Applying to Law School
Once you have decided to apply to law school, you should create an account at www.lsac.org if you have not already done so. The Law School Admissions Council website will give you access to a wide range of information and allow you to research various law schools and their admissions standards. Another helpful site is www.howicompare.com, which allows you to enter your GPA and projected LSAT score to see where your application might be accepted. Law schools provide aggregate data on the GPAs and LSAT scores of their most recent entering class, which will help you to tailor your applications to schools that fall in your range. There is no set number of schools that you should apply to; this varies from person to person based on qualifications and willingness to move away from New York to attend law school.
In addition to creating a LSAC account, you should also develop a relationship with one of Touro’s prelaw advisors. Prof. Tom Rozinski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Touro’s principal prelaw advisor; he advises students in all of Touro’s undergraduate programs. Other prelaw advisors are Vice President and Dean of Students Robert Goldschmidt (email@example.com), Prof. Daniel Chill (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Prof. Ross Zucker (email@example.com). All can provide helpful advice with the many aspects of the application process. This includes such things as when to take the LSAT, when to retake it, where to apply, what to write about in the application essay, what to avoid writing about, and whom to ask for recommendation letters. There are many nuances to the application process that cannot be included in this brief guide, and students who attempt to apply on their own risk making errors that could turn a likely admission into an unfortunate rejection.
All law school applications must be submitted online, and most grant fee waivers so you should check the school’s website before paying the application fee. You will need to prepare a two-page application essay and a resume, as well as any other essays that specific schools might require. Every essay must be prepared with meticulous care, and should generally go through several drafts before it is submitted. Successful legal practice requires compulsive attention to detail, so typographical, grammatical, or usage errors could lead to rejection by law schools that might otherwise admit you. A poorly-written essay may be seen as the sign of a poorly-prepared student, so make sure that your essays are as close to perfect as possible. Then proofread them again to make sure.
You will also need to obtain two or three recommendations, usually from instructors who are familiar with your written work. Recommendations from instructors who can say no more than that you did well on their tests do little to help your candidacy because they add nothing to the information available on your transcript. You are far better off with a letter from a instructor who can discuss a research project that you carried out or a paper that was well-written and thought-provoking. You can also use letters from employers who are familiar with your work, as long as they discuss your skills and not just whether they liked having you as an employee or intern. It does not help you to seek out high-level government officials to write on your behalf unless you have done work that they have reviewed. Choosing appropriate recommenders should be discussed with your prelaw advisor, since every student’s situation is different. You will need to enter the contact information of each recommender on lsac.org, which will contact your references by email. Make sure that you waive your right to see your recommendations if you want law schools to give them full consideration.
Finally, you need to be aware that the admissions offices of many law schools will conduct Internet searches for public information about their applicants. Anything that you post on social media can and will be considered, and perhaps held against you. Anything posted on the Internet never really goes away, so avoid making any posts that might cast doubt on your judgment or your fitness to practice law. In addition, make sure that you devise a professional-sounding email address and record a professional answering machine message for the phone number you submit to law schools.
Responding to admission and waiting list offers
Once you submit your applications, you should not forget about them until the first response arrives. Make sure that you follow up if you receive word that a recommendation or transcript is missing. If you have never visited the schools that you applied to, do so – especially if they are in the New York area. Every school welcomes visits from applicants, so can determine how good a fit each school might be for you. Are there kosher restaurants nearby, or must you bring your own food each day? What accommodations will the law school make when you tell them that you cannot attend classes during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot? What would your commute be like? Should you look into a dorm or apartment? Knowing the answers to these questions will help when you need to make decisions about which school to attend.
You should rank the law schools you applied to, to help in the event that you receive multiple offers of admission. You will usually be required to submit an acceptance deposit to guarantee your place, which means that if you are holding out hope for your top school you may have to make a financial commitment to keep your place at your second-choice school. There is nothing illegal or unethical about accepting a place in one school while waiting for a better offer, unless you have no intention of attending that school. There is also nothing wrong with remaining on several waiting lists while you await final admission decisions.
If you do are offered a scholarship, you will often have to make a decision between a reduced rate at a lower-ranked law school and full tuition at a higher-ranked law school. While saving $10,000 or more on your first-year tuition might seem an easy decision, you need to know that most scholarships come with renewal conditions, such as maintaining a certain GPA. You need to consider whether you would still be happy attending a lower-ranked school if you failed to meet the minimum first-year GPA, had no realistic hope of transferring to a better school, and had to pay full tuition for the last two years.
The more important consideration is that law schools are more highly ranked if they provide their students with better job opportunities and better classmates, which are often important when you look to change jobs in the future. At some lower-ranked law schools, many graduates will no longer be practicing law ten years out, and so they will be less helpful than graduates of a school most of whose students will likely remain in the legal profession for decades. This means that unless you have a guaranteed job before you enter law school, you should usually try to attend the best law school you can. While saving tens of thousands of dollars seems mighty attractive when you have just graduated from Touro and have no income, you may be foregoing even more money in future salary by accepting a full scholarship to a lower-ranked law school. Every law school awards some scholarship money based on financial need, and you can borrow the remainder of your tuition and living costs at low interest. May law schools also have loan forgiveness programs that substantially reduce your debt if you accept a public-interest job.
Once you have heard from one law school, you can use it to your advantage in negotiating with other law schools that have yet to decide. One Touro student used an offer of a scholarship at a lower-ranked law school to convince a higher-ranked law school to admit him. Another used an offer of a scholarship at one law school to obtain a scholarship from a similarly-ranked law school, and then used that scholarship offer to convince the first school to match his scholarship at the second school. While this strategy does not always work, it is more likely to be successful earlier in the application process rather than later, when scholarship funds have been depleted. You should discuss such strategies with your prelaw advisor should the opportunity arise. Also, remember that law schools are training future professionals, and the more professionally you handle any negotiations, the more likely you are to be successful. Using aggressive negotiating strategies could put your scholarship—or even your admission—at risk.
At some point, you will be ready to make your final decision. When you do, submit your acceptance and deposit, and notify other schools that you are no longer interested. This should be done even if they have not made a final decision on your application. Should you later decide to defer for a year, most law schools will allow this so you can hold your place and avoid having to go through the application process the following year.