Navigating the admissions process when preparing for law school is no easy task. At the top of your list is the need to put together a standout application, which often starts with a strong undergraduate GPA. You'll also most likely have to take an exam, whether it's the ever-delightful Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) or the GRE, which was recently approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) as an alternative for law school admissions.
Along with these formal requirements, however, are a number of other things that you can do to put yourself in a better position for law school and, ultimately, your future legal career.
But even once you've gathered your letters of recommendation, written your personal statement, and taken your law school entrance exams, you're still not done! When you're thinking about how to prepare for law school, your application is only the beginning.
Prepping for Law School During Undergrad
You don't necessarily have to be a pre-law major to do well in law school. In fact, there are a lot of reasons to choose an undergraduate major outside of pre-law. But that doesn't mean students who wish to go to law school should ignore the law during undergrad.
There are plenty of classes that can help lay a strong foundation for your legal education. Classes that help develop reading comprehension, problem-solving, critical thinking, oral communication, and writing skills are especially helpful for those who wish to practice law.
If having a pre-law advisor and guidance on LSAT prep sounds helpful to you, a pre-law track may be right for your undergraduate studies. Many colleges and universities also have pre-law societies where you'll meet others preparing for the law school experience.
Preparing Financially for Law School
With the uncertainties of the economy and the legal job market, putting together a financial plan before law school is a great way to guide you (and your spending) over the next few years. We all know the challenges that come with having to pay off student loans and how these financial obligations can severely restrain your options upon graduation.
However, there are steps you can take before and during law school to minimize the influence of creditors over your life and to take better control over the future. It starts with asking tough questions like:
- Should I move back in with my parents/family?
- What's the least amount of money I could live on each month?
- Could I work while in law school?
- What scholarships/grants are available, and what's required to apply?
- Could I work in public service so that I can qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?
Asking the tough questions now and being disciplined during law school could end up paying huge dividends for you down the road. Not only will it help to guide your spending, but it could also help you to determine what you do after graduation.
Preparing for 1L Life
So the school of your choice accepted your application, now what? How do you make sure you're ready for the rigors of the first year of law school?
Understanding Law School Courses
There are many ways to prepare yourself academically for your first year. An online search or even an email to student affairs could give you a good idea of what a typical 1L schedule would look like. You might even be able to find course syllabi to see what topics you'll be covering in your classes. Don't feel the need to start studying now, though. Reading old cases probably won't make that much sense until they're filtered through your professors.
Extracurricular activities are also important in law school, especially when you're trying to stand out to potential employers. Many schools offer opportunities for 1Ls to work on law review or other law school journals. Reach out to current law student editors to introduce yourself and learn more about journal opportunities. You can also learn more about a school's law clinics, moot court, or mock trial teams by contacting the faculty who run them and who are usually happy to talk about their different projects.
Many law schools also offer prep courses to help incoming first-year law students get acclimated to the type of work they'll be doing in the program. For many students, law school is the first time they encounter the Socratic method, where an instructor will continue to challenge you and ask questions until a contradiction is exposed in your argument. It can be stressful at first, but getting some practice in before classes start can help take the edge off.
This legwork can make the transition to your 1L year smoother, but try not to go overboard. Remember, you're going to be submerged in the law for the next three years of your life, so have some fun while you still have some free brain space and free time.
Make Your Virtual Connections
Oftentimes, incoming classes will set up their own social media pages when preparing for law school. These can be used to communicate information and to make early virtual introductions among your peers. These are great opportunities to get a feel for your incoming class, get answers to urgent questions, and make your first day of classes a little less awkward.
You Don't Have to Wait to Get a Job
If you still have some time before law school or are looking for part-time work while in school, consider working as a legal assistant or even an internship at a legal firm, organization, or agency. Work experience will not only complement law school by showing you how the law is actually practiced, but it might also give you a great starting point for employment after you get your degree.
However, remember that your studies should be your top priority.
Having a good plan, financially and academically, is important when preparing for law school and can help give some order to things that seem unpredictable and out of your control right now. As you move forward with the law school application process, stick with FindLaw for Law Students for additional resources and support to help you through law school and into your career.