One of the biggest misconceptions students have about the law school admissions process is that they have to wait to do anything until after they've taken the LSAT.
Now, don't get me wrong: Taking the LSAT before you do anything else is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it's a great starting point, since your LSAT score determines so much when it comes to your application--where you'll have the best chance of admission, what your overall applications strategy needs to be, and if you need to take it again to be a competitive applicant. However, that's not to say that other things that are not heavily dependent on your LSAT can't be happening at the same time that you're studying for and taking the LSAT (or even before).
Both LORs and transcripts are notorious for two things: They can take a lot longer than you would think to get them done, and issues with getting them finalized and sent in seem to be pretty much the standard. This is why it's great that you can start getting them taken care of long before you even crack open an LSAT prep book.
LORs and transcripts actually have to be sent in from a third party directly to LSAC for processing and inclusion in your file. LORs are sent in or uploaded directly by your recommenders, and transcripts are sent in directly from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended or are currently attending.
In both cases, these documents can be sent in as soon as you have signed up for the Credential Assembly Service (which you can do even before you sign up for the LSAT--you don't need to register for an LSAT to be able to sign up and pay for the Credential Assembly Service).
Upon signing up for CAS, you'll be able to either have your recommenders upload letters directly onto your LSAC.org account for you, or mail them in with an accompanying letter of recommendation form that will allow LSAC to process the letters and add them to your account. You do not need to have an LSAT score on record or have taken the LSAT in order for you or your recommenders to be able to do this. Same goes for transcripts--once you have a LSAC.org account set up and CAS paid for, you can go ahead and print off the necessary transcript request forms, give them to the appropriate office at your undergraduate and graduate institutions (as applicable), and have them mail the document in.
Here are a few links I think you'll find helpful as you navigate what can be the confusing world of LSAC and CAS:
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Credential Assembly Service (LSAC.org)
- Information on LORs and Evaluations (LSAC.org)
- Requesting Transcripts (LSAC.org)
So, what's the moral of the story? That while there are things on your law school application list that could benefit from having you take the LSAT first, there are some things--like your letters of recommendation and transcripts--you can get out of the way long before you even start prepping for the test. Get those things taken care of as early as possible, and you'll be giving yourself some nice breathing room when you actually start down the law school application road.
Oh, and while we're on the subject, make sure to check out my law school application timelines for those taking the June LSAT, and my law school application timeline for those taking the October LSAT. It's time to start getting those ducks in a row!
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