Introduction to Law & Law School

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Is law school right for you?

The decision to attend law school is a big one. You should consider how law school fits into your career ambitions and life plan. A first step for you to determine if law school is right for you is to explore what the legal profession entails by talking to or working with lawyers. Gaining hands-on experience through networking, internships or law-based classes can only help you when deciding to apply to law school.  Additionally, seeking out resources online and through the alumnae network can also help in your search.  As you navigate your search, we strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with the Career Education office to support you through this process.

When should you go to law school? 

This answer is personal and the pre-law advisor is happy to talk this through with you. Each year, the percentage of students taking a least one year after Wellesley to work or gain other life experience is increasing. On average in the past three years, 80% of law school applicants from Wellesley are alumnae between 1-5 years out. If you know that law is right for you based on research and experience, you have a strong GPA, and you have taken the LSAT before your senior year and produced a strong score, then applying for right after Wellesley is possible. 

Where should I go for information?

Come talk to the pre-law advisor in Career Education if you are interested in learning more about law school and the law profession. Talk to family, friends, faculty, and alumnae as well. You can find alumnae on the Hive as well as through the Wellesley Lawyer's Network (WLN) Facebook Group (request to join--students are welcome!). You can post questions about applying to law school, taking a gap year(s), and life as a lawyer. It's also a great place to just read the types of questions lawyers are asking and learn industry trends.  

When are you at the point of considering applying, please spend some time on The Law Schools Admission Council (LSAC). LSAC is where you register for the LSAT and apply to law school and they have a wealth of data and FAQs about applications and the process. LSAC also sponsors Law School Fairs every year in multiple locations. These are opportunities to meet with admissions representatives from many schools. The ABA, AALS, CLEO, and NALP are also useful resources for understanding the current state of law and legal education. CLEO has a Become a Lawyer toolkit to explore as well as many other pre-law resources. 

 

Preparing for Law School

Informational Conversations and Internship Experience
Informational conversations and internship experience can be crucial in determining if law is the right career choice for you. Understanding the practical application of the law and hearing about other’s experience can give invaluable insight and guidance in the exploration process. Careful consideration of a career in law also includes field experiences or internships, which allow the pre-law student to develop a fuller understanding of the legal community and the practice of law.

In the Boston metropolitan area, a prelaw student can observe the judicial process in the state courts, ranging from the municipal level to the Supreme Judicial Court, or in federal court, through the United States District Court or the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. There are opportunities for term-time and summer internships with organizations engaged in legal assistance programs or legal research and with federal, state, and local government agencies. See below for examples and talk to the pre-law advisor for more ideas.

Note: having a summer internship "in law" is not a prerequisite for law school but rather helps a student understand careers in the legal field. Opportunities with nonprofits, advocacy organizations, politics and policy, finance, science, etc. are also fruitful experiences. Keep in mind that many large organizations and companies have a in-house legal team or a legal expert with whom you can have an informational interview during your internship experience, no matter where you are! 

If a full-time internship is not a viable option, students should should talk to the Pre-Law Advisor about shadowing experiences. 

Check out our Informational Interviewing Resource for more information on preparing for and nailing your informational interviews.

Sample Pre-Law Internships

  • Intern at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office
  • Intern at the Attorney General’s Office in Massachusetts
  • Intern at the Orange County, CA, District Attorney's Office
  • Intern at an Innocence Project
  • Legislative Internship at Congressional Office
  • Internship at the Harvard Legal Services Center, Harvard Law School
  • Intern at the ACLU
  • Intern at Shearman Sterling LLP
  • Intern at Kirkland & Ellis

Diversity Programs and Resources

Skills that law schools look for 
While law schools do not require specific coursework, there are certain skills that will help you be successful in the legal profession. These skills include: “problem solving, critical reading, writing and editing, oral communication and listening, research, organization and management, public service and promotion of justice, relationship-building and collaboration, background knowledge and exposure to law.”  A more in depth explanation can be found here ( source: Pre-law Section of American Bar Association).

