Law School Application Fee Waivers!

We here in Pre-Law Advising Services have a limited number of law school application fee waivers (worth $50-$75) for the following law schools: Tulane Univ, Univ of Nebraska, St Louis Univ, and Univ of Utah. We would like to share them with students who: 1) are current UIUC students who plan to apply to one of those law schools; 2) are applying to law school this cycle (before March 2013); and 3) are able to pick up the fee waiver at our office. Please email us at ccaas-prelaw@illinois.edu indicating which school’s fee waiver you would like by 4:00 p.m. tomorrow (Nov 29). We will randomly draw winners from the group of people who expressed interest in that school. Good luck!

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Making the most of your fall break

Eating turkey, watching football and sleeping in sound like pretty good ways to spend your fall break. With an entire week off, though, there are a lot more productive ways to use that time.

Current applicants–FINISH your applications! You really don’t want to be trying to finish your applications during finals. Tips:

  • Are all of your recommendations in? If not, contact your letter writers NOW–before fall break–because s/he might have time off next week too, and can finish your letter if you remind him/her.
  • Polish your personal statement. Do a final edit. Have another set of eyes review for grammar/punctuation. Make sure it’s the correct essay for this school.
  • Have you written all of your optional essays? A common complaint we hear from law school admissions deans is that optional essays are sloppy and aren’t edited well. Make sure you take the time to polish them just like your other documents.
  • Make sure all of your transcripts from any undergraduate institutions (even community colleges where you took a summer course) are submitted. Check your LSAC account to make sure.
  • Finalize your list of schools to which you’ll apply. Do you feel comfortable with the number of schools on your list, and with your admissibility there? Do you have a good mix of safety, target, and reach schools? Remember that the average law school applicant who graduated from the University of Illinois applied to 9 schools and was accepted to 3, and that’s good in terms of law school acceptances. (You can find all sorts of U of I applicant data on our website here.

Not applying to law school just yet? You can still be productive this break. How?

Do some LSAT planning.

  • Take a practice LSAT. See our list of practice LSAT options here.
  • If you plan to take next June’s LSAT, research LSAT prep companies and course offerings and decide whether to take a class, and which one. Test prep classes can be online, in person, or one on one tutoring, and they can range from one month to one year. Which is right for you? Some that are popular with our students are Kaplan, Next Step Test Prep, Testmasters, Princeton Review, and PowerScore. (We are not affiliated with any test prep company. This is NOT an exhaustive list but only meant to get your research started.)
  • For students who plan to do your own LSAT prep, now is a good time to start getting your resources together. The LSAC offers reasonably priced LSAT strategy and test books, like this package. (We are not affiliated with the LSAC and offer this only as a suggestion.) Other students purchase LSAT prep materials on ebay.

Study for finals. Seems like a no-brainer, but for those of you who are sophomores or juniors, it is extremely important that you do well academically now in order to maximize your law school admission chances.

Explore legal careers. Now that you have some free time, why not:

  • Explore the LSAC’s website. The Law School Admission Council website is VERY detailed, and requires some time to digest.
  • Take a quiz to see what area of law might be a good match for you at Discover Law’s website.
  • Read one of the books suggested by the LSAC in its Resources for the Prelaw Candidate list here.
  • Spend some time on the American Bar Association’s website exploring what lawyers do every day.
  • Ask a local lawyer to have coffee with you to talk about his/her career. This is actually very simple, and many lawyers are happy to sit for half an hour with a prospective law student. Start by asking your parents if they know any lawyers. If not, use the internet to find local lawyers and call or email a few. (Tip: Do an internet search for “your county bar association” to find local lawyers easily. For example, “McHenry County bar association” will take you to McHenry County lawyers.) You will be surprised how many lawyers are happy to talk to you about their career, and this is a great way to practice your networking skills!

 

 

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Law School Applicants for this cycle and next year — what should you be doing now?

Fall 2012 Applicants

For most applicants, the LSAT is over and now the focus is on completing your applications.  For those of you feeling a little overwhelmed by letters of recommendation, personal statements, and the application process generally, here is a link to one of our earlier blog postings to help you stay on task. http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2012/10/08/after-the-lsat-what-now/. 

Additionally, as you try to gauge your admissions chances, here is another tool to assist you.  The Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors (NAPLA) Law School Locator is designed to help applicants quickly assess the LSAT and GPA expectations of different law schools across the country.  Click on this link to access this tool. http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/careers/pdf/2012_NAPLA_Law_Locator.pdf.

Fall 2013 Applicants

Are you considering appying to law school next fall?  If so, then you need to begin planning NOW.  In particular, you should consider taking the June LSAT.  Why?

