Pre-Law Career Services

The UCLA Career Center offers personal assistance and programs on the graduate and professional school application process, including program selection, the personal statement, faculty recommendations, admissions tests, and financial assistance.

For more detailed information, go to any of the topics in the box above.

Law School FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is Law School for me?

People are interested in attending law school for a number of different reasons. The key question you should ask yourself is whether law school is for you. There are a few things to keep in mind as you engage in this self-inquiry. Law school is a competitive process. According the LSAC.org website (Law School Admission Council), the number of students applying to law school has grown rapidly. For example, during the 1998-1999 admission year, 67,000 students applied and 51,000 were admitted. By 2008, there were 82,400 applicants to ABA-Approved Law Schools, of which 55,500 were admitted.   You should also realize that law school is a huge investment – both emotionally and financially. It is not uncommon for students to leave law school with over $100,000 in debt. As a result, you need to move beyond the mystified image that you might have about law school and ask yourself hard questions well before applying or after you have assumed a sizable loan debt.

What is Law School?

Law school is typically a 3-year program that culminates with the student receiving a Juris Doctor degree. Alternatively, there are also accelerated programs, weekend and evening programs, and part-time programs. While the emphasis of skills taught in law school are designed to train students to be lawyers, a legal education will give you versatile skills that you can apply to other career fields that require analytical thinking, negotiation, advocacy, counseling, research, investigation, writing and teaching. Additionally, some students combine their legal education with other fields of interest. For example, it is possible to receive a joint degree, such as a JD and Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). You can combine your JD with almost any other field of study. Keep in mind that not all schools will offer joint programs, and you must do some research in order to find out which school/program is right for you. For a comprehensive list of law schools that offer joint programs, check out the Book of Lists (available at the Career Center Lab).

What is the best major for law school?

UCLA does not offer a pre-law major with good reason. Law schools, unlike medical schools and some graduate programs, do not require that a student take a certain set of courses. Instead, law schools accept a diverse pool of applicants who major in anything from engineering to political science to film and television. Law schools do not focus on what your major is but rather look at your cumulative grade point average as an indicator of a person’s likelihood of succeeding in law school. (GPA is a big factor involved in getting accepted to law schools!) Do not major in political science solely because you think the admission committee will look more favorably on this major than another. Choose a major that you find interesting and intellectually stimulating. If you choose a major that does not entail much writing, we strongly suggest you take writing courses as electives. Otherwise, you will be at a disadvantage in law school, especially in your legal writing classes.

What courses do you recommend I take?

As mentioned above, you do not need to follow a certain major or set of classes. However, there are certain classes that have been recommended by past UCLA students.

  • English Composition 131A – Law and Politics.
  • Political Science 123 A/B – International Law
  • Political Science 145 A-D – Public Law and Judicial Process
  • Philosophy 9 – Principles of Critical Thinking
  • Philosophy 31 - Logic

Some of these courses will assist with your preparation for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), while others will give you a sampling of the topics you will cover in Law School. Doing what you can now to be better prepared for the LSAT and Law School is strongly encouraged.

Do law schools only use an applicants GPA and LSAT score as criteria for admission?

Law schools focus on the applicant’s LSAT score and GPA. On a typical undergraduate’s application, these two factors are paramount. However, most law schools will tell you that the student’s entire application is reviewed and considered. As a result, it would be to your advantage to supplement your curriculum with activities that demonstrate leadership, initiative, creativity, responsibility, analytical skills, and research ability.

Some students do not apply to Law School directly upon receiving their undergraduate degree, and choose instead to work for several years before applying. Generally, the longer you have been out of college, the less emphasis law admission officials will place on your GPA. In these cases, it is possible that more weight will be placed on your LSAT scores and outside activities as these are much more current reflections of your ability.

As mentioned above, for the typical undergraduate applicant, a heavy emphasis of the application process is placed on the LSAT scores and GPA. For this reason, it can be helpful to review some average scores of various Law Schools.

School LSAT range for admits: (top score of LSAT is 180)

School 25% 75%
Harvard 171 176
UCLA  165 170
Loyola 156 161
Santa Clara 157 161

(25% means that 25% of the entering class scored at that level or below. 75% means that 25% of the entering class scored at that level or above. 50% of the total admits will fall between the 25% range and 75% range.)