Testing: LSAT & GRE

What is the LSAT?
The majority of law schools require that you take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) for admission. Some schools are also accepting GRE scores. We recommend having a conversation with the pre-law advisor about whether taking the GRE is the right choice for you. To learn more about the GRE test, please visit https://www.ets.org/gre.

The LSAT is a standardized exam that is scored from 120 - 180 points.  It can be broken into five different sections: Logical Reasoning, Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Essay Section and an unscored Experimental Section.  Below is a more detailed chart of what each section comprises. (Note: Essay section won’t be scored but will be sent to the schools you apply to.)

NOTE: As of the July 2019 test, the LSAT is moving from paper to digital (tablet) format! The test itset will be the same, but it may change the way you study and prepare. Read LSAC's FAQs here
 

More about the LSAT test

Logical Reasoning

  • 2 sections, each about 25 questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests ability to determine main points of arguments, apply logic to abstract concepts, find relevant information within a text, and analyze and evaluate arguments

Analytical Reasoning

  • 25 questions, 35 minutes total
  • Tests ability to understand effects of rules on decisions and outcomes, determine relationships between concepts, analyze situations and draw conclusions based on set guidelines, and apply logic to ambiguous or complex situations

Reading Comprehension

  • 27 questions, 35 minutes total
  • 4 sections – 3 with longer passages, and 1 with shorter passages
  • 60 minutes – one 25 minute section, one 10 minute section, and one 25 minute essay
  • Tests ability to draw inferences based on text, determine main ideas of passages, find relevant information within a text, understand a dense, scholarly text

Essay Section

  • 35 minutes
  • Tests ability to form an argument based on given facts, support an argument, use written English to express an idea

 

When is the LSAT offered?
The LSAT is now offered nine times annually. For upcoming dates, please visit here. You must register well in advance. You can register at the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website, where you can also find when the test is being offered. LSAC offers additional detailed information about the test and application process/timeline. The test is offered internationally but less frequently. 

How much does it cost?
The cost for the LSAT is $200. Additional details and information on fees are available here.

Practice & Prepare
The LSAT is one of the most important parts of the law school application. As such, it is crucial to be well prepared and have a mastery of both content and timing. Students choose to study in a variety of ways self-study, classes, and tutoring. Starting in June 2018, LSAC is partnering with the Khan Academy to provide free test prep. Regardless of your chosen path of study, it is imperative to take as many practice tests as possible prior to sitting for the test. Schools will be able to see all of scores, so it's best to go into the LSAT the first time with you best effort, and reserve additional tests if something unexpected happens during your first exam.  The LSAT is valid for five years, so students can choose to take it during their time at Wellesley or after graduation. Either way, treat LSAT prep as a class, budgeting study time and homework time during each week that you are preparing. 

 

Components of the Law School Application

LSAC and the Credential Assembly Service (CAS)

Applications to law school are centralized by LSAC and the CAS. You do need to register for CAS separently (and pay and additional fee) from registering for an LSAC log-in and the LSAT. CAS will collect and centralize your application materials and allows you access to the online applications for law schools. When all of your information is uploaded and sent to CAS, they will send off your applications to schools. CAS will receive all your transcripts (you are responsible for sending them from all schools you have attended), your LSAT scores, letters of recommendation, and your essays. CAS produces a report for law schools that includes a LSAC calculated GPA from all schools attended, which may be different from your Wellesley GPA. See here for more information.  

LSAC produced a helpful checklist for applying and CAS FAQs if you have questions about any aspect of their service. They are also very helpful when you call and speak to them. Your pre-law advisor is here to help you and support you through this process. 