First — law schools use a rolling admissions process.  That means that as a general matter, applications are reviewed in the order they are received.   So even though most law schools list deadlines in February or March, you are encouraged to submit your applications as soon as possible. Most applications become available online between August 15 and October 1.  As such, if you take the June LSAT and are happy with your score, you can complete your applications early in the cycle.

Second —  if you are not satisfied with your June results, you have the option of re-taking in October and have the ability to submit your applications by late fall, which is still relatively early in the application cycle.

Third — as this year’s applicants can tell you, you need time to prepare for the LSAT.  What does this mean? This means that when planning your schedule of classes, extracurricular activities, etc. for Spring 2013, you need to set aside a significant amount of time for studying for the LSAT.

Preparing for the LSAT

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) advises that most law school applicants preparing for the LSAT familiarize themselves with test directions and question types, practice on sample tests, and study the information available on test-taking techniques and strategies. Although LSAC indicates that it is difficult to say when LSAT examinees are sufficiently prepared, LSAC advises that very few people achieve their full potential without some preparation. It has been our experience at PLAS that most test takers set aside at least 4-6 months to prepare for the LSAT.  For information on the test and how to prepare, go to http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/about-the-lsat.asp.

Not sure how much prep you will need?  A great way to get an idea of your “baseline” LSAT score or simply begin the LSAT prep process is to take a full-length practice LSAT. Here are some upcoming opportunities to take a free practice test.

Note: We are not affiliated with any LSAT prep company. We do not receive any compensation from them. We simply provide information to students about upcoming opportunities that you may find beneficial. Students are under no obligation to use any company’s services just by taking a free test.

Princeton Review is offering a free online practice LSAT. To register, go to  www.princetonreview.com/testfest or call 800-273-8439.

Kaplan is hosting an LSAT practice test on November 11 from 3:00-7:00 pm.  For information on other free LSAT practice tests and to register, go to http://www.kaptest.com/enroll/LSAT/61820 or call 1-800-KAP-TEST.

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) offers a free LSAT online that you can download, print, and take under your own conditions. (Make sure that you time yourself carefully to get a realistic idea of how you perform.) Find it at http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/lsat-prep-materials.asp

PowerScore offers the same free practice LSAT as the LSAC website, along with a “virtual proctor” to keep yourself on track. http://www.powerscore.com/lsat/help/content_index.cfm Their website also has some sample “lessons” about test sections.

These would be great opportunities for sophomores and juniors to get an idea of what the LSAT is all about, or even for students taking the December or February LSAT to gain more experience taking the test under “testlike” conditions. 

 

 

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Law School Admissions Online Chat

The Midwest Alliance for Law School Admissions and the Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors have partnered to bring pre-law students an opportunity to ask admissions questions to representatives from a variety of midwestern law schools. Students are invited to participate in this free Admissions Online Chat on Wednesday, November 7 from 6-7 pm (Central).

Admissions representatives from the following law schools will be online to answer your questions:
Capital University
Indiana University
University of Kansas
Loyola University Chicago
Michigan State University
University of Missouri–Kansas City
Valparaiso University
Washburn University

Pre-law advisors will also be there to offer advice. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about the application process generally, or to inquire about how/when the schools go about awarding financial aid, or to ask the representatives any questions you have about their schools specifically. You can chat for a few minutes or stay for the whole hour.

Register at http://www.law.msu.edu/admissions/midwest-alliance.php

 

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Character and fitness disclosures

The character and fitness questions have begun. This time of year is when I start getting many questions from students about the character and fitness questions on law school applications. You know the ones–they ask whether you’ve ever been charged with a crime, or whether you’ve been accused of academic dishonesty, or whether you’ve ever been on academic probation. Some schools will even ask about your traffic or parking tickets–hey, lawyers are nothing if not thorough. Please, please, take a moment to review this post about these questions.

Why do they care? Consider this from a law school’s perspective. The pressure is on law schools not only to admit a class of quality students, but to help their graduates find jobs at the end. They want to admit students who will be admitted to the bar. A history of criminal charges, multiple issues involving substance abuse, academic dishonesty, or a tendency towards violence suggest impaired or poor judgment at best and potential problems passing the character and fitness investigation to be admitted to any state’s bar. Law students are certainly making a huge investment in their future by attending law school–but the law school itself is also highly invested in making sure its students and graduates succeed. Each party’s future depends on graduates’ success.

How should you answer these questions? Before even looking at the questions on the application, you should know that your law school application will be reviewed when you later apply to any state’s Board of Admission to the Bar. If the Board of Admission to the Bar finds discrepancies or omissions, you will have to answer to the character and fitness committee and to their satisfaction–or they will not allow you to sit for their state’s bar exam. You should also know that the Board of Admissions to the Bar defines an “omission” as a lie.

