Table of Contents
- Broad Guidance
- Recommended Timeline for Applying to Law School as an Undergraduate
- Sophomore Year
- Junior Year
- Senior Year
- Related Articles
This advice is curated to current undergraduates, likely in their sophomore – senior year.
However, the general timeline is fairly applicable to anyone hoping to attend law school within the next 2-3 years.
The most important step on your law school admissions timeline is to ensure that you are certain that attending law school, and becoming a lawyer, is right for you. Law school will always be around, and it is far more important to be certain about your decision to invest so much time and money, than it is to apply and attend law school on a certain timeline.
I wrote out a list of 10 reasons that supported my desire to attend law school before committing to the application process. These notes were helpful in drafting my personal statement, during interviews with admissions teams, and to look back on anytime that I felt discouraged or overwhelmed during the 1L year. I highly recommend taking a few hours to do a similar exercise, sometime in the year before you would want to start working on applications – think through not only why you want to go to law school, but also why you are picking law school over other career opportunities. These reasons don’t necessarily have to be fueled by a specific profound motivation, but may include reasoning such as, for example, general interest in legal principles, or an understanding that you thrive in high-stress/high-pressure environments. Take the time to walk through the reasons becoming a lawyer is what you want for yourself, and for at a minimum the next six years of your life. If you don’t think you want to be a lawyer, realistically going to law school is not a great idea. If you think through your reasons and feel strongly that you want to practice law for at least the next portion of your life, write those reasons down. They will be invaluable to have as a concrete backstop to hold onto through all of the hard work (and, relatively high level of stress) that you are committing to endure over the next few years.
I would also strongly recommend taking this time to seek out conversations with current law students and lawyers, and/or to try to find a mentor. I used the alumni organization at my undergraduate institution to seek out a mentor who was a young attorney, and who helped me immensely throughout my application journey and 1L year. If your school doesn’t provide the opportunity for mentorship similarly, I recommend searching on LinkedIn for individuals who are alumni of your school, or who attended your dream law school, or who are working in your dream legal position, and reaching out to them to see if they might be willing to have a chat and provide some guidance. These conversations can be extremely helpful in ensuring that you are making the choice to attend law school for the right reasons.
After concretely deciding that you want to attend law school, you have a timeline decision to make – to take a gap year, or to try to go straight into law school after graduation. The gap year decision is a lengthy topic for another article, that I won’t go into specifics on here. I have listed out a timeline below that is specifically catered to an individual going straight from college to law school. If you are planning to take a gap year, the timeline would simply shift by a year, with the other differences being that:
- You may need to budget a longer period of time for LSAT study, if you are juggling a full time job and studying at the same time.
- You will likely want to ask recommenders for letters while you are still in college, rather than waiting to ask during your gap year. This way, when it comes time to actually submit the letters to LSAC, they will just need to provide a brief update and submit.
- Law schools use rolling admissions, allowing you to apply typically beginning in September, all the way until roughly February of the following year. Applying in the early September-October window is the best time to apply, so long as your applications are ready for submission by then. This is because applying later in the cycle will mean you are competing for a smaller number of spots, as law schools have already made decisions to fill larger portions of their class the later into the cycle you apply.
- You should give yourself time to sit for the LSAT at least two times. Most people require at least one retake to maximize their score. You should additionally try to give yourself at least three months of time to study before any given LSAT take (where these months include roughly 20 hours / week of study). This can be adjusted with lower weekly time commitment, and a more extended period of time. Also: make sure that you don’t forget to sign up for LSAT writing and complete it with your first LSAT take! Forgetting about LSAT writing can delay the release of your scores, and skew your application timeline.
- Budget more time for work on your personal statement than you expect you will need. People are often surprised by the work that goes into writing a two-page statement, and don’t give themselves enough time to really polish the statement fully. Over-budget rather than under-budget time!
RECOMMENDED TIMELINE FOR APPLYING TO LAW SCHOOL AS AN UNDERGRADUATE #lsd-id#recommended-timeline#lsd-id#
Goal: Submit applications by the end of October of your Senior year.
Sophomore Year of College:
- Start thinking about if you want to attend law school.
- Start reaching out to current law students/lawyers, and try to find a mentor.
Junior Year of College:
- September – Continue thinking about the law school decision. Make your list of reasons. Decide whether you want to take a gap year. Continue having conversations with current law students, lawyers, and mentors.
- Start thinking about professors you want to ask for letters of recommendation (you should have at least three sources for recommendations).
- Create an LSAC Account.
- Start preparing for the LSAT.
- Take a diagnostic practice exam, to get an initial score.
- Try working with free prep materials initially to improve your score – checkout Khan Academy, Lsathacks, etc.
- Continue LSAT Studying
- Determine if you want to pay for an LSAT course and/or tutoring, if self-study has not been working.
- Enjoy your winter break! Don’t study too intensely over the holidays!
- Sign up for the March LSAT (Taking the exam in April would be good timing as well, if March feels too soon).
- Continue LSAT Study / Begin using LSAT prep course (if you decide to take a three month prep course, you will likely want to take your LSAT in April instead of March).
- Continue LSAT study
- Sit for the March LSAT
- Start compiling a list of schools you are interested in applying to.
- Get scores back and determine if you will need a retake.
- If you didn’t use a prep course before, want to retake, and think you will benefit from a prep course this time around, consider your study options for a retake.
- With your score in hand, refine the list of schools you will apply to (ensuring a good balance of safeties, targets, and reaches). Continue revising and updating this list with any other data points that change your prospects (an LSAT retake, a GPA increase, etc).
- Start brainstorming personal statement ideas.
- Read through sample personal statements online, to get a sense of the structure.
- Write out several ideas for yourself, and determine the general structure – what do you want to say about yourself to admissions?
- Sign up for the Credential Assembly Service
- Reach out to recommenders – a good balance is often 2 academic letters + 1 professional.
- If you are retaking the LSAT, sign up for the July exam (or decide that you want to sit for August).
- Continue LSAt study if retaking
- Decide whether or not you will write a diversity statement.
- Sign up for the August LSAT, if you have decided that will be your retake date.
- Continue LSAT study if retaking
- Finish a first draft of your personal statement. Set it down for a few days, and return for a round of edits after you have spent time away.
Senior Year of College:
- Sit for retake (unless retaking in August, or not retaking at all).
- Compile necessary documents: transcripts, polish your resume (try to get feedback from a mentor!), ensure that your letters have been submitted.
- Continue LSAT study if retaking in August.
- Continue editing, polishing, and finalizing personal statement.
- Compile a list of the other documents necessary to the schools you are applying to (interest statements, etc.)
- Additionally, determine if you will need to write GPA or C&F addendum.
- Write your diversity statement this month, if you have decided to include one.
- Write any addendum you’ve decided to include.
- Begin writing the other writing samples that are on your list.
- Sit for August LSAT if you are taking it this month.
- Polish diversity statement.
- Polish any addenda
- Finish writing any other required documents (Interest statements, etc) from the list you compiled last month.
- September: If you feel your applications are complete and ready to submit, consider submitting as early as the first month they open (typically in September). Otherwise, spend September polishing application materials, and plan to ensure submission by the end of October.
- October: Submit applications by the end of the month!
- What is the LSAT?
- Everything you need to know about the LSAC fee waiver
- Gap Year between undergrad and law school