’ll go to
I felt the deep urge to apply to as many law schools as I could. When all was said and done I spent more than $1,000 on law school applications alone, and applied to 21 or 22 schools. Silly. Absolutely silly. I would have been much better off if I focused on three of four law schools, tailored my application to each school, and visited each school. It would have cost me roughly the same amount of money, it would have increased my chances of getting in to each of those schools, and it would have made me take the whole law school application process more seriously.
#3 Thing Prospective Law Students Don’t Do, But Should: Take the law school application process more and less seriously
When you are in the research phase, you must take it more seriously. Many people I hear are applying to law schools that they don’t know the first thing about. Leme ask you this: if you knew you were going to spend 100k on a car, would you buy one without taking it for a test drive? Hell no. So why would you do the same thing here? 100k on a legal education would be getting off cheap nowadays, and yet prospective law students are largely not taking the application process seriously. If you apply to a law school and get accepted, you absolutely must visit before going there.
I’ve met maybe a third of the students who ended up as 1Ls at the school I go to. That is ridiculous. If you don’t visit a law school before you attend, I have no sympathy for you. Talk to the career services people, talk to the students, talk to random students if you do visit. The recruitment programs at law schools pick their favorites to give tours; they don’t pick the embittered average law student.
However, take the visit less seriously. If you go to a school, relax. The students there are no different than you are, and if they act like they are, don’t go there. Actually be yourself, don’t put on this “this is what I think a law student acts like” fascade. Nobody likes that guy. You don’t even like that guy. If you have the “pleasure” to sit in on a class, keep your mouth shut. Sit there, and don’t say a peep. You are likely the only person excited to be there. Remember: anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion should you decide to go there. (Ohmyscience, I’m so sorry about that law joke, I couldn’t help myself.) The chances of you saying something (A) intelligent, (B) pertinent, and (C) not annoying every law student in the class is absolutely zero. What you want to happen is for someone to go, “Wow, that was really insightful, you should go to law school.” And that has never happened to anyone in the history of ever.
#4 Thing Prospective Law Students Don’t Do, But Should: Ask a 3L
Too often law students ask to be put in touch with a law student at a school they are interested in and they get put in touch with a 1L. Ask to speak to a 3L — especially if you are there on a tour. First, the 1L is as lost as you are. Second, a 3L is much more adept at knowing what the market is like for jobs when graduating from the school, she or he will know how many friends are employed, what career services is like, etc. Third, the 3L is likely to have more time to actually talk. The 1Ls are generally much more concerned about grades, and their classes are WAY harder (generally). Fourth, a 3L is much more likely to give you an honest assessment, and is the only person who is capable of giving you an assessment of their entire law school experience.
#5 Thing Prospective Law Students Don’t Do, But Should: View the law school application process as a three- or four-year endeavor, not a six-month sprint
This is the big one, but I promise, if you actually follow the advice here, you will guarantee yourself a happier law school experience, happier/easier time finding a job, and you will have an unbelievable amount of confidence for your all-important first year.
Calm down. Breath. Read.
Yes, you want to go to law school NOWNOWNOWNOWNOWNOW. All that does is guarantee that the best law school you get into this application cycle is the one you will go to. This does not mean that this is the best law school that you can possibly get into. If you were to slow down, keep some crappy job (if you have to) for a couple years while you really find the best law school fit for you and your future career, you will be 1000x better off. Yes you will be “postponing your life.” To which I respond, so what? Postpone away. A couple things will happen:
A. You may find a job outside of law that you actually really like and realize that the law is not what you think it is.
B. You get yourself into the best possible law school you can get into. Take and retake the LSAT. Really devote yourself to getting up into the 160s 170s. The LSAT is a learnable test. Take it enough times and you will get up there.
C. You will be able to do some self reflection. If I was to break it down into percentages of my fellow 2013 graduates: 40% would say they didn’t really know this is what they wanted before taking on 150k in debt, 58% are lying, and the final 2% did the required research. (By the way, that 2 % somehow correlates to the 2% who land good gigs after law school.)