Law school has progressively become a more and more popular option for students after finishing their undergrad. However, the process (like applying to graduate and medical schools) can be a long and daunting one.
“I think many students are enamoured with the profession after seeing so many lawyer movies, TV shows and John Grisham books where the lawyer looks like the hero (law jokes aside).” —Alina Preston, University of Western Ontario law school graduate
I spoke recently with Alina Preston, a graduate of The University of Western Ontario’s law school to get her perspectives on the application process, what it’s like being a law student, and the bar exam process. Preston is currently articling at a firm in Toronto.
Q. What does the time line look like for someone applying to law school?
A. I would start researching schools, going to open houses, emailing admissions departments with questions, etc., 1.5 to two years before the “start date.” This gives enough time to properly see everything, and work on your application content ahead of time (if it needs beefing up in certain areas).
I would also recommend writing the June or September LSAT – this gives you enough time to study without feeling panicked or rushed, and provides a buffer if you need to write it again (which happens fairly frequently, so don’t be discouraged).
You should also start working on the actual application at least two months ahead of the deadline and send it in as soon as you feel confident with it. Many schools have rolling admissions, so sending it in sooner than the deadline can only help.
Q. How should someone study for the LSAT?
A. Studying for the LSAT is like preparing for a marathon. If you are one of the rare people out there who already has a high endurance and have written many standardized tests, then disregard.
Otherwise, I would recommend studying over a two to three month period (or longer). Treat it similar to that of a math test – it’s a lot of repetition and practising once you have the basic concepts down.
If you’re someone with low self-motivation, are very busy or want a certain high score, then I would recommend a prep course. They provide the classes, the questions and the “homework” to keep you going and learning. If your budget is more limited, than I would suggest going to Chapters and buying a couple of the prep books and try those on your own first and see how you do.
Q. What is needed to apply to law school?
A. The application for law school includes your LSAT mark, your undergraduate transcripts, reference letters (usually academic, thus professors) as well as a written application (“personal statement”) that you should be tailoring to each law school – basically a summary of your resumé and cover letter.
I can’t stress enough the importance of the personal statement!! Read it over until you’re dreaming about it, and have friends and family read it over to add things you may have missed. Don’t just regurgitate your resumé – that’s boring, and I’m sure not even your mom (or maybe only her) would be interested in reading it. Remember that law schools are receiving thousands – literally – of applications and yours needs to stand out.
Most law schools create a bracket of applicants based on grades and LSAT scores. If you’re above their bracket, you’re automatically admitted almost regardless of your personal statement. If you’re below their bracket, you’re automatically rejected almost regardless of your personal statement. A majority of candidates will fall within this bracket and that’s where the personal statement is extremely important.
That said, you still need to be able to fall within the bracket so get your grades up as high as you can and make sure you do well on the LSAT. Remember you’re competing against the best and the brightest from every faculty of every university in the country, and many from outside the country!
Q. What is the process like?
A. The process involves sending in the application, and then usually receiving a confirmation from OLSAS (the central processing agency for all law school applications). They then sort the applications, make sure you filled them out correctly and have sent all necessary information (this is where it helps to have sent in the application early, because if you’re missing anything or anything gets lost you have time to still send the info in on time) and then pass it on to the law schools.
The schools then do early admissions, which are late November and early December. Then first round admissions from January through March, and then second round admissions May through July.
If you haven’t heard anything from your favourite law school after the first round, try following up with the admissions office and see if there’s anything you’re missing or need to add to make you more eligible (sometimes all they need is to see your final transcript, but it’s better to follow-up).
Q. What kind of funding is available for law school students, and how easy/difficult is it to obtain?
A. Law school funding isn’t as difficult as undergraduate. By this point most people no longer have to include their parents income on OSAP applications (if you’re 4+ years out of high school) so that helps a lot. The faculty often has an arrangement with certain banks about getting lines of credit for law students specifically. A lot of universities also have internal grants, so make sure you’re applying everywhere you can, because I had a lot of help (and so did most of my peers).
Q. Why do you think law school is such a popular post-graduate option for university students?
A. I think many students are enamoured with the profession after seeing so many lawyer movies, TV shows and John Grisham books where the lawyer looks like the hero (law jokes aside). I think if you look at the popular options for post-graduate studies – med school, dentistry, teacher’s college, law or getting a masters or PhD – law seems to promise the most amount of money for the least amount of effort.
Med school seems daunting, dentistry is rumoured to have the highest suicide rate, teacher’s college is impossible to get into and even more difficult to secure a job in, and no one is quite sure what to do with a masters or PhD. So that leaves law.
Most just gloss over the tedious hours of reading and the even more tedious wording of agreements (much to their dismay when actually suffering through the rigours of law school). And lawyers are rumoured to make a lot of money, though anyone who actually worked out the hourly pay of a lawyer would find it sorely lacking because of the amount of hours that lawyers put in.