Law School Spotlight: University of Iowa

This year the Pre-Law Advising Services Office will be featuring law students, admissions deans, and attorneys as guest bloggers to help provide unique and valuable perspectives on law school, the application process, and the legal profession.   Stay tuned throughout the year for our guest blogger spotlights!

Guest Blogger: Martin Kiernan 

Law School:  University of Iowa College of Law

Class Year: 1L

Undergraduate Institution:  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Hometown: Libertyville, IL

Undergraduate Major/Minor: I have a B.S. in Agricultural & Consumer Economics with two concentrations in Public Policy & Law and Consumer Economics & Finance.


Why did you decide to attend law school and pursue a legal career?

Law school was a great fit for me because I have many interests and the legal implications that arise in most every industry fascinate me. Also, the conceptualizing of justice, the rule of law, and societal inhabitance as foundations to the success of nations I believe is a worthwhile academic pursuit.

Do you know what type of law you will practice?

Currently, I have interests in securities, banking, family, criminal law. I’ve done some work in personal injury and I found that to be intriguing as well.

Why did you choose the University of Iowa College of Law?

The University of Iowa College of Law displays a proven history of fostering prepared and conscientious attorneys. The decision to attend has afforded its students the opportunity to become competent leaders in the field. I chose to attend because under its instruction I can prepared for whatever is to come in my professional career.

What surprised you the most about law school?

I was surprised about the varying approaches professors take to teaching a class. There is a wide spectrum.

What has been your favorite class in law school?

I really enjoy my American Property Law course. My professor is experienced and passionate about the material.

What type of activities, programs, internships, or extracurricular activities did you participate in prior to law school?

While at UIUC, I volunteered at a couple Champaign elementary schools as a mentor/tutor, and sat on the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board. I worked at Parkland College’s Counseling Department and then at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. After graduation, I worked as a paralegal and then as a court reporter doing criminal background checks. Outside of work, I volunteered at a courthouse helping pro se litigants and I coached my sister’s middle school basketball team.

What are some of the best aspects of living in the Iowa City community?

It is a really fun and kind community of people. Whenever I want a study break there is always something to do.

What do you like best about being a law student?

I like the challenge it presents. Some of the more abstract concepts can be difficult to comprehend, but engaging with the material is rewarding. Also, the opportunities that are available during school and after graduation are exciting.

How did you prepare for the LSAT?

I took the Testmasters LSAT Prep Course.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to a student applying to law school?

For the applications, focus on highlighting strengths, but just as significant is explaining inconsistencies or negatives in application materials. Try not to leave important questions left unanswered.


University of Iowa College of Law Snapshot*:

    • Total JD Enrollment: 460
    • First Year Class Size: 166
    • Median LSAT/GPA: 161 / 3.64
    • Application Deadline: May 1, 2021
    • Website:

*The enrollment and profile data listed above are as of October 5, 2020 and include information for the Fall 2020 entering class.  

Tips for Fall Break…

1.  Finalize Applications

Applying this year? Set a goal date for application submission and stick to it! The current application cycle is proving to be a very competitive year.  Application numbers have increased significantly, and law schools have reported a very high quality applicant pool.  If you are still working to submit applications for a Fall 2021 start don’t be discouraged, but do make sure you are employing strategies that can help maximize your chances of success!

We highly recommend trying to apply by December 1 if possible.  Use Thanksgiving break as an opportunity to finalize your applications and submit to schools.  If you will be applying later than December 1, use Thanksgiving break to complete as many of the application components as you can and identify the earliest date you feel you can apply.  Here is a brief checklist of basic items you will need to complete.

        • CAS, LOR, Transcripts – make sure you are familiar with the LSAC Credential Assembly Services (CAS), stay current on the status of your materials and application components.  Request transcripts NOW, these will take several weeks to process.  Be sure you have submitted ALL required transcripts.  Follow-up with recommenders, be sure they are aware of your goal timeline, and be sure to check CAS to confirm when your letters of recommendation are uploaded.
        • LSAT – you will need your final score to apply.  If you don’t have your score, confirm when it will be available and plan your goal submission date accordingly.  Have you completed the LSAT Writing? You must complete the Writing portion to receive your score.  Be sure to do that prior to the score release date (11/24).
        • Personal Statement – Fall break is a great time to draft and hopefully finalize your statement! Edit, Edit, Edit.
        • Resume – make sure it is current and ready to apply! Edit, Edit, Edit.
        • Addendums – Are there addendums required by your schools?  Are there optional addendums?  Be sure you have confirmed what addendums you will be submitting and try to complete this week! 
        • School specific requirementsmake sure you have reviewed the specific application requirements for the schools you will be applying to, create a check-list for each school.
        • Questions? If you have questions about an individual school’s application requirements or process ask NOW! Don’t wait until your goal submission date to confirm details.  Reach out directly or send emails over Thanksgiving break!
        • Think broadly Review your list of target schools, make sure you are casting a wide net (this is a very competitive year), be strategic…

2. Relax and Rejuvenate

The end of the semester is always a busy, and often stressful, time.  This year particularly has presented difficult challenges for us all.  Make time for yourself over break to rest and rejuvenate prior to the end of the semester.  Campus also provides a wide-variety of services and resources to help make the end of the semester as manageable as possible!

