Welcome to the law school community!
OCS provides assistance for every step in the law school application process. After reviewing the resources below, contact OCS to schedule an appointment with a prelaw advisor.
Law Careers: An Overview
In the United States today there are more than one million practicing attorneys. More than half of them are involved in the private practice of law, from individual practitioners to large firms. Others are involved in public interest, government, judicial clerkships, business/industry and academia.
To learn more about various law careers, visit the robust prelaw portal built by the the National Association for Law Placement and the many law career guides offered through OCS’ subscription to Career Insider, powered by Vault.
What is the Role of a Lawyer?
A lawyer serves as an advocate for their client within the realm of the law. The daily work of a lawyer may include legal research, client meetings, preparation of legal correspondence. The bulk of a lawyer’s work involves research and writing; being adept at both is critical to this job. In addition, there is a substantial amount of reading and digestion of information involved with the role. In order to practice law in the U.S., (for those individuals who attend law school in the U.S.) a J.D. degree is required as well as passing the Bar examination in the state in which an individual plans to practice.
What are the Valued Skills of Lawyers?
According to the Law School Admission Council, the valued skills lawyers should possess include:
•Reading and Listening-Lawyers must be able to take in a great deal of information, often on topics about which they are unfamiliar.
•Analyzing-Lawyers must be able to determine the fundamental elements of problems. They spend much time discerning the nature and significance of the many issues in a particular problem.
•Synthesizing– Lawyers must have the ability to organize large amounts of material in a meaningful, focused, and cogent manner.
•Advocating– As an advocate, the lawyer’s role is to represent his or her client’s particular point of view and interests as vigorously as possible.
•Counseling– Lawyers also spend a good deal of their time giving clients legal advice.
•Writing and Speaking– Whether in the courtroom or the law office, lawyers must be effective communicators. If lawyers could not translate thoughts and opinions into clear and precise English, it would be difficult for the law to serve society.
•Negotiating– One of a lawyer’s primary roles is reconciling divergent interests and opinions. When the parties to a proposed transaction disagree, the lawyer, acting as a facilitator, may be able to help them negotiate to a common ground.
Is there any Specific Academic Preparation for Law School?
No, Law Schools value skills over a specific major. Prospective law students should develop skills such as writing, oral communication, reading, listening, researching, analytical, problem- solving and critical reasoning. Select courses, major, internships, and extracurricular activities according to personal interests and strengths. This will help to prepare you effectively for a legal education or engage in other services that call for the use of law-related skills; and be mindful to seek educational, extra-curricular and life experiences that will assist you in developing those attributes.
The Pre-law Committee, ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has provided the following examples:
•Political Science courses provide a strong understanding of political thought and theory, and of the contemporary American political system.
•Philosophy & Ethics courses provide an understanding of ethical theory and theories of justice.
•Economics courses provide an understanding of the interaction between economic theory and public policy.
•Math courses provide an important foundation in basic financial skills.
•Psychology and Sociology provide an understanding of human behavior and social interaction.
•African and African American studies, History, American studies, East Asian studies, Latin American Studies and East European studies offer an understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States and of the increasing interdependence of the communities of our world.
What is the Difference Between Litigation vs. Transactional Legal Work?
Within the profession, there are numerous practice areas as well as different types of law offices. Similar to science where one can choose a clinical or research path, within law, there are two primary categories of practices: litigation (trial work) and transactional.
A litigator‘s work is to settle a dispute which may be civil or criminal. The lawyer manages all phases of the trial process which includes: investigation, pleadings and discovery to pre-trial, trial, settlement and appeal. The work may involve researching legal questions, drafting swaying arguments, preparing for and taking deposition, organizing for trial and negotiating settlements. A litigator may have more of an opportunity to present their case in the courtroom than a transactional lawyer; however, this is not always the case. The vast majority of cases are settled outside the courtroom.
Transactional practice involves researching, coordinating and reviewing documents that may join individuals and companies such as a contract for a corporate merger, establishing a business or the closing documents needed to purchase a condominium.
Litigators and transactional attorneys work across speciality areas and in a variety of settings – law firms, private business, government, public interest organizations, the judiciary, academia, or as a solo practitioner.
What are some Different Types of Law Practice Settings?
•Private Practice: Includes all positions with a law firm, including solo practitioner, associate, law clerk, paralegal and administrative or support staff. The work of a firm may include: Appellate Law, Bankruptcy Law, Civil Rights Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Environmental Law, Labor and Employment, Intellectual Property Law, Products Liability, Securities Law, Tax Law, to name just a few.
•Public Interest: Includes positions funded by legal services, pro-bono work and other civil, legal and indigent services, as well as positions with non-profit advocacy or cause-related organizations. The cases and causes are significant to the general public. Lawyer services in this sector may include working with disadvantaged populations, or public policy that may affect the population at large.
•Government: Includes all levels and branches of government. This encompasses public defender, prosecutor positions, positions with the military state or local transit authorities, congressional committees, law enforcement and divisions of social service.
•Judicial Clerkships: Recent law school graduates may choose to pursue a one or two year appointment clerking for a judge on the federal, state or local level. In some cases at the state and local level, clerkships may be a permanent positions. Judicial clerkships are quite prestigious and competitive, allowing candidates to make direct contributions in the judicial decision-making process.
