Starting law school this fall? What to know, do, and buy this summer!

Congratulations to all Illini who are completing the law school application cycle! It feels like it’s over, but actually, a whole new stage is just beginning. What should you do now and throughout the summer to make sure you are ready to enter the legal profession?

First Things First: Final Application Tasks

  • Seat deposits. Now is the time for making those final seat deposits to save your seat. While some people will submit multiple seat deposits, if you’ve done your research and completed your visits, you need to only place one seat deposit at your selected school. Remember that starting May 15, every law school can see each deposit that applicants have made–meaning that they will know if you’ve put down multiple deposits.
  • Follow up on wait lists. It is very common to be on one (or more) wait lists. Revisit this blog post for tips on what to do.
  • Withdraw your other applications. By this point, applicants have narrowed down their law school to one or two top choices. Contact the schools you know you won’t be attending to formally withdraw. This allows those law schools to offer your seat/scholarship to someone else. Some law schools will have a webform to do this, whereas at others, a simple email like this will do. Dear Dean of Admissions, Thank you very much for the opportunity to attend Your Law School. However, after careful consideration I have decided to attend X Law School (or, I’ve decided to attend law school in the midwest/east coast/elsewhere), so I will not be placing a deposit.  I very much appreciate your time and consideration of my application. Best wishes, Applicant.
  • Send a final transcript. After graduation, you must provide a final transcript to the law school you are attending.

Professional details–You are taking an important step toward beginning your professional life. Start off on the right foot.

  • Get online.
    • Clean up your social media presence like your Facebook and Twitter sites. Would you want an employer or law school representative to see every picture or post of yours? If not, take them down, and set privacy restrictions.
    • Set up a new, professional-sounding gmail account (not cubbies14 or hotty100). Learn how to use google calendar–if you haven’t been much of a planner until now, this is a good time to start getting in the habit of planning your days/weeks. Here’s a good video to learn some starter tips and tricks.
    • Create a Linked In profile or update your profile.
    • Update your resume. Keep it simple and classic–legal employers tend toward the traditional, so focus artistic creativity elsewhere and make this resume succinct and clear.
    • Subscribe to online news and legal resources such as the New York Times and the National Law Journal to get into the practice of keeping up to date on legal issues.
  • Follow up with your professors/recommenders. You will continue to need recommendations for scholarships and for applying to jobs at the end of 1L year and beyond. Plus, it is simply good practice to begin developing long term connections.  At minimum you should:
    • Send a thank you note to your law school recommenders and let them know where you’ve decided to attend law school.
    • Provide your gmail or other non-Illinois email so that they can stay in touch with you after you graduate.
    • Ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.
    • Extra credit for delivering an inexpensive token gift such as a coffee gift card or chocolates. You don’t have to spend a lot of money–and shouldn’t–to express your appreciation.
  • Network. Ask lawyers you or your parents know if you can take them to coffee and learn about their practice area. You can use the Illinois Lawyer Finder here to locate lawyers near you (if you live in Illinois) by practice area. Use your networking skills and begin reaching out to any contacts in legal fields that interest you. Remember, everyone needs a lawyer eventually, and most people know or have hired a lawyer. Plus lawyers know lots of other lawyers and can introduce or recommend you. You can already start thinking about what kind of 1L summer job you’d like and start building your network for that.
  • Create a Google Doc to help with your bar exam application. List every address you’ve ever had, every landlord you’ve ever had, and every speeding and parking ticket you’ve ever received. Get all the records you can for these and for any academic or disciplinary action against you during your undergraduate years. You’ll be applying during your 2L or 3L year to sit for the bar in your chosen state and you will not remember these old details! If you’d like to know what details you’ll be obligated to report on your Illinois Character & Fitness application, visit the Illinois Board of Admission to the Bar application here–be sure to click on the drop down menu to see all the questions in Sections A through J. Click here to explore other states’ bar application requirements.

Financial considerations

  • Follow up with the financial aid office of your law school to make sure they have all the documents they need, such as your FAFSA, and that you haven’t missed any opportunities to apply for school-specific scholarships.
  • Apply for scholarships this summer! We posted a Scholarships Spreadsheet over on Compass listing over 200 scholarships for incoming law students (and many which are available to undergrads also).
  • Most federal loans will not be disbursed until AFTER classes begin, so you will need to pay security deposits and the first month of rent as well as buy books and necessary items (below) all before getting your loans. Save up this summer!
  • Buy some important items if you do not already own them.
    • You will need a suit and dress shoes the very first week of class. To get the most bang for your buck, your suit should be classic business formal: gray, black, or navy blue in a conservative cut and year-round fabric.
    • You should also bring at least 2-3 business casual outfits that you can wear to networking events.
    • You may need a new or upgraded laptop–check with your law school to see what technology they recommend and what is compatible with their IT systems. Your law school may also offer discounts. A printer is very helpful but you could speak to your roommate(s) to see if they have one before purchasing.
  • Make a budget. Each law school is required to provide a budget in your financial aid package, or you can find it online. You are not required to take the full loan amount; remember that your loans start accruing interest from Day 1 so any amount you do not borrow will save you the interest too. Sit down and carefully consider your living expenses so you can budget accordingly. Remember that your loan disbursement is only designed to pay for tuition/fees and 9 months of living expenses, and it is not designed to cover costs like car payment/insurance, credit card debt, or travel (for example, if you need to fly to your new law school or ship your belongings there).

