Law School Application Process

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:


Timeline

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.


Entrance Exam (LSAT)

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test required for admission to 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:

  1. Reading Comprehension
  2. Analytical Reasoning
  3. Logical Reasoning I
  4. Logical Reasoning II
  5. Variable / Experimental Questions
  6. 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.

Source Cost Level

LSAC Resources

  • Writing Sample Questions
  • Question Types
  • Free Materials
  • Official Prep Tools
  • Test Prep EBooks
Free - Low
LSAT Center Low - High
Clayborne Education Low - High
Exam Krackers Low - High
TestMasters Mid
Blueprint Mid
Velocity Test Prep Mid
Alpha Score Mid
PowerScore Free - High
Princeton Review Low - High

Kaplan Test Prep

Free - High

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

The exam consists of three sections:

1. Verbal Reasoning
2. Quantiative Reasoning
3. Analytical Writing

Some law schools now accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT; however, the LSAT is still the preferred exam for most law school admissions. If you have questions about taking the LSAT vs. the GRE, refer to LSAC or check in with a Pre-Law Advisor.

Test Preparation Resources

As with the LSAT, 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.

Source Cost Level
Educational Testing Service (ETS) Free - Low
Khan Academy Free
Magoosh Low
McGraw-Hill Education Low
Clayborne Education Low - High
Princeton Review Low - High
Manhattan Prep Mid - High
NextStep Test Prep Free - High

Kaplan Test Prep

Free - High

 


Personal Statement

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

Writing Exercises

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.

Do's
  • Tailor your essay to the exact guidelines of each school. Read the applications' requirements carefully and follow these directions.
  • Think of the personal statement as your interview with the law school.
  • Aim for depth, not breadth.
  • Describe why an event is significant to you and what you learned from it.
  • Focus on one or two specific themes and discuss experiences related to them.
  • Concentrate on capturing the reader's interest in the opening paragraph.
  • Strive to make the essay unique by using concrete examples from your life experience.
  • Select people who you trust to read and provide feedback on your personal statement.
  • Create a conclusion that refers back to your introduction and ties your points together.
  • Connect life experiences to your professional goals and career motivation.
  • Articulate short and long term career goals clearly.
Don'ts
  • Submit the same essay to multiple schools.
  • Write a cliched introduction or conclusion.
  • Preach to the reader.
  • Repeat information elsewhere in your application (i.e. replica of your resume).
  • Discuss money as a motivating factor.
  • Cram too much information into the essay.
  • Exceed word and/or page limits.
  • Exaggerate your qualifications or experience.
  • Discuss potentially controversial topics (i.e. politics or religion).
  • Include spelling, punctuation, formatting, or grammatical errors.
  • Use passive voice.
  • Excessively apologize for any preconceived shortcomings.

 

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.

Content
  • Did it answer the prompt and/or questions asked?
  • Did the opening paragraph capture the reader's attention?
  • Is each topic supported with specific and/or concrete examples?
  • Is it personal?
  • Does it reflect the writer's qualifications?
  • Is it positive and upbeat?
  • Is it an honest and forthright presentation of the writer?
Structure
  • Is it clear and concise?
  • Do the first sentences of each paragraph express all the main points?
  • Do thoughts and themes flow from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Is it well-organized?
  • Does it have a main focus?
  • Are there an appropriate number of topics addressed (2 to 3 main topics)?
  • Does each paragraph have a main point and evidence to support the main point?
  • Does it have a solid conclusion that naturally develops from the previous paragraphs?
Interest
  • Does it have a compelling theme?
  • Does it sound interesting?
  • Does the ending give the reader a sense of completeness?
Mechanics
  • Is proper punctuation used?
  • Is proper capitalization used?
  • Do subjects agree with verbs?
  • Does it contain typos?
  • Are contractions used sparingly?
  • Does it use "I" appropriately?
  • Is active voice used?
Overall
  • Would I be interested in meeting the person who wrote this personal statement?
  • Do I want to learn more about the person that wrote this personal statement?
  • Would the writer be a good addition to the student body?

 

Resources

  • 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.  

Prepare

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

  1. Make an appointment with your potential recommenders to discuss your intended goals.
  2. Request if your professors is willing to provide a positive letter of recommendation.
  3. Provide your recommender with enough context to write a good letter.
  4. Prepare copies of the following documents for them:
    • Current resume
    • Personal statement draft
    • Project or copy of work completed for the recommender’s class
  5. 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.


School Selection

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

  • GPA
  • LSAT Score

Resources

 

Graduate Outcomes

  • 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

Resources

 

Student Experience

  • Location
  • Class size and size of student body
  • Curriculum and grading
  • Faculty
  • Academic program concentrations and specialties
  • Clinics
  • Journals and student activities/organizations
  • Diversity
  • 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?

Resources

 

Cost

  • Cost of living
  • Tuition and fees
  • Scholarship and aid opportunities

Resources

 

General Tips

  • 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

UVA Statistics for Law School Applicants

Number of Applicants

  National UVA
Total Applicants 56,410 257
4th Years 17,603 51
Recent Graduates (1-3 years out) 21,085 123
Graduates >3 years out 13,767 83

 

Acceptance Rates

  National UVA
Number Accepted    
Total Applicants 42,271 222
4th Years 14,898 43
Recent Graduates (1-3 years out) 16,122 110
Graduates > 3 years out 8,969 69
Acceptance Rate    
Total Applicants 75% 86%
4th Years 85% 84%
Recent Graduates (1-3 years out) 76% 89%
Graduates > 3 years out 65% 83%

Average Number of Applications Submitted Per Applicant: 8.51

Average Number of Admissions Per Applicant: 3.24

 

Applicant LSAT and GPA Averages

  National UVA
Average Highest LSAT Score    
Total Applicants 152.8 161.0
4th Years 153.3 161.6
Recent Graduates (1-3 years out) 153.5 160.7
Graduates > 3 years out 151.4 161.2
Average GPA    
Total Applicants 3.28 3.40
4th Years 3.41 3.51
Recent Graduates (1-3 years out) 3.29 3.43
Graduates > 3 years out 3.12 3.30

These scores are averages and do not reflect the full range of accepted students' LSATs and GPAs. To discuss your candidacy, please connect with a Pre-Law Advisor.

 

All data pulled from the 2016-2017 application cycle through LSAC.
 

More to Explore

Drop-Ins: M-Th, 1:30-4:30p 2nd Fl. Clemons
Counselors: Kim SRebecca C, & Sarah B...

Check out upcoming events to build your resume, develop job search strategies, meet top recruiters, and more.

Apply for jobs and internships, schedule advising appointments, register for events, explore resources, and more!