Myths about Preparing for the Legal Profession
You might think hey, it’s super easy to get into law school! Who wants to be a lawyer anymore? Right? WRONG! If you are looking at the top law schools, the name of the game is low acceptance rates. Yes, you apply to law school after you have already attended college and have done well - but it is something you can plan far, far in advance.
If you take a look at this handy chart (thanks Internet Research Legal Group of the University of Texas at Austin, School of Law!), you’ll see that some of the acceptance rates are in the single digits - harder to enter than Ivies! Yes, there are many law schools. However, if you want to apply - and actually enter - the top-ranked schools, you need to put on your boxing gloves good and early!
Additionally, it may be no surprise that many of the country’s top law schools are part of the top-ranked universities.
This post is about breaking down some basic myths people have about how to prepare for the legal profession. So, let’s go!
It’s OK to pursue law as a “fall back” choice
High school is too early to think about being a lawyer
My undergraduate major matters, a LOT
The LSAT is the most important
Law schools are desperate for applicants so I can have whatever GPA
1. OK to Pursue Law Career as “Fall-Back” Choice: FALSE!
You know you can’t stand the sight of blood, so, becoming a doctor is out of the question. And, you have tried engineering stuff but hated it. And, spreadsheets make you crazy! So, why not law school, right? WRONG! Law school cannot be the “default” path just because you did not like everything else. It is important that you choose something which is a good match for YOU.
Nope. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), which develops the Law School Admissions Test (which law schools typically require in their application processes), advises you to:
Choose courses that will enhance your reading comprehension, writing, and analytical skills.
In other words, buckle up for lots and lots of reading, reading, reading, and analysis. So, when you are writing essays in high school, (or for the SAT / ACT) what’s the part of the rubric which students often find the most challenging? The ANALYSIS.
If you hate reading, books, research, writing - then perhaps you need to take a good look and choose some other path for yourself. Because, most likely, the law will not be a great fit: law school, and lawyering, mean you will spend years and years of your life doing just that.
If you love that sort of thing, GREAT! Maybe you love to read the fine print! Or, you willingly spend time reviewing user license agreements! The American Bar Association even offers some handy-dandy curricula for elementary, middle and high schoolers, to try out their critical thinking skills, such as this one about news literacy (appropriate for 6-8th grade). They are meant for teachers, but, you can take a look and see the type of skills they are encouraging you to develop.
So - one more time so you don’t miss the point - law is something to choose if you really, really love reading, writing and analyzing! (Or, you happen to be really good at it!)
2. High school is too early to think about the law - FALSE!
False! If you have already determined that you love, love, love reading, writing, and analysis, the LSAC is happy to advise you to take challenging classes (oh yes, that could very well mean AP US History, AP Language & Composition, etc.) keep up your grades, and start doing career research. And, as mentioned above in #1, the American Bar Association wants get kids engaged with civic / legal concepts as early as elementary school! So, it’s never too early! Start now!
3. My undergraduate major matters, a LOT
No, it won’t! If you don’t believe me, here’s what Harvard Law School has to say about it:
Harvard Law School considers applications from all undergraduate majors. There are no fixed requirements with respect to the content of pre-legal education. The nature of a candidate’s college work, as well as the quality of academic performance, are reviewed in the selection process.
If we look at the LSAC advice about preparing for a career in the law, you’ll notice that there is no specific recommendation about majors. Instead, you’ll see that keeping up your GPA and preparing for the LSAT are primary concerns.
4. The LSAT is the most important - TRUE
By now, you might be curious about the LSAT, since, you’ve seen that acronym several times by now. You might think, now, why after all this talk of reading and writing, what is up with a multiple choice test? Why would law schools care about such a thing?
Your college GPA will be of utmost importance too. But this is a common factor for grad school admissions in general.
The LSAT, with its special mix of questions, is a particular “filter.” Unlike the GMAT or GRE, there is no “math” per se. However, its questions are definitely designed for a very, very specific purpose - to see if you like to split hairs, make fine distinctions, all while parsing complex text and keeping track of logic in a disciplined way. Don’t worry, there is an on-demand writing portion so you’ll definitely be writing. However, the multiple choice questions assess your reading comprehension skills, analytical reasoning, and a double-dose of your logical reasoning skills.
5. Law schools are desperate for applicants so I can have whatever GPA
Yes, it’s true that enrollments are down. However, the top law schools are admitting those with college GPAs of 3.8 and above. Whether you want to apply to Harvard, Stanford or UC Berkeley for law school one day, you’ll have to keep a very sharp eye on your academic performance. So, college will not be a time for napping like a kitty!