Advising for Law School
Are you interested in a career in law? Legal education and a career in law can be challenging and satisfying. We encourage you to review books on reserve at the library and talk to lawyers, law students, judges, law school admissions officers, and Career Center personnel to give you further insight as to whether a career in law is right for you.
Mark Smith, JD, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean for Career Services Career Center
For appointments: Contact Mark Smith
Office Location: 110 Danforth University Center, The Career Center
This handbook is a step-by-step guide to preparing for and applying to law school. It is primarily for seniors and others who are applying to law school this year. It is also useful for juniors and younger students who are looking ahead toward the time they complete their applications.
Download the Handbook [PDF]
Summer before you apply
- Prepare for and take LSAT in June (or plan to take it in the fall)
- Read about legal careers and law school to be sure of your choice (see list of books in the PreLaw Handbook)
- Research law schools
- Attend Law School Forum (see LSAC.org for cities and dates)
- Begin checking law school websites for application materials
- Begin drafting the personal statement and preparing your resume
- Clear up any credit-related issues (close unneeded credit accounts, pay off consumer debt, get your financial house in order)
- Make sure you are on the prelaw mailing list (email email@example.com to be added to the list)
Early fall (late August - mid-October)
- Subscribe to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS); submit all transcripts (including study abroad through other U.S. institutions)
- Ask faculty members for letters of recommendation – use the College Office credential file system and waiver form to request the letters or LSAC’s LOR service and waiver form (preferred by many schools)
- Prepare for and take the September/October LSAT (if you did not take an earlier test)
- Continue research to determine to which law schools you will apply
- Work on applications for each law school
- Polish your personal statement and resume – use the Writing Center
Mid-to-late fall (mid-October - December)
- Submit carefully prepared applications to law schools - get them in by early November if possible to take advantage of rolling admissions (even earlier is better)
- Submit any dean’s statements or certifications to the prelaw coordinator (or a dean in your school if not Arts & Sciences) at Campus Box 1117 or 104 Cupples II. These should be submitted at least two weeks before any deadline, as they require a check of your record by several offices. For more information, head to the Office of Student Conduct's website.
- Request that your letters of recommendation be sent from the College Office to CAS or directly to your law schools or use LSAC’s letter of recommendation service to send out your letters
- Finish any applications that have not been submitted
- Begin the financial aid application process – complete the FAFSA, and complete individual law schools’ financial aid application forms
- Visit the law schools that you are seriously considering
- Weigh competing financial packages
- Send in a deposit to hold your place!
Summer before you begin law school
- Look for housing in your new city
- Relax! Take some time off and prepare to begin law school
From Washington University
- Olin Library has two areas that have prelaw materials available to students:
- Reserve Desk: Numerous excellent books are on 24-hour reserve. For a list, please see Appendix A in the PreLaw Handbook.
- Brochures and information from individual law schools are filed in the prelaw section on Level 3.
- Black PreLaw Association
- Career Center: For alumni contacts, internship and job information and more.
- Legal Studies: For WashU courses available to undergraduates who are interested in the study of law (not required for law school admission).
- PreLaw Society: For WashU undergraduates who want to learn more about and to share their interests in the legal system.
- Phi Delta Phi: An undergraduate prelaw fraternity.
- WashU Mock Trial Team: Join the team and practice the fine art of litigation.
- WashU Debate Team: Join the team and practice the fine art of debate.
- Washington University School of Law: Learn more about our fine law school right here on campus.
- The Writing Center: Refine your law school application essays and personal statement.
For LSAT Review Courses
For Law School Admissions Information
For Law School Rankings
What should I major in if I'm planning on law school?
Anything! There is no required course of study at the undergraduate level for law school. When you settle on a major, choose something that really interests you, and do it well. Many law school applicants have majors in political science, English, philosophy, economics and history, but law schools also welcome those with backgrounds in science, engineering and business. A technical or scientific background can be very helpful for lawyers who specialize in environmental issues or patent law, for example.
What classes should I take outside my major?
Words are the lawyer's most important tool. The first year Writing 1 course provides a great opportunity to improve your writing. After you complete Writing 1, look for additional courses that require significant writing. You should also take some courses that train you to think analytically, such as math, economics, statistics, science and logic. Take political science, philosophy, economics and history courses to develop an understanding of the traditions behind and development of our legal system. Use co-curricular opportunities and classroom presentations to sharpen your oral communication skills. An accounting course somewhere along the way may also be helpful.
Should I study a foreign language or spend a year or a semester abroad?
Yes, if it interests you. The law, like everything else, deals increasingly with global concerns, and the ability to communicate in a language other than English can be very valuable. In addition, mastering another language can help you communicate more effectively in English. Understanding other cultures can also be extremely helpful for a lawyer, especially one whose practice has international dimensions. Do not study abroad for resumé value, however, as it neither helps nor hurts your law school application
Should I do an internship?
Well-chosen internships can help you to learn about what kind of work environments you like, and whether law practice or other law-related work appeals to you. It's just as important to define what you don't like as it is to determine what you do like. Investigate internship possibilities at the Career Center. Look for something the summer after your first year, or during the second or third academic year.
How important is my GPA?
Law schools give great weight to the GPA as an indicator of likely success in law school, so you should plan to get off to a good start academically. Develop a good foundation during your first year for academic success in all four years. Go to class, work hard to understand the material, and take advantage of the many opportunities offered at Washington University to sharpen your study skills and test-taking skills.
How important is the LSAT? When do I take it?
The LSAT score is also very important to law school admissions officers. You should take the LSAT during the summer after your junior year or in the fall of your senior year if you plan to go directly on to law school from college. It is important to prepare carefully for the test. You can begin to lay a foundation now: in your early college years, be sure to take a variety of courses that will strengthen your reading comprehension, analytical thinking and logical reasoning skills.
Will I need letters of recommendation? What can I do now to lay the groundwork?
Yes, you will need at least two recommendation letters, preferably from faculty members, to submit with law school applications. The most effective letters are those that address in some detail your intellectual capacity and your writing ability. Begin thinking now about which professors might be able to write effective letters on your behalf, and let them get to know you. Participate in class. Use office hours to discuss any material you don't understand fully. Take a second class from a faculty member from whom you learned a great deal.
What if I want to work a few years before going on to law school?
Only about 50% of the first year students in most law schools entered directly from college. Working for a year or more before beginning law study can help you decide if law school is really right for you. You will also gain maturity and experience that may make you a more focused and successful law student.