 3. Plan the End of Your Semester

Make a strategic plan for the end of the semester to help make things manageable. Think backward from deadlines and due dates to ensure you have enough time to prepare for each end of semester item.  Take into account:

    • Final academic obligations (papers, projects, final exams, and study time). Mark deadlines and dates on your calendar.
    • Upcoming deadlines for internships or other special programs.
    • Admissions events and programs you may wish to attend (Last LSAC Forum is on December 12th!).
    • Time for life logistics – plan around busy times and deadlines for things like groceries/bills, exercise, family and friends.

4. Start Thinking Ahead

Make efforts to finalize your spring plans including course selections, extracurricular involvements, and goals for internships and other opportunities.  Stay tuned for our annual Internship Newsletter which will be available in December.  In the meantime, be sure to check out our Thanksgiving Break Internship Newsletter for opportunities with deadlines in the upcoming weeks!


Upcoming Events and Programs

Alumni Attorney Talks | Josh Emmanuel

FEATURING:  Jason Emmanuel

Alumni Attorney Talks is a virtual series which aims to provide prospective law students helpful insights about attending law school and pursuing a legal career. This series will feature interviews with University of Illinois alumni working in a variety of diverse settings within the legal profession.  

Jason Emmanuel, Assistant State’s Attorney – Criminal Division Chief at the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office

    • Law School: University of Iowa College of Law
    • UIUC Undergraduate Major/Minor: Political Science, minor in English
    • Gap Year Experience: 2 years working in retail management
    • Jason’s Three Words to Describe an Attorney:

Assiduous | Advocate | Inexhaustible

Be sure to check out this insightful interview!

Exploring Law as a Career: Edition 2

Where Lawyers Practice…

Attorneys may practice in a wide-variety of settings.  A legal career provides a dynamic and diverse set of options.  Below is an overview of some of the most common practice settings available to attorneys.

Public Interest

Attorneys working in public interest take on many roles. Typically, public interest attorneys represent indigent clients, with little resources. The role of a public interest lawyer is to serve the community’s interests. In addition to indigent and low-income clients, public interest lawyers will also litigate and represent bigger interests permeating society. Examples of this are attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union, public defenders, and nonprofit organizations.

    • Public interest lawyers can also practice in private public interest firms. These types of private law firms take on clients, but practice cases relating to public interest issues.
    • Public interest lawyers can also focus their practice in criminal law, representing people who are facing criminal charges. Public defenders work in offices across the country, serving as many criminally charged or incarcerated clients’ lawyers. They represent clients in court, fighting for the client’s best interest.
    • Non-profit organizations and Legal Aid organizations also have lawyers who are helping fight their cause, while also ensuring that the non-profit’s mission is being served. Legal Aid organizations provide legal services for low-income and need-based individuals in the community seeking legal help.
    • Public interest organizations may focus on litigation to achieve legal and social change, develop public policy, engage in community development, or specialize in international affairs focusing on activism or diplomacy.
Private Practice

Think of the traditional law firm setting. Whether it’s a big law firm with many different legal teams and hundreds of attorneys, or a small firm with a specialized practice group and a few attorneys, attorneys in private practice will represent clients (individuals, organizations, or business entities) that seek their assistance. The private practice setting provides flexibility. If you are interested in a general practice area, or want to practice a niche and specific field of law, you will be able to find a practice in the private sector.

    • Big law firms. Big Law firms will typically have hundreds (possibly thousands) of lawyers in the firm and will offer representation in many different practice areas. The biggest law firms will have offices in multiple cities and potentially even in international locations.  Law firms organize attorneys into specific practice areas with partners and associates in each group. Bigger law firms tend to have bigger client portfolios, representing many clients in a variety of industries and in areas of law.
    • Medium law firms.  Depending on the location medium size firms may consist of 10 – 50 attorneys, or even a few hundred.  Similar to big firms they will function with a hierarchal structure (Senior Partners, Partners, Associations).  Medium size firms may specialize their practice on a limited number of areas of law or may have a variety of practice areas similar to a large law firm.
    • Small or Boutique law firms.  Small or boutique law firms may host as few as 10 or less attorneys and will typically offer services in very specific practice areas. Boutique firms will tend to highly-specialize in one area of the law. A common example is Intellectual Property boutique firms. As IP is a highly-specialized field, there are firms that will only focus on a very specific aspect of IP and will take on client matters relating only to that specific, niche area of the law.

