If you’re dreaming about becoming a lawyer, you’re not alone. By the end of July 2019, 62,427 students had applied to law schools in the United States, according to Kellye Y. Testy, President and CEO of the Law School Admissions Council.
Applicants and LSAT takers have been rising over the past couple of years, including those who are older and looking for a career change. According to data collected by the Law School Admission Council, 30% of law school applicants in the years 2011-2015 were between 25 and 29 years old. An additional 20% had passed their 30th birthday. There is every reason to expect that the age of the average law student will continue to rise as more people realize that it is possible to get a law degree later in life.
While getting accepted into law school may seem intimidating at any age, getting accepted when you’re looking at the law as your second career is even more daunting. The good news is that, while studying law as a second profession is challenging, it’s not impossible. The equally good news is that your life experiences and the knowledge you’ve gained from your first career will be a major asset in pursuing your legal education.
For nontraditional law school applicants, here are some tips to consider.
Talk to Your Family and Friends
Once you’ve decided that you’re going to fulfill your lifelong dream and attend law school, you’ll want to let your loved ones know your plans. There are two reasons for doing this. The first is so that they can provide you with support and encouragement through the application process, which can be time-consuming. The second reason is so that they understand that you won’t have as much free time as you did before, both while you’re applying and when you’re in law school. Setting expectations and communicating what you will need for support ahead of time can help set you up for success.
Take the LSAT — or Find a School That Doesn’t Require It
There are two main things that law schools look at when they consider an application: your undergraduate GPA and your Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score.
If you finished your undergraduate degree a long time ago and your GPA wasn’t as stellar as you would like, focusing on the LSAT can help balance your application. Law schools use your LSAT score to determine how you will succeed in law school and if you have the aptitude to become a lawyer.
It is in your best interest to take the LSAT as soon as you can, of course still providing time to study and prepare. If you take it and are happy with your score, it will be out of the way and you can turn your attention to doing other things that will help you get into law school. If you take it early and don’t do as well as you’d hoped, you still have plenty of time to keep studying and retake the test. You can use the second, higher score when you apply for law school.
There are only four times each year that you can take the LSAT test, so it’s important to plan ahead to ensure that you have enough time to take it, especially if you think you’ll need to take it more than once.
Another alternative is to apply to St. Francis School of Law. While we do not require the LSAT, if you have taken the test, we require your score. The GRE General Test is not required, but applicants who have taken the test may choose to have their scores shared. We evaluate your score on either of these tests as part of your scholarly achievements and consider them along with both your undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Apply to Multiple Law Schools
Students apply to six different law schools on average, according to the LSAC. Think about what type of law you eventually want to practice, and choose law schools that have programs that cater to that field of law.
In addition, you can tell how likely you are to get into a certain law school by looking at its typical student profile. Does the typical student have several years of professional experience? Do graduates have other advanced degrees? Does the school cater to working professionals by offering hybrid or online courses? What do the student’s undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores look like?
All of these are important factors in deciding which law schools to apply to, but giving yourself a selection will provide options once you receive admissions decisions.
Start Drafting Your Personal Statement
Don’t underestimate the importance of the personal statement. Older law school applicants can use the personal statement to really hone in on why they are choosing law school for their career, and how their professional experiences have prepared them to succeed.
You want your personal statement to be engaging and genuine, and to provide insight into who you are and why you are seeking to attend law school, especially considering you have already started your career. It’s not easy combining all of these aspects into one essay. When composing your personal statement, try to:
- Remember that you’re trying to sell yourself to the law school
- Explain your career path and why you’re pursuing law school now
- Freely share the obstacles and challenges you’ve encountered in your life
- Consider what values the law school embraces and explore those in your personal statement
If possible, give yourself a few months to write the personal statement so that you have time to really think about it and self-edit. One application tip from Todd, a military veteran who applied to law school later in life, is that it’s “important to be able to articulate (1) why law school and (2) why now.” Are you seeking a law degree to complement your existing career, or are you seeking a career change? Answering these questions as a working professional is critical in painting an accurate picture of your motivation for applying to law school.
Once you’re satisfied with your statement, find a few people who are acquainted with both you and the law schools you’re applying to, and have them read the personal statement. If you know any lawyers, it’s a good idea to spend some time talking to them about what they included in their personal statement. It’s even better if you find a lawyer who attended your first choice in law school. They might even offer to proofread your statement.
Since different law schools have different values and traits they consider important, it’s a good idea to compose a different personal statement for each school you’re applying to. Be sure to follow any specific instructions or prompts that the personal statements require. For example, the St. Francis School of Law admissions team requires that you discuss your background, why you are interested in St. Francis, and how you intend to use your law degree.
The final draft of your personal statement should showcase your unique personality and highlight the qualities that make you an ideal student for the law school you’re applying to. It should read like a professional paper and be free of errors. Be sure to proofread it carefully.
Review Your Application
Before you submit your law school application, go over it one more time to ensure that all information is accurate and everything looks good. You can also ask a few friends or colleagues to look it over. You want to make sure that you’ve included all the information the law school requires, that the application is free of typos and that you’ve made your case for why you’re a good fit for the law school.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Law school admissions teams have a limited amount of time to go through each of these applications, as well as a limited number of admission seats available. It is in your best interest to submit your application as soon as possible since there are several more spots available at the start of the process than there are at the end. In addition, you’ll have more time to review and less room for error if you leave yourself plenty of time to apply.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Once you’ve submitted your application to law school, the only thing left for you to do is wait for the reply. Considering how hard you’ve worked to get to this point and how intense law school will be, this is a good time to allow yourself to take a little break and enjoy what free time you have.
Once you hear that you’ve been accepted into law school, the hard work will begin again. After getting your acceptance letter, you’ll want to sign up for classes, start reading course material, and brace yourself for intense studying.
If you are interested in learning more about the law school admissions process, the admissions office at the St. Francis School of Law is happy to provide you with any additional information you may need. Contact us today.