Academic Performance
Law schools do not require any particular undergraduate major. A strong transcript that reflects a challenging and well-rounded liberal arts education will be more impressive to a law school than any specific major. Note that certain types of qualifications for lawyers, including practicing patent law, require a background in the sciences. Law schools look for intellectual rigor (which Wellesley provides) and for students who challenge themselves, including, for example, completing more than the required number of 300-level courses, completing an independent study and writing an honors thesis. None of these challenges trump the applicant’s ability to manage a full, four course credit load per semester and taking all courses for credit whenever possible. As mentioned, grades are an incredibly important part of the application process. In fact, the Law School Admissions Council offers a tool to help you get a sense of your chances of admission based on your undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores. You can find the tool here. The pre-law advisor has additional data on gpa and LSAT scores for admitted Wellesley students in the past. 

Transcripts

You will need to send transcripts to LSAC for every college-level or above school you have attended. This includes courses taken during high school at community college. More information about transcripts is available here.  Transcripts from study abroad may or may not be required; the LSAC information on international transcripts is here. Courses at MIT that you crosslisted for will appear on your Wellesley transcript and you do not need to request a transcript from MIT. If you took a course at Babson or Olin and the course does not appear on your Wellesley transcript, then you will need a transcript from those institutions as well.

Wellesley contracts with Parchment to send trancripts. LSAC now acccepts electronic transcripts from Parchment. You no longer need to send the transcript by mail and you don't need LSAC's transcript request form; the PDF will be sent directly from Parchment to LSAC and will be uploaded to you CAS account. Seniors will need to request a new, final transcript after graduation. 

Building Relationships with Professors and Asking for Letters of Recommendation
It is imperative to build relationships with your professors. Your professors can give you guidance on the application process, connect you with alumnae, and – most importantly – write a strong recommendation on your behalf. It is important for them to have a deep sense of who you are, how you think, what motivates you, and your career goals, so they can share that knowledge with any law schools to which you apply.

Law schools require between 1-3 letters of recommendation. Choose the faculty members who can best speak to your intellect, skills, motivation, and overall academic ability rather than faculty with the most prestige. Your recommenders can be in any department. Skills that law schools are looking for include writing, reading, organization, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, time management, motivation for attending law school, and overall preparedness for the rigors of law school. If you are a senior, your recommendations should come from faculty. If you are an alum between 1-3 years post graduation, at least one letter should be from faculty and a secondary letter can be from a work supervisor. Remember that law school is in fact school, and they first want to understand how well you will perform as a law student. 

To Faculty Writing Letter for Recommendation for Law School 

Law schools are interested in hearing about a student's potential for acadamic excellence as well as their experiences, skills, and motivations for choosing law school. Students are advised to ask faculty for recommendations with whom they have a strong connection. If you feel that you cannot write a strong application for the student, it is best to tell the student upfront. The best letters use specific examples from the student's work to describe the student's ability and skills. Some of the skills that law schools are especially looking for include writing, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, reading, self-discipline, ambition, and time management. Describe why the student's paper or classroom discussions clearly demonstrated her superior analytical ability above those of her classmates. If you the know the applicant well and can speak to her motivation to attend law school and her future ambitions in the legal profession, it is helpful for admission committees to hear that information as well, particularly since most schools do not offer interviews to applicants. Applicants will apply to many law schools and you do not need to write an individual letter for each school. LSAC should send you a link to upload your single application once the student enters your information. Students are advised to give recommenders at least a month's notice for a letter, but please be aware that most law schools have rolling admissions and getting the letters uploaded to LSAC will allow the student's information to be processed by LSAC more quickly and schools to give her earlier consideration. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Pre-law Advisor Emma Cutrufello at 781-283-2881 or ecutrufe@wellesley.edu

Resume for Law School

You will submit a resume for your law school applications. It can be one-two pages for seniors and recent graduates, as it's important to include your extracurricular, volunteer, and leadership activities. The experience section should include relevant internships and work experience, and aim to keep your bullets accomplishment based using strong action verbs, as you would in an industry resume.  Keep the formatting business professional. Make sure someone from Career Education has looked at your resume, either an advisor or your mentor.

