Category Archives: Applying to Law School

Law School or Work…

By Vanessa

If you are a college senior interested in attending law school you may be torn over whether you should go to law school right way or take a break to pursue other opportunities. My senior year of college I decided to find full-time employment instead of applying to a graduate degree; in hindsight I believe I made the right decision.

My first piece of advice to college seniors torn over this decision is to take time off if they are not confident that law school, or any graduate program for that matter, is the appropriate path for them. I actually was not planning to pursue a legal degree after my senior year of college. I was a business economics major, and I thought a doctorate program may be the next step in my education. I did not apply because I had no extensive experience in academic research, and I wanted to explore what would be in store for me if I did pursue a graduate degree in economics.

This brings me to my second piece of advice; before you decide what graduate program to enter, have a true sense of the nature of the employment opportunities that may be available to you when you graduate. It is entirely possible for you to like a subject and not be happy as a practitioner in that field.  I came to understand this when I joined the research associate program at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York the summer after I graduated from college. In this program research associates have the opportunity to assist economists with their research and policy analysis. I quickly realized that I did not want my job objective to be the publication of journal articles, which is how I ruled out the prospect of pursuing a graduate degree in economics.

My third piece of advice is to align your strengths with the skills required by the profession you decide to enter. From working at the Federal Reserve, I realized I was interested in policy work and regulation related to the financial sector. I want to pursue opportunities that entail public speaking or interfacing with others regularly. Lastly, I enjoy qualitative analysis more than quantitative analysis; law school allows me to utilize these skills and pursue these interests.

If I had not taken time off I do not think I would have attended law school. I probably would have started a graduate program that I was not well suited for. My work experience allowed me to come to law school with a narrow interest in the areas of law I want to explore and an awareness of alternative employment opportunities for lawyers in the public sector.

My last word of advice is if you know law school is for you then go for it, but if you are hesitant there is not much lost in taking some time off and the sense of clarity and direction you can gain in that time could be worthwhile. If you have any questions regarding this topic please email wls@law.illinois.edu and we would be happy to assist you.


Champion of Champaign: Benefits of Being a Double Illini

With all the different aspects of applying to law schools choosing where to send your application is probably one of the least stressful, but is a very important decision. There are some very helpful materials put out on law school websites and LSAC, listing law school stats. The information is out there, but before you look you need to know what you are looking for in a law school.

As a junior at the University of Illinois junior, checking the box on my LSAT to apply to U of I was a given. A top 25 law school? And it is close to one of the three largest legal markets (Chicago) without the big-city cost of living?

I know some people have the soybean-field blues after several years in Champaign-Urbana in undergrad. However, I would urge you not to dismiss all the things that go on the “pro” side of your list about being a Double Illini. For example, in typical law school outline fashion:

1. Not having to adjust to a new city = less stress

  • 1L year is stressful enough without having to think about housing, parking, doctors, etc.
  • Undergrad study spots that you used during finals can be your go-to study spot away from the law school
  • Bus system is already mastered – we all know how to get around on the 22

2. Fantastic alumni

  • If you thought U of I Undergraduate Alumni  were eager to help out, wait until you meet College of Law alums. Many of them have offered themselves as a mentor to U of I students. Women’s Law Society (“WLS”), for example, has a mentorship program that pairs female alumni with current law students.
  • Our alumni are spread out. Of course you can find the greatest number of them in Illinois, but our alumni mentoring program can link you with an alum in nearly any state or major city.
  • There are alumni panels practically every month, provided by our diverse collection of student organizations. For example Corporate Business Law Association (CBLA) had an alumni panel to discuss the 4 major Midwestern legal markets (Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Milwaukee) and what it is like to practice in these cities.
  • Illinois also has a Student- Alumni Career Conference, which I definitely recommend attending. The day consists of numerous breakout sessions regarding the career paths an attorney can take. Students can also participate in a mock interview with a current practicing attorney.

