Visit the overview webpage
for an introduction to the process of applying to law school from Loyola.
How should I decide to which law schools to apply?
The major consideration is geographic. If you know that you are going to live in a certain area then you should go to law school in that area, other factors being equal. Therefore, if you know that because of family considerations you are going to live in the Maryland area, then generally speaking you should apply to the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland, schools in D.C. and nearby schools in Pennsylvania. If you know that you are going to end up living in another area of the country, then you should apply to law schools in that area of the country.
There are two reasons for this geographic approach. First, the persons that you associate with in law school - students, faculty, judges, lawyers, internship supervisors, etc.—are often those persons you will be dealing with after law school, and it is very helpful to have these personal contacts. These personal contacts can also provide the entree into your first job because a successful internship in law school can lead to a clerkship and that can lead to a job. The second reason for the geographic approach is that the content of law itself which you will pick up from a number of law schools will be based on where the law school is located. Though a number of law schools have such a national perspective that local law and state law is hardly considered and, therefore, the national curriculum does not assist you in passing the bar in that particular state, more law schools do cover enough state law practices that it does begin to associate you with the kind of information you will need to pass the bar exam. This having been said, most prelaw advisors would recommend that you be very lenient in restricting yourself geographically since you really do not know where you will end up three years from now. Though today you may think you will live in a certain state, time brings changes, and you may actually end up living somewhere else. Therefore, you should not be rigid in your geographic limitations in applying for law school though, of course, you should consider the geographic variable.
You should not apply to law school based primarily on the law school specialty area in which you are interested. That is to say that if you have an interest, for example, in admiralty law, you should not pick a law school based on its admiralty law program. The reason for this is that most of your time in law school is spent taking required and general courses and not elective courses. Your opportunity to actually take elective courses will probably be quite limited. Specialization can occur through internships and even though you may have an interest in admiralty law and your law school has a very limited course offering in admiralty law, you should be able to arrange an internship in the area of admiralty law, and this can eventually lead to some kind of specialization in admiralty law. In sum, specialty programs should be considered only in a very general way in applying for law school.
How do I decide how many law schools to apply to?
This will depend a great deal on your personal situation, your finances, and your geographic considerations, that is, where you want to go to law school. Other factors being equal, you should generally apply to several law schools which are "long shots." These are law schools where your LSAT and GPA suggest that you have only a faint chance of getting in, but, nevertheless, that you do have some remote chance of getting in.
You should apply to four or more law schools in the middle category, that is, schools into which you have a good chance but not necessarily a definite probability of getting in.
Finally, you should apply to at least two schools which are "safe" schools, that is, schools where you are almost certain to be admitted based on your LSAT and your GPA. Thus, a total of between six and ten law schools is generally sufficient.
When should I apply?
Other factors being equal, you are well advised to apply between September and December. Some law schools have "rolling admissions," the process wherein the law school makes it admission decisions as the applications are received rather than waiting until after a certain date. There is some slight statistical advantage in applying early to those schools, not to mention the psychological advantage of your having a decision (if it is positive!).
How do I figure out which law schools will probably admit me?
Until you have your LSAT score in hand, it is nothing but speculation in discussing what schools might or might not admit you. Once you have your score, then it becomes more than just speculation. Start with the Boston College Range Finder
. This is available in the bookcase on the third floor of Beatty Hall. The Range Finder
will help you locate those schools which are "on target," given your GPA and LSAT. Along with the Range Finder
, use Approved Law Schools
, an ABA publication which is on reserve in the Loyola-Notre Dame Library. Next consult the other books on reserve at the library, including The Official Guide to U. S. Law Schools
, published by the Law School Administration Council. There is an opinion that the data in The Official Guide
are less accurate than the data included in the ABA publication because the ABA is stricter regarding the reliability of data it accepts from law schools than the LSAC. There are also other books on reserve at the library which you should consult about the entire law school applications process and the study of law in general.
How important is the personal statement part of the application process to law school?
Law schools generally consider several things in your application. By far the most important is the LSAT score, second most important is your GPA, and third most important are the letters of recommendation. After that, law schools will consider your personal statement, your job experiences and other miscellaneous factors. The law school will consider primarily your LSAT and your GPA, and based on your LSAT and your GPA you might be in that category of students who will definitely be admitted to law school or you might be in that category of students who definitely will not be admitted to that particular law school. If you are in either of these categories, the law school probably will not look at your letters of recommendation or read your personal statement.
If you are in that vast middle group of students where the LSAT and the GPA are not dispositive then the law school will read your personal statement. Therefore, the personal statement might be very important because this is how the law school can tell whether or not there is anything special and unique about you that puts you apart from other students in that large middle group of students who have LSAT's and GPA's which qualify them for law school. You must remember that the law school cannot accept everyone who is qualified and, therefore, resorts to personal statements, letters of recommendation, unique life and job experiences, and such factors as these to determine which students from that large middle group of students it will admit to law school.
See additional information on personal statement webpage
What should the personal statement be like?
The personal statement should be a one page double-spaced, typed statement. If the statement is longer than one page many law school admissions committees will only give it the most cursory treatment or will not read it at all. The personal statement above everything else should indicate that you know how to write. Obviously, the grammar, the spelling, the syntax, and all of the mechanics must be as perfect as you can make them. Your personal statement should not indicate that you want to go to law school in order to save the world, to make the world a more just place, to help all of those people in the world who need help or to achieve some other noble but common place aspirations. Instead, your personal statement should communicate to the law school admissions committee something unique about you, something that sets you apart from every other individual on the planet. This could be a job experience or a unique internship experience which you have had.
The unique aspect about your life may be in your own family experiences, your own upbringing, or some thing personal. The key word is unique. Your personal statement must be different. It must set you apart from everyone else. Therefore, you should put a great deal of thought into your personal statement. It should be the kind of statement that when the admissions committee of a law school finishes reading it, they sit back and say "that was interesting." If your personal statement is the kind which generates that kind of response then you are well on your way to being admitted.
What about letters of recommendation—how important are they?
Letters of recommendation are important but not as important as the LSAT and the GPA. You should have two letters from faculty who have taught you rather than letters from employers and other people. If you do not know whether a faculty member will write you a strong letter, ask him or her, "Can you write me a strong letter?" or "Have I done well enough that you can write me a strong letter?" or something to that effect.
Unlike past practice at Loyola, there is no longer a pre-law committee which writes letters of recommendation. Law schools gradually became disenamoured with "committee letters" (though in the opinion of former members of the Loyola committee such letters were superior) and now prefer letters from individual faculty members who have taught the applicant.
See additional information on letters of recommendation webpage
In the application process and on the letter of recommendation form, should I waive my rights to privacy?
Assuming that other considerations do not argue otherwise, yes. The reason for this is that if you do not waive your rights to privacy the readers of your letters of recommendation will attach less credibility to those letters. If you are uncertain of whether a faculty member can write you a favorable letter, ask him or her, for example, "Can you write me a strong letter?" Or, "Can you write me a favorable letter?” If the faculty member cannot respond with a clear "yes," get someone else.