So you’re thinking about applying to law school: tips for new applicants and what to do when you get there

Ah, January. A new year, a new crop of thousands of college students entering their final semester, and with them, a new crop of of law school applicants. With law school applications plummeting and law schools scrambling to keep quality up and price down-ish, after a year-long barrage of articles about what a terrible return you get on your law school investment, and deans making just shy of a million a year at unranked schools, a down legal job market, the rise of legal self-help firms like legalzoom and rocketlawyer, the sudden combustion of a couple of huge law firms over the last few years, plus a lifetime of hearing jokes about what a bunch of jackasses lawyers are, you’re still apparently thinking about applying to law school!

Good call. It’s a good investment, graduate school loans are on better terms now than they have been in years, the legal job market is improving, the online legal self-help competition everyone was worried about swamping the industry is self-destructing, starting salaries for recent grads are up to $160,000 at half of BigLaw, and best of all, with applications (and average accepted LSAT scores) down, the competition you’re being graded against is dumber than it has been in years. 

So, you’re going to get a lot of swell tips about applications ranging from the obvious (make sure it’s a school you want to go to before going to it) to the impossibly, ridiculously, frankly stupidly obvious (make sure you can afford the first semester’s tuition before you go to your first class), to the false (pad your application with extracurriculers, internships, etc.). 

The fact is that the application process is very simple. Most schools use a metric for admissions that weighs your LSAT score against your GPA at a 2:1 ratio, uses extracurriculers as a tie-breaker, and requires recommendations only to prove that at least two adults on the planet like you. So don’t sweat the application.

But sweat the shit out of the LSAT.

It’s basically a mix of logic, argumentation, and reading comprehension, and the best thing that you can do to prepare for it is to take a class in formal logic, and then get an A in it. I used formal logic notation on the LSATs so much it felt like I was cheating, and I was very happy with the score. But other than that, a Kaplan LSAT course is about as helpful as getting a good night’s sleep the night before the test – which is to say, very, very helpful. Take the Kaplan course if you can afford it, otherwise get the Princeton Review books or similar book series, and use them. Then take the test on a fullish stomach after a restful sleep. Be awake for at least two hours before the test.

And then, congratulations – you’re a law school student.

So what do you do when you get to law school? Law school is something I’ve done. I’ve had semesters on Dean’s list. I’ve bombed tests and aced them. I’ve had friends self-destruct and had friends transfer into the Ivy League. There’s a lot of ways to do law school wrong, and a few ways to do it right. You’re going to get a lot of advice about how to do law school right, and I’m sure most of it is good advice, but it isn’t complete advice. There are some things so obvious that you wouldn’t think you’d have to say it, but apparently, after years in school, I’ve learned that you actually do. To wit (these are all pieces of advice I’ve seen other people at law school not follow):

  • Don’t do a ton of blow, all the time, at school.
  • Don’t go to class drunk.
  • Don’t take a final drunk.
  • Don’t tell everyone you know how much more practical experience you have than they do owing to your extensive criminal record.
  • Do your reading.
  • If you sit down to the final and really, truly, honestly know that you’re fucked beyond belief, just get up and leave. Don’t then come back, start yelling, sweep things off of peoples’ desks, have to get physically ejected from the building, then never be seen or heard from again.
  • Join the night classes and get a day job. It’s one extra year of school to look ten times more impressive to… everyone, including employers.
  • Seriously, just do your goddamn reading.
  • Brief smarter, not harder.
  • That bullshit-sounding advice you hear about networking is all good advice, and if anything, it’s understated.
  • Stay on top of your goddamn reading.
  • Don’t do adderall unless you have a prescription.
  • Don’t sell adderall to your classmates unless you’re a pharmacist and they have a prescription.
  • Don’t join the student government then tell too many people about that one time you ran from an undercover cop who saw you smoking a joint because you had a half-dozen unprescribed adderall pills in your pocket.
  • Don’t start a fight with your torts professor where, long story short, you’re not allowed to email her anymore.
  • The Socratic method is only scary if you don’t do your reading.
  • Law school is not an extension of college.
  • Law school is a trade school. Immerse yourself in your trade. Stay up-to-date on current events in the law. Spend your free time reading classics of law or about famous lawyers. Talk about it. Blog about it. Argue about it. Yell about it. Lecture people who know less about it than you do. Breathe it in, breathe it out. You don’t have to love what you do, but you’re at a point in your life where you have to know a lot about what you do.

Basically, don’t be an idiot, and do your work – advice you shouldn’t have to give that everybody needs to hear.

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One Response to “So you’re thinking about applying to law school: tips for new applicants and what to do when you get there”

  1. Megan Says:

    This is all wonderful advice from a fabulous law student!

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