Applying to Law School
The law school application process has a number of components, so whether you’re still figuring out which schools to apply to or getting ready to hit send, this is a great place learn more about the process! Also, remember that there is no singular right way to go through the application process, so you can work through a timeline as it’s written, skip around, or create one that works best for you based on your own goals and schedule. If you’re feeling stuck during any point in the process, we recommend meeting with a Career Coach!
Getting Started: Understanding the Process
Sample recommended timeline:
- You should start preparing to apply for law school one year prior to when you plan on applying to law school.
- For example: If you plan to graduate Spring 2024 and want to take one gap year (to start law school Fall 2025), you would start preparing your application in Fall 2023 (the start of your 4th/senior year), apply Fall/Winter 2024, and start law school Fall 2025.
- Contemplate whether you would benefit from taking one or multiple gap years. They can be beneficial if you would like more time to gain exposure and experience, save money, take a break, build character/maturity, and/or make sure law school is the right path for you.
- Gap years are anything but a “gap”, and can be referred to as a year(s) of preparation/transition/growth/enrichment!
- Fun Fact: The average age of an incoming 1L law student is 24. This means that an average student takes between 2-3 years off before going to law school.
Applying Early Decision (ED)
- If your number one choice law school offers early decision, consider applying! Early decision is a process where your application is submitted early and reviewed quickly in exchange for your binding promise that, if accepted, you will withdraw all applications to other law schools. Most are due late-October to mid-November, which requires you to start your application early. You should only apply ED to a school if you know you will be thrilled to enroll if an offer is received. If you have any doubts about committing to a program, you should not apply ED.
- Pros: You hear their decision by the end of December, giving you an earlier opportunity to plan for the following year. It also allows you to indicate to the law school that you are committed and that they are your number one choice. Acceptance is not guaranteed, but there is an improved likelihood.
- Cons: If you apply ED and are admitted, it is binding, meaning that you must attend. This is why it’s important you are 100% sure that you’re committed to this school and they are your number one choice. Though you are able to show your enthusiasm by applying ED, your application will be reviewed in the same way as regular admissions. For some law schools, applying ED may put you at a disadvantage when trying to receive or negotiate financial awards.
- Early Action: Some schools offer early action, which is non-binding and does not require that you attend the school or withdraw any other applications. This option allow you to apply ahead of the general pool while there is slightly less competition. You also get a quick decision, usually by a specified date.
Applying Regular/Rolling Admissions
- Submit your applications between late-November and early- to mid-January. Because law schools are on rolling-admissions (meaning they fill spots as they receive applications), you will put yourself in a better position the sooner you apply.
Deciding on Schools
- Research and evaluate law schools, their admission process, and the field(s) of laws that they may specialize in.
- Reflect on which law schools may be the best fit for you based on interest(s)/program(s), location, demographic, and ranking.
- Use to the LSAC UGPA/LSAT Search tool to determine the LSAT score and GPA needed to be competitive for the schools you are interested in. Or, where you stand with your current GPA and LSAT score.
Visit your top choices in person (if possible)
- This can be beneficial because you don’t really know what a place is like until you visit. This can also help inform and confirm if you would like to ultimately pursue law school.
- Try to spend time talking 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 an important decision, so take the time to find the right match for you.
After you’ve received your LSAT score(s), finalize your list of law schools
- Consider applying to 7-10 schools: 2 reach, 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.
- REACH schools are ones where you are at, or above, the 25th percentile.
- TARGET/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.
- Keep in mind that admissions are holistic, meaning GPA & LSAT are just two components of the entire application and don’t solely determine admission.
- It’s not all about ranking. 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.
- Plan carefully how much time you will need to complete each application. We recommend spreading out when you turn in applications to not overwhelm yourself.
Register for the Credential Assembly Services (CAS)
- 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, and we recommend creating your CAS account about 2 months before you’re ready to apply.
- Tip: If you have any questions throughout this process, it’s okay to contact law school admissions offices as well as LSAC.
Letters of Recommendations (LORs)
- Start thinking of 2-3 individuals that can speak to your experience and character (ex: employers, supervisors, mentors, professors). Keep in mind that professors are generally preferred by law schools.
- Ask early and give your writer enough time to write a thoughtful letter. It’s recommended to contact them 2-3 months before you start your application. They will send your LoRs directly to CAS.
- If you cannot think of anyone, take the opportunity to start networking, build relationships, participate in extra-curricular activities, and gain leadership experience. Getting a head start on this will benefit the quality of the relationship you build with this person, and often results in a stronger letter.
- Always follow up with a thank you card or email to your writers.
- We recommend students look over our Letter of Recommendation Guide if you feel stuck when getting ready to ask for LORs.
- Create a resume and continue adding to and editing it as you gain more experience. You can refer to our Resume Writing Guide or Sample Resumes, come in for a drop-in, and/or make an appointment with a Career Coach on Handshake for more support.
- Follow any directions provided by each law school carefully for formatting and, and make sure your resume is error free, formatted well, and easy to read.
Write a Memorable Personal Statement
The personal statement is a VERY important part of the application. Since the majority of law schools don’t have interviews, committees rely on this statement to get to know you. It is the heart of your application, so… Get personal. What is your story? What are your interests and goals? Why law school? What experiences made you want to become a lawyer?
- Ask yourself: “What’s an important topic or event from my life that will represent who I am?” Law schools want to see commitment and follow-through (really emphasize why you want to go to law school).
- Start drafting this early to allow enough time to ask people to review and proofread it before you apply. Many students end up writing 3-6 drafts.
- You can meet with a Career Coach to look over it and/or meet with someone from one of the UW Writing Centers before submitting.
- Read UW’s personal statement document for writing tips and samples from real UW pre-law students; you can also review personal statement Do’s and Don’ts.
- Requirements for your statement will vary by school. Avoid using blanket statements and change each one accordingly for the individual school.
Diversity/Supplemental Statements (optional)
- If there is a diversity prompt, we encourage students to write one, as the school has indicated that this is important to them.
- Diversity can mean a lot of different things and we encourage students to think and define broadly what diversity looks like and means to them.
- Ask yourself “What diverse perspectives/identities/experiences can I bring into the law school and classroom?”
- Remember, these prompts are optional and we encourage students to not force themselves to answer these prompts (it can come off as unauthentic if forced).
Addendum (if necessary)
- The addenda should be attached to applications when there is a discrepancy that requires an explanation (e.g. your GPA does not reflect your true academic abilities, your GPA trend, barriers you faced during your education). If you have encountered some barriers while at the UW and/or in your life, start thinking about how you will write your addendum. You can also write an addendum for your LSAT score if that is applicable.
- The tone of your addendum should be one of growth and lessons learned rather than excuses.
- The addendum is meant to be concise and to the point (not another personal statement) and is different from the character and fitness section of the application.
- Request an official copy of your transcript from every collegiate-level institution you have attended (this includes community college).
Apply for Financial Aid
- 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 be assessed individually because costs vary from school to school.
- Because each law school’s scholarship and financial aid processes are different, contact and visit the website of the financial aid office of law schools to find out more information. Some schools may require you to submit information in addition to the FAFSA.
- Consider and apply to scholarship programs.
- Visit Financing your Law Degree resources and links.
- Visit LSAC’s Pay for Law School: A Preliminary Guide