Advice to Pre-Law Students
Which courses should I take to
prepare for law school? What should be my major subject?
Law schools will accept any qualified
student from any undergraduate background. Therefore, my advice to you
is to major in that subject which interests you. If you like your
courses, you will probably do better in those subjects, and this will
help your grade average. A good GPA is important to law schools! There
are some courses that you should take which will help you later in law
school. I have listed these
recommended courses in the appendix section.
What should my GPA and
score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) be to qualify me for law
Admission to law
school is based on competition. For example, if a school only has 100
openings in their freshman class, and 400 people apply, then you can see
that the competition is going to be rather stiff. Law schools'
admissions will become even more competitive since many schools are
reducing the numbers of their admissions. For example, over the last
five years, the University of Oklahoma has reduced its entering class
size from 240 to 170. As a rough rule or average, the nationally famous
schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or California, will choose
most of their students from those who have made 164 or over on the LSAT
and have a 3.7 GPA or better. Most state universities, such as the
University of Oklahoma, will take the bulk, but not all, of their
students from a 158 LSAT and a 3.5 GPA on up. (The OU average scores are
now 160 LSAT and 3.6 GPA.) For someone who has less than 150 LSAT and
less than a 3.0 GPA, there are many private law schools which will admit
students in these instances. If you want to check on any law school in
particular, obtain a copy of The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law
Schools or view it
This book contains general information about all accredited law
schools and has information in regard to the average GPA and LSAT scores
of the last group of applicants to each of the schools listed. Once you
know your GPA and LSAT combination score, then you can find those
schools where you have the best chances of being admitted.
Do law schools place more emphasis
upon grades or the LSAT or letters of reference?
Each school has its own set of
criteria, but it is safe to say that grades and the LSAT score are by
far the most important elements. Most schools weigh the GPA and LSAT
scores roughly equally. The importance of reference letters varies
widely. Some schools do not ask for letters; some do; and others make it
optional. If you are not sure about a school’s policy in regard to
letters of reference, then call or write the school and ask the
admissions officer to explain their policy. If you do provide letters,
then make sure that those persons know you well enough to write letters
which describe your particular academic and personal qualifications.
General letters of reference are not very useful. Moreover, letters from
famous persons (judges, politicians, etc.) are not very helpful, unless
that person really knows you. Most schools prefer to have reference
letters from your college teachers.
Assuming that my GPA and
LSAT scores are good enough to give me some choice as to law schools,
how should I determine which school is the best for me?
This is a very difficult
question for me to answer because so much depends on your own likes and
dislikes. Let me give a few guidelines.
If you are fairly certain
as to which state you want to live in, then you should go to a school in
that state. You will know the law of that state; you will meet people
with whom you will be interacting for the rest of your professional
career; you will be in a position to hunt for a job; and it will be
easier for you to pass the bar exam than if you are an out-of-state
If you think you can qualify
for one of the famous, nationally known schools, then do apply! Students
at these schools are in an advantageous position to seek jobs with the
top law firms from all over the U.S. as well as corporate and
governmental employment. However, these schools are expensive! Some of
the schools in this category are
New York University,
University of Virginia,
University of Michigan,
University of Wisconsin,
University of Chicago,
University of California-Berkeley, and
Here in the Southwest,
University of Texas and
Southern Methodist University have excellent
Many students have
a particular interest which they want to combine with a law degree. For
example, a student in sociology may want a career in law enforcement; or
an engineer may want to be a patent attorney; or a petroleum engineer
may want to specialize in oil and gas law. Most law schools do not have
a wide range of specializations in their curriculum. If you want to
pursue a specialty, then you must do a lot of research on your own by
reading school catalogues, visiting law school websites, using
The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, and talking with
lawyers and professors. Generally speaking, the “prestige” schools
listed above have the best offerings in areas of specialization. A state
law school, however, may have a well-known area of specialization. (OU
is known for its courses on oil and gas.)
in mind, though, if you want to be a specialist, then you may have to go
to school for one or two years beyond the basic JD degree and earn an
LLM, which is the master’s degree in law. Also, many law schools are now
offering joint degrees, which may be a good way for you to combine law
with some other area of specialization. For example, the OU College of
Law will grant you an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) and a law
degree after the completion of a certain number of courses in both
fields. These combined programs will usually take one, sometimes two,
years of school beyond the basic law degree, which by itself normally
takes three years to complete.
