4 Year Prelaw Planner

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If you are coming to this planner for the first time with two years or less until Law School, Click Here for the Two Year Accelerated Planner

Freshman Year

Four Year Plan

August:

Feb.

Sept.:

March:

Oct.:

  • Continue above

April:

  • Meet with advisor to choose prelaw classes for next year.
  • If behind on career research, ask about setting up an independent study to get credit for doing your research during the summer.
  • Review LSAT prep options

Nov.:

May:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Plan to use summer for completing career reseach and possibly getting some practical experience

Dec.:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Plan for winter to work on year's goals.

June:

Jan.:

July:

  • Review all goals for the past year. Catch up where needed. Call for help if you are behind or a little lost.

 

Sophomore Year

Four Year Plan

August:

Feb:

  • Keep an eye on GPA and academic problems.
  • Continue writing to various volunteer work opportunities to arrange for practical law experiences this semester and during the summer. This coming summer will be your last free one, as the following summer will be devoted to the LSAT.

Sept.

March:

Oct.:

April:

Nov.:

May:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Plan summer for getting practical law experiences and catching up on your plan.

Dec.:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Plan for winter to work on year's goals.

June:

  • Read your copy of Cutts' How to Get Accepted to Law School - A Take-Charge Approach. Call Mr. Cutts to make sure you have a solid plan in place.
  • You should already have practical experiences arranged. If not, work on that ASAP.
  • Start serious research into designing a Special Project

Jan.:

July:

  • Continue your practical experiences
  • By the end of the month complete talking with professors and specialists in your field and identify a topic for your Special Project.
  • If you are behind or a little lost, call for help.

 

Junior Year

Four Year Plan

August:

 

Feb.

Sept.:

  • Watch for GPA and academic problems
  • Start researching professors at your top choice schools whose interests are similar to yours.
  • Arrange practical experiences to be done for credit this semester as independent studies.
  • Finish your plan for the Special Project.
  • Take a practice LSAT. Begin researching prep options. Call Mr. Cutts to go over your LSAT prep needs.
  • If you are applying to the top schools, you should start your LSAT prep now and plan to take the June LSAT next year.

March:

  • If you are behind on your plan, call for help.
  • You will start LSAT prep in May. If you have not yet taken a sample LSAT , compared prep options and made a decision how to prep, do so now.
  • Plan to devote your summer to LSAT prep and preparing your application packet.

Oct.:

  • Begin contacting professors. Complete next month.
  • Start scheduling visits to your top choice schools. Complete all by end of next semester.
  • Continue with practical experiences.
  • Talk with current teachers about doing your Special Project as part of a class project.
  • Discuss your LSAT prep options, compare and talk with Mr. Cutts about your LSAT prep needs.

April:

  • Meet with advisor to choose prelaw classes for next year. These will be the last classes that appear on the transcript that law schools will review.
  • If you are very far behind in your plan, it may hold up law school for a year. Call for help now to catch up.
  • Register now for the Cutts Personal LSAT Tutorial. For best improvement, you should start your prep as soon as possible.

Nov.:

May:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Start Cutts Personal LSAT Tutorial after you've had a chance to recover from finals.

Dec.:

  • Postpone visiting schools until late January because of their breaks
  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Plan for winter break to work on year's goals.

June:

  • Continue Cutts LSAT tutorial.. If you are applying to the top 10 schools, it's best to take the June test, BUT only if you are getting a very competitive score. Otherwise, wait till October and call for extra help now.
  • Start work on Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation
  • If time, work on Special Project or practical experiences.

Jan.:

  • Use the winter break to catch up on plans. You should have an overall plan of attack written down.
  • If you need an exceptional LSAT score, maximum improvement or are applying to the top schools, start LSAT prep now. Call Mr. Cutts to discuss when to start prepping.

July:

  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation.
  • Complete a draft of the Personal Statement and send it to us.
  • Contact your Letter of Recommendation writers with what you want them to include.
  • If time, work on Special Project or practical experiences.

 

Senior Year

Four Year Plan

August:

  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation. If you haven't started yet, this is your last chance to get in the several months that are the minimum needed for improvement.
  • Final revisions of Personal Statement. Get help if necessary.
  • Get drafts of Letters of Recommendation
  • If ready for LSAT, sign up for October test now.
  • Get Law Services registration booklet and complete LSDAS registration.

