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Planning for Law School

Approximately 5 % of graduating Southwestern University
students enter law school directly upon graduation. About
25-30 % of SU graduates yearly continue their education.
SU students definitely have the potential to secure entry to
and graduate from graduate and professional school –
and planning ahead helps!

The most successful students take every advantage to
enhance their profiles. Your first source of information
should be the American Bar Association (ABA)’s article on
Preparation for Legal Education. This statement lists the
skills and knowledge that are essential to law. The
statement is available at
Use your undergraduate years to determine if becoming a
lawyer is the right career choice for you. The faculty who
serve as pre-law advisors (Dr. Tim O’Neill, Dr. Kerry Bruns)
and Career Services will serve as your allies every step of
the way, from helping you determine the resources that
will assist your decision through the actual application
process.

Planning for Law School

Choosing a Major
The wonderful but frustrating truth is that law schools have
no preference for any major or course work, but they do
consider very strongly how well you do in your choice of
major. All undergraduate majors have characteristics that
will help you in law school: engineering and science
students develop analytical reasoning; liberal arts students
develop knowledge about the structure of society and
reading- and writing-intensive skills, while business majors
obtain corporate and entrepreneurial insights. Students
from all majors at Southwestern University have become
successful lawyers.

Don’t rush your decision about your major: instead, take
time to investigate your interests and be open-minded.
We advise students to major in what they enjoy most and
what they would consider for an alternate career. Usually,
you do better in courses in which you like the material. You
may also decide not to go to law school immediately after
graduation or you may change your mind about it
completely. Use your electives to dabble in course work
required for other majors. This will broaden your
educational background as well as allow you to check
out other possibilities for careers.

Making the Grade
The two most important determinants of admission to law
school are your cumulative grade point average and your
LSAT score. However, filling your undergraduate semesters
with blow-off courses will backfire on you in several ways.
First, your LSAT score will reflect your lack of cognitive
growth and flabby thinking skills. Second, law school
requires overwhelming amounts of reading and analysis,
and talented, determined and extremely competitive
classmates will surround you. A non-challenging
educational program will cripple you from the start. Third,
in college you should seek out the excellent professors, not
just the courses. Honors courses, for instance, often offer
the best professors, smaller class sizes, and lots of chance
for debate. (They also allow you to make great professor
contacts for law school evaluation letters). Most
importantly, your undergraduate years help mold the type
of person you become. At no other time in your life you
will be able to sample such a myriad of offerings at your
discretion. Indulge yourself!
When you apply to law school, every grade from every
college will be compiled into one grade point average.
This means that although the grades earned at a
community college do not “count” at Southwestern, they
will count when you apply to law school! Additionally,
courses via correspondence or the Internet will count as
well.
There are no required courses for law school. Many prior
applicants recommend Introduction to Logic because the
LSAT is largely a logical reasoning test. Many students take
courses in history, accounting, economics, anthropology,
political science, literature, philosophy, sociology, speech,
and psychology to round out their curriculum. Career
Services and faculty advisors are available to assist
students in determining which courses may be beneficial
to them.

The LSAT
Your Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score is the second
major determinant of whether you get accepted into law
school and which schools will admit you. This multiplechoice
exam contains five 35-minute sections, out of
which four count towards your score. One section is
experimental, but you will not know which one it is. These
sections test reading comprehension and analytical and
logical reasoning skills. In addition, there is a 35-minute
writing sample section. The test is scored on a scale of 120-
180. Never take the LSAT for practice! Some schools
average your scores if you take the LSAT more than once;
many do not favor multiple scores at all, especially if the
second score is lower.
Students should plan to take the LSAT no later than June
after their junior year. This will allow you to receive and
assess your scores before sending off your applications.
Waiting to take the October test in your senior year gives
you less time to plan and implement your application
strategy.

Extracurricular Activities
In addition to grades and test scores, law schools examine
your resume to see what types of activities you have
participated in and what leadership opportunities you
have taken. All pre-law students should consider joining
the SU Pre-Law Society, a law-related student
organization. This group provides speakers such as lawyers
and admissions officers, field trips to law schools, mock
LSATs, and plenty of camaraderie with students with similar
aspirations. In addition to student organizations on
campus, you should consider community service
opportunities, internships, study abroad, and work
experience. There are no “required” activities for law
school, but the most competitive applicants tend to have
demonstrated leadership experience and have often take
study abroad trips or completed internships. Career
Services or the faculty member doing pre-law advising
can help you determine which activities and programs will
best suit your needs and goals.

Law School Applications
In general, you will begin working on parts of the
application at the end of your junior year. Since many
schools use a rolling-admissions (first-come, first-served)
policy, send your applications off by the end of October of
your senior year. All paperwork should be complete by
December. This includes transcripts, recommendation
letters, and Credential Assembly Services (CAS) Reports.
There are generally no interviews. See Career Services’
“Applying to Law School” handout for more details.

Make Your Plans
• Investigate law as a career by reading (see list below),
interviewing lawyers and judges and being an active
member of a law-related student organization. Obtain
realistic information about post-law school
employment rates and starting salaries. Begin
networking in the legal community now so that you
can properly focus your energy and time during law
school.
• Explore other career options with your academic
advisor or Career Services. Make use of your campus
resources!
• Correct your academic weaknesses now. Developing
reading speed, study skills, and test-taking strategies
are just some of the topics about which you can get
help at The Center for Academic Success.
• Develop your relationships with your professors early
for recommendation letter purposes and mentoring
later. You do not have to have a problem to see a
professor during office hours! Professors are interesting
and have a wealth of knowledge. You can’t afford to
be shy in the career you have chosen.
• Law-related internships or employment will enhance
your ability to make an informed decision to attend
law school and get marketable practical experience.
You can volunteer, be a part-time student worker or
work full-time in the summer. Career Services has
helpful information regarding legal careers.
• Give your academic performance top priority — don’t
let a poor record make your career decision for you.

Other Pre-Law Resources
American Bar Association
http://www.abanet.org/legaled/prelaw/prep.html
Law School Admission Council www.lsac.org
National Association of Law Placement www.nalp.org
SU Career Services Website
www.southwestern.edu/offices/careers/graduateschool/l
awschool.php
SU Pre-Law Society
SU Washington Semester Program

Reading List
The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools. LSAC and LSAS
publication.
ABA Guide to Approved Law Schools. American Bar
Association.
Pre-Law Companion. Ronald Coleman.
The Official Lawyer’s Handbook. D. Robert White.
One L: An Inside Account of Life in the First Year at Harvard
Law School. Scott Turow.
An Introduction to Legal Reasoning. Edward H. Levi.
The Spirit of the Common Law. Roscoe Pound.
The Bramble Bush. Karl N. Llewellyn.
Going to Law School? Readings on a Legal Career.
Ehrlich and Hazzard.
John Marshall, A Life in Law. Leonard Baker.
The Washington Lawyer. Charles Horsky.
The Growth of American Law. J.W. Hurst.
Thinking About Law School: A Minority Guide. LSAC and
LSAS Publication.
Cracking the System: The LSAT. The Princeton Review.
Full Disclosure: Do You Really Want to Be a Lawyer?
Complied by Susan Bell.
The Lure of the Law. Richard W. Moll.

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