School GPA range for admits:

School 25% 75%
Harvard 3.76 3.96
UCLA 3.56 3.87
Loyola 3.24 3.60
Santa Clara 3.03 3.59

(25% means that 25% of the entering class scored at that level or below. 75% means that 25% of the entering class scored at that level or above. 50% of the total admits will fall between the 25% range and 75% range.)

For a more comprehensive list of school GPA and LSAT averages, check the US News and World Report: Graduate School Edition (available at the Career Center Lab).

What Non-Numerical Requirements/Qualifications do law schools also evaluate?

Law schools will also be evaluating you in terms of research, leadership, initiative, diversity, interests, and involvement in law-related and non-law related activities. The Law Schools will use the following to evaluate these non-numerical qualifications.

  1. Law Schools will ask you to submit anywhere from 0-4 letters of recommendation. (Covered in more detail in a later section).
  2. Personal Statement (covered in more detail in a later section)
  3. Resume (some schools require). An example of a pre-law resume can be found in the UCLA Career Guide.
  4. Individual Law Schools will ask you to respond to supplemental essay questions that focus on topics, including: work history, extracurricular activities, leadership, disadvantaged status, etc.
  5. Dean’s letter – Only a small number of schools will require a Dean’s letter. Usually this request calls for a routine certification of the fact that you are a student in good standing. You should take such requests to the Office of the Dean of Students (1206 Murphy Hall), which routinely completes such forms for UCLA undergraduates. Law schools will not expect that you know the Dean personally.

What can I do to explore the field of law?

As previously mentioned, law school is a substantial investment in both time and money. Perhaps the best advice we can offer is “understand your personal rationale for wanting to attend law school.” Your classes will provide you with a solid theoretical base of knowledge, but students have often told us that their personal rationale for wanting to attend law school came from outside activities. (TV is a not a good medium for understanding law!!) The following is a Top 10 list of activities that the UCLA Career Center suggests you review and explore.

  1. Internships – Internships can provide you with practical experience and a real-life understanding of the law field. (UCLA’s BruinView system is a great place to start your internship search, and the UCLA Career Center Lab is another place to explore for possibilities). Keep in mind that all internships are different, and the number of hours you put in often corresponds with the value you get from the internship. Some internships provide excellent hands-on experience and give you valuable training. Other internships ask you to answer phone calls and do mainly administrative work .While this can provide some legal-related experience, some students find they have little interaction with the actual happenings of the office. For this reason, some students explore the following options; The Washington D.C. program, the Justice Corps, and the Sacramento Internship Program (detailed in items #2, 3 and 4).
  2. Washington D.C. Program – The Washington D.C. program is an intensive 10-week, 40-hour per week, internship. This program provides students with an opportunity to work with elected officials, government agencies, public interest groups, international organizations, and a wide range of other public and private enterprises. Internships have been arranged with the White House, U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, California Legislature, CNN, Amnesty International, and a host of other organizations. Because you will be working 40-hours per week, the opportunity to gain meaningful, hands-on opportunities is amazing. Internships to Washington D.C. are offered every quarter throughout the year. It is required that each applicant attends an information meeting or workshop in order to become familiar with operational details of the program. You must apply at least two quarters before you plan to begin your internship. For example, if you want to intern during the summer, apply by winter quarter.
    To learn more about the UCLA Washington D.C. Internship Program as well as other programs available, visit the Study Abroad and Internship office on the second floor, Room 200, of the UCLA Career Center.
  3. Justice Corps (located in Los Angeles) – Justice Corps is a collaborative program funded by AmeriCorps in which undergraduate students work at a self-help legal clinic or family law center. Volunteers work closely with legal aid attorneys, and are trained to provide legal assistance through direct contact with self-represented litigants, legal workshops, and the use of self-help computer terminals. As JusticeCorps members, you may help people on matters ranging from family law to housing issues, traffic matters to small claims. JusticeCorps members each receive $1000 upon completion of a 300-hour, one-year commitment, and can receive payment of some of the interest of their student loans while they’re in the program.
    To get more information, visit the UCLA Center for Community Learning at A333 Murphy Hall, or call 310.825.7867
  4. UC Center in Sacramento – An academic program in which students spend a quarter in Sacramento taking courses and interning with students from other UC Campuses. You will earn 12-15 academic units. Additionally, internships can be created just for you based on your individual interests!!
    To get more information, visit the UCLA Center for Community Learning at A333 Murphy Hall, or call 310.825.7867
  5. UCLA Bruin Alumni Networking – While some students are fortunate to know lawyers or even have family members who are lawyers, others have had little or no interaction with individuals working in the legal field. For those looking to create their own network and gain information from individuals already working in the law field, the UCLA Alumni Association offers the Career Network. The Alumni Association's Career Network is a database that contains contact information for thousands of alumni who have volunteered to provide helpful career advice and information exclusively to UCLA Alumni Association members and current UCLA students. While not intended as a job placement service or job board, it is a great way to learn about careers and to make valuable connections with fellow Bruins. It is possible to search for individuals working in various legal areas and request information interviews (which can be conducted in person, over the phone or over e-mail) to gain a more complete understanding of the individual’s profession.
    To access the Career Network, visit the UCLA Alumni Centers website, (http://alumni.ucla.edu/work/jobs.aspx) and click on networking. Additionally, you can visit the UCLA Career Center during regular drop-in times (check career.ucla.edu for current times) and we can assist you with this process.
  6. The Law Fellows Program.  This program provides early academic development to high-potential undergraduate and graduated students with strong academic backgrounds, with at least a 3.3 cumulative GPA at a four-year undergraduate institution.  The program is committed to ensuring equity, access, and excellence in legal education both in California and nationally. A strong preference is granted to applicants whose experiences reflect limited familial exposure to post-collegiate education, career opportunities, mentoring, and social support systems. Additional consideration is also given to applicants who have overcome economic and/or educational hardships and challenges, or come from, or have demonstrated leadership experience in, economically or educationally underserved communities. The Program focuses on students' academic development, with the objective of increasing the participants’ academic competitiveness for admission to law school. Law Fellows are strongly encouraged to participate in outreach activities aimed at serving the various community segments of Southern California.

