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EXPLORING YOUR INTEREST IN LAW

By Gladys Gomez,2014-07-17 01:07
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NAPLA HAS PREPARED THE PRE-LAW GUIDE FOR THOSE CONSIDERING THE LEGAL PROFESSION, FOR UNDERGRADUATES PREPARING FOR LEGAL STUDY, AND FOR CANDIDATES APPLYING TO ...

    NAPLA Pre-Law Guide

    Table of Contents

    Introduction ................................................................................................................. 1 Exploring Your Interest in Law ................................................................................... 2 Preparing for Law School ............................................................................................ 4 Determining Where to Apply ....................................................................................... 5 Understanding Admissions Criteria ............................................................................. 8 Applying to Law School .............................................................................................. 9 Law School Admission Test (LSAT) ....................................................................... 9 Credential Assembly Service (CAS) ...................................................................... 10 The Application ..................................................................................................... 11 Personal Statements ............................................................................................... 12 Letters of Recommendation ................................................................................... 12 Filing Your Applications ....................................................................................... 14 Taking Time Off .................................................................................................... 15 Considering Admissions Decisions ............................................................................ 16 Financing Law School ............................................................................................... 18 Legal Career Checklist .............................................................................................. 22 Legal Career Resources ............................................................................................. 23

? 2008 NAPLA Inc. Permission to use this content is granted to nonprofit educational

    institutions. All other rights reserved.

    Introduction

NAPLA has prepared the Pre-Law Guide for those considering the legal profession, for

    undergraduates preparing for legal study, and for candidates applying to law school. The Guide

    is designed to help at each stage by providing accurate and up-to-date information.

    Pre-law advisors at nonprofit educational institutions are granted permission by NAPLA to use the Guide and are encouraged to tailor it to their respective schools. The Guide can be printed

    and distributed to students and alumni, and used on schools' websites. NAPLA requests that the attribution below be included in both print and online versions of the Guide.

The NAPLA Pre-Law Guide is based on Cornell University's Legal Careers Guide, which was

    used by permission of Cornell Career Services. NAPLA would like to acknowledge the following schools for their contributions to the Guide: Binghamton University, Boston College,

    Boston University, Bucknell University, Columbia University, Duke University, Northeastern University, Princeton University, and Texas A & M University. The Law School Admission Council provided information on study abroad transcripts, and the Financial Aid section is based on the "Financial Aid Toolkit" developed by the Pre-Law Advisors National Council (PLANC).

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 1

    Exploring Your Interest in Law

    A J.D., Juris Doctor, can lead to a wide range of law-related careers and can open doors to careers in government, business, higher education, communications, and numerous other fields. Law school graduates are administrators, teachers, librarians, and business managers as well as advocates, judges, and politicians.

The law can be a rewarding profession. At its best, legal practice challenges the intellect,

    demanding the exercise of reason and judgment. The ethics of the profession require attorneys to promote justice, fairness, and morality; thus, legal employment can bring particular satisfaction to those who seek to work, within the law, to seek social injustice.

There are significant differences in career choices lawyers make, from public interest law and

    government law to private practice in a firm. The range in starting salaries alone can exceed $100,000. And, the need to pay back law school loans can affect the career choices of a new graduate.

    Before beginning the application process, consider carefully if a law degree is right for you. It is not necessary to know what kind of law you want to practice or even if you want to practice law to decide to attend law school. There are a number of ways you can explore the field of law:

     Talk with a career counselor and/or a pre-law advisor about your interest in pursuing

    legal studies. If you are uncertain who the pre-law advisor at your school is, the Law

    School Admission Council will inform you when you register for the Credential

    Assembly Service (CAS).

     Conduct research on legal careers using resources at your pre-law advising office or

    college career office.

     Investigate online resources, including the American Bar Association, the National

    Association of Law Placement, and Internet Legal Research Group.

     Intern with a law firm or law-related organization to gain exposure to the field and to

    experience the work environment.

