A0A64918-D775-09C3-B63E9C1CD61EA924
0B75B158-A999-296F-04C129DD1F30D189

Career Center

 @HCCareerCtr

Career Center
315-859-4346
315-859-4332 (fax)

Graduate School

Pre-Law Advising at Hamilton College

The Career Center’s Guide to Law School Planning


Information for Juniors and Seniors

In your last two years you should:


Prepare for the LSAT

By now you should be well acquainted with LSAT questions and you should continue studying on your own or take a class. Many people like the structure a class gives, as well as the strategies it provides, but a number of Hamilton students have performed as well studying on their own.

  • If you are planning on applying to law school in October of your senior year, register to take the LSAT in June of your junior year or October of senior year. (If you choose to take a prep course you should take it spring semester or over the summer).
  • Plan to take the LSAT once and do well because it does not usually benefit most students to take it again. Most law schools average the scores over the past 5 years so any increase would have a minimal effect.
  • Register for the LSAT well in advance of the date you wish to take it to secure your test site.

Beginning the Application Process

Begin the application process in the spring of junior year or the following summer if you plan to apply in the fall of your senior year.

  • Develop a list of schools that you are interested in, then research and visit them if possible.
  • Draft a cover letter to your first-choice law school. This can act as a template for the other schools you apply to.

Personal Statement and Optional Essays

Start writing your personal statement and optional essays over the summer before your senior year:

  • The personal statement is most likely the next most important factor after your LSAT score and GPA. A good personal statement can mean the difference between being accepted or rejected.
  • It generally asks: “Who are you and why do you want to go to law school?” However, each law school may ask you to answer different questions. Check each application carefully.
  • Your primary task in writing your statement will be to separate yourself from the rest of the large application pool and show what makes you unique. Admissions committees will see innumerable applications from bright candidates with good grades and high LSAT scores. The personal statement presents you with an opportunity to put your intellectual ability into context and distinguish yourself from all other applicants.
  • Your essay needs to convey what kind of thinking, feeling human being you are, and a two or three page limit allows for no fat. Clarity, conciseness, and candor are essential. Your writing must be wellorganized and highlight your strengths and abilities. A thoughtful, illuminating essay that offers true insight will stand out and be remembered.
  • Read, revise, and have several others who know you well read it and give you their feedback.

Letters of Recommendation

Ask three professors or professionals who know you well to write letters of recommendations for you. Whether academic or professional, letters of recommendation should come from individuals who know you well enough to present a truly informed assessment of your abilities.

Ask for recommendations in the spring of junior year or by the first week of school senior year. It will provide recommenders with ample time to complete the letters. Assume that it will take each recommender about a month to complete their letter, so the sooner you ask them, the better.

Provide your recommenders with an updated copy of your resume and perhaps your personal statement.

You may also want to guide them on specific things you would like them to mention in the letter so that each recommender writes on different areas of your skills and accomplishments. The better your recommenders understand why you want to go to law school, the better their letters will contribute to your application. The best recommendations will fit neatly with the picture you present of yourself in your personal essay. An effective law school application will compile a cohesive picture of whom you are and why that law school should admit you.


What should letters of recommendation include?
  • Your ability to excel in the rigorous academic environment of law school.
  • Enthusiastic endorsement from at least one professor in your major.
  • Specific reference to your work in a particular course or on a particular project.
    (Provide your professors with copies of work you have done in order to help them).
  • Indication of who you are as a person.
  • Extracurricular involvement (especially community service) because law schools value applicants who show long-standing commitment.

Managing Letters of Recommendation

Establish an academic or professional credentials account on Interfolio.com. Go to Interfolio to manage your letters of recommendation.

  • Your recommenders will submit their electronic letters directly to Interfolio.com.
  • Interfolio.com will forward your letters confidentially to LSAC/LSDAS which will distribute them electronically to the law schools to which you are applying.
  • Check with recommenders by early October to ensure they have submitted their recommendations.
  • Remember to write thank-you notes to each recommender!

Register for LSDAS

Register for LSDAS (Law School Data Assembly Service provided by LSAC) to which most law schools require you to subscribe.

  • This is where you will have your transcript and letters of recommendation sent. LSDAS will compile them into an electronic “report” to send to each law school.
  • It is important to do this early as processing at LSDAS slows down due to volume starting in October.
  • In early September request a transcript be sent to LSDAS from the Registrar’s Office.

Addendums

Write addendums, when appropriate. If your LSAT score or cumulative GPA hides something important, you may want to point it out on a separate sheet attached to your application.

  • For instance, if one particularly bad semester or course lowered your GPA and if you can argue plausibly that those low grades should be viewed as anomalies, do so.
  • If your GPA for your course major is significantly higher than your overall average, you might highlight that.
  • Even better, if your GPA masks an upward trend in your performance, make certain to call attention to your improvement.
  • If you feel that your LSAT score is inconsistent with your ability to handle rigorous work, you may want to point it out.

Dean’s Certificate
  • A Dean's Certificate is a form that some schools require in order to verify you are or were in good standing at your academic institution(s). It is presently requested by only a handful of law schools. The form can be found in a law school's application. With most law schools requiring candidates to apply through the LSAC application process, candidates need to look for the Dean's Certificate under the "Supplemental Materials" link which is in most cases directly under the link to the law school's primary application.

Resume

Develop a resume specific to law school, optimally with a “related experience” or “legal experience” section. (Peer counselors and career counselors can help you with this).

  • What sort of work experience you have had is not as important as what you have learned through that experience, particularly if you can show that you gained skills that will help you succeed in law school.

Write a different cover letter for each school to which you apply. Tailor at least the first paragraph to each school to show your interest in something specific about that institution or program and why you would be a good fit.

Send in your applications by October 1st to guarantee them being read in the first read and increasing your likelihood of being accepted.


Additional Information