Extracurricular Activities and Leadership

Law schools have very active student organizations and many options for participation in school life. Students can participate in law reviews, serve on boards for minority students, lead admission tours, and join a wide range or student orgs. Participation in student life at Wellesley demonstrates to law schools that you will also be an active participant in their student life. Do not feel that you need to do everything or that you need to have a "theme" to your participation in Wellesley organizations. Choose groups that you are genuinely interested and consider leadership roles if your academic, athletic, and work life allows. Wellesley has an active Pre-Law Society student org that brings in alum lawyers, LSAT test prep services, and others and produces a bi-yearly journal. 

The Personal Statement

After academic performance and the LSAT score, the personal statement is the next most important component of the law school application. Admissions officers do read every one of these essays. It requires significant time for reflection, outlinging, writing, and revising. Plan at least a month for this process. The pre-law advisor is more than happy to read drafts and work through this with you. 

The personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee who you are beyond the test scores and gpa. Law schools don't offer interviews, so consider this essay your "tell me about yourself" interview question. You want to stay true to yourself and consider what makes you unique. Admissions committees are looking to put together a diverse class, so don't try to fit a mold or create a persona that you think they are looking for. 

It can be helpful of thinking of the essay as telling a story. You don't have to tell the story of one experience or moment in your life, though you can, but it should have a central theme. Brainstorm experiences that you have had or people you've met that have shaped who you are as a person, what you care about, where you are. Think about why you become interested in law and law school and what ideas and experiences are driving you to pursue this degree. This requires a lot of brainstorming and outlining, but a narrative will start to emerge that tells the admissions committee about who you are and why you are who are, and how that is linked to your desire to pursue this degree. This statement is meant to be personal, so providing examples and specifics is good (i.e., show, don't tell). When deciding how much personal detail to divulge and what story to tell, decide if there is truly a link between that part of you and your life and your decision to go to law school. If you struggle to make that case, then it's not the right topic. 

Some schools will have slight variations on the personal statement prompt, so you'll need to do some editing of your general statement to make sure you answer their specific question. Finally, make sure you have multiple people proofreading your essays and make sure you stay in the word count or page limits. Following directions is part of the application process!

Additional Essays

Some schools will have additional essays and an addendum. If these essays are "optional," write them. It's just more opportunities to showcase how awesome you are. 

Schools may also have a "diversity essay." This essay is actually optional. If you consider yourself a member of a minority community, defined broadly, which you haven't addressed in your personal statement and it affects why you want to go to law school and what you will contribute to the law school community, then the diversity essay is the appropriate place to show the comittee why. 

The addendum is used to explain aspects of your application that are relevant and important for the admissions committee to consider. An academic addendum is used to explain a significant drop in academic performance or test score. One B among many As and B+s is not a significant event. A semester of lower grades because of a family or personal situation is something that you can explain to the committee. Try to be honest and succint in you explanation of why this happened and how you've addressed it since then. If explaining a low test score, make sure that you are providing clear evidence that showcases why this score is not a strong representation of your expected academic performance. 

Finding the Right Law School

As mentioned previously, LSAT scores, GPA, recommendations and passion for the profession are all necessary for applying to Law School. However, there is much more to consider when finding the right Law School for your needs:

  • Cost: Law School requires a significant amount of money and many students graduate with large amounts of debt. It is important to think about how this cost affects your present and future plans and if you will be able to afford it.  Questions to think about include: what is the cost of tuition? Are there any merit-based of financial-need scholarships? Are there refinancing opportunities or loan forgiveness?
  • Location: Law schools are generally very tied to the local market in which they operate and it is said that 2 out of 3 students stay in the state in which their law school is located.  It is important to think about not only how the school ranks, but where it is located. Could you foresee yourself living in a certain state or region after graduation? Do you have significant familial commitments in other regions?
  • Structure: While most top law schools are full-time programs, there also are part-time programs and programs that include online coursework.  What types of programs are most appealing to you? Can you take three years off to complete your law degree?
  • Program Specifics and Culture: Understanding the specific types of programs offered and culture of the school is very important.  Do the Law School's you’re looking at offer a range of programs or only a few? What type of Faculty does the school employ? What extracurriculars and student life opportunities are available? What does the school prioritize in its mission and values statement? 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Review LSAC's LGBTQ+ Guide to Law Schools and resources for racially/ethnically diverse cadidates. Diverse candidates have been underrepresented in the legal profession, and more data can be found here
  • Statistics: It is important to look at the statistics schools provide to help you gather a more complete picture of each different school.  What is student employment like after graduation? What is the average salary after graduation? What is the retention/graduation rate? How many students receive financial support? Law School Transparency is a good site to view much of this information. 