3. The sense of Community

  • We all hear horror stories of law school. Ripping pages out of books? Not here. I remember being cold-called on in my 1L contracts class when I was, ahem, a little under-prepared. Before I freaked out, I let my neighbors know this and a neighbor’s case brief popped up in my inbox before the teacher finished his question.
  • Not every law student can say that they play softball with the faculty. If you decide to play (competitively or taking it in stride), over half of the school is involved in softball. It’s always fun to be engaged in some stress relief from studying by participating in softball.
  • Softball isn’t your style? You’ll find the rest of your classmates at Beer League Darts. Or basketball. Or the running club. Because we’re not a commuter school students are constantly looking to participate in activities together. Commuting can prevent friendships from forming – whether over bus rides to school, soft drinks and cookies at Peer’s Pub (every Thursday in the Pavilion), study rooms in the library or any of the various clubs.

4. The Professors

  • Our faculty could teach anywhere in the nation, but they choose the University of Illinois. One of my professors clerked for Justice Powell and another clerked for the current Justice Sotomayor. These professors chose to come to U of I for its accepting atmosphere, brilliant faculty and eager students.
  • One of the major factors in my decision to stay at U of I was my first experience in a law school classroom. One professor allowed me to sit in on his criminal law class when I was trying to decide on which law school to attend. Thankfully he didn’t call on me, but after that he made himself available for any questions I had about the law school. I was amazed that the professor made the time to answer my questions when he did not have to.
  • The faculty is well-rounded. Bankruptcy? Criminal law? International law? Corporate law? We’ve got it all. You can read how impressive they are at the new College of Law website.

I hope this article assists students who are thinking about going to law school at their undergraduate alma mater. I would love for anybody who is thinking about coming to University of Illinois College of Law (regardless of where they are studying or working now) to post a comment and ask questions.

– Kate, 2L

RSVP to Women In Law Day

RSVP today to attend Women in Law Day!

The Women’s Law Society at the University of Illinois would like to assist females interested in law school by hosting Women In Law Day on November 6th from 9:30am-2pm at the University of Illinois College of Law. Women In Law Day is an opportunity for females to ask questions about applying to law school, the LSAT, the personal statement  and what it is really like to be a law student. Attendees ask current law students what worked for them in their application and speak with Dean Pless, Assistant Dean of Law School Admissions, to receive practical insight into the admissions process. There will also be an opportunity to ask professors questions about their experience in the legal field and what you can look forward to when you are in law school. This is a great opportunity for students interested in law school to meet UofI law students and receive unique insight into the admissions process that will be invaluable.

Make sure to RSVP today!


Thinking About Graduating Early and Going to Law School?

For those of you thinking about graduating early and going to law school, WLS has some tips for you!

Graduating early and going to law school is possible. Illinois has a variety of students who are coming back after long careers in the workforce and some who have graduated one year, even two years early. People who graduate early are not at a disadvantage in law school as long as they work hard. However, graduating early and attending law school is not for everyone. Some questions you should ask yourself and some insight from students who have gone to law school early.

1. What else do I want to accomplish in undergrad?

If you still have some unfinished business in undergrad such as you want to be the president of your organization then you should think hard about graduating early. This isn’t a rush to the finish line. Law school will be there this year and next year and if there are things you still want to participate in or accomplish then graduating early might not be the right fit.

2. Are you ready to go into the “real world”?

Some people tend to say to themselves – I’ll go to grad school it’s not like I’m going out into the real world. While law school can be extremely fun, especially Barn Dance, it is the first part of your professional career. To be successful in law school, most students treat it like a job and not undergrad. Make sure you are ready for that because for some it can be a large change. Realize that you are also going to be in a different place then your friends who are still in undergrad. Even if you attend the same law school as you did in undergrad you will not be able to hang out with your friends as much as before. Sometimes they don’t understand your busy schedule especially around finals because they don’t have the same time commitments.

Some insight from students who graduated early to attend law school:

-I was worried at first that it would be more difficult for me to succeed in law school because of my age. I did not find that to be true. In some aspects older students who have prior work experience can relate better because of their experiences, however, law school largely depends on your hard work. If you dedicate yourself to your studies and put in 100% effort you can be just as successful as your classmates who are older. Older students might not have to spend as much time to learn the material as younger students, but as long as you put in hard work you will be fine.

