The Catholic University of America

Pre-Law Guide

I. A LEGAL CAREER

The educational and professional aspects of law can be both stimulating and rewarding, but only when pursued for the right reasons. Carefully consider the following factors prior to pursuing a legal education.

How can I learn more about legal careers?

  • Read about legal careers in books and other publications
  • Talk with lawyers (family friends, alumni, professional contacts, etc.)
  • Consider working or volunteering in a law-related field

Why should I attend law school?

  • Interest in the judicial system or a legal specialty
  • Desire to develop or utilize the following skills:
    • Analyzing information
    • Conflict resolution
    • Counseling
    • Debating
    • Legal research
    • Negotiating
    • Oral communication
    • Organizing and managing legal work
    • Problem-solving
    • Resolving ethical dilemmas
    • Writing

For what reasons should I NOT attend law school?

  • Undecided about career plans
  • Family and peer pressure
  • Expectations of high salaries
  • Unable to find a job
  • Television/movie images of the legal profession

II. LAW SCHOOL PREPARATION

Is there a recommended major or coursework for those interested in a legal profession?

There is no "best" major to prepare for law school. Successful law students come from a variety of backgrounds, from accounting and engineering to nursing and politics. The most important thing is to find a major which you enjoy and can do well in. Admissions officers are more concerned with the following than your choice of major:

  • A strong academic record that demonstrates your ability to maintain a diverse and rigorous course load.
  • Courses which allow you to develop skills and abilities helpful for law school and the legal profession, e.g. logical thinking, reasoning, and concise writing.

Do activities really matter, and if so, what type?

The quality of your activities is more important than the quantity. Active participation which permits you to demonstrate leadership, contribution, and motivation is the most advantageous.

Can working in a law firm or a law-related position help my application?

Law-related experience can help you to the extent that it can confirm your interest and commitment to the legal field.

III. LAW SCHOOL APPLICATIONS

What selection factors may be considered by admissions committees?

  • LSAT score(s)
  • Undergraduate GPA
  • College coursework
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Volunteer work/community service
  • Difficulties you have overcome
  • Professional experience
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Ethnic background
  • Motivation to study law

How do I determine where to apply for law school?

Check your profile (GPA, LSAT, etc.) against the admissions profile of the law school. These profiles may be obtained in The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools. You can also consult the Boston College Law School Locator to determine the GPA and LSAT scores of a particular school. Apply to a realistic range of schools, offering varying degrees of probability for your acceptance. Consider the following:

  • Admissions and selection criteria
  • Curriculum and programs
  • Facilities, library and resources
  • Costs and financial aid
  • Size, faculty/student ratio
  • Students (age, diversity, etc.)
  • Placement opportunities
  • Student groups and journals
  • Geographic location
  • Competitiveness
  • Personal considerations

Where can I obtain information about law schools?

  • Law school catalogs, web pages, and directories
  • Law school fairs and programs
  • Talking with students and faculty
  • Attend law school classes
  • Campus tours
  • Pre-law advisors

When are application deadlines?

Application deadlines vary from January to May depending upon the school, with February being the most popular. Many schools review applications on a rolling-admission basis, or as they receive batches of completed files. In these cases it is best to submit materials as soon as possible, preferably before the first of the year.

Remember that law schools require complete files (LSAT score, application, letters of recommendation, etc.) before considering you for admission.

IV. LAW SCHOOL ADMISSION TEST (LSAT)

What is it?

The LSAT is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all LSAC-member law schools. It is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school. Also, the LSAT allows admissions officers to more objectively compare candidates from different campuses.

The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180, and scores are received via mail approximately, five weeks after the test.

When is the best time to take the LSAT?

The LSAT is offered four times a year: June, October, December, and February. June of your junior year is optimal. However, if you cannot take it in June or you wish to retake it, October is recommended. Most importantly, take the LSAT when you are able to prepare for it fully.

What types of questions are on the LSAT?

The LSAT reflects a broad range of academic disciplines. It consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions and one 30-minute writing sample.

  • Reading comprehension (1 section)
    Ability to read and understand lengthy and complex materials
  • Analytical reasoning (1 section)
    Ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw conclusions about that structure
  • Logical reasoning (2 sections)
    Aptitude for understanding, analyzing and criticizing arguments
  • An uncensored set of questions used to present new items and to equate new test forms (test makers are not told which section is not scored)
  • Writing sample (1 section)
    Ability to communicate and to support a position

How do I best prepare for the LSAT?

Concentrated practice over a period of time is necessary for adequate preparation. Make sure that you take at least one complete test under timed test conditions.

Should I take a commercial prep course?

