Applying to Law School

Q. How Do I Apply to Law School?

A. This may sound like a silly question, but your application must be properly and completely filled out, or admissions officers won’t even look at it. So be careful in what you say, how you say it, and especially in choosing the writers of your recommendation letters.

Q. When do I apply?

A. Plan on applying to law school in the fall semester of your senior year if you’d like to enroll for the fall
after you graduate. This will mean that you will most likely have taken the LSAT in the spring of your junior year or the fall of your senior year. You can retake it in December if desired. Check with the individual law schools so you know when their application deadlines are. Most law schools have “rolling” admissions, which means they fill the seats as they accept students. If you apply later in the academic year, the schools will have fewer seats available and make acceptance more competitive and more difficult. Apply early! It is in your interest to have your completed application, which means the forms, letters of recommendation, and transcripts, in the admissions offices by January 1 of the year in which you intend to enter law school, at the latest.

Sometime around mid-September, check out the websites for the law schools where you’d like to apply, and begin to fill out their application form(s). If you are applying to the local schools (University of Baltimore or University of Maryland), you may benefit from attending one of their classes or touring their library. Just ask when you can visit.

You might also consider attending one of the law school forums that LSAC conducts each year. The closest one to Towson is in Washington, D.C., and is usually held in July.

You can add law schools where you’d like to apply to a saved list on the LSAC website. Each added school will link you to the application. Use the Start/Continue Application button to access it and find everything you need to know about application requirements. Make sure to follow all of the school’s requirements, including fee payment.

Some students may qualify for early admission to the University of Baltimore School of Law for their senior year. The requirements are listed in our university catalog and online. Be prepared: these are rigorous requirements and admission is wholly up to the University of Baltimore.

Q. Is there a right and wrong way to apply?

A. Yes. Most law schools want and/or require students to apply online. Make sure that you are scrupulous in your writing with no mistakes.

If the law school admissions office allows hard copy, be sure to fill out your application neatly; proofread for typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation; and make sure the forms are clean and crisp. You’re making an impression with your paperwork. Admissions officers may decide to discard your application if they find stains, tears, wrinkles or errors.

Q. Is there a common application form?

A. No, but you may download applications from the individual schools’ own websites. In addition, the LSAC website contains The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, which describes in detail the programs, application requirements and costs of all ABA-accredited law schools. You will also find links to all ABA-accredited schools on this site as well.

Q. What is the personal statement?

A. It’s probably the most important part of the application after the LSAT score and GPA. This statement gives you the opportunity to tell the admissions committee something about yourself found nowhere else on the application.

Some ideas to help jump-start your ideas for topics:

  • Talk about an unusual or particularly likeable job you once had. Convey its story in ways that are meaningful to you.
  • Talk about an unusual or profoundly moving experience you’ve had. Perhaps there is someone in your life – a relative, member of the clergy or an instructor – who has had made a significant difference in your life. Or it could be a book you once read that made a lasting impact.

In other words, the personal statement is to convey to the admissions officers something special about you that’s invisible in a transcript or even a letter of recommendation. This is your opportunity to make your application stand out. Some of the best personal statements are written as stories that bring out a student’s personality, attitudes and individuality.

Be sure you respond directly to the question posed in the personal statement section of the application. Sometimes the question is very specific: tell us why you want to go to law school and specifically to our law school. For these, you will have to be direct in your response and make it clear to them that the school has just the right size, the right balance, and the right programs for whatever you are looking for.

What if you have a relatively low GPA? Add, separate from your personal statement, a paragraph that
addresses this issue. You have the chance to give them your side of the story.

You must be absolutely honest on the application, including on the matter of arrest records. Time served in prison will not disqualify you from law school. Lying on your application will.

Your Towson prelaw adviser is happy to review your statement before you submit it. Share the version you’re most likely to send, but make sure it is in close-to-final form.

Q. How important are letters of recommendation?

A. Very. Choose recommenders carefully, and make sure they remember well you and your work. Let them know what you expect them to say. There is good reason for this: many admissions officers moan that far too many letters of recommendation are “junk.” Consider giving your recommenders a single-page list of the courses he or she has taught you, your grades in them and a sampling of their comments left on your papers or tests. It will make it easier for them to write your letters. Try to stick with professors who have taught at least two of your courses.

Q. How do I ensure a good letter?

A. This is a bit tricky, so let’s be as specific as possible.

First, keep in mind that you are asking for a favor. In most cases, it is a favor that is routinely granted because it is part of professors’ jobs. Don’t hesitate to ask, but be polite and courteous.

Second, most of your recommenders should be professors. Avoid members of the clergy, politicians, and others who may know your character but are less familiar with your schoolwork; admissions committees tend to find those letters meaningless. The exception is if you have been working steadily while in school or have been out of school for a while. In this case, your supervisor may write a letter attesting to your job performance.

Third, it is best if your recommenders are those with whom you have had at least two courses. How else will they remember you if they had you in one class four semesters ago? Find someone who appeals to you, preferably in your major, and take a few courses with that person so that when you are ready for letters, you have someone who really knows you and your work. This person could well be your adviser, but not necessarily.

Fourth, keep two or three professors in mind, since most schools ask for two or three letters.

Fifth, make an appointment to see those professors in person to make your request and talk through what you need.

