Prelaw Advising

Prelaw Handbook for Seniors

Last updated: August 21, 2013

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Getting into Law School

Anyone applying to law schools will have access to a wealth of information and suggestions concerning both "where to apply" and "how to get in."  Suggestions (not always solicited) may come from parents, friends, teachers, deans, and casual acquaintances.  A tremendous amount of printed material on the law school admissions process exists, but the quality of the sources varies widely.  Most law school catalogues do not precisely describe admission practices, and many commercial publications merely summarize material from the law school bulletins. Many undergraduates, unaware of, or ignoring the realities of admission procedures, apply to schools where their chances are nonexistent.  In the material currently available, students have little or no opportunity to learn what goes on behind the walls of the admissions office.
This brief handbook, represents an attempt to accurately describe the law school admissions process, both in general and at selected law schools. The material contained herein applies specifically to Duke undergraduates and may not be valid for people from other colleges.

One caution should be stressed: neither this nor any other prelaw handbook or guide will help a student gain admission to any law school.  The only factors that count in law school admissions are your LSAT score, grades, activities and accomplishments, and recommendations.  None of these qualities can be altered or improved by reading about law schools or how to get in law schools.  This guide can only be helpful in letting the student know what he/she is up against in the admissions battle.  It will not serve as ammunition.

Prelaw Advisor:

Gerald L. Wilson, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean/Pre-Law Advisor
President, SAPLA (Southern Association of Pre-Law Advisors) 1983-84
Chair, PLANC (Pre-Law Advisors National Council) 1984-1989
Designated Member, PLANC (Pre-Law Advisors National Council) 1984-
At Large Member, Board of Directors,
NAPLA (Northeastern Association of Prelaw Advisors, Inc.) 1996-2000, 2001-2006, 2008-2012

History of the Handbook Content

During the summer of 1973, with the aid of funds made available by the College, Harry H. Harkins, Jr. (Duke '73, Vanderbilt Law '76), now a practicing attorney in North Carolina, was engaged by the college to work with me on the following project. In subsequent summers the initial project has been revised and enlarged, updating and adding material not available at the time of the original publication.
Much of the material contained in this Handbook is based on primary research, including law school bulletins, interviews with admissions officers, and material supplied to the Pre-­Law Advisor by Duke graduates who did (and did not) attend law school. Mr. Harkins used these resources admirably and added to them his own insights growing out of his experience as an applicant to law school and as a law student. The reader will find his section on "The First Year" a healthy counterweight to "The Paper Chase."
This edition contains a Prologue and Epilogue which were written and revised by Dean Wilson for other publications and have been reprinted with permission.
It is our hope that you will find the following pages of value as you begin the sometimes tedious, but hopefully rewarding, process of applying to law school.
Special words of thanks should go to Stephen Brown of Fordham Law School for his thoughtful suggestions and contribution, to Dean Charles Roboski of Michigan State University , and to, Terry Wilkerson of Duke University for processing of these pages, and for their general helpfulness and patience during the course of this project.