     Conduct information interviews to learn about the legal profession. Talk with

    lawyers who are family members, family friends, or alumni of your college to learn:

     * what lawyers do in a typical work day

     * personal attributes needed to be successful in a legal career

     * satisfactions and dissatisfactions of the field

     * impact of a legal career on personal lives

Realities of a Legal Career

An important step in making a decision is to distinguish between commonly held expectations

    and the reality of legal practice. Hours can be very long and often include weekends. Legal work can require spending considerable time in tedious, painstaking research. Depending on the type of law practiced and the location, entry into law firms can be difficult and salaries may not meet expectations. The market for new lawyers is competitive for those seeking positions in

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 2

cities and firms that are in high demand.

    Employment statistics for the class of 2007 law graduates, based on responses from 40,416

    1(92% of all graduates) reveal the following:

     The average starting salary was $86,396; the median salary was $65,750.

     About 11% of salaries reported were at or below $40,000.

     Salaries of more than $75,000 accounted for nearly 43% of salaries reported.

     Approximately 56% of the class chose private practice in law firms.

     About 27% took positions in public service, including judicial clerkships, government

    agencies, and public interest organizations.

     Graduates entering business accounted for about 14%.

     Approximately 23% of graduates were employed in positions for which bar passage is

    not required.

    While a corporate lawyer in a private firm may earn $135,000 the first year, he/she may also work twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week. Most of those interested in public interest law can expect a starting salary around $40,000.

1NALP The Association for Legal Career Professionals Jobs & J.D.’s: Employment and Salaries

    of New Law GraduatesClass of 2007.

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 3

    Preparing for Law School

    Admissions committees look at a variety of factors and trends in your academic record in an attempt to predict how you will perform in law school. There is no “pre-law major” and unlike

    medical school, there are no specific educational requirements for entrance into law school.

Develop research, analysis, and writing skills

Law schools are interested in your ability to do rigorous analytical research, to write well, to

    present, and to persuade. Take courses that will develop these skills. The American Bar

    Association offers an overview of the skills and values important to preparing for a legal education and a career in law.

    Law-related classes may allow you to get a feel for law as a general subject, but they neither cover the material in the same depth nor embody the intensity and rigor of law school. Therefore, they are not especially accurate indicators of your ability to succeed in the study of law or whether you will enjoy it.

Select a Major

    Choose a major that interests you. Admissions offices are not particularly interested in your major, but they are interested in how well you did in the discipline(s) you chose to pursue. A double major is not necessarily a positive factor in the admissions process.

    While specific coursework may be helpful in corporate law, environmental law or intellectual property, a JD is a generalist’s degree, and applicants come from widely diverse academic backgrounds.

Compile an impressive record

A solid GPAparticularly within your majoris expected, but a willingness to go beyond

    requirements demonstrates an intellectual curiosity that would be advantageous in the study of law. Academic excellence reflects discipline and abilities, though the variety and depth of your coursework will also be seriously considered by admissions committees as evidence of your interests and motivation.

In general, lecture courses provide a good foundation for further instruction, while seminars

    allow you to present, discuss, critique, and defend more specific ideas. Smaller classes give you the opportunity to interact with faculty. Get to know faculty whom you might later ask for recommendations; make yourself stand out as an individual by attending office hours, asking questions in class, and conducting research with faculty.

Pursue Activities

Law schools will be interested in your extracurricular activities, leadership experience, summer

    jobs, internships, and public service since they seek well-rounded candidates for admission.

    Select activities that interest you; they do not have to be directly related to law. Over time, get involved in more depth in fewer activities. Take initiative and show leadership.

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 4

    Determining Where to Apply

    With 195 accredited law schools in the United States, how do you decide where to apply and ultimately where to attend? Begin by assembling a list of law schools based on the criteria that are important to you, then revise your choices according to your chances of admission.

    Do not let the search for "long shots, good chances, and sure things" govern your selection process. Selecting schools carefully will help reduce the time and expense of applying to an excessive number of schools.

Criteria for Selection

Consider the following factors and determine which are important to you:

National/Regional Schools: Does the school attract applicants from across the country

     and abroad, or are most students from the region in which the school is located? Do most

    students want to work throughout the country or in the school's region following graduation?

    Location: Is the school in an urban area or in a suburban/rural setting? Is it part of

     university or independent? Are there other graduate schools nearby? Is the school in a place

    you would want to be for three years and where you would be willing to work following

    graduation, depending on employment opportunities?

