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Top 5 Priorities for Those About to Begin the Application Process:

  • NOTE:  If you have not done so already, subscribe to the HPPLC prelaw email listserv at www.hpplc.indiana.edu (under the section “Email Lists” click the “register HERE” link)--and receive crucial email announcements about HPPLC’s LSAT prep class, law school events, application workshops, visits from law school admissions officials, etc.,
  1. LSAT:  Always priority #1.  

    Decide when to take it—June, September/October, December, February.

      • Note:  the optimal time to submit application material to the schools is before Thanksgiving one year before you’d enroll.
      • The latest to apply without risking being late:  traditionally, it has been around New Year’s (even if the formal deadline is much later).  However, with the decline in the number of applicants to law school that has been happening for the past few years, most schools are significantly extending their deadlines—contact your schools to find out what is now considered “late.”
      • Have a backup LSAT date.   Note:  now many schools are now gladly accepting results from the February exam.  If you are planning to take the February exam, call your schools and ask if this will put you at any disadvantage.   For many it may be a bit late; for many others it will be fine.
      • What is the very best time to take the LSAT?  When you realistically can be best prepared.  


    Decide how you’ll prepare:  We recommend at least 4-6 months of serious preparation. 

      • Take a diagnostic exam NOW to see how much work lies ahead, and to find out if one section is weaker that the others.  Don’t worry about preparation.  Expect a low score! 
      • HPPLC has all past exams to borrow at no charge (just ask our receptionist), and a list of recommended LSAT prep books.  [For LSAC’s free LSAT prep material, including a full-length exam, go to:  http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/lsat-prep-materials].   You should take 10-15 full-length exams during your preparation.
      • You can view HPPLC's digitalized LSAT exams here:  https://iu.box.com/HPPLC-Prelaw-LSAT-exams
      • HPPLC offers a 20 hour LSAT Prep Class for $200. Information on the course is provided via the Prelaw Listserv (to sign up see the first sentence of this document).
      • In Bloomington, Kaplan and sometimes Princeton Review offer the only other in-class preparation situations.  They generally get very good reviews, but are expensive.  There are multiple online prep options, but we have virtually no feedback on their effectiveness--do your research! 
      • Many applicants will prepare quite well on their own.
      • HPPLC often has names of reasonably priced LSAT tutors—email if interested.
      • If you will be preparing outside of Bloomington, consider contacting the PAD (Phi Alpha Delta—the national prelaw club) chapter at a local college.  They should know of any quality and/or low-priced LSAT prep opportunities in your area.
         
  2. Letters of Recommendation (LOR):  Priority #2

    • Most law schools will want at least 2.   Try to line up 1 or 2 before senior year if possible.  Give your authors at least 4-6 weeks’ notice if possible.
    • Guidelines for your writers--what to say:  http://hpplc.indiana.edu/rs-forms.shtml   (bottom of page).
    • For detailed information about LOR, who and how to ask, and including the complex mechanics of getting your LOR from the writers to the law schools, see: http://hpplc.indiana.edu/law/law-lor.shtml
    • Be sure to enter your writers’ information in your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account.  See CAS instructions below at paragraph 4(e), infra.
     
  3. Personal statement

    • Read over general guidelines NOW:  http://hpplc.indiana.edu/law/law-ps.shtml
    • Keep a mini-journal of relevant experiences, especially those related to your decision to pursue a career in law.  Jot down any ideas or interesting vignettes from real life for potential use later.
    • Schools expect up to 3 pages, unless they specify otherwise.  Some will have explicit requirements as to topic(s), spacing, word count, font, margin size, etc.  Check your schools’ prompts before you start. 
    • Give yourself more than enough time to write several drafts.
    • HPPLC can help with your essays--send drafts as email attachments.  Response may take a week or more, depending on demand.
     
  4. Set up a FREE* (for now) account with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS)

    • Go to LSAC.org:  https://os.lsac.org/Release/Logon/Access.aspx**.   
    • You’ll need this account before you can even register for the LSAT, as well as to apply to the law schools.  A CAS account is REQUIRED—no exceptions.
    • You will eventually send your LOR and transcripts to your CAS account.  You will submit only ONE copy of each.  The CAS will distribute copies to all law schools to which you apply.
    • *Eventually, and before you can actually submit applications, you will have to pay the CAS registration fee.  This is in addition to the fee you will pay for the LSAT. 
    • There is much you can do NOW to organize your account BEFORE you pay the fee.  We suggest you get online and familiarize yourself with the complex tasks that lie ahead!
    • For detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to set everything up, PLEASE see: http://hpplc.indiana.edu/documents/LSACDirectCASInstructionsrevisedspring2015.docx
    • **Don’t be surprised if you have questions and/or confusion with this site—most people do.
       
  5.  Start and/or expand the List of Schools to which you will apply.

    • Regarding your GPA:  The LSAC will recalculate your GPA:  for the conversion table, see  http://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/academic-record.  Major differences:  A+ = 4.33; all transfer grades count; for repeated courses, all credits, both grades will be used (i.e., they do not replace grades).
    • Select a wide range of schools:  safety (where your GPA and LSAT score are above the schools’ medians); “dream” schools (where your numbers are around 25% or below); and solid, competitive choices (where your numbers are between the 25% and the median).
    • For a look at how law schools treated applicants with your combination of GPA and LSAT last fall, see: http://officialguide.lsac.org. In the section entitled “UGPA/LSAT Search,” simply fill in your numbers.  This page also allows you to search for “keywords;” for example, specific legal specialties in which you might be interested.  On the resulting page, note the options to sort the results by “likelihood” and then “hi to low.” 
    • DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP:  Forthe most detailed admissions information --"check” the boxes next to the schools you are interested in, click the tab at the top of the page entitled “View School Description,” then click on the name of theschool itself (which is now a link).  At the bottom of the resulting page (for most schools) is a grid that cross-plots specific GPAs and LSAT scores for last year’s applicant pool.  **This is the most accurate and detailed admissions data available.  A few schools do not release this data, but most do.   At the top of this page is a link to the school’s website and to miscellaneous ABA data.
    • Note:  do not obsess about the rankings!  They are but one factor among many others.  Unless you are admitted to a top 14 school, it is often said that debt load is a more important factor for more applicants than is rank.  For employers, whether your school is ranked 43 or 68 simply does not matter all that much, if at all.  And for purposes of obtaining employment, outside of the top 14 it is not so much the rank of the school that counts, but your rank within the school.  Find a school where you will thrive.  Cast a wide net!!

 

 Final Thoughts:

 When in doubt about a school, why not apply?  If your numbers are around the 25th percentile or above, you will be competitive.  Keep in mind    that much in the admissions process is quite subjective.   By definition they will fill 49% of the class with applicants whose numbers are below the median—yes, half MUST be below the median!   

 

Who knows what aspect of your file will resonate with the individual(s) assigned to go over yours:  some are strictly number crunchers; others are more holistic;  one may have just admitted 17 applicants with your major and is now subconsciously looking for something else—or the reverse; one may have belonged to your sorority, played your musical instrument, your sport, or is from your hometown; some are having a bad day; others a great day…..you get the idea.   

 

In short, expand your horizons!  Eight to twelve schools or more is not unusual.  Be sure to include 2-3 safety schools, IF you would be genuinely happy attending them.