Feb.:

  • If you have not kept up on your plan, be sure to get your application in by the deadline. Many deadlines are mid-February. Check to make sure. Supplemental materials, including Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation, are due later, possibly mid-March. Again, check the exact deadline for your schools.
  • Make absolutely certain that Law Services has all the information they need from you. Even a small library fine can keep your transcript from being released.
  • Retake the LSAT if necessary.

Sept.:

  • Watch for GPA and academic problems
  • Continue in Cutts LSAT Tutorial. If you haven't started, you may not have enough time to get an acceptable score. Call Mr. Cutts to figure out a good plan.
  • Have final version of Personal Statement word processed by a professional.
  • Return Letters of Recommendation to writers for final revisions.

March:

  • All materials are due by mid-March for many schools. Be sure to find out the exact deadlines for yours. If you miss the deadline you will not be considered.

Oct.:

  • Apply for December LSAT.
  • Get Law Services registration booklet and complete LSDAS registration.
  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation.
  • Get final revisions of Letters of Recommendation and make sure they are ok.

April:

  • You've done everything you can. If you think you might not be competitive enough, call us to go over your options for the following season.

Nov.:

  • Meet with advisor to pick classes for next semester. Make sure you will graduate on time.
  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation. If you have not yet started, there may be a chance for you to get an acceptable score. Call Mr. Cutts to get on an accelarated plan.
  • Submit all of your application materials this month. File will be complete when they receive your LSAT score.
May

Dec.:

  • Take a diagnostic LSAT before the December test. If doing well, take the test. If not, call to go over options.
  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals. These classes will be on the transcript the law schools see.
  • Call Law Services as soon as LSAT scores are available in case you need to retake in February.
June

Jan.:

  • Finish up any loose ends of the application process.
  • If you have any additional significant work experience, awards, etc., you can send them in as supplements to your application up to mid-March.
  • If you didn't do well on LSAT, continue in Cutts LSAT classes.
  • Contact professors you've spoken with previously to let them know you've completed your application. This is there cue to speak up for you if so inclined.

July:

  • If you were not accepted, let us know right away. We'll go over your options for being successful next time.

Two Year Accelerated Planner

This includes all of the elements of the Four Year Planner but you do them in a shorter time.

Junior Year

Two Year Plan

August:

 

Feb.

Sept.:

  • If necessary, final completion of career research
  • Start researching schools that you may be interested in. Complete this next month.
  • Begin your plan for the Special Project.
  • Take a practice LSAT. Begin researching prep options.
  • Watch for GPA and academic problems
  • Arrange practical experiences to be done for credit this semester as independent studies..
  • Take a practice LSAT. Begin researching prep options. Call Mr. Cutts to go over your LSAT prep needs.
  • If you are applying to the top schools, you should start your LSAT prep now and plan to take the June LSAT next year.

March:

  • If you are behind on your plan, call for help.
  • If you haven't done so, you will start LSAT prep no later than May. If you have not yet taken a sample LSAT , compared prep options and made a decision how to prep, do so now.
  • Plan to devote your summer to LSAT prep and preparing your application packet.
  • Have Special Project report professionally word processed. Submit for publication or to legislature, etc.
  • Final contacts with professors.
  • Continue school visits and practical experiences

Oct.:

  • Finish researching schools.
  • Begin contacting professors at these schools. Complete next month.
  • Continue arranging practical experiences. Start doing them this or next month at the latest.
  • Start scheduling visits to your top choice schools. Complete all by end of next semester.
  • Talk with current teachers about doing your Special Project as part of a class project. Finalize plan now.
  • Discuss your LSAT prep options, compare and talk with Mr. Cutts about your LSAT prep needs.

April:

  • If you are very far behind in your plan, it may hold up law school for a year. Call for help now to catch up.
  • Complete practical experiences and school visits.
  • Follow up on submittal of Special Project to legislature, journals, etc.
  • Meet with advisor to choose prelaw classes for next year. These will be the last classes that appear on the transcript that law schools will review.
  • Register now for the Cutts Personal LSAT Tutorial. For best improvement, you should start your prep as soon as possible.

Nov.:

May:

  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals.
  • Start Cutts Personal LSAT Tutorial after you've had a chance to recover from finals.
  • Most of your free time will be devoted to studying the LSAT and starting on your Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation and application.