•Business & Industry: Includes positions in companies and organizations such as accounting firms, insurance companies, banking/ finance institutions, Fortune 500 corporations, private hospitals, retail establishments, consulting and public realty firms, political campaigns, trade associations and labor unions, to name a few. Lawyers within this environment are referred to as ‘in house’ counsel. The business or organization is the primary client and the work is done on behalf of this employer. Typically these positions are available to attorneys with 3-5 years of prior experience in a private or public setting.
•Academia: Includes work as a law professor, law librarian, administrator or faculty member in higher education or other academic settings. Within an academic setting there are positions directly related to legal work such as teaching law or being part of a university’s legal staff within a Risk Management department or General Counsel Office. Additionally, administrative positions may include admissions work, career services, financial aid, and student affairs/services, as well as serving as a dean or other university leadership position.
Choosing and Applying to Law School
Students who register with LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) can apply to law schools directly through the service, or students can download application materials from the website. Many law schools now prefer or require applicants to use the CAS system.
Several Law School are now accepting either the LSAT or GRE. Be sure to research the schools you are inetrested in to see if one is preferred.
LSAT: For detailed information visit the Law School Admission Council.
•LSAC: Sample Test
•Kahn Academy Official LSAT Prep (free)
GRE: For detailed information visit the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
•ETS Preparing for the GRE
•Khan Academy Instructional Videos (free)
The Law School Personal Statement
Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell your story to the law school. This is particularly important because most law school applications do not include an interview. In general committees are looking to hear about your actual experiences and past accomplishments. If you have overcome a significant obstacle, the personal statement is where to weave that into your story. Check out additional tips here on writing personal statements and watch our three-minute “Writing Your Personal Statement” video.
Letters of Recommendation
In most cases schools will request three letters of recommendations. A good rule is to plan for two letters to be written by professors who know your academic performance and an additional letter submitted by a recommender who can address other topics such as your professionalism, leadership, or work ethic. Submit your request for letters via your LSAC/CAS account and then your recommenders will submit their letter electronically.
If a recommender asks you to provide a draft of your own recommendation, provide the recommender with this sample draft from the National Association of Colleges & Employers. You may also ethically provide a list of bullet points you would like the letter to address and/or a factual narrative of key achievements. Explain that you are unable to write a draft that provides the kind of judgment and comparative evaluation that only the recommender can provide and that helps make for a strong recommendation. It may also be helpful to provide your recommender with the following:
•Your resume and a brief letter including your contact information, your top accomplishments, and a list of schools you are considering
•The official Letter of Recommendation Form/Link
•Your unofficial transcript
•A draft of your personal statement (if available)
Ask recommenders well in advance to write letters, and send a thank you when the letter is received. Check out these OCS resources for additional tips on asking for references and letters of recommendation
Additional Application Documents
•Transcripts: Transcripts from each higher education institution, undergraduate and graduate schools, need to be sent directly to LSAC.
•Resume: A resume should be submitted with your law school application. The resume can be up to two pages in length however check with each law school for any preferences. If you chose a two page resume it is advised that students use the two full pages if possible, elaborating on their education, experiences, community service, academic research and activities.
•Dean’s Certification: Dean’s Certification is needed for a few select law schools, and will be indicated on the application. Send the Dean’s Certification form to your Residential College Dean’s Office so they can complete the form and send it to the law school.
•Additional Essays and Writing Samples: Dependent on the law school, applicants may be asked to write additional essays or provide writing samples. It is in applicant’s best interest to take advantage of writing these essays even though they are typically optional.
•Addendums: Applicants may choose to attach an addendum to their application to provide admissions committees with any necessary clarifications about the components of their application or any new information not mentioned in the rest of their application. The addendum should be a brief and factual statement.
•Acceptances: The timetable for notification varies by school. Applicants may learn as early as December or as late as August (if from a waitlist).
–>Consider visiting the school, talk to faculty, students, and ask their career services about summer and post-graduate opportunities.
–>Take advantage of the OCS Law School Surveys – a database of evaluations first year alums have submitted about their law school experience. The site is password protected; to gain access please email OCS.
–>In comparing schools consider the faculty, financial offers, location, student body, career opportunities, and clinical programs.
•Waitlists: If you have been placed on a waitlist, submit a letter to the admissions dean informing them of your continued interest in the school.
–>If the school is your first choice, tell them.
–>Provide an updated transcript; send an additional letter of recommendation if you have not reached the schools accepted limit.
•Deferrals: Deferrals are not granted automatically. It is a privilege offered to you by the law school.
–>The policy for applying for deferrals varies greatly from school to school. Please be sure to research this thoroughly if you plan on asking for a deferral.
Financing Law School
When considering law school it is important for students to research available financial aid early on during the application process to determine what programs or scholarships law schools may offer. Below are some general financial resources; however the individual law school’s financial aid office is the best source for information about paying for law school.
General Financial Aid Resources
• Yale Office of Fellowships and Funding
• Truman Scholarship
• Soros Fellowship for New Americans
• Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship
• Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest
• Association of Trial Lawyers of America/Trial Advocacy Scholarship
• Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
• Federal Circuit Bar Association Scholarship
• John Gyles Education Awards
• ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship
• For People of Color, Inc.
• Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) Law Scholarship Program
• Minority Corporate Counsel Association / Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program
• FinAid! Financial Aid for LGBT Students
• The Point Foundation: National LGBTQ Scholarship Fund
• Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
• American Association of University Women (AAUW)
• Women in Defense / Horizons Foundation Scholarship Program