Law School Pro Tips
Learning more about law school
Set up your email alerts to include the Government, Law & Policy Career Community. This will alert you to workshops, presentations, recruiting visits, webinars, and other opportunities to learn more about law school and legal professions. You can make an appointment to discuss your plans and interest in law in Handshake.
Also, consider attending one of several free Law School Forums that are located in major cities throughout the United States or offered online. Each forum offers the opportunity to talk with representatives of Law School Admission Council (LSAC) – member law schools from across the USA. Visit the following website to review the LSAC Forum schedule for upcoming event dates: https://www.lsac.org/events
You should also talk with lawyers or others holding J.D. degrees about your interests and their careers. If you don’t know any, stop by the CLS. We can help you identify Grinnell faculty, staff, and alumni with J.D. degrees who would be happy to serve as resources and informal mentors. See GrinnellConnect to identify alumni who have offered to serve as resources for pre-law students at Grinnell.
Law school rankings
Be aware that rankings matter tremendously in the law school world, much more so than in other fields. Competitiveness of admission increases in direct proportion to higher ranking, as does employment success upon completing the degree. Think carefully about the ranking of schools you apply to, the funding offers you receive from schools you are accepted to, and the employment outcomes for graduates of those programs.
Law schools use various criteria to determine their admissions decisions. For the most competitive law schools, the quantitative data – your LSAT scores and GPA – are given great weight. Less competitive schools still value the quantitative data but give added weight to other aspects of your application, such as personal statement, letters of recommendation, course of undergraduate study (rigor), and motivation for law school.
Preparing for the LSAT
LSAC-member schools require the LSAT for all applicants. The LSAT is an online, live remote-proctored test. It does not test specific knowledge obtained in college classes and thus is intended to give no advantage to test-takers from any particular academic background. Scored sections include one Reading Comprehension session, one Analytical Reasoning section, and two Logical Reasoning sections (plus an additional unscored section from one of the three areas). Visit the LSAT Information and Test Dates website for more information, including upcoming test dates.
The CLS has several LSAT test-prep books and there are multiple online courses and workshops hosted by law schools, admission consortia, and test-prep sites. Visit the Applying to Law School site for details and links.
A Timetable for Law School
Of all Grinnellians who matriculate at law school, nearly two-third are alumni – meaning only one-third of all law school applicants go straight from Grinnell to law school. The timetable below presumes you’ll be in that minority. The schedule is also based on a typical program with a December/January application deadline – although most schools offer rolling admissions that begin as early as October. Applying to law school as early as you can is always a wise move.
During your third year
- Establish ties with faculty members who may later write your letters of recommendation
- Attend information sessions by law schools visiting Grinnell
- Register to take the June LSAT and begin preparing for the test
During the summer between your third and fourth year
- Take the LSAT
- Begin drafting your personal statement
- Construct a résumé to be used with your applications
- Research law schools; prepare a list of places to which you will apply
- Receive LSAT score and meet with the pre-law adviser at the CLS to discuss school options
During your fourth year
September – October:
- Register with the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
- Have official transcript(s) sent to CAS
- Check LSAC report for accuracy
- Register for and take the October LSAT if you did not take it in June (or if you need to retake)
- Request letters of recommendation to be sent to CAS
- Finalize your personal statement and any supplemental statements; have them reviewed at the Writing Lab, at the CLS, and by several other trusted readers
- Complete and send applications
- Begin investigating sources of financial aid; obtain applications; submit as early as possible
December – January:
- Check with law schools to ensure your files are complete
- File your financial aid applications
- Have an updated transcript with your fall term grades sent directly to law schools
- Evaluate offers of acceptance and financial aid soon as they come in, noting that (with the exception of early decision offers for academic terms beginning in the spring or summer) you will not be required to place a deposit at any particular school prior to April 1
- Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendations or assisted you