    Law Fellows attend a series of Saturday Academies held at UCLA School of Law in the winter and spring, where they are provided with mentoring, academic enrichment, and career development activities designed to de-mystify law school and the legal profession, and also present these objectives as viable options.  By providing advice, activities, and mentorship to the Law Fellows, the Program prepares Fellows to successfully enter, and succeed in top law programs and, eventually, legal careers.  In addition, Saturday Academies afford Law Fellows access to a variety of events, programs and services, including:
    • Professional-Level Instruction by Law School Faculty
    • Personalized Juris Doctorate (Law School) Action Plan
    • Mentoring by Current UCLA Law Students
    • Admissions, Financial Aid and Public Interest Law Workshops
    • Legal Research Training by Law Library Staff
    • UCLA Extension LSAT Instruction
    • Full Scholarships for LSAT Preparation Course
    • Presentations by Practicing Attorneys and Leaders in the Law Community
    • Follow-Up Activities and Counseling until Law School Matriculation
  7. Law School Forum – If you’re considering law school, we recommend that you attend a Law School forum. At no cost to you, this forum provides you with the opportunity to: talk with representatives from LSAC-member law schools from across the United States and Canada, obtain admission materials, catalogues, and financial aid information, and view video programs on topics including: minority perspectives on legal education, and gay and lesbian issues. The forum travels around the county and is held in Los Angeles in November at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Visit www.lsac.org for additional information and to register.
  8. Review literature in the Career Center Lab - The Career Center lab (located on the 2nd floor of the Strathmore Building) has a comprehensive collection of law-related books. Examples include: The Official Guide to Legal Specialties, Careers in Law and Full Disclosure – Do you Really want to be a Lawyer? Additionally the Career Lab has resources that focus on the admissions process, individual school information, ranking systems, admission official advice and the personal statement.
  9. Student Groups – Student groups can often provide both the social support and law-related activities that can assist pre-law students throughout their undergraduate years. Surrounding yourself with individuals who share your common goal can serve as a motivating tool as well as a helpful resource during the exploration process. Additionally, law-related activities, such as mock-trials and alumni panel presentations can better your understanding of the potential future ahead. There are several student groups with a pre-law focus on campus. Look for their signs on BruinWalk or check out the Center for Student Programming for a complete list. (www.studentactivities.ucla.edu)
  10. Jump Start your Career in Law - an intensive workshop offered by the UCLA Career Center. This workshop is typically offered once per year. Visit the UCLA Career Center to find out when this workshop is next offered!