     Faculty/Classes: What are the academic and experiential backgrounds of faculty? How

    accessible are they? What is the faculty-student ratio, the number of full-time vs. adjunct

    faculty, and the number of female and minority faculty? How many students are in each

    course? Are classes taught in the Socratic method or lecture?

    Facilities and Resources: Is the school affiliated with a university? Do students have access

    to courses from a range of academic disciplines to supplement their legal curriculum? Is the

    library large enough to accommodate holdings and permit students to conduct research and

    study? How helpful is the library staff? How accessible are electronic databases such as

    Lexis and Westlaw? In general, do the facilities provide a comfortable learning

    environment?

    Student Body: What is the size of the entering class? What does the admissions profile tell

    you about the quality of the student body? Where did students study as undergraduates and

    what are their geographic backgrounds? Is there diversity in interests and personal/cultural

    backgrounds? What is the overall atmosphereare students friendly or overly competitive?

    Is there much interaction with fellow students outside the classroom?

    Special Programs: What courses are available in specialized areas? What joint degree

    programs of interest to you are available? What are the opportunities for practical

    experience, including clinics, internships, etc.? Can you “write” on to law reviews in

    addition to be selected based on class rank? What specialized institutes, journals, or

    organizations exist in your areas of interest? Does the school demonstrate a commitment to

    women and minorities through special programs?

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 5

    Career Services: What advising and resources are available to help you find a job? Is career

    counseling available? How many employers recruit at the law school and who are they?

    What percentage of the class has positions at graduation? In what types of positions and

    geographic areas are they employed? What is the percentage of graduates holding judicial

    clerkships? What assistance is given to students not interested in working in law firms?

    What is the bar passage rate for recent graduates? How involved are alumni in career

    activities?

    Student Life: Is housing provided for first-year students? If not, does the school offer

    assistance in locating off-campus housing? Is the school located in a safe area? What is

    the cost of living? What types of cultural opportunities are there? Does the school provide

    recreational facilities? What is the general ambiance?

    Costs: What are tuition, housing, and transportation costs? Is financial aid exclusively need-

    based, or are merit scholarships available? Does the school offer a loan forgiveness

    program for public interest lawyers? What is the average debt burden for graduates from

    this school?

There are ways to minimize your cost of attending law school and to keep down the debt you

    incur. Apply to schools where you will be in the top part of the applicant pool; schools may give you a merit scholarship to attract you. Also, public schools are usually less expensive, and even if you are not a resident of a state in which a school is located, you can sometimes pay in-state tuition after your first year.

Reputation

    A number of factors contribute to a school’s reputation, including faculty, facilities, career services, and the reputation of the parent university. Though a number of law-school rankings are available, most factors evaluated are not quantifiable, and therefore you should not perceive the rankings as accurate or definitive.

    Selectivity at law schools, however, is one factor that can be quantified; you can gauge a school's relative selectivity by comparing the number of applicants accepted to the overall number of applications. Two resources that will help you determine your competitiveness for schools are the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (on the left sidebar) and the Boston College

    Online Law School Locator.

Schools can be divided roughly into three groups:

     Schools with national reputations that tend to appear in various "top ten" lists. They

    draw students from a national pool and offer geographic mobility to graduates.

     Schools with good regional reputations that are attended primarily by students from the

    region, who may want to remain in the area following graduation, but who may also seek

    positions throughout the country.

     Local schools that draw students primarily from the immediate area who want to practice

    there following graduation.

    For a more detailed discussion of law school reputation and the process for evaluating schools,

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 6

refer to the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

Non-Traditional Alternatives

Evening divisions and part-time programs make it possible for students to work and study law

    simultaneously, earning a J.D. in four years. A few schools on the quarter system allow students to enter mid-year. Summer entry and/or summer courses can accelerate the degree program

    from three to two-and-a-half calendar years. And finally, some law schools have created summer trial programs, which allow borderline applicants to prove themselves capable of legal study in time for fall entrance.

Publications and Online Resources

    There are a number of resources designed to help you research and evaluate law schools. Two essential resources you will want to use include the following:

     ABA • LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools 2008 provides

    information on the 195 American Bar Association-approved law schools, thincluding faculty, library resources, enrollment, bar passage, placement, 25

    75th percentile LSAT scores and GPAs.

