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21 Frequently Asked Questions About Law School

Published November 30, 2022

Photo of Lindsay Gladney.

Lindsay Gladney is the Vice Dean for Admissions at the University at Buffalo School of Law.

Do you have questions about law school? Thankfully, we have answers! Check out these frequently asked questions and answers to help you decide if applying to law school is right for you.

1. How long is law school?

J.D. programs are traditionally three years when pursued full-time. Some schools offer accelerated two-year programs that require enrollment year-round, and others offer part-time programs that are typically four years. 

2. What does J.D. stand for?

J.D. stands for Juris Doctor (or Doctor of Jurisprudence) and is the standard professional degree in law in the United States. “J.D.” after someone’s name indicates they have graduated from law school and may apply for and take any state bar exam. 

3. What does it cost to attend law school?

According to a March 2022 article from, the average tuition and fees at private law schools in the 2021-2022 academic year was about $53,000. This is approximately $10,000 higher than the average annual out-of-state tuition and fees at public law schools. The difference being even larger between the average annual tuition and fees at private schools and in-state tuition at public schools, at $23,000.  

UB School of Law’s tuition rates are below the national average public in-state and out-of-state rates at $25,410 and $30,250, respectively. Remember these rates are for tuition only. Prospective applicants should consider other expenses, such as University fees, living expenses, meals, books, transportation, etc. 

4. Do I need to take any prerequisites before I apply to law school?

No. Law schools do not require prerequisite courses, as the ABA mentions in their Pre-Law Information, skills and knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways. Applicants are, however, expected to challenge themselves by taking courses that emphasize reading, writing, and critical reasoning skills. Subjects that focus on human behavior or communication skills, such as sociology, psychology, debate, public speaking, theater, and advocacy will serve prospective law school applicants well.

Although there are no prerequisites, law schools do require a bachelor’s degree that has been awarded by an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Law schools may also admit graduates of institutions outside the U.S. if the program of study at the institution is equivalent to that of institutions accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

5. Do law schools require standardized test scores?

Yes. The American Bar Association (ABA), the accrediting body for law schools in the U.S., states that law schools must require applicants to take a valid and reliable admission test. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the only standardized test specifically designed for law school applicants and the only test accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools. However, over one hundred law schools accept the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) in lieu of the LSAT.

Considering the GRE? Review our GRE Frequently Asked Questions.

6. How much does it cost to apply to law school?

Save your pennies! The law school application process adds up quickly. In addition to the $215 LSAT registration fee (or the $220 GRE registration fee), law school applicants must subscribe to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service, which costs $195 and purchase a $45 CAS Report for each school to which they are applying. Lastly, law schools may charge their own application fee. Many law schools grant fee waivers, so be sure to ask!

Learn about LSAC’s Fee Waiver program and ETS’s Fee Reduction Program.

7. What should I be looking for in a law school?

Knowing what to look for in a law school can feel overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider including location, price, program offerings and experiential learning opportunities, extracurriculars, support services, faculty to student ratio, school culture, and more. Visit schools, if possible, and ask questions! Most schools have Student Ambassadors who are willing to connect with prospective students to provide first-hand accounts of their law school journeys.

Unable to visit law schools in person? Take advantage of virtual tours and webinars.

8. What do law schools look for in an applicant?

Law schools look for applicants who demonstrate potential for success through a strong academic record and standardized test scores. However, admission decisions are typically based on numerical and non-numerical factors including undergraduate major and course selection, grade trends, graduate coursework (if applicable), writing abilities, and recommendation letters.

The University at Buffalo School of Law strives to enroll law students that are diverse in their life experiences and perspectives. Therefore, leadership experience, life experience, professional work experience, and community service may also play a role in the review process.

9. What classes do law students take in the first year?

The first-year law (J.D.) curriculum is fairly standard across programs. In addition to two semesters of legal writing and research, first-year students typically take lecture courses including Torts, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Property, and Criminal Law. University at Buffalo School of Law students also take a Legal Profession course to develop an understanding of the skills and professional responsibility of being an attorney as they try to meet their obligation to “maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct.”

Check it out! The University at Buffalo School of Law’s Legal Analysis, Writing & Research Program was ranked #62 in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2023 Best Legal Writing Programs.

10. What is the Socratic method?

The Socratic method, developed by Socrates, is what most people know as “cold calling” where the professor randomly selects a student and questions them, sometimes repeatedly, to explore the ideas and beliefs that shape the student’s opinions. The Socratic method is famously associated with law schools and is used to stimulate critical thinking. However, not all law schools or faculty use this method and it is important to do your research on each law school’s teaching style. This is a great reason to do a class visit, if it is available! 

Request an appointment:

Learn more about the law school admissions process and School of Law community through an individual meeting with one of our staff members.

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11. Does it matter how many times I take the LSAT/GRE?

Yes. No one wants to pay and prepare for the LSAT (or GRE) more than once! Standardized tests are expensive and preparing thoroughly takes a significant amount of time and focus.

