Freshman and Sophomore Years
- Do law schools look at my cumulative GPA?
- What happens if I have Q dropped, withdrawn, or taken an incomplete for a course?
- Am I automatically accepted if I meet the median GPA and LSAT?
- What do law schools consider besides the LSAT and GPA?
- Can I get into law school with a low GPA?
- Can an international student go to law school?
- What forms do I have to fill out to apply for financial aid?
- What other kinds of financial aid are available?
- How do I find out about joint degree programs or areas of emphasis?
- What is the Dean's Recommendation form?
- What is an LL.M. (Master of Laws) and how does it differ from a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence)?
- In what kinds of settings do lawyers work?
What should I major in to help me get into law school?
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), "students who are successful in law school, and who become accomplished lawyers or use their legal education successfully in other areas of professional life, come to their legal education from widely differing educational and experiential backgrounds. Thus, the ABA does not recommend any particular group of undergraduate majors, or courses, that should be taken by those wishing to prepare for legal education; developing such a list is neither possible nor desirable."
No specific undergraduate major can be recommended. In a real sense, there is no such thing as a "pre-law" major. Your decision regarding a major should be based on personal desires and needs. One approach is to select a major that would prepare you for an occupation other than the law. You can pursue an alternate career in this manner and simultaneously be "preparing" for law school. This will allow you the option of foregoing a legal education for whatever reason, or allow you to pursue an alternative career for a few years before entering law school in order to gain experience and maturity. For example, it is not uncommon for students to choose a major in English, government, business, engineering or math with the intentions of working for a few years before applying to law school.
If you are unsure of what your interests are or of what you might be well suited to, vocational assessments are available to assist you to find direction. Please contact, Rayna Anderson, Pre-Law Career Counselors to discuss questions on major choice and vocational assessments.
The most important aspects of choosing a major are that (a) you choose it, not someone else, and (b) you enjoy the discipline and believe that you can excel in this area academically. Why? A very important criterion for admission to law school is one's GPA. If you select a major based on what someone else wants you to do, there is a high likelihood that you will be unhappy, and your grades will reflect that dissatisfaction. Never choose a major based on the ease of attaining high grades, but it makes sense that you will likely not excel if you have no interest in the subject area.
If you are aware of the type of law you would like to practice, these are majors you might want to consider:
Patent Law: Computer Science or Engineering
Tax Law: Accounting
Corporate Law: Economics or Business
Environmental Law: Geography or Natural Sciences
Medical Law: Health or Natural Sciences
What courses should I take?
There are no specific undergraduate courses required by law schools. Although, there are subject areas that are recommended by law schools from which students should consider taking at least one course sometime during their undergraduate education. The University of Houston does have a list of suggested courses that can help prepare students to do well on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and to begin to prepare students for the rigors of a legal education. See the Guide for Pre-Law students for a list of recommended courses. Your focus as a “pre-law” student is to attain education in the major of your choice while developing skills in the areas of reading, writing, analytical reasoning, critical thinking and logic.
Many courses that will be handy in law school are types that are typically required for graduation. For example, introductory courses in American history and government are essential. Writing- and research-intensive courses are also helpful. Other suggested types would include those that develop or stimulate analytical thinking. Obvious choices in this field would be accounting, economics, math or engineering courses, but don't overlook music theory or English composition. Consider courses that focus on communications skills, such as speech or foreign language classes. Courses in introductory logic or arguments (offered in philosophy, i.e. Introduction to Logic) are also useful, as are many sociology and psychology classes.
Just remember, you will have a number of hours open for electives after finishing requirements for you major. Aim for a broad-based education. Such an education will help you become a better-rounded citizen in the long run.
What do I need to do now besides take classes?
As a freshman or sophomore, there is nothing related to law school admission that is required of you right now. However, these early years will form a foundation that you will build on in your junior and senior years. Focus on your grades so that you'll have a competitive GPA (always do as well as you can, even if you decide to attend a community college for summer courses).
Also, get involved in some extracurricular activities. Join a group on campus that interests you, take a part-time job, and/or volunteer. You may want to check out a law-related student organization to meet other students that are also interested in the legal profession. You may find that many have found resources that you are not currently aware of. If you become involved in a group as a freshman or sophomore, the chances for you to hold a leadership position as a junior or senior will greatly improve.