     The NAPLA/SAPLA Book of Law School Lists 2007-2008 Edition

     provides information about joint degrees, areas of academic emphasis within the schools,

    schools that grant one-year deferrals, bar passage rates at a number of schools, schools

    that award non-need-based scholarships, etc.

    After you complete your research and compile a list of schools, meet with a pre-law advisor to discuss schools of interest to you and to get a reality check on your competitiveness for them.

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 7

    Understanding Admissions Criteria

Objective Criteria

    Law schools consider the objective criteria, the GPA and LSAT score, the factors that most accurately predict how applicants will perform in their first year:

    Law School Admission Test (LSAT): Applicants take the LSAT, a half-day standardized test,

    during one of four test administrations offered annually by the Law School Admission

    Council. Scores, which range from 120 to 180, are used by most law schools as a common

    measurement of potential for success in law school.

Undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA): Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts to

    the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which converts grades to a cumulative grade point

    average using a set of consistent values. The GPA offers admissions committees another

    numerical basis for comparing applicants.

Applicant Index: Many law schools ask the CAS to combine applicants’ LSAT scores and

    GPAs with weighted constants to produce a single number which can be used to assess and

    compare potential for doing well.

Subjective Criteria

    Subjective criteria are the factors law schools consider in addition to GPAs and LSAT scores:

    Personal Statement: Applicants submit a personal statement as part of the application process

    for almost all law schools. Admissions committees look for a concise, detailed, well-written

    statement revealing the applicant's individuality. They want to learn from the statement who

    the applicant is and what makes him/her qualified to study at their law schools.

Letters of Recommendation: Most law schools require applicants to submit letters of

    recommendation from professors or employers to gain a different perspective on the

    applicant’s academic strength and personal qualities. Admissions officers find most helpful

    specific examples of applicants’ motivation and intellectual curiosity, an assessment of

    communication skills, and a comparison with peers.

    Experience: This factor includes undergraduate curricular and extracurricular activities,

    internships, part-time and full-time work experience. Include a resume in your application

    materials that demonstrates your skills and abilities relevant to the study of law and how you

    will contribute to the diversity and strength of the class.

Most law schools have recruitment programs to increase participation in the legal profession by

    underrepresented groups. State schools may reserve seats for state residents. Review websites of schools to learn about their selection criteria, and you may want to contact schools about your specific concerns.

     NAPLA Pre-Law Guide 8

    Applying to Law School

    After reaching the decision to pursue a law degree, you will want to file a strong and complete application to increase your chances for admission. The first step in the application process will be to meet with your pre-law advisor, who can help you create a strategy for maximizing your

    chances for success. (If you are uncertain who the pre-law advisor at your school is, the Law School Admission Council will inform you when you register for the Credential Assembly

    Service [CAS]).

Next you should open an online account with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

    LSAC is comprised of the 195 American Bar Association-approved law schools in the U.S. and 15 Canadian law schools, and was founded to coordinate and facilitate the process of applying to law school.

Be aware that applying to law school is not inexpensive. Basic costs include:

    ; CAS registration fee

    ; LSAT registration fee

    ; Law School Reports

    ; Application fees (per school)

    You might need to add other costs such as LSAT preparation, travel to visit law schools, etc.

    LSAC offers fee waivers for those with a demonstrated inability to pay for essential parts of the application. The waivers cover two LSATs per testing year (June through February); the CAS registration, including a total of four CAS Law School Reports; and, a copy of The Official LSAT

    SuperPrepR.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

    The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required for admission to all American Bar Association-approved law schools. The test is administered four times per year by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Detailed test informationdates, sites, registration forms,

    and registration is available online, and information is included in the fees, and deadlines

    LSAT/CAS Information Book, distributed at many colleges and universities.

    Be aware that test sites can fill quickly, especially in or around major cities. It is advisable, then, to register several months in advance of a test date so that you can take the test in a convenient location.

    The optimal time to take the exam is June of the year you apply, but taking the test in late September/early October will allow you to see your LSAT score before applying in November.

    Scores from the December administration will reach law schools in time to complete application deadlines at all schools. If you take the December test, plan to submit your applications around the time of the test. You may, however, decide to wait to see your score before submitting your applications.

    The LSAT is designed to provide law school admissions committees with a common measure of

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