Last updated: July 7, 2013

Summary of Law School Application Procedures

I. Applications

Most Law schools now require students to apply electronically using LSDAS electronic applications. These LSDAS electronic applications for all ABA-approved law schools are available at no additional charge beyond the LSDAS registration fee (and individual law school application fees.) LSDAS electronic applications common-information form and the flow-as-you-go features, allows users to answer common law school application questions once and placing the answers in the appropriate spot in the individual law school applications selected. Applicants can electronically attach personal statements, resumes, and other documents to each application. LSAC will begin application transmission to the law schools during the first week in September, but applicants can fill out and save their applications as of August 1st. Users must have a current LSDAS registration.


All applicants are required to use the service of the Law School Data Assembly Service. For information about transcripts from Study Abroad see the Handout available in the Office for Pre-Law Advising.

III. Resumes

Students should send to every school to which they are applying a one-page resume.  (See sample copies available in the Office for Pre-Law Advising.)  Note the following suggestions concerning resumes from Dr. Patricia O’Connor, former Director of the Career Center at Duke University.

  1. Decide the style/format for the resume.  A few suggestions are below. Since it is usually read from top to bottom, put the important things at the top of each section. Don’t include something just to make it look good. Be ready to defend everything on it. Minimize the use of bold, italics, and type style changes; they can detract from the essence of the document
  2. Proof Read the document, and have at least one friend do it, too. Do not rely on spell-check on the computer. Sue and use, leaned and learned, for and fro, lust and must are all correct words but spell check may not help to discover problems with usage.  A typo such as to for two suggests you do not pay attention to detail. Your documents are being read to evaluate your future performance as a good lawyer.
  3. Never allow the receiver of information to think or guess. Provide enough information in this document and the essay to ensure that the reader does not jump to the wrong conclusion about your qualifications.

IV. Essays

There are potentially four essays that may be requested by law schools. The Pre-Law Advisor will be available to read and react to any and all of them if you wish.  If you are currently enrolled, please bring the essays to 04 Allen and leave them in the designated folder. Dean Wilson will read them and return them to the folder within 24 hours.

If you are not currently enrolled, but wish for Dean Wilson to read your essays, please mail (Box 90048) or fax (919-684-3414) or email them to

  1. Personal Statement: The statement should be at least two pages double- spaced and sent to all schools whether requested or not.  For more specific guidelines, see the article in The Pre-Law Handbook for Duke Students “The Private ‘I’:  The Personal Statement”. The personal statement should not be a narrative version of your resume. The resume tells what you have done, the personal statement tells who you are.
  2. Academic Essay: Some law schools may request an “academic essay” which is not to exceed two pages double-spaced. Some schools give specific word limits. This should not be a repeat of your personal statement but rather should indicate your ability to make an intellectual contribution in the classroom and beyond.  Choose some topic that has engaged you intellectually.
  3. Diversity Essay: This essay should be written by individuals who come from different cultural, social, ethnic, or economic backgrounds and who can add to the educational experience of all students in the class.  Do not write this essay unless you meet the criteria set forth.  Limit to two pages double-spaced.
  4. School Specific Essay: Some schools (not many) may require a brief statement (one page limit) on why you are applying to their law school.  Make sure you are familiar with the key aspects of the school and can make a case for why you and that particular school are a good match. Limit to one page.

V. Recommendations

Faculty, Employer, or other Recommendations:  For this you will use the Law Services Letter of Recommendation Service (LOR).  We recommend for those currently enrolled at Duke, that two faculty members and one other meaningful recommendation be submitted.  For graduates, at least one from faculty and one or two from employers or others should be submitted.  Employer or other meaningful recommenders should state (a) their connection with you, (b) your performance under their supervision, (c) their assessment of your ability to perform in law school, and (d) their estimate of your success as a lawyer. (See Basic Information for Senior Pre-Law Students, “A Word to Seniors About Faculty Recommendations, p. 6)
NB:  The Dean’s Form or College Questionnaire is NOT part of this system.

VI. Dean’s Forms/College Questionnaire

  1. These forms should be brought to Dean Wilson’s office along with a stamped envelope addressed to the law school.  We do not fill out these forms, but rather write a letter of recommendation and attach this to each form.
  2. Since we do write a letter, we recommend that we send the letter( often with handwritten notes specific to each school) from our office to all of the law schools to which you apply even if they do not require such a letter.  We suggest this because of our long standing connections with law schools and our willingness to show institutional support for a student application. Just give this office a stamped envelope for each law school, addressed to that law school.
  3. All Dean’s Forms and letters will be mailed directly to the law schools.

For further information, see handout “Basic Information for Senior Pre-Law Students”, section on “Dean’s Forms/College Questionnaires” p. 3.

VII Deadlines        

  1. Deadlines for early decision/early action applications should be noted. These deadlines are usually very firm.
  2. For other applications the best rule still is to get the application in early, but the question is defining “early.” By all means aim for early December or early January at the very latest. A school may state that their application deadline is March 15, but by that time 90% of the class will be filled, so make sure you have your application completed and in well before the closing date.