Dec.:

  • Postpone visiting schools until late January because of their breaks
  • Intensive work on Special Project.
  • Arrange several practical experiences for December and January.
  • Plan to start your LSAT prep in January for the June or October exams or for maximum improvement for October or December.

June:

  • Continue Cutts LSAT tutorial.. If you are applying to the top 10 schools, it's best to take the June test, BUT only if you are getting a very competitive score. Otherwise, wait till October and call for extra help now.
  • Start work on Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation
  • If time, work on Special Project or practical experiences.

Jan.:

  • Complete first phase of Special Project
  • If you need exceptional LSAT score or maximum improvement, start LSAT prep now for June, October or December tests.

July:

  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation.
  • Complete a draft of the Personal Statement and send it to us.
  • Contact your Letter of Recommendation writers with what you want them to include.
  • If time, work on Special Project or practical experiences.

 

Senior Year

Two Year Plan

August:

  • Final revisions of Personal Statement. Get help if necessary.
  • Get drafts of Letters of Recommendation back from writers
  • If ready for LSAT, sign up for October test now.
  • Get Law Services registration booklet and complete LSDAS registration.
  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation. If you haven't started yet, this is your last chance to get in the several months that are the minimum needed for improvement.

Feb.:

  • Make absolutely certain that Law Services has all the information they need from you. Even a small library fine can keep your transcript from being released.
  • Retake the LSAT if necessary.
  • If you have not kept up on your plan, be sure to get your application in by the deadline. Many deadlines are mid-February. Check to make sure. Supplemental materials, including Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation, are due later, possibly mid-March. Again, check the exact deadline for your schools.

Sept.:

  • Have final version of Personal Statement word processed by a professional.
  • Return Letters of Recommendation to writers for final revisions.
  • Do mock LSAT at the end of the month.
  • Watch for GPA and academic problems
  • Continue in Cutts LSAT Tutorial. If you haven't started, you may not have enough time to get an acceptable score. Call Mr. Cutts to figure out a good plan.

March:

  • All materials are due by mid-March for many schools. Be sure to find out the exact deadlines for yours. If you miss the deadline you will not be considered.

Oct.:

  • If you are registered for the October test, do one or two diagnostics. If you are not scoring above where you'd like to be, transfer your registration to December.
  • Apply for December LSAT.
  • Get final revisions of Letters of Recommendation and make sure they are ok.
  • Check with LSDAS to make sure everything they need has been received.
  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation.

April:

  • You've done everything you can. If you think you might not be competitive enough, call us to go over your options for the following season.

Nov.:

  • If you took the October LSAT, call now to get your score. If it's not high enough, continuing studying till February.
  • Submit all of your application materials this month. File will be complete when they receive your LSAT score.
  • Take mock LSAT at end of month.
  • Meet with advisor to pick classes for next semester. Make sure you will graduate on time.
  • Continue Cutts LSAT preparation. If you have not yet started, there may be a chance for you to get an acceptable score. Call Mr. Cutts to get on an accelarated plan.
May

Dec.:

  • Take a diagnostic LSAT before the December test. If doing well, take the test. If not, call to go over options.
  • Call Law Services as soon as LSAT scores are available in case you need to retake in February.
  • Keep up on end of semester work and finals. These classes will be on the transcript the law schools see.
June

Jan.:

  • Finish up any loose ends of the application process.
  • If you have any additional significant work experience, awards, etc., you can send them in as supplements to your application up to mid-March.
  • If you didn't do well on LSAT, continue in Cutts LSAT Tutorial..
  • Contact professors you've spoken with previously to let them know you've completed your application. This is there cue to speak up for you if so inclined.

July:

  • If you were not accepted, let us know right away. We'll go over your options for being successful next time.

 


Keeping your GPA up.

A strong GPA is really a ticket into law school. Students who have a 3.7, 3.8 or higher GPA have a much easier time getting admitted. You won't need to work quite as hard on the LSAT and the rest of the application. You will have more choices of where to go.

How can you keep your GPA strong? I don't want to suggest that you only take easy classes. That wouldn't be fun or interesting. However, if you find yourself in a class that you aren't going to get at least a strong B in, you might consider dropping it.

If you are having trouble in a class, talk to the instructor right away. Don't wait till the middle of the semester. Ask what kind of help is available. Ask what you can do to make up for poor work so far. Teachers certainly respect someone asking for help.

