Friday, September 24, 2010

Seven Practical Tips for Getting Into Law School

Many sources give information on the process of getting into a Canadian law school and becoming a lawyer.

Very few, however, give practical tips on what you can do to separate yourself from the rest of those thousands of other potential candidates who are also trying to get admitted into the LL.B. or J.D. program, besides trying to obtain an extremely high LSAT and GPA.

After much thought, including about my own experience with law school admissions, here my own top tips for getting into law school:
  1. For most law schools, except those that base admissions strictly on numbers, you must tailor your personal statement to fit the particular school’s profile. So if the school focuses heavily on social justice issues – the Universities of Ottawa and Windsor come to mind – then you must try to show that you have a demonstrated interest in social justice. That, of course, is easier if you really do. If you don’t, maybe that school is not for you.
  2. Give your referees – yep, those people who draft your reference letters for the purposes of the law school application – clear instructions on how to draft the letters. Even if your letter is highly complimentary, if it does not touch upon those skills which law school admission committees think are necessary, little weight will be given to it.
  3. Volunteer. Many law schools use a holistic approach to admissions, which means that they look for well-rounded candidates. Particularly where candidates are evenly matched in every other respect, extra-curricular activities, especially those in which you've taken a leadership role, can make the difference.
  4. Obtain a graduate degree. While this is no guarantee of admission and considered by most law schools to be a “soft factor”, some schools, including Ottawa’s look highly upon such degrees. If your GPA or LSAT score are near the cusp, a “graduate degree” can be the clincher.
  5. Be forthright in identifying your past academic, work, and volunteer experience on the biographical section of your application. Keep in mind that some schools may take steps to verify that you have in fact done what you claimed to have done.
  6. Keep yourself informed. There are many sub-points to this particular point but let me hit the two that I think are most important. First, if a particular school rejects you, call that school and find out the reasons why. Should you choose to apply there again, this will allow you to make the right adjustments to your application. Second, the admission policy of each law school can, and does, change. You must keep yourself apprised of such changes and modify your application accordingly if your want to give yourself the best shot of securing a spot.
  7. Be true to thyself. In a personal statement, as well as in the rest of the application, you should try to tell your story (as fully and candidly as possible), not someone else’s. Even though there are objective considerations in the admissions process such as GPA and LSAT, there are also subjective components. Thus, the human element should not be discounted.
Good luck.
- Robert Tanha, Toronto

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