Applying to law school

Apply to law school through the Credential Assembly Service, an arm of the Law School Admissions Council (or LSAC). The CAS provides a means of centralizing and standardizing academic records from all undergraduate schools to simplify and streamline admission to U.S. law schools.

Letters of recommendation

The LSAC provides a letter of recommendation collection service. Use of the service is optional unless a school specifically states it is mandatory. (Students not wanting to use this service can elect to have their individual letter writers send letters directly in to the admissions office of each law school to which they apply. Please provide a stamped, addressed envelope for each school to each recommender.)

The LSAC online account allows you to have your recommendation letters sent to law schools based on each school’s requirements or preferences and to direct letters intended for specific schools. The LSAC allows you to submit up to four general letters to be sent to every school to which you apply.
These general letters require applicants to identify recommenders, print out pre-filled recommendation forms generated by the service and provide the forms to the chosen recommenders. Recommenders must complete the form, sign the letter, insert it into his or her envelope and send it directly to LSAC. The service will send general letters to law schools in the order in which they are received.

To ensure a strong recommendation, you should give each letter writer a personal profile or a copy of your resume. Recommenders should:

  • Know you well.
  • Be able to speak well of your intelligence, personality, and motivation toward your chosen career.
  • Have worked with you in an academic/professional capacity (except for peer/character recommendations) and who can speak of your academic skills and potential.

Ask for letters early. Some professors take quite a while to write and submit the letters. It is your responsibility to make sure each program receives the letters by the appropriate deadline. Find out if professors will be at VCU over the summer. If not, ask for the letters well before they leave. Give letter writers one to two months’ notice to write letters or fill out evaluation forms. Provide very specific instructions on where to send them. If postage is required, be sure to provide it to the person who agreed to write a letter.

It’s a good idea to consider people other than professors who might write a strong recommendation. Often, letter writers are advisors to student organizations or lawyers who were shadowed for a significant period (as opposed to one or two weeks). Other letters can come from supervisors or co-workers.

Preparing a personal statement or addendum

All schools require a personal statement, and each has its own instructions. Your personal statement is your opportunity to expound upon experiences not represented in other parts of the application. Perhaps you interned for a lawyer, judge, or politician, or volunteered a lot of hours, but what kind of experiences did you gain? Think about how your experiences have motivated you to pursue a career in the legal profession. Express unique qualities or experiences you have that you would like the committee to consider.

Personal statement tips

  • Proofread each essay before copying and pasting to your application! Many students have been denied admission simply because they forgot to properly identify the school to which they were applying.
  • Quality is more important than quantity.
  • Make sure the essay is typed (paper applications). Do not squeeze the lines together to make a long essay fit — shorten the essay.
  • Have others read your essay, ask them to comment on grammatical errors and also on your sincerity. Do you come across as the person you really are?
  • Creativity and quality are important, but you are not expected to write a masterpiece. It should be apparent that you can express yourself well, but do not try to “woo” the admission committee with big words and elaborate descriptions. Be genuine.
  • Try to stick with why you are interested in the legal profession and your experiences. Do not try to use this as an essay to review the political process, strengths and weaknesses of the legal profession, or current trends in the courts. This essay is intended to provide details about you, not your chosen profession.
  • If you are reapplying, write a new personal statement. Show that you are willing to put effort into your new application or how you have grown as an applicant.
  • Once you complete the first draft of your personal statement, make an appointment with a career adviser to review your progress.

Volunteer/legal experience

Volunteering or interning in a legal setting will bolster your application to law school and help to demonstrate your interest in pursuing law as a profession. Search for law-related internships in HireVCURams or consider applying the Wilder School Capital Semester program, a semester-long fellowship at the General Assembly.

Shadowing lawyers or judges is the best way to learn about the legal profession, and the best way to get shadowing opportunities is to ask! Research firms, companies, and agencies that will develop your interests. For volunteer legal experience, contact the clerk’s office at a local court and research law firms that specialize in an area that appeals to you.

Talk with a career adviser about other opportunities to gain legal experience be your begin the application process. Regardless of what each school requires for admission, it’s important to get legal experience so that you know as much as possible about your chosen profession at the time that you apply.

Standardized tests (LSAT)

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools and many non-ABA-approved law schools. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year at hundreds of locations around the world.
Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier — in June or October — is often advised.

How to prepare for the LSAT

Taking a free, timed, practice LSAT is always a good idea, so that a benchmark score is available to help determine preparedness for the actual test. The key to success on the LSAT is preparation. Self-disciplined applicants may decide to self-study. Others might consider a LSAT preparation course. Testing dates can be found on the LSAC Web site.

LSAT information and preparation courses:

Transcript requests

Transcripts from all course work completed at VCU and other undergraduate institutions must be sent to LSDAS. Transcript requests are filed with the Office of Records and Registration.

Dean’s certification

Most schools request a Dean’s Certification. These are obtained from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity.

Application timeline

Please consider gaining valuable post-baccalaureate experience before applying to law school. Law school is a tremendous and worthwhile investment which requires careful consideration. While you can always work to enhance your credentials (both legal and otherwise), you are strongly encouraged to become engaged in the application process 18 months before starting law school. VCU recommends that students apply to law school a full year before planning to enter a program.

Spring (15 months before starting law school)

  • Research law schools of interest
  • Meet with your career adviser to being discussing your options
  • Prepare (throughout the spring semester) and register for June LSAT

Summer (12 months before starting law school)

  • Take June LSAT or prepare for October LSAT
  • Attend the LSAC Law School Forum in Washington, D.C.
  • Contact VCU alumni currently attending law school or working in a law-related profession
  • Subscribe to and send college transcripts to CAS
  • Gather law school application materials
  • Write, rewrite and polish personal statement
  • Talk and clarify goals with potential recommenders

Fall (application for following fall enrollment)

  • Take October LSAT, if necessary
  • Request dean’s certification forms from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Affairs.
  • Request recommenders send evaluations or letters of recommendation to CAS
  • Complete and send applications before December 1
  • Winter (before, during, or after applying)
  • Take December or February LSAT, if necessary
  • File financial aid applications
  • Send an updated transcript with fall term grades