There are several steps to the application process for law school. Although several are similar to the undergraduate application process, there are some important differences. Be very familiar with the process and timeline before diving into applications. Familiarize yourself with these resources.
Jump to a section:
- LSAC's Credential Assembly Service
- Entrance Exam
- Personal Statement
- Letters of Recommendation
- School Selection
Timelines for law school applications vary based on the time at which you plan to matriculate to law school. The largest percentage of UVA applicants to law school complete between 1 to 3 bridge years after completion of their undergraduate degree.
Spring Prior to Application
Prior to the fall application cycle in which you intend to apply. This could take place in the spring of your 3rd year, 4th year, or beyond.
- Begin LSAT Prep
- Brainstorm individuals for letters of recommendation
- Set-up LSAT account
- Register for June LSAT
- Ask instructors for letters of recommendation before the beginning of summer
- Begin researching law schools of interest. Consider visiting schools for a tour / open house.
Summer Prior to Application
Prior to the fall application cycle in which you intend to apply. This could take place in the summer after your 3rd year, 4th year, or beyond.
- Take June LSAT
- Prepare an outline for your personal statement
- Request official copies of your transcript to be sent to LSAC
- Begin drafting personal statement
- Research law schools
- Follow-up with recommendation writers by the end of the summer/beginning of the fall
Fall of Application Cycle
It's application time! Law school applications should be submitted in the fall. This could take place in the fall of your 4th year or beyond.
- Begin law school applications on LSAC
- Attend Law School Application Process Meeting
- Attend UVA Graduate and Professional School Fair and speak with law school recruiters
- Prepare for law school interviews
- Retake September LSAT exam if necessary
- Aim to submit applications by end of October/beginning of November
- Double check to make sure application materials were received
Spring During Application Cycle
Your applications are in and you're waiting for and responding to admission decisions. This could take place in the spring of your 4th year or beyond.
- Send fall transcript to LSAC (if applicable)
- Complete financial aid paperwork
LSAC's Credential Assembly Service
Almost all ABA-approved law schools and several non-ABA-approved schools require that their applicants register for the Credential Assembly Services provided by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) allows you to submit all required application documents to multiple schools at once. The CAS allows you to stay organized during the application process, and it provides a way for your recommenders to easily submit letters of recommendation. A CAS report will be prepared for every law school to which you apply. The report contains information that is important in the law school admissions process. Your report will include:
- An undergraduate academic summary
- Copies of all undergraduate, graduate, and law school transcripts
- LSAT scores and writing sample copies
- Copies of letters of recommendation if processed by LSAC
Subscribe to the CAS the summer in the year before you plan to start law school. For students who plan to enter law school directly after undergraduate school, this would be the summer between third and fourth year. If you plan to wait for one or more years to apply to law school, you should not subscribe to the service until you actually begin to apply to law schools.
Get started by creating a LSAC account at LSAC.org.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test required for admission to all American Bar Association (ABA) approved law schools. This exam is used to assess an applicant's ability to succeed in law school. This exam provides a common measure of reading and verbal reasoning skills. The exam consists of six sections:
- Reading Comprehension
- Analytical Reasoning
- Logical Reasoning I
- Logical Reasoning II
- Variable / Experimental Questions
- Writing Sample
Each section of the exam is 35 minutes in length. The first 5 sections are multiple choice. The variable / experimental questions and the writing sample sections are not scored. Copies of the writing sample will be available to your schools when you apply. Scores are reported on a scale of 120 to 180. The average score for UVA applicants applying to law school is 160.
This exam is offered four times a year by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). Typical testing months are February, June, October, and December. It is recommended to take the test in June or October if you are applying the following fall.
For specific information on test dates, sites, registration forms, fees and deadlines, please visit the LSAT section of the LSAC website.
Test Preparation Resources
There are many types of test preparation resources that vary in cost and approach. Pre-Law Advisors do not endorse any of the provders below, but are happy to speak with you about how you might identify the style of preparation that best fits your needs.
- LSAC Resources
Cost: Free - Low
- Writing Sample Questions
- Question Types
- Free Materials: Sample Questions, June 2007 LSAT Complete Sample Test, Prep Videos
- Official Prep Tools
- Prep Test EBooks
- LSAT Center
Low - High
- Clayborne Education
Cost: Low - High
- Exam Krackers
Cost: Low - High
- Velocity Test Prep
Cost: Free - High
- Princeton Review
Cost: Low - High
- Kaplan Test Prep
Cost: Free - High
- Starting Line Tuition Assistance Program
Your personal statement gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants. To successfully utilize the personal statement, spotlight one or two particular experiences that demonstrate your drive and intention for applying to law school. Your personal statement should provide depth into why and how you are pursuing a law degree and why you would thrive as a law student.
How Does It Fit Into Your Application?
Your personal statement is just one of many key factors in an application. Avoid making the mistake of devoting all your time to your personal statement while forgetting about the other parts of the application. Your personal statement should be strong and well-written, but it shouldn't delay the submission of your application.
What Are Admissions Committees Looking For?
Everyone has a different opinion on what should be included in a personal statement; therefore, every admissions committee member will have a different approach to reading and reviewing a personal statement. Below are a few questions committees generally keep in mind when reading a personal statement. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and opinions will vary from reader to reader.
- Did you answer the statement prompt?
- Who you are as a person? (e.g., background, experiences, education, etc.)