Rearrange your schedule. If you need to drop one class to do well in the others, do it. It may mean taking an extra semester or two to graduate, but it will be well worth it if you can maintain a great GPA and earn academic honors. If you have to work while you are in school at it is affecting your grades, rethink your financial plan. There should be enough financial aid available to you so that you can concentrate on your education. There is no point getting through college only having learned half of what you could have. Go to the financial aid office to ask for information.

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Keep an eye out for any problems you are having academically.

Deal with any problems as soon as possible. Don't wait until the middle of the semester.

How do you deal with problems? Here you are on a big campus where everything may seem overwhelming. Start somewhere, even if it's asking a friend to help you figure out what to do. There is strength in numbers. You can help them out too. For many problems you may need to talk with your advisor. Admittedly they can be overwhelmed too at the beginning of the semester but be persistent. Talk with your instructors outside of class. They probably can't spend too much time before and after class with you, so ask to meet them in their office. Older students can maybe give you some good advice. Ask them for help. It will make them feel important! Check with the prelaw advisor. They may be more accessible than your academic advisor. Don't let problems back up!!

Adjust your class load if you need to. Ask for help if you need it. You may need to drop outside activities, including work hours.

Let's talk about that. If you are working a lot and it's affecting your grades, and perhaps how much you are learning, that's not good. Well, you say, I have to make money. Consider what might happen if the admissions committee asked you why your GPA is low and why your performance on the LSAT seemed shaky. What will they say if you tell them that the reason is that you had to work to earn money?

They might say, "Well, wow, you did pretty well, considering." Or they might say, "Why didn't you do some financial planning so that you could focus on what is important - your school work? Would you want to be defended in court by someone who got C's because they were working through school?"

They have a point. You are in school to learn. Poor school performance may hold up your law school acceptance by a year or prevent you from being accepted at all. In addition, your being too busy will cause you to miss out on much information that you will need as a lawyer.

If your family is not able to support you, what are the options? No one likes to be in debt, but the fact is that going to both undergraduate and law school is about accumulating a huge debt. There is no way around it. The sooner you get through the process, the sooner you will be earning a professional salary to pay it back. In some ways it doesn't make sense to try to chip away at that debt at $7 an hour when you will be making 10 times that later.

Where do you borrow from? Make an appointment with the financial aid office and go over all of your options. How much of a loan do you need so that you don't have to work at all? If there is not enough available so that you don't have to work, make an appointment with your financial institution. As a student, you may be eligible to join a credit union. This is a member owned organization that, unlike a bank, is on your side.

If you are still short, there are two more options. First, consider some serious lifestyle changes. Sell that brand new sports car and get a bicycle. Look for shared housing or move back in with the folks. Second, if you really need to work, cut back on your school load. This will probably mean taking an extra year. Again, is this worth it for a $7 an your job? But if it's your only option, at least you will be able to do well on the classes that you do take.

Finally, if you just barely have enough money to get by, you will be limiting yourself. You may need to travel to law schools to see which ones you are interested in. You may want to go abroad to get professional experience in other countries. You will need money for some special events, for good clothes for interviews, for the application process itself and for good LSAT preparation. If you are always short, you will not be able to do a good job. Work toward having a reserve. Being short on money - and as a result not being able to submit a strong application - is one of the main causes of having to reapply a second year.

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Choosing Prelaw Classes:

There is no particular prelaw curriculum. Most law schools like students with a broad education and with knowledge related to their specific interest in law. However, there are some courses that will help. Try to get these in soon.

Public Speaking: Be sure to take a course in public speaking. If it's an area you are not great in, take a second course as well and try to get some practical experience.

Essay Writing: Take courses that require essay type writing in which you can get direct feedback. Law school homework and exams are mostly essays. You need to refine your skills in this area to do well in law school. You may need to ask the teacher for specific feedback. Really push your abilities here.

Logic: Take at least one or two logic classes. This is a critical skill for many attorneys.

Debate: Also a critical skill for many fields of law. If there are no courses in it, join a debate team.

Leadership: You may not find a course in this but it is an important quality to work on. Demonstrating leadership ability will make you a stronger applicant to law school but it will also help you in your career.

Core Courses: Many prelaw students take classes in political science, history, philosophy, sociology and business.

Other General Courses: Depending on your interests, it can be helpful to have coursework in public administration, religion, ethics, economics, accounting, criminology, languages other than English and/or international issues.

