Applying to Law School
The process for applying to law schools very much resembles the undergraduate application process: applicants take an entrance exam, draw up several written documents, secure recommendations, identify schools, and submit their materials through a centralized application system.This page provides an overview of the application process, as well as links to several other pages that provide more detailed information about certain aspects of it. While this is a good place to start, it is strongly encouraged that students meet with the Pre-Law Advisor as early as possible in the application process to discuss their plans. Students intending to applying during the senior year should visit the Pre-Law Office no later than the spring semester of the junior year. Applicants should also complete the Pre-Law Questionnaire.
Applications to all ABA-accredited law schools are submitted through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Prospective applicants may create a free account with LSAC whenever they like, which allows them to register for the LSAT and to make a list of potential law schools. In order to finish the application process, applicants will also need to purchase a subscription to LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS), through which they will upload academic transcripts and letters of recommendation.
Law school applications are typically composed of the following items:
- An entrance exam score. Applicants to law school most commonly take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). A number of schools have also begun to accept the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) as well, though only recently, and most still do not accept it. The GRE offers flexibility to students who are considering law school alongside other graduate-level programs. But for students intending only to apply to law school, the LSAT remains the best option. Please see this page for information regarding LSAT preparation.
- An undergraduate transcript. Applicants must submit transcripts from all undergraduate institutions from which they have earned academic credit, per the guidelines published here. Depending on the college or university, these transcripts may either be sent electronically or by mail. Once all of the transcripts have been received, LSAC will compute a new Undergraduate GPA (UGPA), which averages an applicants grades from across all institutions. Please note that this will likely differ from a student's Binghamton GPA, which includes only grades earned at Binghamton University.
- A personal statement. This short statement introduces the applicant and allows them the chance, in their own voice, to explain who they are, what they value, and why they are interested in law. Though short--typically no more than two double-spaced pages--personal statements can be quite difficult to write. Applicants should allow plenty of time for revision and are encouraged to share drafts with the Pre-Law Advisor.
- A résumé. Because the law school application is a graduate school application, the résumé should place education first, including awards and honors, before listing relevant experience. For more information on the résumé, please visit this page. The Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development is also an excellent resource for résumé writing.
- Letters of recommendation. Requirements vary with regard to letters of recommendation. Some schools allow as many as four or five, while others do not require any. But the standard requirement is two letters, and it is expected that these will come from faculty members who can best speak to an applicant's abilities as a student. Beyond those two, additional letters may come from professional sources, such as an internship supervisor, who can speak to an applicant's professionalism and responsibility. Please see this page for more information on letters of recommendation.
- Optional essays. Many schools supply prompts for additional essays that applicants may submit alongside the personal statement. The topics vary widely. The most common perhaps is the "diversity statement," which asks what an applicant will contribute to the culture and community of the law school or legal profession. Another asks why an applicant has chosen to apply to a particular school. Others may ask about obstacles that applicants have overcome or commitments to particular kinds of legal practice. And some are more lighthearted, asking about favorite recipes or songs. The intent here is to allow applicants a chance to provide a fuller picture of themselves. These essays are truly optional. If an applicant feels that an optional essay would contribute materially to the application, than it may be a good idea to write one. If, on the other hand, the optional essay feels perfunctory, it may detract from the other components of the application.
- Addenda. Addenda are similar to optional essays, in that they are not required for every application. But rather than address prompts provided by the law school, addenda clarify certain aspects of an applicant's record. Most often, these have to do either with academic performance (such as addressing a difficult semester, highlighting an upward trend in the GPA, or explaining a change in LSAT scores) or with issues related to character and fitness. Regarding the latter case, if an applicant discloses any previous student conduct violation or legal issue, law schools will typically require a statement detailing the incident. They may also request that the Pre-Law Office complete a Dean's Certification form. Sample character and fitness questions may be found in the Pre-Law Questionnaire, and more information about Dean's Certifications is available here.