Frequently Asked Qestions

SPLS has done its best to compile succinct answers to the frequently asked questions we have received over the years. These are meant to be a starting point for more in-depth explorations of the law school experience.


Stanford doesn't offer a pre-law major. Are there any specific majors that are more suited for law school than others?

Although this may be frustrating to some, there is no prescribed path towards law school. There are no specific majors that law schools suggest for their applicants. It is best to study something that you are interested in (you will also most likely do better if you are studying something that you have a legitimate interest in). Law schools generally do want to see you demonstrate excellent writing skills and reasoning skills, whether you do this through a writing-intensive major or through outside work.

If you are interested in a major that incorporates the study of law, Stanford does offer two tracks within two different undergraduate majors that have a particular focus on law: the Law and Legal System track in Public Policy and the History and Law track within the History major.

What classes or types of classes are important to take in order to prepare myself for law school? I've heard philosophy and logic classes are good, but are there any more concrete examples?

As stated above, there are no majors or classes that law schools require you to take. However, it is important to include coursework that demonstrates writing, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

It is unclear that logic classes help law school applicants. Some people claim that they help both in cultivating an analytical mind and, more specifically, in preparing the applicant for the logic games section of the LSAT. Others who have taken the logic classes say that they provided no particular help in either way.

One thing to keep in mind is that all applicants will need to ask for letters of recommendation. Taking seminar classes or research classes is one way to get to know a professor better and, more importantly, for the professors to get to know you better so they can write detailed recommendation letters.

What are the requirements that I must meet before applying for law school?

You must earn a bachelor's degree (which must be completed before starting law school) and take the LSAT. Your law school application will also include letters of recommendation, a personal statement, resume and any other additional materials required by specific schools in addition to your LSAT score and transcript.

How does one prepare for the LSAT, and when should I start?

The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) is offered four times a year and it is widely believed that taking the test in the June (or earlier) before applying to Law School allows you the most time to work on your application. Your application will not be complete and won't be reviewed until you take the LSAT, so taking it too late can put you at a disadvantage in the rolling admissions process.

It is also important to note school-specific Early Decision and Early Action deadlines and plan to take the LSAT accordingly. There are various ways that students choose to prepare for the LSAT, including classes, private tutors, and studying by oneself.

When should students take their LSATs if they are preparing to take a/several gap year(s)?

An applicant can use an LSAT score that is several years old. Many law schools will accept LSAT scores that are less than five years old.

Keep in mind that people usually improve their LSAT scores significantly by spending a great deal of time preparing. The applicant should use her judgment in deciding when she'll be able to best prepare for the LSAT—while in college, or during the gap year. It is, however, useful to note that taking the exam in June of one's senior year can be particularly challenging due to finals, graduation, and the job-search process

How common is it for students to take a gap year? How should I go about making the decision as to whether to take a gap year or not?

Many students do take some time after their undergraduate education before applying for law school, but it is not required. Law schools such as Michigan Law School, Harvard Law School, and Georgetown Law, report that approximately 30% of entering students are entering right after completing their undergraduate education, with a majority of the rest taking one to two years off. If you do choose to take time off, law schools will want to see how you made use of that time.

Are there any specific types of work experience or internships that are valuable for someone interested in applying to law school?

There is no specific type of work experience that will inherently raise one's chances of getting into law schools. Different experiences shape people differently, though, and more importantly, different experiences will fit differently into the applicants' overarching life themes. Of course, the work should be rigorous. But the admissions officers will want the applicants to be able to explain their life choices (e.g., college major, work experience, extracurricular commitments) in a coherent narrative. The applicants should choose accordingly.

What goes into a law school application?

There are several components of the Law School application. These are:

No one of these is given priority over the others and if you are lacking in one area, law schools will want to see you make up for that in a different category.

Law schools will also take into account other factors such as extracurricular and curricular activities, work experience, and the college attended.

One piece of conventional wisdom is that an applicant's LSAT score and her academic record (GPA taken in the context of the applicant's major, her potential graduate studies, her college, etc.) amounts to about 2/3 – 4/5 of her application. Some law schools will resist such a mechanistic formulation of their admissions standards, but others point out that such a formulation has been historically accurate in predicting admissions offers.

How should I choose which law schools to apply to?

This of course depends. To get a sense of the admissions standards of the different law schools, you can browse the law school websites. Many of them will list the 25-50-75 percentile numbers (for LSAT and for GPA) of their accepted applicants. You can also email UAR's pre-law advisor, Kathy Wright

You should also consider geographic location, law school size, and law school atmosphere.

Is it ever too late to apply to law school (how long after undergraduate education is too late)?

It's never too late to apply to law school—at least not inherently late. There are some people who come to law school after having a full career because they want to pivot to a different career. The law schools will of course want to know what the applicant has been doing since her undergraduate years, and will expect that the successful applicant is one who has been constantly challenging herself to meet her goals.

When and how do I choose a specialization within law?

The choice should be made when there is sufficient information for the choice to be made. Humility is particularly important for undergraduates; almost every single undergraduate will not have enough information to commit to a specialization within law. Undergraduates will, at the very most, have justified interests in certain subfields—and these interests might come from their studies or their work experiences.

What are some common professions/fields that law school graduates go into (other than practicing law)? How does a law school education benefit those who may not want to become attorneys?

Law school graduates can, firstly, practice law in many different ways. They might join a firm. They might go straight into government as an Assistant District Attorney, at the Justice Department, the State Department, etc. They may also decide to join an NGO or go into teaching.

Furthermore, many politicians are lawyers. Many businessmen are lawyers. The skills you learn in law school – close reading, analytical thinking, and precise writing – are transferrable and beneficial to many different career choices.

Finally, while a law school education is a flexible and useful degree, given its significant cost, it is wise to take time and consult others before applying if you are unsure about your decision. Working for a couple of years, shadowing law school classes, and talking with legal professionals can be extremely helpful.

How should I choose who I should ask to write my letter of recommendation?

Law schools look primarily for letters of recommendation from individuals who can comment on your academic work and testify to your success in a rigorous academic environment. Such letters can best be written by those you interact with in an academic setting, such as professors and teaching assistants. While letters from internship coordinators and job supervisors are usually not preferred over academic recommenders for undergraduate students, they can often be helpful if an applicant has been out of school for more than two years.

How am I going to pay for law school?

Law school, like college and other graduate degree programs, is an expensive investment. It is important that you explore your financial options with family, advisors, and law schools themselves in order to have a clear picture of what your financial obligations will look like before committing to a program.

Financial assistance is available in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study, and federal/private loans. Most schools will provide a financial aid package that contains a combination of these sources of funding, although the type of funding (i.e. need or merit-based) will vary by school. Law school websites are a good starting point to see what packages are available for students.

It is useful to note that some law schools have loan repayment assistance programs that reduce the burden of law school debt for students that pursue careers in public service.

If you have questions about financing your law school experience, SPLS recommends scheduling an appointment with UAR's pre-law advisor, Kathy Wright, for more information.

Below are additional websites with in-depth answers to frequently asked questions from the Deans of Admissions at top-ranked law schools.

http://www.law.umich.edu/connection/a2z/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=20

http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/admissions/2010/05/21/got-questions/

http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissions/archive/2010/05/21/let-s-get-the-band-back-together.aspx