So, you’re back at it again. Except, this time, you’re surrounded by law school applications and LSAT test prep books instead of the Common Application and SAT guides. You told yourself you would never willingly go through the stress of applying to academic programs again, but the promise of a J.D. and the potential to become a legal advocate and expert is too strong.
So, where do you go from here? As a former admissions professional at a top 20 law school, I’ve read thousands of law school applications from applicants all over the world. Here’s what I can tell you about the requirements for being admitted into law school (and tips for how to stand out as an applicant).
What are the requirements for law school admissions?
Across all U.S. law schools, there will be a few common requirements that applicants must meet to be eligible to apply. It’s important to review the requirements specific to each law school, as there will sometimes be variations in application requirements.
- Applicants must hold (or expect to hold) a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
- Applicants should ideally create an LSAC account and register for the J.D. Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through LSAC. This CAS report compiles your transcripts, LSAT scores, writing samples, and other academic information and is sent to law schools you apply to.
- Applicants must submit an online application for admission and the associated fee (unless they have a waiver).
- Applicants must submit a completed LSAT score, an official admissions exam for legal professionals as created by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Currently, over 70 law schools also accept GRE scores in lieu of the LSAT. Search which schools accept the GRE as you determine where to apply.
- Applicants should expect to submit letters of recommendation in support of their application for law school.
- Applicants should provide a personal statement that helps the Admissions Committee learn more about them.
- Applicants need to disclose any issues of Character and Fitness, which review an individual’s disciplinary history prior to admission to the bar.
- (International Students) Applicants who graduated college outside of the U.S. must submit proof of English proficiency such as a TOEFL or IELTS exam score. If the primary language of instruction was English, a waiver can be requested from the law school.
Is there a minimum GPA or LSAT I need to obtain for law school?
There is usually no minimum GPA or LSAT necessary to be eligible to apply; however, it’s important to be cognizant of a law school’s typical class profile for past admitted students to determine what is realistically admissible. According to US News, the average median GPA among 191 law schools was 3.55; however, the median GPA rose to 3.86 for the top 20 highest-ranked law schools. This shows that there is still some variation in GPA and what is desired, which is directly correlated with law school selectivity.
Similarly, there is no de facto minimum for LSAT tests, which provides the test-taker a score between 120 and 180. LSAC and law school admissions experts often suggest a minimum LSAT score of 150; however, more selective law schools like to see applicants scoring in the top percentiles with scores of 160 or better. To get a sense of what the typical GPA and LSAT averages are for a particular law school, I recommend looking at their past/incoming class profile information and using those data points as benchmarks for yourself. You’ll be much more competitive if your GPA and LSAT are within range of the typical admitted class. Keep in mind, too, that applicants with higher GPA and LSAT averages are likely to be considered for merit scholarships.
Do law schools prefer the GRE or LSAT for admission?
This really depends on the law school you are applying to. Considering there are many more law schools that accept the LSAT over GRE, it might make more sense to study for and take the LSAT. Ultimately, the accessibility, admissibility, and expenses of the GRE vs. LSAT will influence your decision to take one over the other. During my time in law school admissions, my institution did not accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT for J.D. programs, although we did accept it for admission to a dual-degree Ph.D. Law and Economics program. This might change over time. Even now, there are over 70 law schools that accept GRE scores including schools like Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, Harvard Law, Georgetown Law, and New York University Law.
If law school is the only graduate program you are considering, taking the LSAT is likely the better choice. However, if you are considering various graduate programs, the GRE can be a great option that allows you to submit your score(s) to various institutions.
What should I write about in my personal statement?
Amidst numbers and scores, a personal statement essay gives you the best opportunity to tell the law school (and admissions office) about yourself. Some law schools might have a directed prompt for applicants to answer; others will leave it open-ended. Having read thousands of personal statements, I know what kind of essays linger in my mind and make me want to read more. Essays that are intriguing, compelling, and engaging often start with a strong hook—an opener that grips the reader’s attention immediately, often through story-telling, strong imagery, or emotive language. These essays always reveal something new about the applicant, such as a meaningful work experience, values cultivated over time, or a challenging moment that catalyzed learning. Throughout the essay, it’s important to use strong grammar and punctuation, while allowing your narrative style to shine.
After reading a particularly well-written personal statement, I often pause and take a deep breath to allow what I read to just sink in. I imagine who this person is and how they got to this point, as well as how they would contribute and add to the law school environment. That’s really the underlying purpose of the personal statement—to allow the admissions reader to visualize who you are and how you would fit at their legal institution.
Is legal experience required prior to law school?
If you have legal experience prior to law school, whether it’s an internship you did during college or paid work as a paralegal, you should definitely highlight that throughout your application. As a former admissions officer, I saw many young applicants choose to apply to law school straight after college. While this is not unusual or seen as negative, applicants who had prior professional legal experience stood out. Having legal experience demonstrates to the admissions committee that you have taken the time to thoughtfully pursue a legal degree. A J.D. program is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve already demonstrated an interest or passion for the field in your activities, then that shows you’ve taken the time to explore your interest and have the potential to continue that work in law school. Moreover, successful work experience in legal settings often means you are ahead of the curve. You’ve been exposed to legal settings, legal jargon, and possibly even legal research— components that are essential to succeeding in law school
Still, many applicants who don’t have prior legal experience are still admitted to competitive law schools. Admissions officers are trained to look for transferrable skills, or talents and abilities that can be utilized and applied across varied settings. Are you an excellent public speaker? A trained researcher? Does academic writing come easy to you? Are you a leader? Have you ever advocated for someone else? If so, you likely have some core competencies that will prove useful in law school. Make sure to highlight these throughout your application.
Craft your best application
Once you are familiar with the requirements for law school, you can spend time crafting a strong application. Prepare for the LSAT, invest your time in activities that will develop your legal abilities, and write a compelling personal statement that reveals your passion for the law. Make sure to also explore the multitude of options for law school. Similar to college, looking for law schools that are a good fit will be crucial for your success.
If you need any assistance with your law school application, why not contact us today?
Admissions Evaluator at Vanderbilt Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Associate Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Vanderbilt Law School
4 Years in Vanderbilt Admissions
6,000+ Applications Read and Evaluated
Grace Chee is an Admissions Consultant with Solomon. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from Vanderbilt University in Human and Organizational Development and English, and a Master's in Education in Higher Education Administration from the same institution.