Workshop description: This comprehensive workshop includes everything from an overview of the law school application process to a chance to speak with dynamic and informed panelists who can provide you with insights into exciting opportunities in this field. Speak with representatives from the UCLA School of Law, as well as practicing attorneys and law professionals. Come learn about internship and service learning opportunities that will enable you to explore the field of law.

The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all law schools that are members of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year (February, June, October, and December) at hundreds of locations around the world.

Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December (at the latest!) for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or October—is often strongly advised. Many students opt to take the October test because studying for it does not conflict with the academic year. Also, taking the October test gives you the summer months to prepare.

You can register for the LSAT at the LSAC.org website. The cost is approx. $112. Signing up early will give you a better chance of getting your top choice test location site.

Can you take the LSAT more than once? Yes, but typically it’s recommended that you only take it once. How the law schools interpret multiple scores varies. You cannot assume they will simply accept the highest score. Be advised that the LSAC recommends that schools interpret multiple scores by averaging them.

Should I take a LSAT preparation course?

Many students opt to take some type of preparation course. Because taking such a course is a large financial investment, you may first want to take a practice test to determine whether you stand to benefit from such a course. You can download a free complete sample test from the LSAT.org website. If you score relatively high, feel comfortable with the LSAT, and possess enough self-discipline to study on your own, you may opt not to take a prep course. If, however, you feel you would benefit from taking a prep course, the next decision is to determine which course to take. This decision will depend on what techniques work for you and how much structured assistance you need. We strongly suggest you do your own research as to what each prep course has to offer in order to determine which course best suits your own personal study/learning style. Some courses offer more in-class instruction time. Some have a library of resources at your disposal. Some focus on administering more practice LSAT tests in test taking conditions. To maximize the benefits of taking a prep course, you may want to take one when you have the least number of additional commitments.

The Personal Statement

The “Personal Statement” is a blanket term used to connote the various essays required by most law schools. Some law schools request a personal statement concerning each applicant’s background and/or interests in attending law school. Other law schools simply invite applicants to submit such a statement if they desire, while others may not mention a personal statement at all. Since the personal statement is a candidate’s only chance to “sell” him or herself to the admissions committee, attaching a personal statement to an application is strongly recommended. Most students will apply to at least one school which requests a personal statement and the essay can generally be adapted to work for other schools with few if any changes. The typical length of a personal statement is 2-3 pages, double-spaced.

The weight given to the personal statement in the admissions process varies among law schools, but from the viewpoint of most admission committees, the personal statement has two important functions. First, it is a sample of the applicant’s writing style and writing ability. Second, it is a source of information about the applicant’s background and objectives. You should draft your statement with both goals in mind. The final product should be carefully written, grammatically accurate, neatly typed, and concise.

Your statement should respond to any specific essay instructions that may be given on the application. To the extent that the content of the essay is open-ended, your statement should be as concrete as possible, making reference to and explaining any significance (positive) factors in your background. If you have specific ideas about your future career in law, do not hesitate to discuss them. It is not necessary, however, to have a legal specialty in mind before you go to law school.

Personal statements usually have the most favorable impact on the reader if they are organized around a particular theme and are logically constructed to emphasize the applicant’s strengths. Ideally, the personal statement will convince the reader that the applicant will be a valuable addition to the law school. Avoid making explicit statements about your strengths; instead let the narrative of your experiences communicate them.

Once you have written a first draft of your personal statement, have someone comment on it; an objective edit is almost essential. Producing a statement that you are ultimately satisfied with may take several drafts. There are several services and resources available to help you!

