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Applying to law school is daunting, and it can very difficult to know where to start. Follow our step-by-step process to make applying to law school a little less painful.
1. Sign up for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service
All applications to ABA-approved law schools are submitted through the Law School Admissions Council’s (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service. This is an online portal through which you sign up for the LSAT, fill out applications, and upload all relevant documents including transcripts and letters of recommendations. As of 2020, the cost is $195 for five years of access.
2. Sign up for the LSAT
On LSAC’s website, sign up for the LSAT. Your timing will depend on many factors, but experts recommend taking the LSAT by the summer of the year prior to the year you plan to attend law school. Because law schools open up their applications as early as September, this gives you plenty of time to receive your score and apply in a timely fashion. If you underperform on your summer LSAT, you will also have time to retake it in the early fall and still submit your score by most schools’ Early Decision deadlines.
3. Sign up for the Candidate Referral Service
Through LSAC’s Candidate Referral Service, law schools will be able to access your undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, demographic information, and law school preferences. This is a great opportunity for law schools to reach out to students whose grades, scores, and preferences align with their institutions’ requirements. Particularly after you take your LSAT, you will receive email-invitations to school tours and law fairs. CRS can also save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in application fees, as many schools will send out unsolicited fee waivers through the service.
4. Contact Writers of Letters of Recommendations
Law schools tend to prioritize academic letters of recommendations versus employer recommendations. However, if you have been out of school for a long time, it is better to submit recommendations from employers who know you well rather than professors who may have forgotten you. Once an individual agrees to write a recommendation on your behalf, submit their contact information on LSAC. LSAC will reach out to them with instructions on how to submit the recommendation. While most schools require only two recommendations, many require three. Therefore, try to secure three solid recommendations to keep your options open.
5. Have transcripts sent to LSAC
Most schools require all academic transcripts to be included in your application file, including all undergraduate and graduate degrees. To procure some transcripts, you will need to contact the university directly. However, an increasing number of schools use a centralized service for generating transcripts, like the National Student Clearinghouse. Transcripts will be mailed or electronically transmitted to LSAC, which will then make the transcript available to law schools.
6. Fill out applications
Again, you will use the LSAC platform to fill out and submit all applications. You can submit applications before all your transcripts or letters of recommendations are processed by LSAC; however your application file will not be complete until all of these documents are processed and transmitted to law schools. The deadline at most top-tier law schools will be in December or January, but you will want to submit your applications as early as possible.
7. Submit the FAFSA form
If you think you’ll need federal student loans to pay for tuition or living expenses while in law school, you must submit a FAFSA online application for federal aid. While the federal FAFSA deadline is not until June of the year you begin law school, many states have their own priority deadlines that must be met to secure financial aid for schools in that state. Be sure to check studentaid.gov for a full list of all state deadlines.
8. Don’t be afraid to follow up
Just because you’ve submitted your application, it doesn’t mean you can’t maintain an open channel with the school’s admissions office. As schools begin to send out application decisions, it is important for them to know that you are still very interested in their institution and highly motivated to earn an acceptance there. Moreover, if you obtain more relevant experience between the time you apply and the time you receive a decision, do not be afraid to let schools know.