Although Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods) makes law school look as easy as getting a manicure in “Legally Blonde”, the majority of students who hope to attend law school must work incredibly hard just to be admitted to a prestigious program. The Foghorn sat down with the director of admissions at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Alan Guerrero, and the co-presidents of the Undergraduate Law Society, seniors Jesse Ruiz and Shadae Holmes, to discuss the most important aspects of a student’s law school application.
The law school application process is similar to the undergraduate admission process. Most schools, including USF, require two letters of recommendation, a personal essay, an academic transcript (with a grade point average) and a standardized test score. However, this last requirement, the standardized test, is much more intense and difficult than the SAT. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that focuses on logical and verbal reasoning skills. Many law student hopefuls spend months studying and practicing for the test, which is given four times every year, according to the Law School Admissions Council. Guerrero’s first piece of advice to students considering a degree in law was to perform well in college and to prepare for the LSAT as best as possible. While some students can study by themselves, Guerrero suggested that other students who need more structure invest in a course to prepare them for the challenging exam. There is no required major for admission to law school; however, English, politics and history have been a few of the major feeders into law programs. Guerrero said that students should major in what they are interested in because they are more likely to perform better. Classes that provide students with the ability to analyze information and to think logically are crucial to undergraduate preparation. Ruiz agreed and suggested that students take any course that applies logic and reasoning. He also said, “Learning how to write is essential in law school.”
The LSAT includes five multiple choice sections of 35 questions each and a writing sample. Scores range from 120 to 180. The writing sample is not included in the score, but is instead sent to the law schools that the students apply to. Ivy League schools, like Harvard University, do not require a minimum LSAT score, but according to Harvard’s web site, the average admitted student scored between a 170 and a 176 on the LSAT. In addition to being a strict determining factor in admissions, LSAT scores are also used to determine how much financial aid a student will receive. Holmes felt that the best way to prepare for law school was to attend a short LSAT course and take pre-law courses.
Preparing for a daunting exam like the LSAT can be made easier by joining a group like USF’s Undergraduate Law Society, which seeks to make the admissions process more apparent, find scholarships for students and provide guidance about the LSAT. The society brings in speakers and makes its members aware of free opportunities regarding diagnostic tests and LSAT strategy classes. Ruiz said, “Start exploring the law profession, talk to pre-law advisors.” He doesn’t recommend watching television shows or movies about lawyers. Sometimes students get overwhelmed when they realize they have underestimated the workload.
Once students complete their law degree, which is officially entitled a juris doctor (JD), Guerrero said lawyers can work in a variety of different environments, like business, teaching, politics or management. Most lawyers work in the private sector versus the government or public interest sectors. Guerrero said that in law school, a student will “learn to be a problem solver. People look at you as someone who can solve problems.”