While not particularly complicated, the process of applying to law school can be very time-consuming. The following sections will help guide you through the process.
Generally, preparation for the law school application process should begin about a year and a half prior to your intended start date in law school. However, as early as possible, you should visit LSAC.org to familiarize yourself with the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and CAS (Credential Assembly Service).
Once you are ready to prepare for the application process, you will need to follow a timeline similar to the one described below. Keep in mind that the following is a general timeline, and that the LSAT is administered various times throughout the year.
If you need assistance in developing a timeline, or if you have any special circumstances that may impact your application process, please schedule an appointment with one of your pre-law advisors, Tanya Higuera or Miguel Moran-Lanier.
April 1st (if you haven’t started already)
- Start requesting letters of recommendation.
- This is not too early, considering many professors may be away during summer.
- Decide how you will prepare for the LSAT over the summer.
- If you intend to prepare on your own, avail yourself of any books and other materials you will need. If you intend to enroll in an LSAT preparation course, begin researching companies, cost, deadlines, and summer scheduling.
- Start drafting your resume and personal statement.
- It is wise to begin this process early. Many students find that writing the personal statement is more difficult and time-intensive than they expected.
- LSAT preparation
- Two to three months of concentrated preparation are generally recommended. During your preparation period, try to completely eliminate, or reduce, your other commitments.
- Follow up with your professors regarding your letters of recommendation.
- Finalize your resume and personal statement.
Late September / Early October
- Take the LSAT.
- Your score will be posted two to three weeks after your test date.
By the end of October
- Submit all of your law school applications through the CAS.
- Keep in mind that the CAS mostly applies to ABA-accredited law schools.
- Contact each school directly for any additional application instructions.
Late Fall through Early Spring
- During this time period, you can expect to receive law school admission decisions for the following fall.
- The timing of admissions decisions varies. While some students receive quick decisions, others may be waitlisted and learn of their final admissions decisions in the spring. Occasionally, a student will not receive a decision until the summer.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) manages the online application process for law schools. This means that, when applying to most law schools, you will submit your applications and other required documents through LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) rather than submitting directly to each school. In addition to CAS, LSAC offers a wealth of information about law school in general, including the dates of upcoming recruitment events and tips for finding the ‘right’ law school.
The CAS Process
Generally, as part of the application process through the LSAC, students will:
- Create a CAS account
- Make a reservation to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
- Submit a personal statement
- Submit letters of recommendation
- Submit a resume
- Submit other optional documentation as needed
The LSAC resources below provide detailed information regarding the application process, deadlines, fees, and other important considerations:
LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) main page http://www.lsac.org/default.asp
CAS (Credential Assembly Service) http://www.lsac.org/JD/apply/cas.asp
LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) http://www.lsac.org/JD/LSAT/about-the-LSAT.asp
Most law schools require the submission of a personal statement along with your application materials. While writing a personal statement may seem like a straightforward task, many students find that this exercise is more difficult than they previously estimated. Before you begin writing your personal statement, review the tips and considerations listed in the panels below—and, most importantly, begin the writing process as early as possible.
“Personal Statement” v.” Statement of Purpose”
Some general references providing advice for admission to graduate or professional programs may use the terms personal statement and statement of purpose interchangeably, but these are very different statements. A true personal statement is just that: an essay that is personal and explores any aspect of the writer’s life or experiences. A statement of purpose, however, usually conveys the writer’s specific purposes for pursuing a particular field, program, school, etc.
Generally, law schools will ask you to submit a personal statement. An added complexity is that some law schools also will include specific prompts to guide your writing. Depending on a school’s prompts, you may end up writing a hybrid statement—part personal statement, part statement of purpose. The key is to read each school’s instructions carefully to make sure that your statement is tailored to its specifications. If you are unsure about what to write, do not guess or attempt to weave each school’s prompt into a single document. Short of an in-person interview—which is rare to non-existent—this is your only way for an admissions officer to get to know you.
Following the tips below can help to ensure that your personal statement is clear, substantive, and engaging:
- Depth over Breadth – Your personal statement should not exceed the specified page limit, so you will be unable to condense your entire biography. Instead, highlight and develop the most important ideas.
- Specific Examples over General Statements – Specific examples will make your personal statement more interesting, memorable, and clear.
- Clear Points over General Points – Ask questions about what you are writing—who, what, why, where, etc.—and try to answer them as you craft sentences.
- Substance over Style – Avoid using the “hooks” or devices recommended in how-to books. Law school admissions committees are likely to have seen them before. Instead, aim for a clear and well-written statement that focuses on you rather than gimmicks.
- Personal Significance over “Marketing” – Instead of guessing about what you think law schools most want to know, discuss the ideas and experiences that are most significant to you.
Most ABA-accredited law schools and many non-ABA accredited law schools require a letter of recommendation (LOR) as part of the law school application process. Many also will accept an evaluation, with some schools even requiring both. Unfortunately, there is no quick reference that will tell you each school’s requirements. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you contact individual law schools directly to find out if both a LOR and an evaluation are required.
If you have any specific questions about LORs or evaluations, please consult your UCSB pre-law advisor.
What is an evaluation?
An evaluation is a form that allows a person to rate your fitness for law school. Using a scale, your chosen evaluator will indicate his/her opinion about the degree to which you possess the skills and personal attributes needed for the law profession. Evaluation forms are available through LSAC’s CAS (Credential Assembly Service).
Important questions to ask each law school:
The most important question to ask each law school is, “Does your school require both LORs and evaluations?”
If the answer to the above question is, “yes,” then you should also ask the questions listed below:
- “Can the same individual complete both an LOR and an evaluation (or, is this considered redundant)?”
- “In the eyes of your school’s admissions committee, is it the LOR or the evaluation that carries more weight?” (The answer to this question will help you to choose your recommenders/evaluations wisely.)
Choosing a recommender or evaluator:
Ideally, a recommender or evaluator is someone with whom you have spent a considerable amount of time in an academic or professional setting. This person should be able to provide meaningful information about you, specifically regarding your:
- Work ethic
- Analytic abilities
- Level of professionalism
- Unique personal attributes
- Skills and strengths
Some law schools, as well as many other graduate schools, will ask for some form of academic and disciplinary clearance. Depending on the school, this statement could have several possible titles, which may include: “Dean’s Certification,” “Disciplinary Clearance,” “Statement of Undergraduate Dean,” or something similar.
The information requested in these forms varies slightly, but most have the two basic elements to address: your undergraduate disciplinary record and any history of academic probation.
Check each law school’s website to find out what type of statement is needed, when it is due, and how it should be submitted—whether by form or written letter. Please note: these forms or letters are not part of your law school application process through the LSAC and are filed with law schools directly.
Submiting a standard Dean's Certification/Disciplinary Clearance request (never on academic probation):
The Office of Student Contact (located in the 2nd floor of SRB) maintains all disciplinary records. To submit a standard Dean's Certification request for graduate schools, including law school, please email your form for a given school with your portion completed to StudentConduct@sa.ucsb.edu.
For students that have been on academic probation at any point at UCSB:
A very small number of law schools may request a letter from UCSB addressing your academic probation status at any point during your studies at UCSB. These law schools include Cardozo, Columbia, Duke, NYU, Stanford and USC, among very few others. If you have been specifically asked by one of these law school to submit a letter addressing your academic probation while at UCSB, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our pre-law advisors will check in with you to let you know we are processing your request.
The law schools that request a statement addressing your probation status while at UCSB do not provide a form for this process. When you email your request to us, please make sure to include the name and address of the law school/s and include your LSAC ID number.