Lawyers advise and represent clients in legal matters, working with parties including individuals, businesses and government agencies. They read, research and write legal documents, in addition to interviewing witnesses and communicating with all parties involved with cases. They advocate on behalf of their clients, clearly presenting facts verbally and in writing. They must have a clear and thorough understanding of how international, federal, state or local laws affect their clients in order to achieve favorable outcomes.
If this type of work sounds appealing to you, you may be wondering how to get into law school. Getting accepted to law school can help you grow a career as a lawyer or in another legal-related occupation, such as an arbitrator or judge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2018 national median pay for lawyers was $120,910 per year. The job outlook for lawyers is expected to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028, with 50,100 new lawyer jobs expected to be added in the United States.
In this guide, learn what law school prerequisites are, how to get your Juris Doctor (JD)—otherwise known as a law degree—and why you might consider online JD program options.
Guide to Law School Admissions Requirements
Like most forms of graduate schools, getting into law school involves educational and testing requirements, as well as an entrance essay, interview and letters of recommendation requirements. Here’s how to prepare.
4 Steps to Law School
Law school admissions is a straightforward process. You’ll have to be a master of detail when you work as a lawyer, and navigating the law school admissions process prepares you for this aspect of the job.
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply for law school, but it doesn’t have to be law-related. Many lawyers get their bachelor’s degree in a field related to the one they want to work in, like finance or business. Others choose prelaw majors in subjects like philosophy or political science, which teaches students skills that relate to success as a lawyer.
Regardless of what you study, try to get the highest GPA you can as an undergraduate since that will factor into law school admissions. If you already have your bachelor’s degree and didn’t achieve a high GPA (3.0 or higher), you’ll want to focus on what you can control now: getting a high score on the LSAT (more on that later), getting strong recommendations and possibly gaining work in the legal field first.
You can also pursue an online Master of Legal Studies before going to law school. Even though your GPA in a master’s program won’t be factored into law school admission, you can gain a better understanding of whether or not law school is right for you. Your master’s experience can also be a positive talking point in interviews and essays.
2. Explore law degree specialties
There are many law degree specialties to pursue, and each one can lead to a wide variety of career paths. Law degree specialties include:
Admiralty (maritime law)
Some schools may offer law degree specializations, ranging in topics from technology and innovation to family law, estate law and health law. Students at certain law schools may be able to take upper-level classes in specializations or participate in experiential learning opportunities that focus on specific topics. You may want to seek out a JD degree program that is focused on the area of law you want to practice in.
Another way to find a specialty you might want to focus on is to read the LinkedIn bios of lawyers who work in similar positions to the ones you want. See what they specialized in or what schools they attended to get an idea of what would work for you.
3. Attend law school information sessions
Law school is a significant investment in terms of both time and money. You’ll want to choose a law school that:
Has a good reputation in your chosen industry, which can include law school rankings
Has professors you are interested in learning from
Has a curriculum that aligns with your career goals
Law school information sessions give aspiring students the opportunity to talk with admissions advisors about what to expect. The law school application process can be intensive when interviews and essays are taken into account.
Information sessions can help determine whether an online JD degree from an ABA-accredited program is right for you. At the school’s discretion, you may also be able to sit in on a live online class session to get a feel for the program.
As there may be law school application fees, narrowing down your search can save you time and money in the application process and help you home in on the schools you are most interested in.
On the LSAT, students will be tested on skills like:
The first part of the LSAT is a multiple-choice exam. The second part is a written essay called LSAT Writing. LSAT Writing gives applicants 35 minutes to write an argumentative essay in response to a prompt. Both LSAT test portions are administered online.
There is a variety of LSAT preparation materials available, including free practice tests and preparation books. Test-takers can take the LSAT three times in a single testing year and five times within the current and five past testing years, according to the Law School Admissions Council. Students can take the LSAT seven times over a lifetime.
Preparation is vital to make every LSAT test score count. You’ll want to commit to at least three months of preparation before you take the LSAT, and more, if possible.