The LSAT is designed to measure intellectual qualities developed over a period of time. Thus there are two thoughts concerning test prep programs:
(1) A prep course cannot help you develop those qualities, and
(2) Prep courses may not prepare you in terms of content, but they may make you feel more comfortable with the test by helping you to develop and sharpen your test taking techniques.

When deciding whether or not a commercial course will be helpful for you, analyze your abilities and your potential to structure your study independently. Even if you attend a test preparation course, you should still prepare on your own. Courses do not replace individual study.

How should I decide whether to retake the LSAT?

If you believe your score does not reflect your true ability, or you were ill on the day of the test, it may be beneficial to retake the test. However, if your score is a fairly accurate indicator of your ability, it is unlikely that taking the test again will result in a substantially different score. There is also the chance that your score will drop.

Each school has its own system for interpreting multiple LSAT scores - some average the scores, while others look at the highest or lowest. When in doubt, consult with the admissions office of the schools in which you are interested.

V. LAW SCHOOL DATA ASSEMBLY SERVICE (LSDAS)

What is it?

The LSDAS is a computerized service that was created to centralize and standardize undergraduate records and to simplify the admissions process. Grades are converted to one system that allows schools to more uniformly compare applicants. The LSDAS report contains the following:

  • Biographical information from your registration form
  • A year-by-year summary of your undergraduate record
  • Copies of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • LSAT score(s) and LSAT writing sample(s)

When do I subscribe to the LSDAS?

You may subscribe for the service at the time you register for the LSAT, or at a later date. Regardless, make certain you subscribe for the LSDAS during the year you are actually applying to law school. LSDAS is a one-year service and requires a renewal fee for each additional year. Registration information is available in the LSAT/LSDAS book in Career Services.

VI. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

How many recommendations do I need?

Law schools vary in their requirements for letters of recommendation. However, two to three recommendations are usually required.

What type of recommendations do I need?

Law schools seek letters written by individuals who know you and can address your ability to think cogently and analytically, as well as your ability to assimilate and interpret information. Typical letters include the following:

  • Faculty
  • Dean's Letter
  • Employers
  • Club Advisors

Law schools are not impressed by "big names" that have little in-depth knowledge to provide about you.

How can I assist those who are writing a letter of recommendation?

Provide the individual writing the recommendation with a copy of your resume, transcript and/or copy of your personal statement. This will give the writer a better sense of who you are and provide support for his/her points. Provide a stamped, addressed envelope and indicate any deadlines. Be thoughtful and courteous by giving the writer at least four to six weeks in which to complete the letter and any required forms.

What is a credential file service?

Some college career centers provide a credential file service for maintaining and distributing your letters of recommendation. One letter is completed by each writer and kept in file on the career center. Copies of the original letter may then be sent to any law school upon your request. This service may be open to alumni or current students.

LSDAS also offers a similar service. Check the registration booklet for more information.

VII. PERSONAL STATEMENT

What is the personal statement?

Nearly every law school will require a personal statement. This 1-2 page document is designed to assess the following:

  • Your unique qualities and what sets you apart from other candidates
  • Communication skills
  • Your motivation for the study of law

Use the personal statement to elaborate on topics which the application does not allow you to cover. Do not simply list your experiences. Include your role and responsibilities, level and length of involvement, plus any significant contributions. Write clearly, creatively and concisely.

VIII. FINANCIAL AID

Tuition can range from a few thousand dollars to over twenty thousand dollars per year. Add in housing, books and personal expenses and you can pay beyond $75,000 for a three-year program. Law school is an important investment of time and money.

What financial aid resources are available?

There are three basic types of financial aid:

  • Scholarships, grants and fellowships
    (merit and need-based; quite limited)
  • Loans
    (need-based and not need-based; awarded directly by the school or through private agencies)
  • Federal College Work-Study

Education loans are a serious financial obligation, particularly when you may also have loans from your undergraduate education. Borrow only the amounts you can reasonably expect to pay based on your projection of future income.

When do I apply for financial aid?

Discuss your financial needs with the law school's financial aid office early in the application process. Request information about financial aid forms and applications at the same time you apply for admission. Do not wait until you have been accepted.

IX. ADMISSIONS DECISIONS

When can I expect to hear about admissions decisions?

Many law schools operate on a rolling admission process. The school evaluates applications and informs candidates of admissions decisions on a continuous basis over several months, usually beginning in late fall and extending to mid-summer for waiting-list admissions. Schools that do not use rolling-admission process usually wait to announce all their decisions at once, typically in early April.

Questions or Suggestions? Email us at: careers@cua.edu



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