To get started on your search, check out Law School Transparency which has information and resources on all accredited law schools in the US and the Wilson-Stern Book of Law School Lists, 2017–18 edition, by Edward M. Stern and Gerald L. Wilson.

Attend the LSAC Law School Forums that happen every year to meet multiple admission representatives at once. It is also strongly recommended that you visit and go on an admissions tour at your top choice schools. You want to get a sense that you can live and study in this place for three years, just as you did for visiting undergraduate schools. 

Schools that have accepted three or more Wellesley students in the past 2 years, no order

  • Columbia Unversity
  • New York University
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • Suffolk University
  • Harvard University
  • UC Los Angeles
  • UC Berkeley 
  • UC San Diego
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Fordham University
  • Boston University
  • Boston College
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Pennsylvania 
  • Yale University
  • William and Mary

Please see the pre law advisor for more specific data on scores and matriculation

Financing Law School

If you are a strong applicant, you may be eligible for merit aid. Candidates should also consider diversity scholarships available through the American Bar Association and others. 

LSAC List of Diversity Scholarships

PLUS Programs for Diverse Applicants

CLEO inc. Council on Legal Education Opportunity

Point Foundation LGBTQ+ Scholarship Fund

To learn more about financing law school, visit AccessLex

 

Current Legal Market Landscape (As Provided by NALP)

The Impact of the Great Recession

  • More than 60,000 legal sector jobs lost 2008‐09 (US BLS)
  • 8.7% of all US associates lost their jobs in 2009
  • Sector down more than 52,000 jobs from pre‐recession high of 1.179 million in June 2007

The Impact of Technology

  • Internet (Google, LegalZoom) has made legal info readily available
  • From technology assisted document review to smart contracts, blockchain, and artificial intelligence
  • Commoditizable work is being systematized, automated, lowering price

The Impact of Globalization

  • Emergence of price sensitive global legal services supply chain
  • Disaggregation of legal services
  • Deregulation: e.g., UK, Australia, Canada, Washington State”2

Law Graduate Employment Information

NALP is the best source for information about where recent law graduates are going. You can find the most recent report for 2017 grads here. The employment numbers for the class of 2017 were strong, with the highest number of law school graduates reporting a job 10 months after graduation. The number of graduates, however, is still lower than pre-recession levels, as are the number of jobs. As the number of law school applications increase, which they did in the 2017-2018, it's important for students to consider the availability of JD and JD-advantage jobs. 

Law Industries and Careers

Where to Start
The Law Industry is made up of many different types of professions and opportunities so it is important to try and explore as many as you can before deciding whether or not this is the right career path for you. If you’re not sure where to get started, start browsing the resources below that have information about general industry information, job postings, and internship opportunities.

Career Options
There are many things you can do with a degree in law. There are many different types of specializations that exist within law as well as opportunities within business. Below is a sample list of different careers and industries that you can work in with a JD (note: this list is not exhaustive or presented in any particular order). There are also "JD-advantage" jobs, in which bar passage is not typically required but for which having legal knowledge is essential. These jobs exist in many interests, including government & policy work, regulation and tax, business and compliance, and technology and cybersecurity. The number of law school graduates taking JD-advantage jobs steadily rose after the recession, and was roughly 12.3% for 2017 law school graduates, according to NALP