Research the legal field as much as you can. Make sure that three years of law school will be worth your time, energy, and money. Read books about the law, talk with current law students and lawyers, find an internship or volunteer. The better informed you are about the legal profession the happier you will be in law school.
Internships are great a way to expand your resume and learn more about career fields. As a University of Houston student, you can take advantage of University Career Services, your college career center, professors and advisors to access internship resources.
Get to know your professors and employers. Eventually, you will need to ask those that know you well for a letter of recommendation. Ideally, your recommenders will know something about you that sets you apart form other law school applicants. This does not happen overnight, so start now.
Don't feel obligated to join a law-related group or take a job at a law firm. Find something that interests you. Law schools don't want cookie-cutter classes, full of people who have the exact same experiences. If you can find something that will help set you apart from the crowd, then do it!
When should I take the LSAT?
The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) is administered four times a year in early February, June, October and December. You should not take the test until you've finished your junior year. The ideal time to take the LSAT is in June before your senior year, simply because you typically won't be in school and because you'll have plenty of time to investigate law schools before the application process begins. However, if you are taking time off before law school you may wait to take the LSAT until after graduation.
How do I register for the LSAT?
You can register for the LSAT online through the Law School Admission Council (http://www.lsac.org), or use the registration form included in the LSAT & LSDAS Registration and Information Book (available in University Studies Division, the University Center Information Office and possibly your academic department administration office). Register early in order to increase your chances of obtaining your first choice for a testing location. Houston locations tend to fill up fast.
What is LSDAS and do I have to register for it when I sign up to take the LSAT?
LSDAS is short for the Law School Data Assembly Service. While you aren't required to sign up for LSDAS at the same time as the LSAT, a subscription with LSDAS is required by all law schools when you begin the application process. LSDAS provides a means of centralizing and standardizing undergraduate academic records. LSDAS takes information from your transcripts and assembles your grades into a standard form called the Law School Report. Also, LSDAS compiles your letters of recommendations and sends them along with the Law School Report to each school to which you apply.
You do not need to tell LSDAS where to send your report. Instead, the law schools will request your report after receiving your application. However, you must pay the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) for each report that will be requested. For example, if you are applying to five law schools, you need to make sure that you have paid for that many reports to be sent. These additional reports can be requested either online, by mail, or phone. See the LSAC Web site or LSAT & LSDAS Registration and Information Book for further details. You can register for LSDAS online at www.lsac.org, or by using the registration form in the LSAT & LSDAS Registration and Information Book.
How should I prepare for the LSAT?
There are a number of prep course options available, and University Career Services does not endorse one over the other. If you are very disciplined, you may prepare by using self-study materials. Prep books can be purchased at most bookstores, and many prep materials, including copies of old LSATs with answers and explanations, can be purchased from LSAC. Whatever method you decide on, be sure that you are prepared. Take as many mock LSAT tests under timed conditions as you can.
What else can I do?
Continue to study and keep your grades up. Look for opportunities to gain leadership roles in activities, keeping in mind that you don't necessarily have to be president to be a leader. Begin looking at law schools and what they require in the application process. Also, begin thinking about who would be able to write you good letters of recommendation. Be sure to keep in touch with these professors or employers.
Internships are also great ways to expand your resume and learn more about certain fields. You can access posted internship positions and recurring internship services by registering with UCS. To register, please go to our homepage and review the registration procedures.
I know my GPA and LSAT. Where can I go to find more information about specific schools?
One of the most helpful resources is the ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, which is published annually by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and the American Bar Association. A copy of this book can be found on the LSAC Web site(http://www.lsac.org). Information on average LSAT and GPA for schools is included, along with listings for special programs, tuition rates, and career services.
Another resource is the Boston Law School Locator(http://www.bc.edu/offices/careers/gradschool/law/lawlocator/) as it has a matrix to compare LSAT and GPA scores. The law school links are also active so that you can conduct research into their programs.
Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
Ideally, your recommenders will know something about you that sets you apart from other law school applicants (i.e. research and writing skills, desire to learn, strong work ethic). Most schools will request two or three letters of recommendation, wanting at least one from a professor. Besides the one from a professor, the other two could be from professors, advisors, mentors, employers, or another person who has worked with you. LSDAS, which serves as the clearinghouse for letters of recommendation, will hold up to three letters. Be sure to give your recommenders the Letter of Recommendation form, found in the LSAT & LSDAS Registration and Information Book or online at www.lsac.org, to include with your letter when sending it to LSDAS. Remember, those sent to LSDAS need not be addressed to a specific school since all three will be sent to every law school to which you apply.
Do not ask someone to write a letter for you simply because of who he or she is! A generic letter of recommendation that really says nothing about you as an individual will not significantly help you in the application process, regardless of whose signature is at the bottom.
Some of the schools require a Dean's Certification Letter. What is it and who fills these out?
This form, required by some law schools, is a statement of student disciplinary conduct. The University of Houston Dean of Students office fills out this form.
Where can I get help with my personal statement?
The University Career Services Resource Library has books dedicated to helping you figure out an appropriate personal statement topic. Or, you might want to contact the law schools you are interested in applying to and inquire if they have personal statements that have worked on file. Other resources include the Writing Center. In addition, Rayna Anderson, Pre-Law Career Counselors will critique your personal statement if requested. Please contact for appropriate times to set up an appointment.
Do law schools look at my cumulative GPA?
Yes. Through LSDAS, law schools will be provided with transcripts from every college or university attended along with a cumulative GPA from each one. LSDAS will also combine all GPAs to get an overall GPA. It is up to each law school to interpret the transcripts and the GPA.
What happens if I have dropped, withdrawn, or taken an incomplete for a course?
This will be on your transcript but will not be factored into your overall GPA.
Am I automatically accepted into the law school I have applied to if I meet the median GPA and LSAT?
No, you are not automatically accepted.
What do law schools consider besides the LSAT and GPA?
Law schools also take into account leadership positions you have held since high school, work experience, volunteer experience, your personal statement, your letters of recommendation and anything else personal that distinguishes you from other applicants.
Can I get into law school with a low GPA?
It is possible, however applicants with a GPA below 3.0 may find it very difficult, especially if their LSAT score is average.
Can an international student go to law school?
Yes. Be aware that an international student is not eligible for federal aid. Contact the international student offices of the law schools you are considering for further information about alternative ways to finance your legal education. We also suggest international students inquire as to whether or not they will be able to sit for the Bar exam in the state in which they wish to practice as this may determine where you will choose to go for your legal education.
What forms do I have to fill out to apply for financial aid?
To apply for federal loans, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), www.fafsa.ed.gov. Each law school will have its own kinds of private scholarships and loans, therefore, we suggest you obtain additional information from the schools you are considering. Contact the law school's financial aid office for application deadlines.
What other kinds of financial aid are available?
Private loans such as Access Group loans (www.accessgroup.org) or bank loans are available. In addition, each law school may offer loan or scholarship programs. There are also thousands of private foundations and scholarships; it is your responsibility to research their guidelines and applications procedures.
It may be illuminating for you to learn about your selected law school's "placement rate" for its graduates. Securing employment becomes even more critical when there are large debt burdens looming soon after graduation.
How do I find out about joint degree programs or areas of emphasis?
The NAPLA/SAPLA Book of Law School Lists helps to identify schools. Each law school catalog/application packet will also contain information on its joint degree programs and areas of emphasis.
What is the Dean's Recommendation form?
This form, required by some law schools, is a statement of student disciplinary conduct. The University of Houston Dean of Students office fills out this form.
What is an LL.M. (Master of Laws) and how does it differ from a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence)?
The JD is the first degree that a lawyer will receive and provides a general foundation in the field of law. The LLM is a specialized degree in a particular area which you obtain after first having received your JD.
In what kinds of settings do lawyers work?
Private practice, legal aid/public defender, private industry and association, Federal/state/local government, Federal/state/local judiciary, and education. To find out more information on career fields within the legal profession or alternative careers for individuals with law degrees, utilize resources available in the University Career Services Resource Library, or request an appointment with Rayna Anderson, Pre-Law Career Counselors by email or calling 713-743-5100.