What if I am not accepted at
law school the first time I apply? May I apply again?
Do not be easily
discouraged. You still have three options left.
First, you may apply to a school with less rigorous admission
standards. There are many schools with lesser reputations which can
still offer a good, basic legal education. There is also the chance that
you might transfer to a more prestigious school if you have good grades
in your first year of law school.
Second, many schools now
have admision by performance programs. These are primarily designed for
disadvantaged students such as minority group persons, the physically
handicapped, people with learning disabilities, and students from
economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. If you think
you fit any of these categories, then visit with the admissions office
about applying for the program. You will take regular law classes during
a summer session. If you do well, then you are admitted to the regular
Third, you may wait a year
or two and reapply. In fact, I often advise students to work for a few
years after undergraduate school before going on to law school. Work
experience can be very valuable. I have talked with many law professors
who maintain that their best students are the “older” students. It is no
disgrace to be turned down, and it does not prejudice your case to wait
a few years before going on to school.
When should I apply for law
Most law schools take in a
new class of students in the fall term only. So you must apply by the
preceding spring. Watch deadlines carefully. If you applying to an
out-of-state school, you may face a January or February deadline. Also,
some scholarships have December or January deadlines. Finally, I should
mention that many schools (state universities and private schools) have
early admissions starting as early as January 1st. I suggest that you
write to schools in which you are interested in the early fall of your
senior year for catalogues and information. Then you can plan ahead to
meet various deadlines.
also urge students to take the LSAT in the summer between their junior
and senior years or at the first exam in the fall. This allows you to
get your scores back with enough time left to make your plans for
applications to various schools. If you start early, you will not be
caught by deadlines.
How do I prepare for the LSAT? If I
don’t do well, may I take it over?
I strongly urge you to do
some “prep” work. This test is not like the standardized tests which you
took in high school or the ACT or SAT. The LSAT is a test that measures
your ability to think in a logical manner. There are basically three
ways to prepare for the LSAT.
This is the
cheapest. When you are preparing to register for the LSAT, you will need
to get the official LSAT/LSDAS Registration and Information Book. This
book contains some sample questions. You may order old exams (complete
with answer keys, etc.) from the ABA Service Center. These are referred
to as Official LSAT PrepTests and cost $30 each (10 tests). There is
also a publication called Triple Prep Plus. It is three old exams
complete with detailed explanations of the right answers. (See appendix
for address to write for these prep tests or order
online.) Also, you can go to regular bookstores and buy books
and CDs to study for the LSAT.
These cost around $400-$500.
You attend intensive lectures Friday night, all day Saturday and most of
Sunday. You will receive some written materials and take a sample test.
Stanley Kaplan Company,
The Princeton Review, and
Test Masters. Kaplan is a nationwide tutoring service for a
variety of exams such as the LSAT, GMAT, GRE, etc. Their fee for the
LSAT is in the $1,000 range. Some scholarship aid is available. This
service includes live instruction (usually one night per week for eight
weeks) and access to additional practice and tests online. Also, if you
are disappointed with your LSAT score, you may repeat the Kaplan course
at no charge.
Princeton Review is very similar to Kaplan in cost and format. It also
has private tutors available.
new national LSAT school is Test Masters. It is similar to Kaplan and
Princeton Review and costs $1,250.
you do not do well on the LSAT, you may take it over. Generally, schools
will simply average the scores. However, many schools will take the
second or third test over the first if you have a significant
improvement in your score. Here again is another reason for taking
the LSAT exam in the summer or early fall. If you do not do well, you
will have enough time to take it again and still apply to schools before
their deadlines pass.
What about scholarships and other forms of aid?
The Law School
Admission Council publishes a brochure Financial Aid for Law School: A
Preliminary Guide (also available
online). This booklet and others are available at the
financial aid offices of the law schools. Check with the financial aid
office of the schools in which you are interested. Furthermore, if you
are a minority and/or woman student, there are some specialized programs
and information available to you. (See appendix for further
Many law schools
have increased their own scholarship funds. At OU, for example,
approximately 40% of students get some financial help, ranging from
tuition assistance to full three-year scholarships. Be sure to contact
the schools to which you are applying for further information.