Personal details

  • Make living arrangements. Whether you are living in an apartment, with parents, or staying in on-campus housing, you should be figuring out where you will live as soon as possible. Additionally, you should be trying to locate a roommate if you plan on renting an apartment with someone else. Join social media groups for your law school class or speak directly with your school to see if they have a roommate matching system.
  • Take care of anything and everything in your personal life that you can. Get your car serviced, change your cell phone plan, go to the dentist, book necessary travel arrangements, open a bank account in your new city…do anything that you can take care of now. You will not want to spend precious free time on these things later.
  • Go to the doctor and update your vaccinations–law schools will require it. Start or maintain good exercise and eating habits–it’s easier to maintain these than to start them during the semester!
  • Embrace starting over. You have been given a clean slate, so use it wisely. Don’t start law school by being the person who brags about their big scholarship/LSAT score/undergrad accomplishments. Conversely, don’t be intimidated by people in your class with a higher LSAT score/scholarship–frequently the people who will end up at the top of the law school class are not who you would have predicted. You have made it here, you deserve to be here, now embrace the opportunity to start with a clean slate!
  • Finally, WORK HARD from Day 1! 1L grades and class rank are VERY important and will determine things like: whether you can write for a law journal, whether you can participate in moot court, and whether you can interview with law firms before your 2L year in On Campus Interviews (OCI). Start developing a consistent study schedule and the discipline to stick to it. 1L year is not the time to sit back and coast while you adjust to a new life. Remember that law school classes are curved, so by design, everyone will NOT get an A. It is critical not to fall behind on your coursework during the first semester.

 

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Email Etiquette — “Hey” Doesn’t Cut It!

Note – we originally published a version of this blog in 2014.  Since we continue to experience and hear about email etiquette gaffes (from law school admissions deans – yikes!), we thought we would run an updated post on this topic.

Email etiquette is a critical skill whether you are communicating with law school admissions officers, potential employers, professors or your pre-law advisors! Remember: these contacts are formal and therefore VERY different from emails sent to friends or family members. A lack of professionalism and/or respect can create very negative impressions, which then likely lead to unhappy admissions or employment outcomes.  Want to avoid common email pitfalls? Read on for some practical and easy tips.

1. Salutation: DO NOT begin your email with “Hey” or “Joe”.  You should ALWAYS err on the side of being more formal: “Dear Dean Jones” or “Dear Ms. Smith.”  First names or casual openings are for friends and family only. NEVER address individuals you encounter in a professional setting by their first names until you have been invited to do so!

2. Subject Line:  Never leave this blank.  Instead write a brief but accurate description of the content of the email.  Examples: “Application Status Inquiry” or “Interview Follow Up.”

3. Organization:  Collect your thoughts (what are you trying to say?) and then organize your email into an introduction, body and closing.  The introduction states your reason for contacting the person.  The body details the information you are trying to convey.  The closing wraps up your email, including whether you will be contacting them in the future or if you would like them to contact you.

4. Proofread:  Nothing leaves a bad impression like a careless typo or typos.  Draft your email and reread it, checking it several times for any spelling or grammatical errors.

5. Manners:  Say “please,” “thank you,” and sign your emails with a courteous sign off, such as “sincerely” or “best.”  Remember: anything you put in writing is there forever.  Do you want to be remembered as the polite, interested candidate or the clueless jerk?!  And, by the way, if you receive a reply to your inquiry, always write a quick thank you for that response!

For more info on these suggestions and for other tips about composing professional emails, read “10 Professional Email Tips” by Elizabeth Hoyt, May 8, 2018, at fastweb.com.

https://www.fastweb.com/career-planning/articles/the-10-professional-email-tips

 

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Online Tips for Aspiring Law Students

As a pre-law student, it is important to refine your online etiquette skills and online presence before you go to law school. Here are a few tips for aspiring law students and what you can do now to make sure you are following the do’s and dont’s online.

1.Use your ILLINOIS email account (the one that ends with @illinois.edu) when emailing University staff, professors, and other University officials.