UCLA Career Center provides:

  1. Workshop on “Writing Personal Statements for Law School.” This interactive 90-minute workshop will provide an overview of how to write personal statements, allow you to critique some example personal statements and give you advice from law school admission officials. Check on-line (career.ucla.edu) for an updated schedule of available workshops.
  2. Personal Statement Critique Sessions: These 30 minute, one-on-one sessions, allow a career counselor to review a polished draft of your personal statement with you and provide you comments on the content, flow, and overall structure. Sign up on-line at http://career.ucla.edu/, under “workshops” and “registration.”
  3. Drop-in Counseling – Career Counselors are available to meet with you on a Drop-In basis between 10am and 4pm, Monday-Friday (no appointment necessary). These 10-15 minute sessions can be used to quickly review and answer specific questions concerning your personal statement. Check www.career.ucla.edu for current drop-in times.
  4. The Career Lab contains resources that will assist you in the initial stages of your personal statement. Books available include:
    1. “Perfect Personal Statements” by Mark Alan Stewart – includes example personal statements and advice from admission officials
    2. “Essays that will get you into Law School” – provides advice on how to initially create your personal statement and includes 40 samples of successful personal statements.

Covel Commons provides you:

Covel Commons English-Composition Tutorials – These 50-minute, one-on-one sessions with English tutors (UCLA undergraduate or graduate students) are focused on helping you improve your grammar, flow, and structure. To schedule an appointment – call 310.206.1491

Letters of Recommendation

Although a student’s performance on the LSAT and his or her GPA are the most important factors in an admission decision, for some applicants, letters of recommendation may separate them from an applicant with an equally impressive record of academic achievement. If your application should fall into an “acceptable” category, an actual offer of admission may be given on the basis of letters of recommendation. Consequently, a good letter may strengthen your application just when you need it.

The primary concern of admissions committees is the applicant’s potential for successful completion of the curriculum. Hence, good recommendations should contain factual information about your academic abilities. Personal characteristics, such as initiative, imagination, resourcefulness, etc., should also be mentioned. The schools to which you are applying assume you are a person of good character, and they do not need letters that merely reiterate this assumption. Questions that admissions committees want answered are exemplified by the following: “How well have you done in a particular course? How do you compare with all other students who have taken the course? How long has the course been taught and how many students have taken it? What strengths (academic and otherwise) do you possess?

SPECIFIC DETAILS ARE NEEDED IN RECOMMENDATIONS, not vague generalizations. You should explain fully the significance of your extracurricular activities and personal awards (academic or non-academic) to your recommendation writers to insure that your recommenders include this information in your letters. If you have received an award, be sure to explain the qualification for receiving or qualifying for such an award, if it is not commonly known.

A rule of thumb is to obtain at least two recommendations from professors or instructors. Ideally, one of these should be from a professor familiar with your writing skills. Letters from employers can be helpful, especially if you have worked for a substantial period of time. Letters from Junior College faculty are also accepted. Letters of Recommendation are typically general, meaning that they can be sent to all law schools to which you are applying. A new feature in LSDAS allows you to submit school specific letters. For example, if a letter writer personally attended a certain school and thinks you would be a good fit there, they can write a specific letter to that particular school, as well as a general letter to the additional schools to which you’re applying. Check out the LSAC.org website for further details.

Different law schools will require varying numbers of letters of recommendation. For example, the UCLA School of Law requires 2 letters of recommendation, but accepts up to 3 letters. Boston University requires 4 letters of recommendation and will only accept 4 letters. American College of Law requires and accepts 0 letters of recommendation. Check out the LSAC.org website for school specific details concerning letters of recommendation.

There are several courtesies you should extend to those you ask for recommendations. One is to provide them with some written information about yourself - a resume, a transcript, a copy of work you may have completed in their courses, and a copy of your personal statement. Please be sure to THANK YOUR RECOMMENDERS. Remember that these people are doing you a valuable favor. Certainly, you will thank them in advance when you ask for the letter, but do not forget to follow up with a note of thanks once the recommendations had been written.

Have your letters of recommendation sent to LSDAS after you initiate your subscription. LSDAS (The Law School Data Assembly Service) offers a Letter of Recommendation Service as a convenience to LSDAS registrants, recommendation-letter writers, and LSDAS-participating law schools. This service will hold on to your Letters of Recommendation and forward them to Law Schools on your behalf. You must create a LSDAS account before you can have letters sent to the service! You can register on-line at www.LSAC.org or you can pick up a paper application at the UCLA Career Center. Your LSDAS file will be active for 5 years, so start collecting your letters of recommendation well in advance of actually applying! Most law schools require students to use the LSAC letter service.