With that said, law schools understand that things happen, and test day doesn’t always go as planned. If you’re unhappy with your LSAT or GRE score, it’s perfectly fine to retake the test but be sure to give yourself adequate time to prepare again as you’ll want to show the Admissions Committee your ability to improve over time. All LSAT scores are reported to any school to which you apply for admission. Note: Even a canceled LSAT score is reported as a “C” to all schools to which you apply. Learn about LSAT Score Cancellations.

Once applicants take the test more than three times, they tend to see scores plateau. Therefore, there will be little benefit to taking the LSAT more than three times. As for the GRE, it is recommended to reach out to ETS directly regarding cancelation options.

12. Do law schools offer scholarships?

Most law schools offer merit and/or need-based scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are based on academic achievement such as test score(s) and GPA, while need-based awards are based on financial need or hardship. Many law schools also award named scholarships, often supported by alumni donors or friends, to upper-level students. Contact the schools to which you are applying to find out what types of scholarships they offer.

The University at Buffalo School of Law awarded merit scholarship to 79% of the J.D. Class of 2025

13. What can I do with a law degree?

There are many avenues you can take with a law degree! Once you pass the bar exam, you can practice law in a multitude of areas such as private practice with a law firm, serving as in-house at a corporation, working in the court system, or with a not-for-profit agency in the public sector. You can also pursue “J.D. preferred” jobs, where a J.D. is not required but helps applicants stand out in the selection process. Such jobs include banking, compliance work, regulatory affairs, contract negotiator, real estate, and more. A law degree is quite versatile and offers a path to alternative careers.

14. Can I work during law school?

Law schools typically advise students against working in the first year, some even prohibit it. With that said, not all law students have the luxury of not working. If you must work during the first year you should work as little as possible and do your research on each law school’s policies. Law school is a big adjustment for most, and you don’t want to jeopardize academic success by working too many hours. Once you get through the first year, you’ll have a better understanding of the time needed to excel academically and be in a better position to tackle additional work hours. The general rule of thumb for upper-level students is no more than 20 hours per week during the academic semester.

15. Are law students required to pursue summer internships?

While typically summer internships are not required, they are strongly encouraged! Summer internships offer meaningful legal experience, networking opportunities, and various avenues for professional growth. Some internships even lead to full-time, post-graduation employment offers. Not to worry, law schools collaborate with employers to offer valuable summer placements.

At the University at Buffalo School of Law first-year students begin working with the Career Services Office during the fall semester to prepare for summer position interviews.

16. How should I prepare for law school?

Excel in your academic coursework! The Committee needs to be convinced that, if given the chance, you’re academically prepared for the rigors of law school and your academic record will speak for itself.

Prepare for the LSAT or GRE to the best of your ability. If a prep course is too expensive purchase a prep book and dedicate as much time as possible to test preparation.

Get involved as an undergraduate student. Join a prelaw club or society where you can network with other pre-law students, advisors, attorneys, and law schools. Pursue a legal internship or shadow an attorney to get a feel for everyday legal practice.

Get comfortable with reading dense and heavy texts and stay up to date on national and global news, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Finally, do your law school research and visit law schools to narrow down your application list.

17. Can I apply to law school if I have a criminal record?

Yes. While most law schools require applicants to respond to criminal background questions, a criminal record will not prevent you from applying. If you must respond to criminal history questions, respond honestly, and be prepared to upload a written explanation for any “Yes” response. The Admissions Committee will consider this information when assessing your candidacy for admission.

Note: The University at Buffalo School of Law removed criminal history questions from its application for admission in accordance with SUNY’s Ban the Box policy.

18. When should I submit my application for admission?

Application deadlines vary by school so be sure to do your research! UB School of Law has a March 1 priority application deadline but will accept and review applications on a rolling basis until the fall entering class is full. It is always in the applicant’s best interest to apply as early as possible in the application cycle but not before putting together the strongest application possible. 

19. What advice would you give someone considering law school?

Evaluate what you want to do in your career and whether law school is necessary to help you achieve your goals. Law school is a big financial undertaking so make sure you are fully informed and aware before making the leap!

20. What happens if I have a low GPA or test score?

Most law schools review applications holistically. If you fall short on LSAT or GPA it is important to make sure all remaining application components are as strong as possible. Most law schools invite applicants to upload addenda addressing any circumstance(s) that may have impeded their ability to perform well academically or on the LSAT/GRE.

There’s no perfect solution for a weak test score or GPA but putting forth the strongest application package and explaining any special circumstance will give you the best odds of gaining admission!

21. I have more questions. Who should I contact?

For questions regarding the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Admissions process and criteria, please reach out to the Office of Admissions at We are happy to assist! 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Photo of Lindsay Gladney.

Lindsay Gladney is the Vice Dean for Admissions at the University at Buffalo School of Law. 


Office of Admissions
University at Buffalo School of Law
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Request an appointment:

Learn more about the law school admissions process and School of Law community through an individual meeting with one of our staff members.

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