Special interests: Take courses that would make you more knowledgeable in your area of interest in law. You might major in such an area or simply take extra coursework. For example, if you are working with violent criminals, you might want a background that includes social work, psychology and forensics. If you want to work in environmental law, take biology, chemistry, geology. These are just examples. Do some research to see what classes would help you out.

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Making prelaw contacts.

Find out who the prelaw advisors are and make an appointment to meet them. You don't have to have anything in particular to discuss, just a chance to introduce yourself and find out what they have to offer.

Check out prelaw organizations. You don't necessarily need to join but at least find out what they are doing. This is a good place to get some leadership credentials by becoming an officer and/or organizing projects.

Meet other prelaw students in your classes and talk over plans and ideas together. Keep an eye out for prelaw events on campus.

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Researching Law as a Career.

This is your big project for the year. You already have a sense that you are interested in law. You may even have a specific area that you are interested in. Even if you do, and most certainly if you don't, you will need to do deeper research into the fields of law that you might pursue.

Why? Three reasons. First, when you apply to law school, you need to show that you have a realistic sense of what your field of law is about, what the issues are in that field and how you fit in. You may have some ideas now but the only way to know if your ideas are realistic is to do the research. Second, you will need to get some practical experience in your area of interest. You will start doing that soon. So you need to have a clear and, again, realistic sense of what you are interested in and what you would hope to in that field of law. Third, for your own sake, it is important to find out, even if you already have an idea, what the people in your area of law actually do, what the working conditions are like, what job opportunities there are. And of course if you don't have a specific area of interest yet, this is the time to start looking into the options. You don't have to have a specialty when you apply to law school but applicants with a well researched and realistic focus have a much better chance.

How do You Start Researching Law? One of the best strategies is to find lawyers who are practicing in an area of law that you might like. Make an appointment to sit down with them and find out what the field is like. (Obviously you are looking for someone who will do this for free.) You are trying to find out:

What is the daily work like?
What are the personalities of people practicing in this area?
What are the issues that attorneys in this field work on?
What kind of things can you hope to accmomplish in this field?
Are there jobs available in this field in places you would want to live?
What are the salary ranges?
What kind of organizations would an attorney in this field work for?
Are there challenges that you would enjoy or is the work routine?

These are just some of the questions involved in a career choice. If you want to put some extra effort into doing this well from the beginning, you might want to work with a professional career counselor.

For this month, you can start thinking about what you are looking for in a succcessful career. What are your personal goals? You can brainstorm with a friend. This is an excellent first step. If there is a course offered in career research or career decision, that would be good to take next semester.

You will also want to talk with professors teaching in those areas. However, when you do this, remember that these professors maybe be on the admissions committee when you apply. In fact, any contact you make may have repercussions later in your career. Any lawyer you talk to could be a future potential employer or colleague. So when you make these contacts, you need to be fairly professional, well mannered and to follow up with a thank you note.

In doing your research you might find organizations, either non profit or governmental that are doing interesting work in your area.

Whoever you talk to, you need not limit yourself to one geographical area. Find the best, the most interesting, the most innovative. That way you can get a good picture of the whole field.

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WHAT'S UP WITH THE LSAT??

All law schools require you to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Whether you are even considered or not depends largely on a combination of your GPA and your LSAT score. Of course there are many other factors to getting accepted as well, but a low GPA and LSAT score will keep them from even looking at you.

The LSAT does not test any prelaw information. It is not a test of any facts at all but rather is supposed to be a test of certain skills or aptitudes. There are three types of sections - Reading Comprehension, Logical Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning.

The test is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. 150 is about an average score and it is difficult to be competitive with anything lower than a 150. Since there may typically be 8 to 10 applicants for every law school slot, it is important to be as competitive as possible.

It is easy to take a diagnostic LSAT exam. There is a free one on the Law Services website www.lsac.org and it also appears in the paper registration information booklet which you can get from the UNM Law School office. If you get a strong score right off the bat, you probably only need to do a few months of practice using actual LSAT exams. A "strong score" means you are scoring about 2 or 3 points above where you would ideally like to score to be assured of acceptance.

WHAT IF I NEED TO IMPROVE? If the LSAT were actually a true aptitude test, there would not be any way to improve. They would simply be measuring your inherent ability. But the LSAT is indeed learnable. There are many hidden patterns built into the test and with good guidance you can learn to spot these.