What exactly is the LSDAS?

The Law School Data Assembly Service is provided by the LSAC and is required by most ABA-approved law schools. For a fee, the service will assemble a report containing your transcript, LSAT scores, writing sample, and letters of recommendation. LSDAS also compiles what is known as the “Master Report” for each applicant. The master report is a 1-page profile on your numerical data. It will list your LSAT scores for each time the test was taken. It will also list, by school year, which institution of higher education you attended, and what was your cumulative GPA for that given year. In addition, there is a cumulative GPA and a percentile ranking for the institution from which you graduated. The master report will list your GPA and what percentage of students from your institution have that GPA or below. Again, you can find the required forms at www.lsac.org or obtain a paper application form at the UCLA Career Center. After you apply to the law schools of your choice (application process covered in more detail later), the schools will contact LSDAS on your behalf and ask that your file be sent to them. After you have sent in all required information, it is always best to check with LSDAS to ensure your file is complete. Once your file is completed (and applicable fees are paid) you don’t need to worry about this service, because the law schools will contact them on your behalf, and LSDAS will send your file directly to the law schools.

Do all Law Schools provide essentially the same education and opportunities?

Yes and No. It is typically accurate to assume that law schools teach the same curriculum during the 1st year of law school. This core curriculum consists of classes covering: civil procedures, criminal law, contracts, legal research and writing, and tort and property law. However, once students enter their second and third years, they are given various choices on which class to take. Some law schools will offer specialized education in environmental law, while others will focus more on corporate law, property law or even law issues focused on certain ethnicities. Consider your interests before you accept an offer from a certain school and compare wisely with other schools.

As mentioned before, some schools will offer joint programs so you can concurrently pursue your JD while pursuing a degree in another area. The fields of study that you can combine with your JD are almost endless. Check out the “Book of Lists” available in the Pre-Professional Section of the UCLA Career Lab, to educate yourself on which joint programs particular schools offer, and explore the possibilities.

Additionally, most schools are ABA-approved (American Bar Association approved) while others are Non-ABA schools. It is generally agreed that it is best to apply to ABA approved law schools. However, if your credentials are not good enough to get into an ABA-approved law school and you have your heart set on applying law school as soon as possible, you might want to consider applying to Non-ABA-approved law schools. Such schools generally have lower admission standards and will be willing to give you a chance to earn your law degree. It is important to find out if the school will become ABA-approved in the near future. If so, your law degree will be respected throughout the nation. If not, you are limited to taking the bar exam and practicing only in that particular state. For example, California has the largest concentration of non-ABA approved law schools. If you attend one of these schools, you can become eligible to take the California bar. However, you may be limited to practicing only in California if that law school does not receive ABA approval. On a positive note, if you have no intention of practicing law and you just want to receive legal training to enhance another career, then attending such a school may be a good option for you.

Additionally, these factors may also play a role in your decision making process:

  1. The School: Does the school have a national or more regional reputation? Is the school more traditional or non-traditional in its approach to legal education? What are the aims, direction, and purpose of the school? How flexible is the curriculum in allowing you options of your interest (e.g., dual-degree programs)? What types of clinical offerings, internships, externships are there? Are there enough clinical slots to accommodate student demand? Is the school a public or private institution? What is the school’s grading system? Is the school known for certain specialties (e.g., environmental law)?
  2. The Faculty: How accessible to students are the faculty? What is the student-faculty ratio? What are the credentials of the faculty? What are the particular strengths of the faculty? What is the composition of the faculty?
  3. The Student Body: What are the size, composition, and background of the student body? How competitive/non competitive is it? Is it a small school or large school? Are classes large? Does the student body exhibit an esprit de corps?
  4. Placement: Where are graduates of the school being placed geographically? What kinds of positions and salaries are they being offered? What assistance is given for locating summer and part-time work?
  5. Cost: What is the overall cost of attending the school and living in the surrounding community (tuition, fees, books, housing, food, local and/or long-distance transportation, etc.)? Is financial aid available? To qualify, is parents financial information required for all students regardless of age or dependency status?
  6. Setting: Is the environment of the law school urban, suburban, or rural? Do you have strong feelings for one versus the other? Is the library a comfortable place to study and convenient to classrooms? What is the availability and desirability of housing?