Read the application’s questions carefully. 90% of the questions I receive are clearly answered in the law school’s question or instructions. Carefully review the question. Most of the time, the issue is not that the question is unclear; it’s that the applicant just doesn’t want to answer it. However, if you are still uncertain, then…

Ask for clarification. If you have questions or you don’t understand whether the question encompasses your situation, call the admissions office of the school. Ask them for clarification–they are the ones who wrote the question, so they should be able to explain what they are looking for. Believe me when I say that they have seen it all. Your situation will not shock them.

This may sound surprising, but I do not believe that students should be seeking legal advice with regard to these questions. First of all, you’ll note that many law school applications will clearly state that it is the applicant’s responsibility to provide full answers, even if advised against doing so by a lawyer or other party. The Board of Admissions to the Bar will say the same thing–it is YOUR responsibility to fully answer the questions. Secondly (in my opinion), if the situation is serious enough that you sought legal counsel, then it’s serious enough that a law school should know about it, as should the Board of Admissions to the Bar.

When in doubt, disclose. Law schools have seen it all, from underage drinking tickets to public urination (which is more common than you’d think, apparently), to felonies. Your situation is not as shocking to them as you think. Disclosing now will prevent problems passing the bar in the future…so when in doubt, just do it. Or would you rather discover at the end of law school that your history prevents you from sitting for the bar in your preferred state?

And…it doesn’t stop with your bar admission! Law is a highly regulated field. As lawyers we have access to extremely sensitive confidential information and we serve as fiduciaries for our clients. Practicing law is a privilege, not a right, and it is appropriate that the judgment and integrity of lawyers (as well as lawyers-to-be) are considered.

 

 

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LSAT Study Groups

Do you work better in a group setting? Would the accountability of a study group help you in your LSAT preparation? The Pre-Law office would like to facilitate the creation of LSAT study groups. Utilize this sign-up to find other LSAT students with whom you can work:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/508094DABA72DA57-lsat

1) Choose whether you prefer an afternoon, early evening, or evening time slot and which day of the week works best for you.

2) In the comment section, please note your preferred email address for group use.

3) We will send an email to students interested in the same times and let you take over planning where you will meet and whether or not you’d like to meet more than once a week!

Once you are in law school, study groups begin forming as soon as orientation is under way. Students in the same section of classes will create small groups to discuss, review, and study together, usually at established times each week either in the evenings or between classes. Many students are able to generate new arguments beyond their own because they have so frequently heard a variety of perspectives in depth in their study groups – and this skill is one that should be fostered long before exam preparation towards the end of the semester.

Make the most of your group – and get a head start on a study habit that will lend to your success in law school!  There will be e a new sign-up at the beginning of next semester to accommodate new schedules!

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Law Fair Is Tomorrow — You Don’t Want to Miss It!!

Our biggest Law Fair ever is tomorrow! Over 120 law schools will be here for the Law Fair on Tuesday, October 23 from 11am-3pm at the ARC. Click on our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012to access our special edition Newsletter for the list of attendees, as well as tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this great opportunity!  This newsletter contains information on what to wear, what questions to ask (page 2), and which schools are coming (pages 5 and 6).  And to help you focus your approach, check out pages 3 and 4 for some possible “target” schools lists.  This newsletter has ALL the details on the fair. 

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the ARC, 11am-3pm!


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Yale Law School Webinar Announced

We have collaborated with Yale Law School to host the Yale Law Admissions Webinar on Wednesday, October 24 from 12:00-1 pm online. This session is intended to be interactive, providing an opportunity for students to talk directly with a Yale Law admissions staffer who can outline the Yale admissions process and provide more details about specifically what Yale is looking for in candidates. Interested students will want to visit Yale’s admission website and blog here prior to the session.

Registration for this event is required. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.  Note that those who register will also have access to a recording of the session afterward.

We also posted helpful Yale Law admissions information on our blog here, in case you missed it!

 

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Law Fair — Special Edition!

Our biggest Law Fair ever is almost here! Over 120 (125 and counting!) law schools will be here for the Law Fair on Tuesday, October 23 from 11-3 at the ARC. Click on our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012 to access our special edition Newsletter for the list of attendees, as well as tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this great opportunity! This newsletter contains information on what to wear, how to target specific schools, what to ask, and which schools are coming! Check it out for ALL the details on the fair.

Why should you attend the fair? Good question; read on.