Local, State, and Federal government provide many options for individuals with a JD degree. Government attorneys practice at the federal, state, and local level. Many attorneys at the Federal level work at the Department of Justice, but also in Congress and the Executive Branch. Government attorneys also represent the United States, such as prosecutors. A government attorney’s client is the government (state, federal, or local) and by extension the citizens.  Government attorneys may also work for the various administrative agencies such as the Department of Labor or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The attorneys help ensure compliance with agency rules and policy, including enforcement.  The U.S. Military also has its own unique military system through the JAG Corps.   

    • Prosecutors – found at federal and state level.
    • Department of Justice criminal and civil division, there are many different sections in the DOJ, and attorneys are found in all sections.
    • “The Hill” – Legislative directors in members of Congress’ offices, attorneys for specific committees, JDs drafting bills for a congressperson.
    • City, State, Federal level of Government – They can work across almost every discipline of the law, however their “client” or whose interest they are advocating for are constituents or larger groups of people, or the government entity itself rather than an individual client or private entities. At the local level, attorneys will work in various aspects of the local government and municipality. At the state and federal level exist assistant attorney generals that litigate for the state’s interest.
    • Executive Agencies – Attorneys work in all executive agencies in the Executive Branch working on legal matters and keeping both the United States’, and the agency’s, best interest at hand.
In-House Counsel

In-house attorneys work in companies—large corporations to start ups. In-house counsel manage the corporation’s legal matters, manage outside counsel, and collaborate with a law firm to advance a corporation’s needs. They represent the interests of the organization, and will require expertise in various disciplines of the law–including corporate, real estate, intellectual property, administrative, and litigation.


Law graduates can pursue public careers in nontraditional settings as well some law graduate may pursue opportunities in teaching, business, higher education, human resources, foreign-service, or policy. Some may pursue legal research opportunities, work for legal organizations such a state bar associations or organizations that provide continuing legal education for attorneys – while others may pursue opportunities in politics.

Clerking (judiciary)

Attorneys can also work in the judiciary, as law clerks. Law clerks will work for a judge and collaborate with the judge to write opinions and handle matters in chambers. Clerks work with a judge with on-going trials, and spend time researching case law and writing.  Clerking may occur as a short term position immediately following graduation, or early in a career.  Some judges employee permanent clerks or staff attorneys who work in their chambers on a permanent basis.

Next week!  Alumni Attorney Talks

Check back next week as we explore legal practice areas in Edition 3 of our career series!  We will also be posting the inaugural addition of our new Alumni Attorney Talks series featuring Jason Emmanuel and a highlight of his work as an Assistant State’s Attorney…


Spring 2021 Course Options for Pre-Law Students!

Registration for Spring 2021 is here!  Every semester around this time, our office hears from students asking for course suggestions.  Students in ANY major can attend law school, and there are NO specifically required courses for pre-law undergrads. Law schools do not require any particular major or coursework. However, given an interest in law, we have compiled a list of suggested spring courses that pre-law students may find particularly helpful and interesting.   To review a handy chart version of suggested Spring 2021 course options, please click here

Be sure to keep in mind…

    • This is not an exhaustive list.  How did we pick them? We’ve simply chosen a selection of courses that build skills law schools like to see and/or cover topics of interest to many pre-law students
    • These courses are only suggestions and are NOT requirements.   For some additional information about course planning, check out the “Selecting Pre-Law Courseworkblog post for an overview of pre-law course planning and practical tips about planning your schedule.
    • Some of these courses have prerequisites or may be restricted to students in the same department; check Course Explorer and speak to your academic advisor about the best individual courses for you.  We are always here to help as well!

November Snapshot

Welcome November and Daylight Savings…

November is a busy and critical month for pre-law students and alumni, between the LSAT, Fall Break, Thanksgiving holiday, transition to all online courses, the beginning of course registration, and of course working toward application submission –  there is a lot to keep track of this month! Below please see a list of important dates, upcoming events, and reminders for November 2020…

    • Thursday, November 12 – Sunday, November 15: 16th Annual National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair

    • Saturday, November 21 – Sunday, November 29: Fall Break
    • Monday, November 30: Priority registration for Winter and Spring 2021 begins…

Be sure to check the Pre-Law Advising Calendar and  Facebook page for additional upcoming programs and events!

Need an advising appointment?

Pre-Law Advisors are available for general advising or for document review (personal statement/resume/addendums) appointments. Be sure to schedule an appointment online for individual questions!