Thursday, November 29, 2012

LSAT's: Why they matter.

My LSAT score was average.  My first year of law school I spent saying, "Hey, LSAT'S are not a true indication of how a law student will do."  (Disclaimer:  In my case, I was above school median, and I did do better than the formula said I would -- but this is not the norm).  I spread that around to everyone that would listen.  And quite frequently applicants will write addendums to why their scores should not be indicitive of what type of student they will be either.  They point to their GPA or something else.  But I am here to tell you what the LSAT is indictive of......

1.  Whether you pass the bar on one try.  Yes, you heard that right.  There is a coorelation between your LSAT score and bar passage.  The lower the score the less likely that you will pass on the first try, if at all.  Why?  If you can't do well on the standardized test that is the LSAT, you are going to struggle big time on the bar.

2.  The LSAT is but ONE idicator.  LSAC takes your LSAT score and your GPA and then has a formula that calculates what your first year law GPA will be.... and you know what?  It's eerily correct.  For instance, if you have someone with a 153 score and a 3.79, then LSAC says your first year will have you at about a 3.1.  Yep, right on Johnnio as is evidenced by scores of individuals who demonstate this.  There will always be a few outliers, but by and far, the score is right on.

3.  The mean average of the LSAT is about a 152.  You need to be looking at law schools and find if you fall near the class profile average.  If you aren't close, it's a pipedream that you are getting in.  You want into Harvard?  You better be scoring in between a 170-175.  Otherwise your application is no more than toilet paper to the admission office.  As you go down the tier levels, you will see that the LSAT median falls.  University of Oregon has a 155-160 spread.  You need to hit that mark.

4.  Be competitive in your scores.  If the LSAT median is 153, anything below a 147 is just NOT competitive.  No matter what great argument or tragedy you have for scoring that low is not going to secure you a spot.  Retake the exam.  Period.  Might not be fun, but hey, neither is law school.  (Oh, and don't study the same way you did before --- find something that works this time).

5.  Bad LSAT score means less or no merit scholarships the first year.  Got that?  You want merit scholarships, you better be on the upper end of that score.

6.  You score below a 150 (the median), take that sucker again.  Score below a 145, don't even bother applying to a law school -- unless it's an unaccredited one and you don't want to sit for the bar in any state but California.

Look, there are programs out there to help you learn.  Study for this test as if your life depends on it.  If you do bad the first time, study different the second time.  If it didn't work the first time, it most certainly will not the next time.  So your approach has to be very, very different.  This test is not about what you know... it's about what you can problem solve in limited amounts of time.  Repetition is the key to doing well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Applying for law school

In my temporary position at the law school, I read a ton of personal statements.  After the first month, they all started sounding the same.  I have thought a lot about what I would recommend to people writing a statement and here are my thoughts:

1.  First, remember this is probably your most important academic paper yet.  Proof read, then have others proof read, then proof read again.
2.  Don't write this like it's some creative writing english essay.  Honestly, I don't want to read about your toes drifting through the lapping of the waves off your boat dock.  And neither does the admission committee.
3.  Everyone applying for law school wants to be there.  You really aren't unique.  Nor is your drive to go to law school.
4.  Don't include a photo.
5.  Don't minimize your mistakes.  Own them in full.
6.  Don't tell us why you would be a good candidate for another law school.

So, having bumped the negatives out real fast, let me tell you what I would do to make myself standout:

1.  Give the committee a snapshot of you and your passion.  This is your one shot to show why you stand out as a PERSON, not as a student.  Your GPA will will tell your success as a student.  Your recommendations will also give evidence to this...... but your personal statement allows the committee to see who you are and how you will meld with the class profile that is growing.  Make yourself standout.
2.  We need to know you are a fighter.  Law school requires immense amounts of focus, tenacity and perserverance --- show us you have that.
3.  Write actively, persuasively, and positively.
4.  Show us that you have researched our school and incorporate specifically what it is about our programs and community that makes you want to call our school home.