Graduating early and going to law school is doable, but you need to step back and evaluate before you make that step. If you are interested in asking more questions about going to law school early and applying, attend Women In Law Day!

A Look into the Basics for Applying to Law School

Below is an interview with two law students about the basics of applying to law school. It is a must read if you are interested in applying to law school.

How many schools did you apply to?

Laura: 9

Kim: 10

Did you visited the schools you applied to?

Laura: I visited one school I was very interested in before I heard about my acceptance. But, most of the schools I visited were after I already got accepted to the school and I needed help making my decision.

Kim: I visited a majority of the schools I was accepted to. It’s virtually impossible to know the environment of the law school and the personalities of the students and faculty if you don’t visit the school. I highly recommend going to admitted students days or taking a tour of the law school. It’s like you wouldn’t be a car without seeing it first. Law school is an enormous investment. You need to make sure that the law school you choose is going to be the right fit for you and it’s not just the best ranked school or the cheapest. Even though low tuition is very important. 🙂

What should an applicant look for in a law school?

Laura: There were a few things that were very important to me. First, I looked at the schools employment rate. With this economy I felt it was very important to go to a strong school with a good employment percentage. Also, I would like to work in the Chicago-land area, and it was important that I went to a school that had a large amount of alumni in Illinois and around the Midwest. Furthermore, I looked at the faculty that worked at the law school and they type of classes that were taught. Last I looked at which school could give me the most for my money. Law school is expensive and I needed to make sure I would get the most for my investment.

Kim: My experience was very similar to Laura’s. I knew that I wanted to work in the midwest when I graduated so I applied to primarily midwestern schools. The prestige and reputation of the school is also something important to think about. You can go on NALP’s website and see what firms are interviewing at what law schools. The staff also was very important to me. Without professors who are willing to have open door policies or understanding administration your law school career can be rather difficult.

Why did you choose University of Illinois?

Laura: First and foremost it is a great school. It one of the best schools in Illinois and it has a nationwide presence. Also, even though I want to work in Chicago, I didn’t want the distractions that came with living in the city. Law school involves a lot of work, so I loved the idea of having the simple quiet life when I needed it, but also having a lot of activities to choose from when I went out. Champaign was the best of both worlds. Last, I felt that becoming a lawyer was going to be my lifetime profession. So I owed it to myself to go to a great school with amazing faculty that could prepare me for my future.

Kim: I knew virtually nothing about the University of Illinois before I attended their admitted students day. By the time I left admitted students day I knew there was no other law school that I would attend. During lunch we were at a table with a professor and the professor knew all of our names and where we went to undergrad. I said to myself if the professor is going to spend that much effort just for admitted students, what is he going to do when I’m a student. The professors here want to develop relationships with you and want to help you in any way they can whether it’s in class or through your job search. There was also a drive at UofI, that showed you the administration was dedicated to taking Illinois to the next level and I wanted to be a part of that.

What advice would you give to someone applying to law school?

Laura: Schools care a lot about their numbers. If you still have time, work hard at getting a solid GPA, and take a lot of time to study for the LSAT. The better these two scores are the easier the application process will be. If you do not have the right LSAT number or the right GPA, then you need to work very hard at impressing them in other areas. The writing sample is a great place to stand out and prove that you are a unique individual that could add a great deal to the classroom. Also, if you have not heard back from a school, then it is a good idea to email or write them a letter to inform them that you are still very interested and that you would accept an admissions offer immediately (But only write this if it is true!).

Kim: Look at the cost and look at what jobs the students are receiving. Contrary to popular belief, every law student does not receive a starting salary at 160K a year. If you do not want to work in big law, you really need to think about the amount of money your spending on law school. Also, this may seem like a silly question but ask yourself if you really want to go to law school. Law school is not easy and it is going to be a lot more difficult if you do not like the material. In the long run you will spend too much effort and money into something that won’t pay off because you are not interested in the field. That’s not to say it isn’t a fantastic stepping stone for other fields but realize what it will take to make it through the next 3 years. I love law school and a majority of the time it’s fun and it’s exciting, but I also really enjoy the material.

