Most would-be law school applicants focus on what they'll have to do once they start the law school application process. But what they don't realize is that there is plenty they need to do before they even start the engine on the law-school-mobile.
Here are four things that any law school applicant absolutely should do before they embark on their professional school journey:
#1: Determine exactly WHY you want to go to law school
It's not enough to apply to law school because your parents want you to, or because a lot of your friends are doing it, or because you don't know what to do after college and think a JD would be good to have. Nope, nope, and nope. Those (and these) are all bad reasons for attending law school (and, in the case of the first and second, they're bad reasons for doing most anything). Your reasons for wanting to attend law school and receive a JD need to be strongly rooted in your future career plans (because, after all, the only true reason to attend law school is to become an attorney), your skill sets, and your own personal desire to practice law. Anything else is secondary--and if those secondary reasons are the primary motivation, then you should rethink your law school plan altogether.
#2: Don't wait 'til your senior year to start
I talk to way too many students who flittered away the summer between their junior and senior year of college, and then decided to start the law school application process when they got back to school in the fall. Let me be as clear as I can about this: If you're waiting until the fall of your senior year to get serious about your law school applications, you've waited too long. The fall is when you should have everything completed and submitted, not when you start worrying about taking the LSAT, finding recommenders, or writing personal statements.
#3: Study for the LSAT
Do not, I repeat, do not take the LSAT cold. And don't think you can study for the LSAT in just a few weeks, either. Plan to study 2-3 months (yup, that's right, months) for the LSAT, and plan on devoting hours a day to it. Not only can your performance on the test improve dramatically if you study for it, you'll also be drastically improving your chances of admission to law schools where you might otherwise not have had a chance. The LSAT is considered an indicator of first-year law school performance, and is also the single most important numerical indicator in your law school application (yes, even more than your GPA). So treat it with respect and study for it diligently.
#4: Understand what the process will entail
Applying to law school is intense. It's stressful. It will have bumps in the road and make you question your sanity and motivation at times. It's not just about writing an essay and getting a professor to write you a letter. It's an involved process--as well it should be, considering that you are essentially choosing to go down a career path that will likely determine the rest of your professional life. Be aware that, for the brief time when you will be studying and taking the LSAT, choosing and applying to law schools, and waiting for those fateful decision letters, other things in your life might take a back seat. And that's okay. Expect that it will happen, prepare for what can be an all-encompassing process, and you'll get through it without a problem.
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