The Cutts Graduate Reviews has been preparing students to succeed on the LSAT since 1990. To give you an idea of how our course works, please visit http://www.cuttsreviews.com/jcutts/lsat/lmenu.htm. To look at what the Cutts Graduate Reviews LSAT program does that a Kaplan, Princeton or other commercial course cannot, click here.

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PLANNING FOR REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE.


Real world law experience in your area of interest will make you a stronger candidate. It will also help you understand more about your field, help you refine your interests and give you some possible future job contacts.

What is the best kind of experience? Many people get a chance to do a little work in a law office or in court. This is ok but is maybe not the best kind of experience. I suggest a two pronged attack. The first prong is to get a very broad and comprehensive exposure to many of the kinds of things that go on in your area of specialty. If you take a part time job in a law firm for a few months, you may well learn everything new that you are going to learn in the first week. After that, you may just be doing and seeing the same old things.

On the other hand, if you do a series of two week volunteer stints, you can get some valuable experience in about 7 very different kinds of settings in the same few months. Let's say you were interested in natural resources law. Here are seven different kinds of places you could get experience: a state agency project in the Gila Wilderness, the Sierra Club, a UN agency in South America, a private attorney who works with Native American tribes, Exxon, a farmers' cooperative in Botswana, the Supreme Court.

Or you could make coffee in your uncle's law firm downtown all summer.

The second prong (remember the first one was broad exposure) is to be able to make a serious contribution, to do something noteworthy. This may be harder to arrange but you will also be accomplishing the same thing in the special project we will talk about later.

How and when will you get this experience? Start looking for agencies, companies, organizations, non-profits, court jurisdictions, etc., that would make up the broadest possible exposure. Next summer may be your only chunk of free time to accomplish these things, as the following summer will be devoted to LSAT prep.

You might also check with your advisor and with the prelaw advisor about the possibility of setting up an independent study that would allow you to do some or all of these activities and get credit for them.

SOME HINTS ABOUT YOUR PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE. When you find a place that you think would give you some good exposure, ideally you can arrange with them a 2 or 3 week volunteer period. During this time you are volunteering your efforts in exchange for them giving you time to see many aspects of what they are doing and to talk with a wide range of people at the organization. You are there to learn as much as possible. So when you contact an organization, be clear up front that you want to have this kind of opportunity while you are there. The danger is that some organization may be happy to put you to work 12 hours a day without you ever getting a chance to find out what's going on.

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Researching Schools:

Let's talk about how to start researching schools that may be a good match for you. If you only want to, or only can, go to one particular school, that's fine. It will save you some research time. However, in that case you should start researching the professors at that school whose interests are similar to yours.

How do you research schools? There is a huge amount of info on the internet about law schools. Your first goal is to consider what you are looking for in a law school. If you intend to practice in a certain geographical area, it might be good to go to law school in that area so that you can start to learn about state law and the institutions of that state.

Would you be ok with a good general law background or is there a school where you could get some specialized coursework in your area? Are there some really excellent law professors who are exceptional in your area of interest somewhere?

Once you've identified your requirements, you can start finding possible schools on the internet. Remember to look for journal articles as well, to see who is publishing what in your area. Keep an eye out for special programs, such as internship possibiities, clinics, semesters abroad, that may be of particular interest to you.

When you've got some prospective schools, you will want to talk with the admissions director there to learn how you can find out more. You will also talk with current students, especially in your area of interest, and possibly with past students who are working (hopefully). Eventually you will talk with the professors there and, finally, you should visit all of your serious prospects.

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A SPECIAL PROJECT - YOUR SECRET WEAPON:

It's time to start thinking about a special project. I mentioned before that this project takes an issue or problem that is at the forefront of your area of interest and accomplishes some small measure of progress in solving the problem or dealing with the issue.

This project does not need to be any more difficult that a project you would do for any class. What's different about it is that it actually works on important, real world issues on a very professional level.

Let's look at an example of how this would work. Suppose you were interested in advocacy for people with disabilities. The very first step is to find out what the cutting edge issues and problems are in the field. Now, you can't make it up. You need to find out what attorneys in the field see as the issues and also what professors teaching in the field see as issues, especially those professors at the schools you are applying to. It doesn't do any good to work on an issue that the professors at your schools think is not important.

