10 Basic Questions for Students Interested in Law School
written by John Hermann, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science
Trinity does not have a pre-law program for two central reasons. First, most law schools seek applicants with a broad liberal arts education that focuses on the student's oratory, critical reasoning, writing, and research skills. Second, Trinity's first goal is to provide an unparalleled liberal arts education. To that end, Trinity has historically prepared students well for law school.
There are certain classes that will increase the likelihood of success in law school. While the following list is not exhaustive, these classes better prepare students seeking admission into law school:
Since the University focuses on oratory, critical reasoning, writing, and research skills, most courses at Trinity, help students prepare for law school. Additionally, certain specialized courses and majors will help prepare students for certain areas of law better than others. If a student is interested in environmental law, for example, the student might want to take several courses in biology and chemistry. If a student is interested in business law, the student might want to take several courses in business and economics. Each area of the law requires a unique set of expertise.
As a general rule, law schools primarily seek students with a strong grade point average (GPA) and law school admission test score (LSAT). Important secondary factors that contribute to law school admission are extra curricular activities (e.g., volunteer work, athletics, debate, etc.), work experience, and a student's unique cultural background (e.g., first person to go to college in the family or from an under-represented group in law school).
You can find out more about the LSAT by vising the website www.lsac.org. This website is the official site of the Law School Admission Council.
The best time to take the LSAT is when a student is best prepared. Everything being equal, it is recommended that students take the exam in the summer after their junior year. The student is not overwhelmed by class work at this time and, if a student performs poorly, he/she can cancel his/her score. Unlike the SAT and college admissions, most law schools average multiple LSAT scores (although there is a movement to take the top score). If a student performs poorly on the test, he/she can cancel the score within five days of the exam. If a student did not realize he/she performed on the LSAT, then the student should take the exam again if he/she can obtain a significantly higher score. If a student earns a higher score, he/she write and addendum to his/her application stating why the lower score was an aberration (separate from the personal statement).
Each student studies differently, so the Pre-law Advisory Committee does not recommend one single way to prepare for the exam. Some students thrive by buying study guides and studying on their own. Other students prefer structured courses (e.g., Kaplan or Princeton Review). I do recommend that students familiarize themselves with the exam, and take an old full-length exam prior to sitting for the actual LSAT.
You must tell a law school about prior criminal infractions, because you can be expelled from law school for not being truthful on your application. Some minor infractions (e.g., drinking as a minor) are relatively common and will not adversely hurt your chances for admission. But, a major crime (e.g., rape) can preclude you from practicing law in some states.
This is a highly personal decision that only you can make. You should make an appointment with Career Services, discuss this option with your academic adviser and discuss with a member of the Pre-law Advisory Committee. There are several books that may also be helpful:
If you do not want to purchase them, you can check them out from the Department of Political Science's library or from Career Services. Both the Department of Political Science and Career Services have other resources regarding law school (i.e., admissions process, the legal profession, how to write a personal statement, etc.). After reading these books, you should attempt to obtain an internship with a law firm or speak to attorneys who can offer more advice on the subject.
Unless you go to a top tier law school or particularly unique program, you should apply to law schools in the area you want to practice, because the network of potential employers is the strengths in that region. You can find a description of each law school at www.lsac.org (and to a lesser extent at www.petersons.com), which has a summary of your chances of being admitted based on LSAT and GPA. In the application process, you should apply to an equal number of schools that are "safeties," on-targets, and reaches. I define "safeties" as a student having over a 70% chance of being admitted, an on-target is 50-69% chance of being admitted, and a reach is 33-49% chance of being admitted. These aforementioned definitions are rough guidelines and not a rigid requirement.
If you have additional questions regarding law school, please feel free to contact an individual on the Pre-law Advisory Committee. If you find a member of the Committee from your major, you should contact that member first, because he/she has an understanding of how past students similar to you performed in the admission process.