If you are not yet applying to law school, you may be wondering how it will benefit you to attend. It’s a great opportunity to practice your networking skills. It’s also a good idea to begin building professional contacts of deans and directors who can provide helpful advice about their school’s application process and ultimately accept you into their schools. You can also find out helpful information now, while you are still in a position to build your resume or GPA, rather than finding out the day before you want to apply that they really would have preferred some work experience.

If you ARE currently applying to law school, why should you attend? It’s a great opportunity to meet the deans and directors who will be reading your applications. (I am consistently impressed with their ability to remember prospective students, right down to specific details about what they wore or what their personal statement was about.) It never hurts to make a great impression. You can also find out more about what specific schools are looking for, and even discover a school that you may not have considered but is actually a great fit for you. Finally, this is a great chance to collect some application fee waivers. It is definitely worth your time to attend, even for an hour or two.

Do you have to stay the entire time? No. Even an hour is enough time to target 4-5 of your top choice schools. Think about the schools you want to speak to, and make the most of however long you can attend. Check out the newsletter for lists of specific schools you may want to target based on geography, cost, specific program offerings, etc.

What should I say? We have specific examples of questions for the reps in the newsletter too. Good questions are ones that go beyond the basic “What are your medians?” question. How about asking what their favorite thing is about their school? Or asking the reps to name one thing about their school that can’t be found on their website or viewbook? If you know what area of law you want to specialize in, ask about that. Example: “I”m interested in environmental law and I see you have a clinic about that–can you tell me more about how students are selected for the clinic, and what types of cases they work on?”

Check out our LawSchoolFairNewsletter2012 for much more about the fair, and how you can get the most out of the experience. We’ve also included a list of attending schools and other details on our website here. See you at the fair!

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Grammar Police: Top Errors in Personal Statements

Grammar can be tricky.  Just the other day, a friend and I consulted Grammar Girl after debating whether it is correct to say “myriad choices” or “myriad of choices.” (It turns out that either has become acceptable, although traditionalists still say that “myriad choices” would be more formally correct.)

Grammar matters a lot. The abilities to speak and write well are at the core of being an effective advocate, regardless of the area of law in which an attorney practices. Clients–as well as judges–judge how smart lawyers are by how well they speak and write.  Would you want to pay a lawyer $200+ an hour to produce sloppy letters and briefs full of typos and grammatical errors? Of course not. Clients pay lawyers for their excellent speaking and writing skills, as well as their attention to detail. Sloppy speaking and writing skills = no repeat clients.

In the context of a personal statement, law schools will be judging your ability to convey your message not only through the substance of your essay (which is important), but by the quality of your writing. We are seeing a lot of personal statements this time of year, which reminds me just how common grammar mistakes are in them. I’ve noticed that there are certain errors I consistently see. If I am seeing them, you know that deans and directors of admission at law schools are noticing them too. What are some grammar dangers to avoid?

  • Spell check is not enough. Say it with me. Spell check IS NOT enough. Spell check does not catch some of my favorite mistakes, like writing “statue” when you mean “statute” or “the” when “them” is what you meant. (One little letter makes a world of difference.) It won’t catch that you have written “perspective student” when you mean “prospective student.”  Spell check definitely won’t notice that you incorrectly left one reference to Stanford when the rest of your essay is about Northwestern. Tip: Use “Find and Replace” for that.
  • Possessive apostrophes. Hands down, the single biggest mistake I consistently see in students’ writing is incorrect usage of apostrophes, especially when indicating possession. Usually this involves adding apostrophes where they do not belong (like in “its mistakes”, which does not use an apostrophe for possessive) as well as missing an apostrophe where one does belong (in “students’ work”, for example).
  • Me, myself, and I. Are you the subject of the sentence? If so, “me” and “myself” don’t fit. You wouldn’t say “me walks into the room” or “myself prefers yellow.” Therefore, you also should not say “my friend and me walk into the room” or “my mom and myself prefer yellow.” (You should use “I” in both of those examples.) An especially egregious mistake is the dreaded incorrect plural possessive: “My brother and I’s apartment.” Yikes! Correct options would be to say “my apartment”, “our apartment”, or even “the apartment my brother and I share.”

Here is my number one grammar tip: READ IT OUT LOUD.  That’s right, read your essay out loud and listen. Does it sound right to you? Most of us know when something sounds “off”..even if we can’t articulate exactly why it is wrong. Circle the areas of the paper that sound odd to you, and give them some extra grammar attention.

Where can you turn for some grammar guidance?

Grammar Girl is a good online resource: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

Our Writer’s Workshop wrote a helpful grammar guide:
http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/

For a compilation of several helpful grammar sites, visit
http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/resources/grammar.htm

I also really like Grammarly.com’s Facebook page, which posts fun examples of grammar gone awry. (That’s right, grammar can be fun.)

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