  • However, your University of Illinois email account does expire a few months after you graduate.
  • You should have a back up email that is JUST YOUR NAME.
    • Example: If your name is John Doe, you should have a back up email that is not a University of Illinois email. Some appropriate examples are: jdoe@gmail.com, johndoe1@gmail.com, or john.doe@gmail.com

2. Have a clear subject line. If you title an email “Question” or “Inquiry” that is too general and may not get the attention of the person you are emailing.

  • Example: “Scheduling a Law School Tour at the University of Illinois College of Law” or “Meeting to Discuss Possible Letter of Recommendation” are better examples than “Tour” or “Meeting.”

3. Use the correct TITLE for the person you are emailing. When in doubt, be formal. Address emails using people’s titles (ex. Professor X, Dean X, Mrs. X, Mr. X.)

  • Especially when emailing law school professionals, double check the titles.

4. Introduce yourself when emailing new people at the beginning of the email. Introductions will help your email recipient understand the reason for the email and understand who you are, too.

  • Example: My name is John Doe and I am a sophomore in Political Science. I am emailing you about ___________.

5. Use a signature in your email. Email signatures let the recipient know the easiest way to contact you and provide some background information.

  • Example:

John Doe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Class of 2021

email: johndoe@illinois.edu

phone: 217-555-5555

6. Get a LinkedIn Account! LinkedIn is a great way to get connected with employers, connect with professionals, and find job and internship opportunities.

  • The Career Center will review your LinkedIn profile and provide feedback for free. Visit their website for more information.
  • Reviews take place on Mondays and Wednesdays 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Undergraduate Library, Consultation Corner 1402 W Gregory Drive UrbanaIL
  • For more information, click here.

7. Can’t find the University of Illinois employee, professor or advisor you are looking for? Your first step should be to use the University of Illinois Directory.

8. Think carefully about what is publicly available about you–what is your online media presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram? Many employers and graduate schools will do an online search before hiring or admitting you. What are your privacy settings? What pictures are posted? Would you want everyone in the world to have access to those? Unfortunately, bad online decisions can live forever, so make sure you are proactive about what information you share.

 

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All About Law School Interviews

Many law schools now incorporate some kind of interview process. Here’s what to know and do to prepare.

Know what kind of interviews your law schools offer

  • Research your law schools’ websites to see whether and what kind of interview is offered. We posted a list of known interview types by school over on our Compass page.
  • By invitation only–some law schools like University of Chicago choose to interview applicants by invitation only.
  • Open interviews–Other law schools like Northwestern offer interview slots to all applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. (To schedule an interview visit their interview calendar here. Hurry, because they will fill fast.)
  • Group interviews–Some schools like Georgetown will offer group interviews in selected cities; at this time Georgetown’s interview is also by invitation only.

Preparing for the interview

  • Do your research. You should expect them to ask you “why this law school?” and they will want to hear specific answers. Take a careful look at the school’s website, employment data, and any marketing materials like pamphlets.
    • Do be prepared with specific bullet points about the school that interest you: A particular journal, clinic, externship, or certificate program is a good example.
    • Don’t say general things like “you have a national reputation” or “you’re the best ranked school I can get into.” They want to see that your interest goes beyond their ranking.
  • Carefully review your resume and be prepared to discuss anything on it. Many schools will also ask something like “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?,” so be prepared to discuss your career interests.
  • Practice. Sign up for a mock interview with Career Services, or have a lawyer/professor/trusted person sit down with you and ask you questions. Think carefully about what you want to say, and how you can best convey it.

At the interview

  • Make eye contact, introduce yourself, and shake hands. (You would be surprised how many people skip this. Seriously.)
  • DO NOT BE LATE under any circumstances. The biggest sign of disrespect to lawyers is wasting their time. Allow yourself plenty of time for parking/traffic/restroom. If you absolutely cannot avoid being late, call the office to let them know.
  • Dress up. This is not a business-casual situation; business formal is best.
  • Engage in small talk. How’s the weather, what a lovely office/view, how is your semester going, etc., is not only socially necessary but also gives the interviewer an idea of how good you are at making people feel comfortable talking with you–a critical skill to be a successful lawyer. This might even be part of the interview itself.
  • Bring questions for the interviewer.  Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them. Use the opportunity. Some examples might include:
    • What are the most important qualities in a Law School X student?
    • How would you describe the student body/atmosphere here?
    • What challenges do you see current law students facing?
    • What’s the best advice you have for an aspiring law student?
  • Thank the interviewer for their time. Reiterate your interest.

After the interview

  • Follow up with an email thanking the interviewer for their time.
  • Include something specific that you learned or enjoyed about the interview. Examples:
    • Thank you for your advice about _______________; I found that very insightful.
    • It was reassuring to hear your thoughts on the atmosphere at this school.
    • I appreciate your honesty in addressing the challenges faced by current students.
  • Take the opportunity–again–to reiterate your interest in the school.
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