  • Compliance Law
  • Health Policy Law
  • Electronic Document Discovery Attorney
  • Elder Law Attorney
  • Real Estate Law
  • Patent Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Judge Advocate in the US Military
  • Non Profit Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Legal Publishing
  • In-House Counsel
  • Law Firm Administration
  • Lobbyist
  • Politics
  • Civil Service
  • Activism
  • Political Campaign Manager
  • Labor Relations work
  • Career Services
  • Human Resources
  • Law Librarian
  • Court Administrator
  • Entry-Level/Recent Graduates Job Titles for the Legal Industry
  • Paralegal
  • Case Assistant
  • Case Manager
  • Intake Coordinator (Legal)
  • Conflict Assistant
  • Conflict Analyst
  • Contract Analyst
  • Business Analyst/Business Associate (Law Firm)
  • Legal Research Associate
  • File Clerk
  • Project Analyst
  • Legal Analyst
  • Legal Assistant
  • Legal Secretary
  • Legal Associate
  • Legal Administrative Assistant
  • Victim Witness Advocate

5https://careerservices.princeton.edu/undergraduate-students/major-career-choices/industries-professions/law

Current Glance at Women in Law (as of May 2016) 7

  • 36% are in the legal profession
  • In Private Practice, 21% are partners (as with many professions, the percent of women in entry level positions is greater than the percent of women at the top)
  • 24% of Fortune 500 General Council are women
  • A majority of judges are male - in the state courts, only 31% are female
  • However, women make up half of enrollment in law school and are awarded more JDs than men (2014-2015 data)
  • Women on average, still are compensated at a lower rate than men

 

Importance of Geography

  • 2 out of 3 students stay in the state in which their law schools is located. Law schools are generally very tied to the local market in which they operate.8

Bar Exam

  • Must take the bar exam in the territory you wish to practice in. Usually there is a requirement of some sort to take the exam (usually of graduating from law school before taking the exam, though this is not the case in all states). The bar exam can range from 2-3 days.9

7 http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/women/current_glance_statistics_may2016.authcheckdam.pdf
8 http://www.lstscorereports.com/guides/What-Schools-Should-I-Apply-To/
9http://www.lstscorereports.com/guides/Bar-Exam/

Selected Professional Associations

A professional association is an organization of people who have similar career interests. These membership-based organizations often offer a reduced rate for students that allow access to the many resources they provide. Professional association websites can also offer job/internship databases as well as opportunities to find mentors or other contacts.

Selected Professional Associations6

6 https://careerservices.princeton.edu/undergraduate-students/major-career-choices/industries-professions/law

 

Undergraduate Jobs in Law: Paralegal, Legal Assistant, Legal Secretary

What is a paralegal/legal assistant? 

Students graduating from Wellesley and considering law school in the future may work as a paralegal or legal assistant at a law firm to gain more experience in the field, to learn from lawyers, and learn more about whether or not the field is the right fit and if so, what type of lawyer they would like to become. 

Paralegals provide support for attorneys. Some common tasks include: organizing and managing files, conducting legal research, preparing legal forms and paperwork, scheduling, and other tasks essential to a functioning law office. Paralegals can work at small firms where they may be the sole paralegal to medium and large firms where there may be dozens of paralegals. Paralegals can also be found in government and public interest. 

How do I know if being paralegal is right for me?  

Paralegal work is very detail oriented and requires the ability to not make mistakes on forms and in writing, the ability to conduct research and summarize findings, and the ability to work closely and communicate effectively with attorneys and other members of the staff. 

Being a paralegal allows recent graduates to learn more about an area of the law that they are interested in as well as learn about what it like to be an attorney in a law firm or government. Paralegals should be prepared to sometimes work long hours and weekends if a deadline is approaching. They should also understand that much of the work they will do is very detail-oriented and depending on the firm, they may not have the oppotunity to interact with clients very often. Being a paralegal also offers the opportunity for mentorship from lawyers and insight into future careers. 

To learn more about being a paralegal, conduct informational interviews with recent graduates who are currently in the field. You can start by reading a Q&A with Alicia Briggs '13

The median salary for paralegals in 2017 was $50,410, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though that varies based on the industry and size of firm. Many firms and government agencies adopt a two-year contract for paralegals.