Entrance requirements for law school
- Law school applicants must provide the results of the Law School Admissions Test. This exam is administered four times each year by the Law School Admissions Council in February, June, October and December. You should take at least two practice LSATs the winter of your junior year, then sign up for the actual LSAT in June. The Department of Political Science at Western Michigan University or your political science advisor can provide you with both practice LSATs and the application packet.
After taking two practice LSATs, decide on which law schools you plan to apply. Your political science advisor has material on the entrance requirements for all law schools in the U.S. You may decide that you need to bring your LSAT score up from where it is on the practice exam. You have two options:
- Studying on your own—there are several preparation books and software available in major bookstores and the Waldo Library.
- Taking a preparation course from a company.
- Your GPA will be an important consideration for where you go to law school. Be aware that while Western Michigan University will allow you to take courses over again and wipe clean a poor grade, the Law School Admission Council does not do that. Thus, all your grades taken while you were an undergraduate are calculated into your cumulative GPA.
- The quantitative aspects (LSAT and GPA) are not the only things on your application. Admission committees also will likely consider work experience, internships, volunteer activities and extracurricular activities in evaluating candidates for their incoming law school class. Keep those issues in mind during the history of your undergraduate career. The Department of Political Science has several internship programs available, as well as extracurricular activities relating to law that can be recommended to you. See your political science advisor as early as possible.
- Students will also be evaluated on the basis of at least two letters of recommendation for their application packet into law school. Consider carefully who you ask to write these letters. Academic letters say more about your scholastic achievements and abilities than an employer, for example, or a friend of your family. When you ask one of your professors to write a letter for your law school application file, provide them with a resume delineating your achievements, activities and experience.
- Students will also be asked to provide a personal statement that defines why you are considering law school and why you believe you are a good candidate for the particular law school in which you're applying to. Your political science advisor has examples of personal statements that you can borrow or check Waldo Library for pre-law studies.
Preparing for law school
- There is no required major for law school, nor a single best major which best prepares a student for the rigors of law school and the LSAT, although most advisors will suggest majors in political science (most common), English, business and communication. The Department of Political Science offers a political science major with an emphasis in public law. In this concentration, students will be required to take PSCI 3200 American Judicial Process, PSCI 4200 Constitutional Law and PSCI 4220 Civil Rights/Civil Liberties as well as a writing requirement class focusing on various aspects of law. The Department of Political Science's general major, as well as its concentrations in public policy and international/comparative politics, also provide appropriate undergraduate preparation for law school.
When choosing your electives or minor, consider taking rhetoric, logic and writing courses. Lawyers and law students spend the bulk of their time researching, reading cases and writing briefs. Thus, minors in English, philosophy, business and communication will probably provide the most training in these areas.
The most important thing is to do the best you can in order to graduate with a high GPA and attain at least two letters of recommendation from one of your professors.
- You do not have to choose an area of the law that I wish to practice in, but consider taking classes in college that might prepare you later for a career in an area you prefer. For example, if you like criminal law think about taking a few criminal justice electives.
- Though there are multiple things to consider, look for these things in a law school:
- Pick a geographic location of where you would like to go to law school. This will enable you to narrow your choices. Additionally, if you know where you ultimately would like to settle, look at law schools in that area. You will make several invaluable contacts in law school that can turn into professional contacts in the future. That does not mean you must stay in the area in which you decide to settle; just that it's one factor to consider.
- Consider what area of law you want to practice: civil or criminal, public or private or a specific subject, like intellectual property or health law. If you know you want to practice in a certain area, look to see what type of classes and other opportunities the schools in your area offer. Some law schools provide special programs like internships, clinics, institutes, research centers, student organizations and journals.
- Visit each school before making your final decision. Talking to admissions officers and fellow students will help you make a final decision. Your political science advisor has a list of WMU alumni currently attending various law schools; get the names of former WMU students and see if they would mind you following them for a day.
- To become the most marketable candidate for law school, grades and LSAT scores are important but most law schools are also looking for students that will be active in the law school. Getting involved in student organizations such as the Pre-Law Society and Mock Trial, activities and community service that interest you is the best way to start. By exploring your interests both inside and outside of the classroom you can have fun, find out more about yourself and improve your application to law school.
- Law school is quite different than your undergraduate program. Professors will teach in a different method (using the Socratic method, rather than lecture) and will likely only administer one exam per semester. You will most likely be assigned a second or third year law student as your mentor during your first year; this person can give you advice on classes and professors. Get involved in some of the student groups and ask the members how they prepared for classes. Also, your political science advisor has a list of prior WMU grads who are now in law school. Contact alumni who are currently attending the law school you have been accepted to and ask them questions about classes, professors and study demands.
One note of caution: Many law schools request that you not hold down an outside job during your first year of law school. This should be a part of your cost calculations.
- During your first two years of college you will want to prepare for your senior year when you apply to law school by:
- Getting involved in extracurricular activities. Contact Student Activities and leadership programs to find out what student groups at WMU you might be interested in involving yourself with.
- Checking out the Lansing Internship Program. As a political science major, you are eligible for this internship which will assign you to a member of the state legislature, the Governor's Office, a judge, lawyer or lobbyist to shadow them twice a week for a semester.
- Contacting Career and Student Employment Services. They often have law related jobs available for students. Additionally, they can read and rework resumes and cover letters, assign students to alumni mentors, do career assessments, offer direction on volunteer activities and jobs in the public service sector, identify people working in the legal field that are willing to answer questions, help students build professional relationships and advise students on the abilities employers want.