Published January 27, 2023
Applying to law school can be a daunting process. From preparing for and taking the LSAT (or GRE) to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service and drafting the dreaded personal statement, you’ll likely have close friends or family trying to help by offering guidance. While their intentions are in the right place, they do not always offer good advice. Below we highlight the worst advice we have heard about applying to law school and why you should ignore it.
Being a lawyer requires more than the ability to argue. It requires critical reading and writing skills, time management skills, and the ability to negotiate and compromise. Law school is also an investment of time and money. If your basis for attending law school is that you like to argue, consider reevaluating if it’s the next best step. Our advice? Reach out to a prelaw advisor, connect with lawyers, pursue a legal internship or shadow an attorney to fully understand the day-to-day tasks and duties of someone working in the legal field.
Tip: Schedule a law school visit, attend a first-year law lecture, and take a tour to learn about the law school experience.
Generally speaking, law schools do not base admission decisions on numerical factors alone. Several non-numerical factors are considered in reaching admission decisions, including undergraduate major and course selection, grade trends, graduate coursework if applicable, writing abilities, recommendation letters, demonstrated leadership experience, research experience, professional work experience, community service, and/or volunteer work. These non-numerical factors, in addition to your test score(s) and GPA, will paint a complete picture of you as an applicant. So, do not be discouraged if your test score(s) and GPA don’t meet the medians of your top choice schools. The admissions committee conducts a careful review of each application component before rendering an admission decision.
Tip: Take every application component seriously and consider completing any optional essays for your top choice schools.
Letters of recommendation help to complete your academic profile and should stress your ability to think and write critically, analyze large volumes of text, and address your level of responsibility in the classroom. The admissions committee values letters from faculty, academic advisors, and current or former supervisors who know your work product well. The more personal, detailed, and authentic, the better. Personal recommendations, such as letters from family or friends; members of the clergy; and lawyers and politicians (unless they served as your direct supervisor), should be avoided. Their comments are not useful when evaluating your academic and professional qualifications, and the committee may express reservations about a student who acquires personal letters.
Tip: If you are returning to the academic environment after an extended time away, letters of recommendation from employers are encouraged.
While many law schools encourage applicants to schedule a visit, communicating with the office or visiting too often can cause more harm than good. Admission officers are busy meeting with applicants and admitted students, planning events, and processing and evaluating applications, so their time is valuable. If you have a legitimate reason to schedule an appointment, you should do so, but if you are requesting a meeting with no real purpose or agenda, it will not be a good use of anyone’s time. This advice is especially applicable to waitlisted candidates who might be anxious about the next steps. Waitlisted candidates may communicate any updates through email and should be prepared with questions for any face-to-face appointments. Aggressive or overbearing candidates put themselves in an unfavorable position. Scheduling several appointments to discuss the waitlist process, or to request an update, is strongly discouraged. Lacking the judgment to appropriately interact with admissions staff could raise concerns about one’s ability to navigate law school and the challenges that come with it.
Tip: Before scheduling an appointment with the admissions office, ask yourself whether the issue can be addressed by phone or email.
This is not great advice for a few reasons. First, it is not necessarily easier to gain admission through the Early Decision process. The admissions committee is looking for candidates who are academically prepared for the rigors of law school, and who are a good fit for their specific law program, regardless of when or how they apply. Second, most Early Decision processes are binding, meaning should you be admitted you are expected to accept the offer of admission and withdraw any pending applications with other law schools. Therefore, you should only apply Early Decision to one school—your top choice. If you have a short list of schools you’re interested in and want to compare potential offers, then Early Decision is not for you. Finally, Early Decision application deadlines are early in the application cycle. UB School of Law’s Early Decision deadline is November 15. If you have concerns about any aspect of your application (e.g.: personal statement, LSAT score, recommendation letters), you want to give yourself as much time as necessary to put forth the strongest possible application.
Tip: Don’t rush the process! Take time to prepare a strong application. If this means bypassing the Early Decision process to strengthen certain components of your application, you will ultimately be putting yourself in a better position for admission.
There is a lot of good and bad advice out there about the law school application process and you don’t want anyone’s well-intentioned, but bad advice, to get in the way of your goals. Sometimes it’s best to take it with a grain of salt and use your best judgment. Whenever in doubt, you should reach out to an admissions professional for answers!
Learn more about the law school admissions process and School of Law community through an individual meeting with one of our staff members.