Suggested Timeline for Law School Preparation
One thing many students ask about when they start at UWT and are thinking about law school is how they should plan their preparation now, where they are in their academic career. For this reason, we provide a guide to students about what they might want to be working on during their time at UWT. But, this guide should not be taken as a hard and fast rule. If you are interested in law school, there are many potential timelines and paths to get there, so if you are unsure about what you should be doing to prepare, seek advice from one of our many excellent advisors and faculty mentors on campus.
Your early years at university are an important time to build a strong academic foundation and explore the range of options and opportunities available.
- Work hard to do well in your academic coursework. Talk to your academic advisor about areas you are interested in studying. Explore the options for majors and minors, and talk with professors in your areas of interest.
- Consider attending a pre-law information session and law-related events on campus.
- Research and consider pursuing law-related internships or summer job opportunities that might help you decide if the legal field is right for you.
- Participate in committees, clubs, and organizations on campus that will help you gain skills and develop your leadership qualities. Join a law-related student organization, such as the Pre-law Society or Criminal Justice League, or participate in other law-related activities when available.
- Set up a Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) account (available to students at no cost) and review the material on their website for additional information and guidance.
- Seek out the advice and perspectives of attorneys or law students that you know (or who know people you know), as well as others working in areas related to law (such as government work, law enforcement, social work, etc.).
- Keep your mind open about possible careers (beware of making up your mind too soon). Talk to an advisor at the Career Center to learn about the various career-related resources available to you.
- Remember that the university expects you to declare your major some time in your sophomore year.
Fall/Winter of Junior Year
In your final years of university, you will focus your studies and your preparation for the future - whether that is graduate school, law school or law-related work. If you are interested in going to law school immediately after you graduate university, you will start preparing in your junior year and will apply in your senior year.
- Check in with your major adviser to make sure that you are on track for your graduation timeline.
- Continue to emphasize a focused course of study and seriously evaluate a career in law.
- Meet with a Pre-Law Advisor or faculty mentor for continuing advice. Explore in detail the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website, familiarizing yourself with the general law school application process and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) application guidelines.
- Gather as much information as you can about the LSAT. Develop a plan of preparing for the test, including the resources available on campus. Plan on taking the LSAT no later than summer prior to or fall of your senior year, one year prior to your expected entry into law school.
- Explore internship opportunities and plan to do a law-related internship this year or during the summer.
- Visit law schools to get a sense of what classes are like and to gain exposure to the law school environment.
- Continue to develop relationships and gain experiences with faculty and others that will help strengthen your law school application, as you will need their assistance for recommendations. The best letters are likely to come from professors for whom you have done outstanding work in difficult courses.
Spring/Summer of Junior Year
- Continue to work diligently on your courses and do not sacrifice your GPA to LSAT preparation. If you plan to submit your law school applications in late October or early November, this set of grades will be the last the law school sees in making its initial determination on your application.
- If you plan to take the June LSAT, register in April. Registration deadlines usually fall one month prior to the test, but you should check the LSAC website for specific deadlines.
- Plan on taking the LSAT about one year prior to your expected entry into law school. The summer test may be preferable because you will receive the results early enough to be in the first wave of applicants. With rolling admissions, the earlier you apply, the better your chances of admission. The summer test also gives you an opportunity to retake the test in fall if your score is lower than you expected. The fall test can be beneficial because you can prepare over the summer without school conflicts.
- Prepare for the LSAT before you take it. There is free test preparation offered through the LSAC in partnership with Khan Academy. There is also preparation support offered on campus.
- After you receive your LSAT result, discuss your options with a Pre Law Advisor or faculty mentor. If your LSAT score is low, consider retaking the test.
- Talk to a financial aid officer and the scholarship office about seeking national scholarships and financial aid.
- Consider an internship related to law, or a clerical position at a law firm, to increase your exposure to and experience with law and the legal system.
- Prepare a one-page resume of your accomplishments for the use of faculty letter writers and for inclusion with your law school applications. Begin working on your personal statement.
- Begin to narrow down your list of schools and, if close by, attend a law school fair. Visit campuses and meet with students and faculty, if possible.
Fall/Winter of Senior Year
- Continue to focus on your studies and do well in the classroom.
- Set up a calendar of deadlines for all schools to which you will apply, as it will help ensure that you do not miss an important date for applying for scholarships, sending tuition deposits, etc.
- Subscribe to the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). If you are applying to law school for the following academic year, get all the requisite forms to CAS, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. You need not register for CAS at the same time you register for the LSAT, but you should register long before your first law school application deadline. Be sure to check your CAS report carefully when it comes back.
- Request letters of recommendation (see individual schools' requirements). In general, you want at least one letter from a professor who can discuss your academic strengths. Be sure to give your letter writers sufficient notice (preferably a month) and provide them with helpful information, such as your resume and personal statement, as well as deadlines and other relevant details.
- Continue working on your personal statements. The personal statement is the only part of the application you have total control over, and it is important that you enlist your best writing skills in completing it. Ask the Pre-Law Advisor and others to review and give feedback on your personal statements.
- Take the fall LSAT (if you did not take the summer LSAT or need to re-take the test).
- Attend the annual Law Fair. This is usually held on the University of Washington Seattle campus, and it provides an opportunity for students to explore their law school options by meeting admissions representatives from 80+ law schools.
- Organize, prepare, and complete your applications carefully. Apply early if possible. The earlier you apply, the better your chances. An increasing number of law schools are implementing early action, early notification, or early decision programs. Check the instructions for all applications carefully with regard to timing, recommendations, and personal statement.
- If you plan to seek Financial Aid, begin the application process as soon as the financial aid forms are available, fill them out and return them. The earlier you apply for financial aid, the better your chances of receiving it.
Spring/Summer of Senior Year
- Make sure that your file is complete at each law school to which you applied. Most schools will send confirmation that your file is complete; if you have not received such notification, contact them to ask about the status of your application.
- Try to be patient. As soon as you begin to receive results from the applications, start the decision making process about where you will enroll. Talk with your advisors and mentors about any decisions.
- Visit as many of the law schools to which you have been accepted as you can. This can be important as you do not really know what a place is like until you visit and talk with others there. School websites can be helpful but do not give the full picture.
- Make your final decisions, but not until you have heard from most of your schools. Some schools may offer you fellowship money and that may be a factor in your decision. Pay the admission deposit and plan housing.
- Out of consideration for fellow applicants, notify schools immediately if you no longer wish to be considered or as soon as you have made an admission decision.
- Share your success. Keep in touch with and thank everyone who provided support, encouragement, and assistance.
- Enjoy your summer and prepare yourself for law school.
Gap Year and Alternative Planning
Many students find that planning a gap year or two after completing their undergraduate education helps them to feel more prepared to enter law school. There are many ways that you might plan a pathway to law school, but here are some possible ideas for ways to use a gap year well to better prepare for law school:
- Work - get a job and save as much money as you can. You might look for a job in a law-related field, such as a legal assistant, but you might be just as well off looking for any job that helps to build those key skill sets for law school.
- Intern - look for paid and unpaid internships related to the law. Don’t limit yourself to local programs. Some national internship programs offer stipends for living expenses.
- Volunteer - look for meaningful ways that you can give back to your community, gain life experience and/or gain legal exposure. Some possible ideas for places to volunteer include:
- Non-profit organizations related to a cause you care about
- Legal aid (e.g. Northwest Justice Project)
- Court appointed special advocates (CASA)
- Plan - take this time to work out your financial plan for law school and beyond.
- Apply - sign up for an LSAC account. Take or re-take the LSAT. Stay in touch with your references and keep them apprised of your plans.