- Why did you choose law instead of another career path?
- Do you possess the qualities necessary to be a law professional?
- How do your profession goals coincide with going to law school?
- Are your perceptions of the law profession realistic?
- Do you demonstrate succinct, clear, and concise writing that tells who you are and your motivation for applying to law school?
- Would I be interested in meeting you?
- Do I want to learn more about you?
- Are you a good fit for the program?
Before Writing: Brainstorm
The brainstorming phase is an important step in the writing process. During this phase, consider every potential topic to include in your statement. Answer the questions below to start the brainstorming process.
- How have you prepared to be a law student and why are you ready to enroll now?
- What is special, distinctive, unique or impressive about you or your life story?
- Who are your intellectual influences?
- How did you learn about law? What stimulated your interest in law?
- What characteristics and skills do you possess that enhance your prospects for success?
- Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships?
- What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you proud of?
- What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
- What are the most compelling reasons for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
- What are your short and long term goals?
- Did you take time off after earning your undergraduate degree? If so, why and how have you used this time to grow?
- What is the most important thing for an admissions committee to know about you?
The Writing Process
As you begin the writing process, use the following exercises to get you started.
- Write your initial draft as if you were writing to a friend about going to law school. Tell him/her why you want to go and why it is the best choice for you.
- Imagine you have five minutes to talk to an admissions committee: What would you tell them and why? Write down all you can about your goals, decision to attend law school, what you hope to accomplish, your qualifications, etc. without stopping.
Create a Draft
As you begin your initial draft, carefully read and re-read the question or prompt. Answer the questions based on your initial response. Emphasize identifying the message you want to convey and don’t worry about editing or length. This is the inventing stage of the writing process, so be creative.
Rewrite, Revise and Edit
Be prepared to write several drafts. Look at the content, clarity and overall tone of your statement. Read the introduction. Do you get a clear idea of where the statement is going? As you edit your statement, look at the mechanics, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Evaluate Your Personal Statement
Evaluation is an important part of the writing process. Carefully read over your personal statement and use the personal statement evaluation chart below to critique your statement. Ask at least one person whose opinion you value to review and evaluate your personal statement as well.
- Make an appointment with a Pre-Law Advisor
- Make an appointment with the UVA Writing Center. Tutors can assist with drafting, revision, argument structure and other special concerns.
Letters of Recommendation
The strongest letters of recommendation come from the individuals who monitored your academic progression over a period of time. Choose professors and/or employers who know you well and would vouch for your work ethic, analytical skills, communication skills, and teachability. Most law schools require a minimum of two letters of recommendation:
- An academic reference
- An academic reference or a professional/community volunteer reference
Generally, personal references — i.e. from a relative or close friend — are not strong references unless the person has a significant connection to the school.
Begin getting to know your professors early, go ahead and get started your first year. The better they know you, the better your letters of recommendation will be.
How do you get to your faculty? Consider these strategies:
- Sit up front and speak up in class.
- Attend office hours. Communicate in person, not just by email.
- Familiarize yourself with your professor’s research or other responsibilities around Grounds. How do they spend their professional time other than teaching your class?
- Utilize the College Council “Take Your Professor Out to Lunch” Program.
- Look for opportunities to enroll in a second course with the same professor.
- Become a teaching assistant, peer mentor, or research assistant for a professor you have taken a class with.
- Get an idea of the type of letters you will need for your individual schools of interest and plan accordingly.
Ask Your Recommender
- Make an appointment with your potential recommenders to discuss your intended goals.
- Request if your professors is willing to provide a positive letter of recommendation.
- Provide your recommender with enough context to write a good letter.
- Prepare copies of the following documents for them:
- Current resume
- Personal statement draft
- Project or copy of work completed for the recommender’s class
- Send a thank you note. Keep your recommender updated about your acceptances!
Submit Letters of Recommendation
LSAC offers a Letters of Recommendation Service which allows you to choose which letters go to which schools based on their individual requirements. Alternatively, the letters can be sent directly to each school according to their policy.
The LOR service will send an email to each of the recommenders you indicate requesting him or her to complete and upload a letter for you. You may also print the recommender forms to give to your recommender if her or she would prefer to submit a paper LOR.
One of the most important aspects of preparation for application to law school is to identify and select the schools where you want to apply. It is essential to be an informed consumer as it relates to law school selection! Make sure to learn about and consider the following factors:
Quantitative Admission Data
- Bar Passage Rates
- Employment Outcomes
- Required credentials for employment (Bar Passage required, J.D. Advantage, Law School Funded, etc.)
- Areas of practice (private practice, government, judicial clerkship, public interest, etc.)
- Location of employment region
- Class size and size of student body
- Curriculum and grading
- Academic program concentrations and specialties
- Journals and student activities/organizations
- Culture of student experience
- Does it feel right? Does it fit? Does the school's mission and resources align with your professional and personal interests?
- If you are traveling during the summer or academic year, visit law schools nearby. Try to visit while school is in session so you can attend a class or two and talk with students to get an idea of whether you would be happy at that particular school. When it's time to make your final decision, intuition considerations about a law school environment can be an important factor!
- Make sure to look beyond a school's reputation. Just because a school is highly ranked does not necessarily mean it will be the right fit for you. A good reputation is important, but not the most important factor.
- Apply to a range of schools including those where your GPA and LSAT are:
- lower than the school's means
- within the school's means
- higher than the school's means