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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Frequently Asked Questions

What major or minor should I select in order to attend law school? 

Law schools accept students from all majors and minors.  There is no set curriculum that you must pursue to enter the legal field. 

Which courses should I take to prepare for law school?

Students interested in pursuing law should take classes that will provide insight into what the practice of law entails on a day-to-day basis.  Such classes will enable a student to make an informed decision regarding whether he or she is well-suited for a legal career and will provide legal knowledge and expertise that will give the student an extra edge in law school.  In general, courses that require substantial research, reading, logical reasoning, debate, public speaking, and writing will best prepare students for law school and the practice of law.  A basic economics course might also be helpful, especially for students interested in commercial litigation or corporate law.  Fluency in a foreign language will likely make a student more appealing to law schools and employers.  And it goes without saying that courses directly related to law, such as The Philosophy of Law, will be extremely helpful to students interested in pursuing law. 

The most important thing is to select classes of interest to you.   Law school officials are usually more interested in impressive grades and LSAT scores than the particular courses you took.  Superior academic performance is most likely to come in classes that stimulate and interest you.

Should I apply early decision to law schools?

When it comes to the application process, the early bird gets the worm.  In other words, we strongly encourage you to submit your law school applications by Thanksgiving at the latest.  We recommend this because most law schools currently have rolling admissions, which means that applications are reviewed upon receipt and acceptances or rejections are mailed out as soon as the review is complete.  Students who fail to submit applications until the final deadline will be battling for a drastically reduced number of open spots in the law school class.  According to some estimates, the average percentage of seats filled by the application deadline is 50% although it can be substantially higher at some law schools.  So the chance of admission is higher if you apply early.  Early application also signals to the law school that you planned ahead and didn't wait until the eleventh hour to apply. 

Early application also offers additional benefits to students.  By way of illustration, if Joe applies to Georgetown, Duke, Richmond, and Alabama in the fall or winter of his senior year and is accepted to all four schools by December, then he has January through May to research and visit the schools in order to make the right decision.  He also has ample time to find housing and a roommate and to apply for and receive scholarships and financial aid.  Joe can enjoy the latter part of his senior year without wondering about whether he should be making post-graduation contingency plans in the event that his law school plans don't work out.

What do I do if I don't get in to my top choice law school?

Perhaps because of the recent economic downturn, this year a record number of highly qualified applicants have applied to law schools, making the application process extremely competitive. So if you don't get into your top choice law school, don't lose hope.  You still have many other options available to you.  Many students end up being happier and more successful at their second or third choice law schools than at the law school that initially was their top pick.  Other students will attend another law school and then after completion of the first year, apply to transfer to the top choice that originally rejected them.  Yet another option is to pursue other opportunities for awhile, such as employment or another graduate program, and reapply later on to your top choice law school.  Changed circumstances that have occurred in the interim, such as a smaller applicant pool, and/or the additional experience and qualifications you earned since your original attempt to gain admission may increase your chances of acceptance at your top choice law school.

What do I do if I don't get in to any law schools?

As stated above, this year the law school application process is highly competitive, so don't lose hope if you were not successful in gaining admission.  There are many options available to you.  Meet with your pre-law advisor to assess ways to modify the list of schools to which you applied, to strengthen your application and personal statement, and to develop a strategic plan for your future.  Consult with Career Services to seek employment, fellowship, and graduate school opportunities.  You might also consider pursuing law-related work experience before you reapply.  Legal experience will not only provide you with an extra edge once you enter law school and the legal field but can also help you to cultivate important connections in the legal world. .

Will taking time off after college hurt my chances of getting into law school?

No way!  According to some sources, the average age of entering law students is 26, meaning that most students take time off between college and law school.  For some students, especially those with lower grade point averages or LSAT scores, the real world experience you gain in the interim will not only enhance your chance of admission to a better law school but also will make you more appealing to clients and employers.  For example, an investment banker who later attends law school can import her banking knowledge to her practice of corporate law, making her an invaluable asset to clients and her firm.  The industry knowledge one gains from work experience only makes him or her a better attorney.  Work or study abroad that allows you to gain language proficiency and cultural awareness may give you an extra edge when fighting for a law school spot or a pitching to a client.   The key is to make wise use of your time. 

Some law schools even permit students to apply but defer acceptance for a year for certain designated reasons, such as participation in Teach for America.  Deferrals are a wonderful idea for students who know they want to attend law school but need a year off to pursue other interests.  Perhaps the student would like to get a Master's Degree in English, work for Teach for America, do a fellowship, or teach English abroad.  A deferral allows a student to make all the preparation for law school before pursuing that other opportunity.  It is much easier to apply for law school, take the LSAT, obtain recommendations, etc., when you are on campus.  A deferral allows you to do this and then enjoy your year off free of law school related worries, deadlines, and stress.

Where can I learn more information about law school and the practice of law?

 W&L offers a wide variety of resources to students interested in pursuing law.  To learn more about law school admissions or the practice of law, peruse the Pre-Law Studies Website.  Consult with your pre-law advisor.  Request to be matched with a Law School Liaisons mentor.  Check out other helpful websites like LSAC.  Visit Career Services.  Join GILS.  Take a law-related class.  Do a law-related internship.  Connect with a law school alum.  Attend a law-related speaking event.  Sit in on a law school class.