PreLaw FAQs

  1. What factors are considered in admission to law school?
  2. What major should I choose?
  3. Are there any specific courses a student should take, or is there a prelaw curriculum?
  4. What about extracurricular activities?
  5. What parts are there to the law school application?
  6. What about recommendations?
  7. What is LSDAS?
  8. Is there a special test I have to take to be admitted to law school?
  9. When should a student take the LSAT?
  10. Should a student take the LSAT once for practice?
  11. Should a student take one of the commercial LSAT preparation courses?
  12. When does a student apply to law school?
  13. Is financial assistance available for law school?
  14. Should a student arrange interviews or visit the law schools to which he or she is applying?
  15. What can you do with a law degree?

 

(1) What factors are considered in admission to law school? 

There are basically two factors involved in the law school admissions decision: a student's undergraduate grade point average and a student's score on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Extracurricular activities should be a part of the student's college experience and recommendations may be required, but only in marginal cases have they any bearing upon law school admissions.

(2) What major should I choose? 

One of the best features of prelaw education is that it contains absolutely no requirements or restrictions. While no single curriculum is the ideal preparation for law school, you should try to acquire a well-balanced education. Law schools want students who can think logically, read well, write in a clear, well-organized manner, and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped human experience. Writing skills and critical thinking skills of analysis and logic can be developed in virtually every discipline. Consequently, courses that require the preparation of research papers and other written assignments that require the collection and analysis of data are recommended. College education stands on its own merits as preparation for a lifetime of active involvement in a diverse and changing society.

(3) Are there any specific courses a student should take, or is there a prelaw curriculum? 

The answer is no. As indicated above, prelaw students should seek breadth in their undergraduate studies. The Southeastern Association of Prelaw Advisors recommend several courses that assist students (but which should not be construed as "required" for law school). Examples of recommended courses at UM are: Accounting 211; Economics 211 and 212; History 101 and 102; Philosophy 110 and 215; Political Science 201, 373, 374, and 375. Check the University of Miami Bulletin course listings for description of these courses.
Note: PHI 110 Critical Thinking & PHI 215 Logic and Law are courses that are strongly recommended in preparing students for the logical and analytical reasoning portions of the LSAT.

The University of Michigan’s 1996-1997 Law School bulletin (p.7) states:

The mature and responsible practice of law requires certain attributes and skills: analytic and intellectual abilities of the highest order (for no way of life is more intellectually demanding than that of the law); the strong moral sense which the lawyer’s life of constant ethical challenge and opportunity demands; and the sympathy and imagination which can enable the lawyer to understand the experience of other people, represent that experience in the language of the law, and devise new ways of thinking by which the law can achieve new results.

(4) What about extracurricular activities? 

You will gain special recognition not by simply having your name associated with most activities, but by active participation that demonstrates maturity, motivation and leadership. Activities in which you have had a strong leadership role and in which you have demonstrated the ability to work well with others can be positive factors in the law school admissions process. The involvement need not be law-related; however, meaningful involvement in law-related activities can be of great value in two ways: it may prove to law schools that your desire to study law is well-considered, and it serves as an excellent way for you to discover the area and extent of your own interest in law. You should be aware, however, that such activities do not substitute for a strong academic record; they merely supplement that record and enhance your chances for admission.

(5) What parts are there to the law school application? 

All law schools are unique and therefore require different applications to complete your admission file. All law school applications should be typed and completed in an accurate and neat manner. All applications should be submitted prior to each law school's deadline date. Most law schools will ask for biographical information and a personal statement. Some will require letters of recommendation and a Dean's Certification form. Most law schools also require an application fee that can range from to $0 to $85.00. Financially disadvantaged students can apply for an application fee waiver directly from each law school. Receiving a fee waiver will have no bearing on your application.

(6) What about recommendations? 

Though some law schools do not require letters of recommendation, most do require one to three letters, usually two from professors and one from a dean. Students should use the LSDAS letter of recommendation service. When students ask faculty members for a letter of recommendation, they should give them the completed LSDAS recommendation form, and a stamped envelope addressed to Law Services. Students should also give the faculty member a copy of their resume, or other useful information that will assist the recommendation writer. (Students can write and print out their resume at the Toppel Center).

Note: The dean's recommendation is usually a form that asks for basic information such as cumulative g.p.a., class rank, and disciplinary clearance. Students should submit this form with the students' section typed, along with a stamped (addressed to the law school) legal size envelope to the Office of Advising - Student Academic Services at their respective school or college, at the beginning of their senior year. The dean's representative must sign and date the seal of the envelope.

(7) What is LSDAS?

The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) is a nationwide clearing house that evaluates, organizes, analyzes, and summarizes academic information in a uniform manner, and reports this information along with college transcripts, Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores to law schools. The LSDAS information report is required by most Law School Admission Council (LSAC) member law schools, and helps to simplify the admissions process.

The LSDAS is a service that once paid is valid for 5 years. Applicants must be registered with the LSDAS during the academic year in which they are actively applying for admission to law school. Applicants may register at the end of their junior year.

(8) Is there a special test I have to take to be admitted to law school? 

Yes, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test designed to assist law schools in assessing the academic ability of their applicants. All LSAC member law schools require the LSAT, and more than 197 law schools in the United States and Canada use the result as part of their application process. The multiple-choice questions that comprise most of the LSAT are presented in a range of styles and methods and cover a broad range of academic disciplines. They are intended to give no advantage to candidates from a particular academic background. In addition to the multiple choice questions, a half-hour writing sample is part of the test. Scores range from 120 (lowest) to 180 (highest).

