Law School Preparation
Choosing A Major
Law is an incredibly diverse profession, and because of this, there is no one major that provides a student with a definitive background for its study. While the majors of History, English, Political Science, Philosophy, or Criminal Justice have traditionally been considered as preparation for law school, it is equally true that any major will lead to success in a law career. The most important first step that any student interested in law can make is to choose a major in which the student excels, which can be any major that interests the student.
While there is no major that is "pre-law," there are certain basic requirements for admission to law school: the successful completion of the bachelor's degree, a competitive undergraduate grade point average, and a competitive score on the Law School Admissions Test. Additionally, many personal factors are considered. Even though there is no single major that predicts a successful career in law, there are certain skills that will be necessary to ensure that success, and students should choose their classes wisely to develop those skills.
Language skills are of the utmost importance for success in the legal profession. Among these skills is writing and students should look for classes that aim to strengthen technical skills such as grammar and choose classes that require essay examinations and analytical written work. Oral communication is another important language skill since those in the legal profession must be able to clearly and effectively convey their meaning through the spoken word, speech classes, or those classes that require oral presentations to help build oral communication skills. Reading and oral comprehension skills are also crucial, both in law school and in the profession.
Critical Thinking and the LSAT
Students should work to develop their critical thinking skills. These skills are the basis of all success in the legal profession and account for three-quarters of the scored portion of the Law School Admissions Test. Courses in foreign languages, English, mathematics, and physical sciences, economics, philosophy, are useful in developing quantitative and verbal reasoning skills. Students will also need to have an awareness of people and society, to better understand how individuals and group's function. Classes that would be useful for this would be sociology, psychology, history, literature, and philosophy. Students should also develop their general research skills by choosing classes in which a research project is a critical component.
Extracurricular Activities & Personal Experience
Although the Grade Point Average and the LSAT score are important, there are many other factors that law schools consider. Campus involvement, community service, internships in the legal field, and an overall commitment to helping others would be very useful to someone interested in law as a profession.
Law School Application Process
A strong personal statement should discuss who you are, explain weaknesses in your file, and tell a good story. The admissions officer who reads your personal statement should not just feel informed but feel entertained while reading. No one can tell you what should be in your personal statement without knowing your entire personal and family history. Personal statements are often sent in conjunction with other essays. The set of essays must tell a unified story.
Note: Please email your essay prior to meeting with Pre-Law at [email protected].
While not all schools require a Dean's Letter, it is a very important part of the overall application process for those that do and is referred to as a Dean's Recommendation or College Questionnaire. The purpose of this letter is to verify whether a student has had any disciplinary or academic infractions while attending college.
The office that is responsible for processing this on our campus is the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. The Dean's Letter should be mailed or dropped off at the following address:
Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
1400 Washington Avenue
Lecture Center 30
Albany, NY 12222
Note: Please observe the importance of disclosing any infractions that may have occurred in the past even if they have since been expunged. Failure to disclose, if later discovered, carries very serious consequences such as denial of admission to the bar or disbarment. A pre-law advisor is available for further input on this matter.
Letters of Recommendation
When deciding who to ask for a recommendation, please do not use references from your friends or relatives, or recommendations from people who do not really know you. A common mistake made by applicants is to think that the prestige or position of the writer is more important than what the person can say about the applicant. Letters that compare you to your academic peers are often the most useful. A recommendation that is purely laudatory can lose some of its credibility and be viewed with some skepticism. A small flaw embedded along with much praise is likely to be viewed as more real.
Provide the recommenders with the following information:
Information about your grade point average, LSAT score, unusual circumstances or trends.
Highlights of significant experiences and/or awards, responsibilities, above average leadership responsibilities.
Copies of papers you did, if any, with comments by the writer of your recommendation.
Make an appointment to meet with the recommenders in-person and be prepared to discuss why you want to go to law school and what you are hoping to do with a law degree. Be active in expressing what you're hoping the recommender will include in the letter. The letter should evaluate rather than describe and the recommender's response will be a good indicator as to whether the recommendation will be useful. If you don't receive a firm yes when you ask the recommender to write a positive letter, you should seek alternatives.
A good recommendation will convey the recommender's enthusiasm and support for you as an applicant to law school.
Provide an envelope stamped and addressed to Credential Assembly Service as a courtesy and to facilitate the process for your recommender.
Allow at least 4 or 5 weeks for the tasks to be completed by the writer.
Remember to write a thank you note or stop by in person to express your appreciation.
The recommender should keep the following in mind:
- The law school admissions process is very competitive. Please ensure the recommendation is specific as possible. Law school admission committees’ want to know primarily how well the student reads and writes, if the student can adapt to the discipline of law school, and will the student reflect favorably on their law school.
- Be specific about the student's coursework. Was the course a demanding one? How well did the student perform on both oral and written assignments? Did the student do anything which stands outs in your mind (e.g., did the student write a term paper or essay which you considered superior?) if so, indicate the topic and why it was a superior work. Note the student's potential for intellectual development.
- Indicate how long and in what capacity you have known the student. If you are familiar with non-academic achievements (e.g., extra-curricular activities), please note these.
- Also note other background characteristics which may be useful (e.g., work experience, bilingual ability). Convey facts, not judgments alone. Do not use unsupported adjectives.
- Please forward your letter directly to the Credential Assembly Services on the form provided by the student.
- Keep a copy of every letter of recommendation.