Demystifying the Personal Statement

Okay, so in an attempt to demystify the personal statement for applying to law school, I thought I would make a couple of basic observations:

The personal statement is NOT a recapitulation of your resume in narrative form. The admissions counselors  will already know from your other extensive documentation that you graduated first in your high school class, that you worked in the same local law firm every summer since you were 15, and that you are currently serving as president of 7 student organizations on your college campus.

In the same vein, the personal statement is NOT meant to be self-congratulatory. There are A LOT of smart, accomplished, and talented people in the admissions pool. Distinguish yourself by being one with a little bit of modesty.

The personal statement is NOT your opportunity to show the law school everything you know about the practice and/or the study of law. Doing so could be problematic for two reasons: First, you have not yet studied the law and you are therefore not qualified to speak to legal issues at the same level as your reader (admissions counselors often have earned JDs and practiced themselves). Second, and perhaps more importantly, you risk sounding one-dimensional.

The personal statement IS your opportunity to do some serious reflection about who you are and where you would like to go next. Don’t be afraid to show admissions counselors a vulnerable side. As a caveat, though, if you do decide to talk about a difficult experience in your life, be careful not to fall into “victim” mode. For whatever challenges you choose to mention, you have surely grown because of them. Focus on that growth.

The personal statement IS your chance to give the counselor a sense for who you are as a person. What are your core values and where did they come from? What life experience has shaped you into the person you are today? At many law schools, there is no requirement that your personal statement has anything to do with your interest in practicing law. I would urge you to take that freedom if it is offered to you. At Illinois, we are more than just law students and future practitioners; we’re people, too! Law schools want to stack their classrooms with thoughtful, enthusiastic, and engaged citizens… not just number droids.

Finally—and this should go without saying—the personal statement IS your opportunity to show the admissions counselor that you write well. Law school is about ideas—both dreaming them up and communicating them to an audience. Whether you’re writing about your hike up Kilimanjaro or your volunteer work in a local women’s shelter, make sure that your 500-word allocation is in pristine condition before hitting the “UPLOAD” button. I would suggest writing over a couple of days and reading through the document before and after each day’s work. You’ll catch more errors that way than if you try and compose your personal statement in one evening. And once you’re done, a friend’s critical eye is a valuable asset!

In sum, the personal statement is your chance to come alive on paper. In a system where most law schools don’t grant interviews, this is your chance to humanize yourself. Take full advantage of the opportunity.

Best of luck!

Written by: Anna Konradi, 2L

Recipe For Success In Law School Admissions

As you glance at your LSAT prep book and dread the idea of looking at one more logic problem, you probably are asking yourself, “What is the recipe for success in law school admissions?” The simple answer: there is no one way that you make yourself an attractive applicant.  Each year, law schools receive more applications than the number of spots available in the incoming class. In order to receive one of those coveted acceptance letters, you must do something to distinguish yourself.

Ideally, you would have a perfect GPA, 180 on the LSAT, recommendations from the most prestigious professors at your university, and a well-written and compelling personal statement. Realistically, most people are not so fortunate.

In the upcoming posts, we will focus on the steps you can take as an applicant to increase your success throughout the application process. In this four-part series, we will discuss the general components of your application, namely, the LSAT, personal statement, recommendations, and academic achievement.

In the meantime, don’t forget that the agony that you are experiencing will pay off in the end when you get into law school, spend three years sweating over cases and law review notes, and eventually become a first-year associate, only to realize that you are qualified to do document review, not to take a deposition or argue in front of the Supreme Court.

On a more serious note, have fun.  Law school is challenging, but it will also be one of the best times of your life when you will inevitably meet some of the very people who will serve on the Supreme Court, run global law firms, fight national and international epidemics, and be your best friends.  Whether you play softball together, compete in the ABA Negotiation Competition, or are one another’s dates to the University of Illinois College of Law’s annual Barndance, you will find solace in the fact that your classmates are with you for the journey.

With a little bit of effort and pizzazz, you will get accepted to law school, which is only one step, among many, that you will need to take in order to become a successful lawyer.

Written by: Alyse Andalman, 2L at the University of Illinois College of Law

Picture by hartboy.