Law schools in USA (United States)
There are no undergraduate law degrees in the US. A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to get into law school. Schools don’t have a stated preference for any particular undergraduate major, so graduation from any stream is good enough. However, some majors have more currency than others, and you would do well to choose these majors at the undergraduate level.
One survey has it that economics, journalism, and philosophy majors have a higher rate of acceptance. Marketing, sociology, accounting, liberal arts, finance, English, history, political science, and even engineering are also supposedly good.
Counter-intuitively, majoring in criminal justice or prelaw may not win you any favors. One reason may be that law schools prefer students from streams very different from law.
An online article advises you to “diversify your mind,” and study “something other than law before getting into law school.” But the writer cautions that “not every non-law major is more acceptable as a prerequisite for law school.”
Passing the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is another major component of getting into law school to earn your Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which is mandatory to practice law in the US and takes three years to complete for full-time students.
The LSAT scores help admission officers evaluate the quality of a candidate and tests reasoning, analytical and critical thinking, reading comprehension, information management, and argumentation. The LSAT doesn’t test factual information on any subject.
The LSAT, which was offered five times in 2018, consists of six sections of 35 minutes each: four scored multiple-choice sections of 35 minutes each, an unscored experimental section, and an unscored writing test.
The test fee in 2018-19 was $190, but there are additional costs for registering for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS, $195), providing additional score report ($45 each), etc.
Note that the LSAT differs from LSAT-India. Though both exams have a similar format, LSAT-India is shorter and useful for applying to law schools only in India.
Focusing on your studies for a great GPA is essential. According to one source, the mean GPA for law school admission is 3.42. Elite schools have higher requirements: for example, Yale 3.9, Harvard 3.89, and Stanford 3.85.
As for extracurricular activities, the depth of your involvement matters, not the number of activities, and you should go into programs right away and not just in your senior year.
Join the programs of prestigious nonprofits, participate in student government or campus magazine work, and use your leadership skills.
Among other factors that may influence admission are community service, organizational affiliations, and recommendations from legal professionals, alumni, and educators.
In the law school admission process, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) can serve you as a great resource of information.
Internship, summer job
Try to intern at a law firm, a media house, or a community organization. Plan ahead and use the resources of you campus career services. If you cannot afford to take up an unpaid internship, go for a summer job in a related field.
Don’t lose yourself so much in the preparation so that you miss deadlines. For a fall admission, take the LSAT in the previous December. Get recommendations well in advance.
Choice of schools
The next step is to identify schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Search for schools that offer specialties that you’re interested in, such as criminal or family law.
Note that some schools have strong regional placement programs, while others have national and international placements.
Aim high for “reach schools” (the best schools) but also keep in mind schools where you have a realistic chance (“safety” schools).
Don’t overburden yourself with a huge education loan, so analyze the fee and other expenses involved. Ask for a fee waiver for merit or economic need, or other reasons.
You can create an LSAC account that will remind you about deadlines, tell you about LSAT and study materials, and give your test scores early.
The CAS is part of your LSAC account and will send your graduation details, documents, LSAT score, and writing sample to the law schools that you apply to.
You can use the LSAC account to apply, but make sure you provide your LSAT score, education information, transcripts and other evaluation, and recommendations to LSAC.
The application fee is $40-$100.
Give yourself time to fill in your basic information and write your personal statement.
Request your transcripts well in advance from your undergraduate university registrar, keep your recommendations ready, and complete your applications in good time for application deadlines that usually fall between January and April.
Response from schools
It may take weeks to hear from the schools, so consider using the time properly, without worrying about your chances.
In order to be ready for a “no,” and to improve your candidature the next time around, consider taking the LSAT again (you can appear thrice in a two-year period), working for some time, or joining graduate school.
But be positive and remember that a rejection won’t be the end of your world.
Getting a Juris Doctor degree is expensive. The average annual tuition fee in 2018-19 was $49,095 at private law schools in the US, and $40,725 and $27,591 at public schools (out-of-state and in-state, respectively).
Among private schools, the highest fee was at Columbia University (NY) $69,916 and the lowest at the University of Tulsa (OK) $25,254.
Among public schools (out-of-state fee), the highest was at the University of Virginia at $63,700 and the lowest at the Northern Illinois University at $22,179. Living expenses can be around $12,000 a year.
Top law schools in USA
The top law schools in USA include Yale University, Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Chicago and Columbia University.
Becoming a lawyer in USA
In the US, besides earning a JD degree, you need to pass the two-day Bar Exam, which consists of the Multistate Bar Examination on day one and an exam that covers legal aspects on day two.
Before granting license, the state board of bar examiners also evaluate your other credentials.
Note that the bar exam should be taken in a particular jurisdiction where your employer’s office is located and where you intend to practice.
The median private sector salary in the US in 2017 was $72,500 (salary range $48,000-$180,000) and the median public sector salary $54,550 (range $40,000-$90,518).
ROI and other concerns
If you are calculating return on investment, you may face a dilemma in school selection. While safety schools may offer scholarships, they may not offer the same job prospects of top-tier schools.
On the other hand, private schools with job prospects and high salaries may burden you with huge student loans.
As a law school aspirant, you should be sure that you will enjoy the job of a lawyer. But keep in mind that the focus on “billable hours” may make work-life balance difficult to achieve.
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– Law schools in Canada
– Law schools in United Kingdom (UK)
– Law schools in India
– Law schools in Australia
– Law Schools in Singapore