Let's suppose that you talk with 10 or so different attorneys and professors specializing in disability law and you get a consensus that an important issue is that small companies in rural areas often don't have the money to accomodate disabled workers.

Your second step is to find out what these same attorneys and professors think ought to be done. What are some possible solutions or what information would we need to figure out solutions? Let's say they tell you that there is federal money available but that the paperwork is so complicated that most small business can't get through it.

The third step is up to you. You have to find a creative way to address this issue. Suppose you ask your expert attorney and prof's why nothing has been done about this and they say they don't know. Ok, that's the cutting edge. So you design a project that can identify the reasons why noone is working on simplified forms. It may involve talking with different agencies, finding out that the forms are complex because some companies took advantage of certain loopholes, but that those were mostly very large companies. You can then submit this info to a Senator and suggest that the law could be changed so that companies under a certain size could use a simpler form.

Voila! You have done extremely professional level work. You have demonstrated an understanding of the actual issues in your field. You have demonstrated leadership and the ability to work independently. You have demonstrated the ability to design and carry out an effective research project. You have demonstrated the ability to communicate with professionals and you have gotten high level recognition for your work. What else could you want?

You may need some time to research, design and carry out this project. You can start thinking about it now. By the end of the summer, you will hopefully begin to put a plan together, so that you can carry it out over the following year.

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Finding Professors at Your School Choices.

WHY AND HOW TO CONTACT PROFESSORS:

What's the deal with contacting professors? Why should you do this? Several good reasons. For each school you apply to, you will need to talk about why you want to go to that school. One of the best reasons to cite is that you are interested in the work of certain professors. This can't be BS. You need to know what the professors are doing and how that would be of interest to you.

So your first step is to identify the professors whose interests are similar to yours. You can simply call the law school, tell them what your interests in law are and ask which professors might have similar interests. You can then use the internet or library to find out what these professors are publishing or what projects they are working on.

The next step is to actually contact the professor and arrange for a meeting. It is best if you can do this in person when you visit the school, but if you aren't going to be able to visit, or if your visit is a long way away, it is ok to arrange a phone meeting. While your research so far would be enough to be able to say, "I'm interested in Professor Jones' work with legal rights of unwed mothers", a personal meeting has some important additional benefits.

The main purpose of a personal meeting is so that someone at the school actually knows you. You will be competing with students who did their undergraduate work at the school. When the committee reviews the applications, you may be among three or four candidates who all look equally good. How will the committee decide? If someone on the committee knows one of the students and has a favorable impression, while noone knows the other candidates, the known candidate probably has the best chance.

There are yet other benefits of meeting professors. First, it can help solidify your decision as to which schools would be the best. If you really like some professors and don't like others, this makes a difference. Secondly, the professor may give you some insights into what the school is looking for and who else you should talk to, as well as what the school really has to offer you.

Ok, that's the Why. Now, How do you do this? You will be asking the professor for maybe 15 minutes of their time. You can call or email to ask for an appointment. It is not unusual for professors to be very busy and a bit absent minded. If you don't get a response, don't take it as a rejection. They have most likely gotten overwhelmed or misplaced your message. It is fine to call back and ask when would be a good time to call them to arrange a meeting or phone appointment. If you really have trouble getting a good response, you might ask the school secretary to help you arrange a time.

Once you are actually there (or on the phone) meeting with the professor, your plan should be to ask them about their interests and what projects they are working on and to, basically, just listen and ask questions. They will probably ask you about yourself at some point. Be prepared to BRIEFLY summarize your interest. Then you can ask them what the school might have to offer you, ask if they have any advice for you on your career plans and on getting accepted, and ask who else you might talk to at the school.

Afterwards, be sure to write a thank you note. It is good to keep in touch with this person periodically, either asking about projects they are working on or talking about issues or questions relevant to your mutual areas of interest. Do NOT ask the professor to put in a good word for you. They will do this on their own if they are inclinded to. You can, when the application period has closed, contact the professor, let them know that you have completed your application and done your best, let them know that you are still very serious about the school and ask if there is anything else they would recommend you doing. This would be their cue to speak up on your behalf if they are inclined to.

If you do a special research project, you might let the professor know about it and ask if they have any suggestions.

You should meet at least one and if possible every professor at a school whose interests are similar to yours. You should do this for each school you are serious about.

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