The questions yielding the LSAT score are designed to measure the ability to read, understand and reason. The LSAT consists of five thirty-five minute multiple-choice sections and one thirty minute writing sample that does not contribute to the candidate's score. The four scored sections include three different types of questions:

  1. Reading Comprehension: measures the ability to read with understanding and insight. (1 section)

  2. Analytical Reasoning: focuses on the ability to understand the structure of relationships and to draw conclusions about the structure. (1 section)

  3. Logical Reasoning: is designed to evaluate ones ability to understand, analyze, criticize, and complete arguments. (2 sections)

The fifth section of the test are questions that are being pre-tested for use in future tests, this section is not scored. You will not know which section this is, so try your best on each section.

Note: All disabled students should see the Prelaw Advisor for assistance with registering for the LSAT.

(9) When should a student take the LSAT ? 

The LSAT should be taken either in June after the Junior year or in October of the senior year, if a student plans to graduate in May. In general, students seem to perform better at the end of their Junior year, and since there is no reason to take it before this time, one should not plan to take the test earlier. Tests are given in June, October, December, and February. Examples: Graduation May, 2011 / Take LSAT Test June, 2010 / Begin law school fall, 2011.

Note: Only a few law schools allow students to begin enrollment in January-Spring.

(10) Should a student take the LSAT once for practice ? 

No, definitely not. Whenever any LSAT scores for a person are reported, all scores are reported. Since LSDAS averages the scores, a student should plan to take the test once. If an individual does not perform well (scores below 150), he or she should consult the Prelaw Advisor before registering to retake the test.

(11) Should a student take one of the commercial LSAT preparation courses ? 

Neither Law Services, LSDAS nor the Prelaw Office sponsor recommend any specific commercial preparatory course. Students who have taken courses point out that these courses do familiarize the test taker with the format of the test and that taking full advantage of these courses may reduce the anxiety factor. Most commercial preparatory courses emphasize the timing of the test over the content of the LSAT.

The Prelaw Office recommends that students utilize the free services of the Academic Development Center for assistance in improving their reading comprehension and speed of reading skills. Courses such as Philosophy 110 - Critical Thinking and Philosophy 215 - Logic and Law could assist students in developing their logical reasoning skills. In addition, Law Services does provide old tests and other preparation materials which may be helpful if they are dealt with seriously.

(12) When does a student apply to law school ?

A year before a student plans to enter law school, the student should do four things:

  • Read the Prelaw Manual and consult with the Prelaw Advisor.

  • Research which law schools you are interested in.

  • Register for the LSAT and with the LSDAS.

  • Write to law schools to obtain catalogues and application forms.

All applications should be typed. Typed or computer generated applications should be completed and sent to the law schools to which the student is applying as early as possible before deadline dates.

(13) Is financial assistance available for law school ? 

Yes, various types of financial assistance are available for law students, based on both financial need and merit. There are a number of institutional and federal applications that a student must complete in order to be eligible for assistance. Financial aid application deadlines vary according to unique school and program requirements. You should review schools' and programs' financial aid/admissions materials to determine deadline dates. You should apply for financial aid during your senior year (for the following academic year). Federal applications are available in January for that year. Contact each law school's financial aid office and fill out the required applications.

(14) Should a student arrange interviews or visit the law schools to which he or she is applying? 

In general, law schools do not encourage interviews but in some cases will provide tours, along with allowing perspective students to come in and pick up applications and other brochures. If a student is traveling and plans to be near a law school of interest, it could be helpful to visit that school. The visit will have no impact on admission but may help the student decide whether or not to apply. 

During the fall semester, on September 12, 2009, a number of law schools will send representatives to attend the annual Miami Law Day hosted by the University of Miami School of Law. All prelaw students should attend Miami Law Day where law school admissions representatives will respond to questions and provide valuable information to the perspective law school candidate.

(15) What can you do with a law degree? 

When deciding which law school you would be interested in, you should consider which areas of law are strongest at particular schools. All law schools are unique and offer different areas of specialization.

The American Bar Association has identified five distinct roles that lawyers perform: advising, mediating, evaluating for the benefit of third parties, negotiating, and advocating. Lawyers possess special skills and use these skills to provide many services for our society. Listed below is a sampling of areas in which lawyers can practice:

  • administration
  • adoption
  • agriculture
  • alternative-dispute resolution
  • antitrust
  • banking
  • bankruptcy
  • biomedical issues
  • bond
  • business organization
  • commercial finance
  • commercial litigation
  • commercial banking
  • communications
  • computer
  • constitutional
  • construction
  • copyright
  • corporate
  • corporate reorganization
  • discrimination
  • domestic relations
  • employment
  • employment relations
  • energy
  • entertainment
  • environmental
  • estate planning
  • family
  • franchising
  • general practice
    governmental relations and lobbying
  • guardianship
  • health care
  • immigration
  • insurance
  • insurance defense
  • intellectual property
  • international finance
  • international labor
  • librarian
  • litigation
  • lobbying
  • matrimonial
  • natural resources
  • patent
  • pensions
  • probate
  • professor
  • public contracts
  • public utility
  • real estate
  • religion
  • social security
  • sports
  • taxation
  • trademark
  • transportation
  • trust
  • worker's compensation