According to LSAT preparation site Magoosh, you’re unlikely to be admitted to a well-respected law school program if your LSAT score is under 160. You may want to take the LSAT until you achieve a score of 160 or above, which will also make you a better candidate for receiving merit-based aid.
Other Law School Requirements for Admission
Additional law school requirements will depend on the school. In general, you can count on having to complete entrance essays, get letters of recommendation and interview with the schools that are considering you.
Tips for Law School Entrance Essays
Entrance essays for law school are often called personal statements. They are short essays where you explain who you are and why you want to go to law school so admissions can understand your motivation and why you might be a good fit for their school. Writing is an integral part of law professions, so the essay also demonstrates your writing ability.
Here are some tips for law school personal statements.
Follow directions. If there’s a word count cap, prompt or specific format that’s required, follow it.
Highlight what makes you unique. You’ll want to explain what makes you stand out from other applicants. Pretend everyone else who is applying has your same GPA and LSAT score. Why should admissions pick you?
Tailor the letter to the school. Be specific about why you are applying to the school your personal statement is for. Research the school and mention details about why it aligns with you as a candidate.
Look toward the future. Explain why you embody the qualities of a good lawyer. Detail how your law degree will help you succeed as you grow your career.
You might want to lead with an anecdote or story that illustrates your connection to the field of law before diving into the specifics of what makes you a standout candidate for that particular law school. You’ll want to then talk about what kind of lawyer you aspire to be and conclude the essay by tying your points together.
How to Get Law School Letters of Recommendation
Many law schools will require letters of recommendation. Look to former professors and work supervisors who are credible and who you are confident will provide you with positive recommendation letters.
You want your letters of recommendation to be effective and meaningful, not rushed. Give the people writing the letters plenty of time. Provide those you’re asking letters from with information that can help them, such as:
The goal of the letter
A reminder of accomplishments you might want them to highlight
Suggested talking points
Background of the school you’re applying to and why you’re applying there
You want the letter to be unique and genuine from the person who’s writing it, but giving your contacts helpful details can make the writing process easier for them and more effective for you.
Typical Law School Interview Questions
Most types of graduate schools will require an interview. The website 7Sage admissions features law school question examples from more than 10 of the most prominent law schools in the United States. Some include:
Tell me about a time you had to make a quick decision.
How do you work under pressure?
Why did you choose law?
What is your biggest accomplishment?
You should be prepared to talk about your resume and experience, your interest in law and why you are particularly interested in the law school you’re interviewing with.
3 Tips for your Law School Interview
Public speaking, including interviews, can be nerve-wracking for some. Just like you should practice for the LSAT, you should take time to practice for a law school interview. Here’s how.
1. Research questions & practice answers
Look at common law school interview questions and practice how you’d answer them. Be sure to practice answering questions out loud so you can grow your confidence for the interview.
It can help to write out answers first, then practice them out loud. Give a friend a list of sample questions and do a practice interview. Your practice interviewer should vary the questions. That way, you don’t know exactly what to expect and have to think in the moment when practicing your answers.
2. Ask for advice
Tap into your network to ask other law school graduates for advice. You can use LinkedIn to find connections (and connections of connections) who have gone through the law school experience and may be willing to share some insights.
There are also helpful online communities like Reddit’s LawSchool and LawSchoolAdmissions, where users can ask questions and get insights from community members.
3. Be confident and genuine
There aren’t many wrong answers in a law school interview. What’s often more important is the candidate’s ability to reason and how genuine and confident the answers are.
Answer each question thoroughly, honestly and with confidence. Those qualities may mean more than the answer itself, so don’t let how you answered a previous question impact your approach with the next one.
If You Want to Become a Lawyer, Research Law Schools Online
A career as a lawyer is always full of new challenges. You can work with a variety of clients on issues that impact individuals, businesses and the world. Use the tips in this guide to prepare for law school so you get closer to getting into your top school choice.