How can I research the differences among law schools?

There are several ways to research law schools. Typically, a combination of methods proves more objective and evaluative than any single measure. Listed below are several techniques that students regularly use to research law schools.

  1. Using the LSAC.org website. This website will allow you to search for law schools using various search criteria. For example, you can search for law schools by region, cost of tuition, scholarships, bar passage rates, % employed after graduation, etc.
  2. US News and World Report – (this report is detailed further in the section titled “rankings.” Good numerical information in this publication includes school specific information on: GPA, LSAT scores, acceptance rates, and student-faculty ratio.
  3. The Book of Lists (mentioned earlier and available in the UCLA Career Lab)
  4. The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (available at the UCLA Career Lab or online at LSAC.org). This resource provides a wealth of school specific information. It details the schools curriculum, bar passage rates, faculty, resources, requirements, scholarships and much more. This is perhaps the most exhaustive information on law schools other than a schools actual catalogue.
  5. Contact individual law schools (or attend the Law Forum) in order to obtain school specific catalogues and brochures.

Ranking Systems

The following letter beginning “Dear Law School Applicant,” is a letter endorsed by the vast majority of Dean’s of ABA law schools. Please read the following letter and use the information to help you decide, for yourself, how much weight you want to place on a particular schools ranking.

Dear Law School Applicant:

Choosing the best law school for you is critically important to your short-term and long-term future. Getting quality information about the schools that interest you will require some time and effort, but you will be rewarded by expending that time and effort now.

Several commercial enterprises promote "ranking" systems that purport to reduce a wide array of information about law schools to one simple number that compares all 185 ABA-approved law schools with each other. These ranking systems are inherently flawed because none of them can take your special needs and circumstances into account when comparing law schools. According to students, the factors listed below are among the most important in influencing their choices of law school. These factors are excluded entirely or severely undervalued by all of the numerical ranking systems.

  • Breadth and support of alumni network
  • Breadth of curriculum
  • Clinical programs
  • Collaborative research opportunities with faculty
  • Commitment to innovative technology
  • Cost
  • Externship options
  • Faculty accessibility
  • Intensity of writing instruction
  • Interdisciplinary programs
  • International Programs
  • Law library strengths and services
  • Loan repayment assistance for low-income lawyers
  • Location
  • Part-time enrollment options
  • Public interest programs
  • Quality of teaching
  • Racial and gender diversity within the faculty and student body
  • Religious affiliation
  • Size of 1st year class
  • Skills instruction
  • Specialized areas of faculty expertise

The absence of any consideration of these factors, combined with the arbitrary weighting of numerical factors, makes ranking systems an unreliable guide to the differences among law schools that should be important to you. As Newsweek editor Kenneth Auchincloss said, "Rankings generate huge hype, which is far more likely to serve the publisher's purpose than the readers'.... Applicants need help in widening their knowledge of schools that may be right for them, not narrowing their choices according to a ranking system."

A ranking system that exemplifies the shortcomings of all "by the numbers" schemes is the one produced annually by U.S. News & World Report. While ignoring the variables listed above, as do all numbers-based ranking systems, the U.S. News rankings purport to be derived from mathematical formulae based on data common to all law schools. The "weights" attached to the variables are arbitrary and reflect only the view of the magazine's editors. For example, according to the magazine, 40 percent of the rankings are based on each school's "reputation." The reputation ranking is derived from a survey of a modest number of legal academics, lawyers, and judges across the country, which asks them to rate comparatively all 185 ABA-approved law schools. Reputation is an important factor in choosing a school, but schools with excellent reputations within their communities, states, or regions may not be well known in other parts of the country. None of us has adequate knowledge about more than a tiny handful of law schools so as to permit us, with confidence, to compare them with each other.

