Prelaw Handbook for Seniors

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.

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.

Prelaw Handbook for Seniors

Click on the links below to read the table of contents for each section. Then click on individual titles to read full text.

Applying — Beginning the Process

Section Title Summary
Selecting a Law School Suggested process for identifying law schools that might be a good fit for you.
Preparing for Admissions Discussion of things to consider when crafting your undergraduate curriculum, the importance of grades, and reading lists for preparing for law school.
Myths about Law School Admissions Explore common myths about law school admissions, and arm yourself with correct information.
Visits to Law Schools What to look for when visiting your candidate law schools.
Suggested Reading Lists Many law schools provide lists of recommended readings. These books are not "required reading" in any sense, but can give the student a good look at the legal process, the history of law, and some of the people who have made significant contributions to the legal world.
The Pre-Law Advisor Trinity College of Arts and Sciences seeks to offer aid to those undergraduates and graduates who have indicated an interest in attending law school and entering the legal profession.
Visits from Law School Recruiters Each year, a number of law schools send representatives to meet with undergraduates. These recruiters are usually admission officers and/or faculty members. While individual conferences are usually held, sometimes the format is group conferences lasting for a half hour or more.
Admissions: What You Do Explanation of what you need to do to apply to law school.
Application Process Explanation of a typical law school application, and the required information (recommendations, tests, etc.) you will need.
Application Procedures Explanation of procedures for applying to law schools.
The Personal Statement Law school admission officers indicate that the personal statement is the second most important item in the application (after LSAT score and undergraduate GPA).
Dean's Certification Upon Enrollment Some schools require a Dean's Certification at different stages in the enrollment process.
Dean's Certification and Student Confessions Explanation of the roll Dean's Certifications play in student admissions, and the importance of full disclosure in applications.
When to Take the LSAT Definitely in June or October following your junior year, and you are strongly recommended to take it in the June session. A strong competitive pressure builds up between law school bound students that reaches a peak the week before the LSAT.
Law School Data Assembly Service LSDAS is a nationwide clearinghouse that evaluates every applicant's academic record in a uniform manner and reports some to law schools along with transcripts and LSAT scores.

 

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Applying — Continuing the Process

Section Title Summary
Law School Interviews Law school representatives do not interview each applicant individually; however, they will schedule informational meetings with visiting prospective students.
Admissions: What They Do Your GPA & LSAT, personal statement, recommendations and activities all play a role in admissions.
Recommendation Letters & Evaluation Service An Evaluation Service is a new way for law schools to learn about the skills and attributes applicants possess. In addition, students must have letters of recommendation from faculty.
Time Off Before Law School Pros and cons of taking a year off before entering law school.
Time Off Before School — Personal Perspective Recommendations from a Duke alumnus on taking a year off before law school.

 

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Financing Law School

Section Title Summary
Financing Your Legal Education Discussion of various ways to approach financing law school.
Applying for Financial Aid Explanation of the process of identifying and applying for financial aid for law school.
Financial Aid Going to law school is expensive. In weighing whether or not to go, when to go, and where to go, think about some of these things.

 

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Law School "Whys" and "Hows"

Section Title Summary
Law School: What is it? Explanation about how the education process in law school is different than what students experience as undergraduates.
Employment: Academic Positions Discussion of academic positions for law professionals, such as teacher, administrator, university counsel or law librarian.
Employment: Business Positions Discussion of several types of business employment for legal professionals, such as corporate counsel, accounting firms and banking, legal publishing and consulting.
Employment: Educational Opportunities Brief discussion of educational opportunities for students who have completed a law degree program.
Employment: Government Positions Discussion of government positions available for legal professionals, including jobs on Capitol Hill, the military, state and local agencies, and prosecuting attorney positions.
The First Year Personal article that summarizes the typical experience of a first-year law student.
Employment: Judicial Clerkship Explanation of judicial clerkships for state and federal courts.
Employment: Non-Traditional Careers Discussion of non-traditional career options for individuals with a law degree, including the fields of labor relations, affirmative action, banking and insurance, real estate, lobbying, mediation and arbitration, government contracts, law enforcement and government relations.
Employment: Private Practice Explanation of typical private practice positions for law professionals.
Employment: Public Interest Opportunities Discussion of job opportunities in the public interest for individuals with law degrees.
Job Markets for New Law Graduates Trends and truths about job markets for legal professionals.
Being Married and in Law School Discussion of contrasting opinions about the pros and cons of being married while pursing a law degree.

 

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