Law School: How to Apply

Careful reading (of law school applications) is important

  • Law schools admit that they put tricky, sometimes redundant, questions on the application form just to see if you are paying attention

Register for the Credential Assembly Services (CAS) 2 months before you’re ready to apply

  • The LSAC’s CAS online service is what you use to apply to law schools. Your transcripts, LSAT scores and letters of recommendation are sent there. Your online file is good for five years

Finalize your list of law schools after you’ve received your LSAT score

  • Consider applying to 7-10 schools: 2 stretch, 3-6 realistic and 1-2 safety schools
  • Comparing your numbers with the school’s median GPA and LSAT will help you develop your list
    • REALISTIC schools are ones where your GPA and LSAT are at the school’s median for last year’s entering class
    • SAFETY schools are those where you are at, or close to, the school’s 75th percentile
    • STRETCH schools are ones where you are at, or a little above, the 25th percentile
  • Your numbers may not exactly match what is listed for the school’s 25th percentile, median and 75th percentile. You should thoroughly research the LSAC’s Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools in order to make an informed decision about which schools are a good match for you
  • It’s not all about ranking either. Location, environment, class size, tuition, demographics, commitment to diversity, student-professor ratio, bar passage rates, and career placement resources are all important aspects to choosing a school that’s right for you. Take time to read through the law school’s web sites, attend info sessions at the schools, and contact their admissions offices if you have questions. It’s okay to call or email admissions offices—that is what they are there for

Ask for letters of recommendation

  • You want to have at least two to three letters of recommendation from professors and/or teaching assistants. If you’ve been working for several years and no longer have relationships with faculty, ask current/past supervisors, professional colleagues and mentors instead. It’s best to ask in person if you can
  • Your recommenders will send letters of recommendation directly to the CAS. Make sure to print out the form from CAS that your recommender will enclose with your letter to make sure it gets into your file. Letters can also be uploaded directly to the website
  • Give your recommender the form from CAS, your unofficial transcript, your resume and your personal statement (if it’s finished).
  • Give your writers at least a month to write the letter. Always follow up with a handwritten thank you card

Finalize and submit your Resume 

  • Make sure your resume is error free and ready to be submitted
  • Submit your resume by attaching it to your LSAC application

Write a memorable personal statement and addenda if needed

  • The personal statement is a very, very important part of the application. Since the majority of law schools don’t have interviews, committees rely on this statement as an interview-in-an-essay and will read it to see what kind of person you are
  • We highly recommend reading our personal statement document for writing tips and statement samples from real UW pre-law students. You might need to write a diversity statement or other addenda. Also, check out some Do’s and Don’ts for writing a solid personal statement
    • Please note that these worksheets are single-spaced to save paper. You should double-space your final personal statement and addenda
  • This is your personal Statement. Be yourself. Make sure law schools really get to know you (what’s your story?) and what your interests are (goals)
  • Law schools want a personal statement, not a statement of purpose. A personal statement is a story about yourself that reveals your strengths, while a statement of purpose is an essay about the research or academic trajectory you want to accomplish while in graduate school.
  • Treat your personal statement like it is a written interview. What do you want the admissions readers to know about you?
  • Law schools want to see commitment and follow-through (really emphasize why you want to go to law school)
  • Requirements for the statement will vary by school. Make sure to avoid using  blanket statements and change it accordingly to each application
  • Meet with the Pre-Law Career Coach at the C&IC to look over your personal statement via Handshake and/or meet with someone from one of the UW Writing Centers before submitting
  • Submit your personal statement by attaching it to your electronic LSAC application

Applying Early Decision (ED)

  • If your number one choice law school offers early decision, consider applying! Early decision is a process where you submit your application early and it is reviewed quickly in exchange for your binding promise that you will withdraw all other applications to other law schools if you are accepted. If you get in, you have to attend that law school. Most are due end of October-mid November. Here is a list of every ABA- Accredited Law School that has ED and their deadlines.
    • Pros- You will hear back by the end of December if you are admitted, giving you the opportunity to hear back sooner and make plans for the following year. It is also your way of indicating to the law school that you are committed and that they are your number one choice. It does not guarantee acceptance, but does increase the likelihood as you have indicated your commitment to their school. This is a great option for your reach school if your GPA and LSAT are in the lower percentile and you want to boost your chances. Some law schools may offer awards and scholarships to their ED students.
    • Cons- If you apply early decision and are admitted, it is binding. This means that you will be attending this law school and must withdraw all other applications and decline other acceptances that you are received prior. This is why, it is important you are 100% sure you are committed to this school and they are your number one choice. If you are declined admissions through early decision, you cannot apply regular admissions. However, if you are wait listed, you will move into consideration for regular admissions. Though you are able to show your enthusiasm to the law school by applying ED, law schools will review at your application in the same way as regular admissions. For some law schools, applying early decision may put you at a disadvantage when trying to receive or negotiate financial awards.
    • Early Decision vs. Early Action– Some law schools may offer early action which are non-binding. Early action options allow you to get in ahead of the general pool and apply while there is slightly less competition. You also get a quick decision on the application, usually by a known date. Early action does not require that you attend the school or withdraw any other applications
    • Students can apply to more than one ED program at the same time as law schools all have different timelines. However, you must be prepared to accept whenever an offer comes in. You will not have time to weigh your options because law schools require that you rescind all other applications the moment you receive their admission letter. You should only apply ED to schools where you know you will absolutely be willing to enroll when an offer is received. If they have any doubts about committing to a program, you should not apply ED. 

Apply to law schools by the end of November/Early December, if possible

  • You will apply to most of your schools using the LSAC’s CAS online service. The process is very detail-oriented. If you’re applying to seven schools, budget at least seven days for application time and only apply to one school per day. Take your time to check over your entire application for accuracy and thoroughness. Don’t rush through the process

Apply for financial aid in January

  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The law schools to which you apply will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. The amount offered by each law school will vary, and each student’s financial need will be assessed individually because costs vary from school to school
  • Call, write, e-mail, or visit the website of the financial aid office of the law schools to which you are applying. Some schools may require you to submit information in addition to the FAFSA.
  • Negotiate the scholarships you receive between schools. Many do. We’ve seen applicants get $2500/semester to full tuition for all 3 years!
  • Consider and apply to scholarship programs. UW Law has The Gates Public Service Law Scholarship

Before you accept, visit your top choices in person

  • This is very important. You don’t really know what a place is like until you visit. Don’t believe all that you see on the school web sites
  • Make sure you get a chance to talk to law students, professors and career services staff at each school. See if you can sit in on a few classes. Ask the career office for a list of alumni you can contact. List the pros and cons of each school. This is a very important decision that can greatly affect your future career so take the time to find the right match for you