Sixth, know what you need. You must express to them your desire to go to law school and explain that you need a letter. Politely tell them that you hope this letter will contain enough information about you for the admissions committees to have a pretty good idea of how you have performed as a student in the classroom. Let them know that you will immediately forward to them any forms that they must fill out. These may include the specific forms from individual law schools and/or the letter of recommendation forms from the recommendation service offered by LSAC. It allows you to send in as many letters as you wish and to direct particular letters to specific schools.

LSAC allows writers to submit letters by hard copy or by electronic means. For hard copies, be sure to print out the recommendation form with your name, LSAC ID, birthdate and signature, and be sure to fill in the name and address of the letter writer at the bottom. The recommender sends in this form with the letter and LSAC takes care of the rest. Some schools require an evaluation service (electronic only), which asks recommenders to rate and rank candidates as compared to other students they’ve taught. We suggest you ask your recommenders to fill this out as well, because LSAC may as well have it on file should you apply to a school that requests it.

Q. What should a good letter contain?

A. A good letter contains specific examples of why your letter writer finds you worthy of law school
admission. You must gently remind professors of the courses you took from them. You must specifically refer to the essays you wrote in their classes and offer to loan them copies of the papers and exams for them to review while they are thinking about what they will say. You should always keep your term papers and examinations on file in a safe place. If their comments to you personally, on your paper, or on an exam were positive, remind them. You fundamentally want them to craft a letter that shows they know who you are.

When you give your letter writer the forms they need, include a stamped envelope addressed to LSAC as well as stamped envelopes addressed to each specific school to which he or she must send forms or letters. Be sure they know when the letters are due to be filed. Ask when they might complete them and let them know you’ll be in touch. As the deadline for the letters draws near, check with the professors to see whether they have mailed them or filed the online letters, then constantly check with LSAC to see whether they have been received. Thank your letter writers profusely, and consider sending them a handwritten thank you note.

Q. What do I do about the Buckley waiver?

A. Simple: sign it. On the letter of recommendation form from LSAC, there is a question that asks you to waive your right to see letters of recommendation. The 1974 Buckley Amendment enacted this requirement into law. Although the waiver statement says that applicants who choose not to waive their right to see the letters will not be negatively looked upon, this is a very sensitive subject for admissions officers. Current wisdom says applicants should waive their right so that letter writers can be as open and honest as possible in their evaluations.

Q. Is admission to law school really competitive?

 A. Yes, but to varying degrees; it all depends on the numbers of people in the applicant pool. As the
admissions officers will tell you when they come to campus or in an interview, the median LSAT scores for the very top schools hover around 170 or higher. Median GPAs are around 3.8 or higher. This is not to say that if you have numbers lower than these, you won’t be admitted. But they should be a guide as you move through your college career. More specifically, for the law school class entering in the fall of 2013, the University of Maryland’s median GPA was 3.6 and the median LSAT was 162 while the University of Baltimore’s media GPA was 3.25 and the median LSAT was 156. For information on all the schools, see The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

Application rates typically go through cycles. No one knows why they go up and down, but it is now typical for nearly 130,000 applicants to take the LSAT each year and to submit almost 475,000 applications to law school. Note that most law school applicants submit multiple applications, and the competition among students in the Mid-Atlantic region is particularly tough.

The pool of applicants is divided in half in terms of gender. Forty-nine percent of the full-time students at the University of Baltimore entering in the fall of 2012 were women. The same year, they made up 48 percent of enrollees and at the University of Maryland.

Minority applicants might want to check out the Diversity in Law School guide at LSAC. Gay, lesbian and bisexual applicants should look at the LGBT site, which is on the same web page.

Q. Should I pay attention to law school rankings?

A. Ranking has become controversial largely because of the annual rankings published by U.S. News and World Report, the weekly news journal that now appears to receive the most attention. Most law schools and prelaw advisers urge prospective law students to ignore rankings. All of the ABA-accredited law schools offer students a high quality legal education, regardless of location, size or public/private status.

Instead of paying attention to rankings, you must look for the qualities you want in a law school. Are you interested in going to a large, impersonal school or a small, intimate one? Do you want a school with a very large library that covers all parts of the law? Or is there some particular aspect of the law that intrigues you so that you will want to specialize in a particular field, like international, health care or environmental law?

Public institutions are less expensive. Maryland has two public law schools, both in Baltimore City. Going to one of those institutions might be helpful if you want to sign on with a local law firm, since it will indicate that you’re committed to the area. On the other hand, going out of town can help you gain broader perspective on the world and communities.

Towson University accepts many students from New York and New Jersey. There are several good law schools in those areas. Aside from the best-known among them (Columbia and New York University), there are the law schools at St. John’s, Hofstra, Touro, and the independent institutions of New York Law and Brooklyn Law Schools as well as Rutgers and Seton Hall in New Jersey.

Law schools in Washington, D.C. are attractive, private and expensive. Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, American, Howard, and UDC are solid options.

Q. Where do Towson University students go to law school?

A. Most Maryland students choose to attend the two law schools in the state. Some go to school in Washington, D.C. Our students from New Jersey, New York and New England tend typically to choose a law school closer to home.

In the past, our students with high LSAT scores and GPAs have attended one of the Ivy League schools like Harvard, Cornell, Columbia or Penn, but that is far from necessary. Some students apply to schools in the Midwest and far West like the universities in Illinois, Michigan, or California. Less competitive schools are usually in the Midwest or Far West.