The idea that all law schools can be measured by the same yardstick ignores the qualities that make you and law schools unique, and is unworthy of being an important influence on the choice you are about to make. As the deans of schools that range across the spectrum of several rating systems, we strongly urge you to minimize the influence of rankings on your own judgment. In choosing the best school for you, we urge you to get information about all the schools in which you might have some interest. An abundance of information, far more information than is used in any ranking system, is available from the sources noted in the box below. The next step is to seek information directly from the law schools, including catalogs or bulletins and other materials that will answer the specific questions relating to your special needs and interests. Finally, there is no substitute for on-site visits to the law schools that most interest you as you reach the end of the admission process. Law schools may all have met the same standards of quality to become accredited, but they are quite different from each other. The unique characteristics of each law school will inform you why one school may be best for you and another school best for someone else. We want you to make the best choice for you. Sincerely, Law School Deans.

Can I take time off before I attend Law School?

The decision of whether to enter law school directly or take time off before you apply is a personal decision. Some students chose to go straight into Law school without taking a break because they do not want to interrupt their momentum of being in the “school” mode. Over 50% of students, however, choose to delay entering law school for a year or more after graduation. Such a delay may allow you to put your goals into perspective, travel, to accomplish some project of personal value, establish more personally relevant reasons for attending law school, earn money, or just to separate yourself from academic pressures for a while. In addition, if you apply to law school after graduation, then the law schools will also see your transcripts from your senior year. The decision to take time off typically has a neutral to positive impact on the strength of a candidate’s application.

The most recent data from the LSAC confirms that many students delay their entrance into law school. In the Fall of 2003, 25% of law school applicants were 22 years old or younger. 37% were between 23 and 25 years old. 19% were between 26-29 years old. And 19% were over 30 years old.

The Application Process

When you are ready to apply for law school, you can fill out your applications through the LSAC.org website. The LSAC has created an on-line application process called “LSACD on the Web.” All ABA-approved law schools provided their official application for use in the LSACD on the Web and welcome applications prepared using this time-saving software. One benefit of this program is the “common application form.” This form allows you to type in common information, such as biographic information, once, and the program will then place your answers in the appropriate section for each school’s application. After you complete each school’s application, you will electronically attach any necessary information (personal statement, resume, etc). You then have the option of submitting your application electronically, or you can choose to print it out and send it via mail. Remember to apply early!

Timeline

The law school application process ideally begins during your junior year or in the year prior to your anticipated attendance at law school. We recommend the following checklist of procedures.

Law School – Sample Timeline

The UCLA Career Center is providing you a sample timeline for Law School. We strongly suggest you use this only as a template and make any and all additional changes that are unique to your situation.

Apply Early: It is always a good idea to complete your applications long before schools' deadlines. It allows you time to address any problems that may arise during the submission of your materials. Applying early will also put you at an advantage if the schools you are applying to use "rolling admissions," i.e., they review applications as they arrive. When rolling admissions are used, law school seats may be filled throughout the admissions season. So, if you wait until the school's stated deadline, you may have less of a chance of gaining admission.

Junior Year

  • Continue exploring the legal field
  • Consider looking into Pre-Law student organizations, if not already done.
  • Attend Law School Workshops on applying, writing the statement, obtaining letters, etc.
  • Obtain the LSAT & LSDAS Registration & Information Book from the Career Center or the LSAC
  • Register for the June LSAT
  • Register with the LSDAS
  • Allow a minimum of 4-6 weeks to prepare for the LSAT
  • Order unofficial transcripts and review for any discrepancies
  • Consider opening an account with the UCLA Career Center Letter Service
  • Start requesting letters of recommendation
  • Start investigating law schools

Summer after Junior Year

  • Take the June LSAT
  • Receive LSAT score (3-4 weeks after test)
  • Review law school choices in light of LSAT scores
  • Request law school admissions materials
  • Register for October LSAT if necessary
  • Continue requesting letters of recommendation and checking on their status
  • Begin writing the personal statement

Fall of Senior Year

  • Finalize letters of recommendation
  • Order official transcripts
  • Finalize personal statement; utilize the Career Center for assistance
  • Take October LSAT if necessary
  • Request financial aid information from law schools
  • Request Dean’s Certification, if necessary
  • Complete and send admissions applications before Thanksgiving

Spring of Senior Year

  • Contact law schools to see if applications are complete
  • Complete and submit financial aid materials
  • Evaluate admissions offers
  • Thank letter writers and inform them of your plans