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How to Get Into Top Law Schools: The Ultimate Guide in 2024

 How do you get into law school? 

Getting into the right law school can open doors for you and catapult you to your dream legal career fast. And today, you’ll learn exactly how to apply and get accepted by the top law schools. 

Read on!

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Pre-law requirements

How hard is it to get into top law schools? 

Some of the most competitive law schools have an acceptance rate of under 15%. If you want to get accepted into a top law school, you need an application that stands out. 

First, let’s start with pre-law requirements.

You don’t need a specific major or to complete certain courses as a law school applicant. “Pre-law” just means that you are applying to law school. 

But to get accepted to law school, you do need to complete your application. Every law school has its own requirements, so study your top law schools’ admissions pages carefully to understand what papers you need to send in. 

Typically, you need: 

  • A bachelor’s degree 
  • An LSAT score
  • A complete application (including a personal statement, a resume, letters of recommendation, optional essays, and addendums) 

With your application, you need to demonstrate to the law school that you have the right goals, motivations, and experience to fit into law school. You also need to show them that you have the skills and traits needed for a lawyer, such as leadership, work ethic, creativity, and analytical and writing abilities. 

But before you apply to law school, you need to decide on which law school you want to apply to. How? That’s what we’ll look at next. 

Research your options 

The first step when applying to law school is to find your top law school.

And that law school might not be the same as the top list of law schools. Because, ultimately, what law school you apply to depends on a number of factors. 

These include: 

  • Location: Are you willing to relocate? If not, consider location when applying to law school. 
  • Cost and financial aid: The cost of your law program can exceed $150,000, so you’ll want to make sure it’s an investment that pays off. What are the tuition costs and do they make sense for the career you envision after law school? Can you get financial aid to partly or fully pay for law school? 
  • School offerings: Does the school offer what you’re looking for, whether that’s small classes, networking opportunities, or a well-stocked library? 
  • Program timeline: Are you looking for full-time or part-time programs? 
  • Diversity: Does the law school focus on diversity? 

Ultimately, you’ll also want to evaluate if the law school you’re applying to is the best choice for your career goals. What type of recruiting do they have on and off campus? What’s the average salary of graduating students? 

For example, if you want to work in Biglaw in a competitive city like New York, your best bet is to opt for a T-20 law school. 

But overall employment numbers after law school is an important factor, too. Look at how many applicants are employed a year after graduating when deciding on a law school. 

For example, here are the stats from T-10 law schools 10 months after students graduated: 

University

% of employed students 10 months after they graduated 

Stanford University

87%

Yale University

79.8%

University of Chicago

95.3%

University of Pennsylvania (Carey)

93%

Duke University

96.8%

Harvard University

88%

New York University

93.3%

Columbia University

96.3%

University of Virginia

93.4%

Northwestern University (Pritzker)

94.1%

Get a Bachelor's degree 

Once you know which law school you want to apply to, you can start planning your overall application.

Having a bachelor's degree is a requirement for getting accepted into law school. 

But you don’t need to have a specific major or courses. In fact, majoring in a law-related field, like criminal justice, won’t help your prospects.

As law is related to everything, even a major that can seem really unrelated (like engineering or music) is relevant. Pursuing an uncommon degree can even help you stand out among all the other applicants.

Ultimately, your best bet is to choose a major that interests you – along with a broad selection of courses. 

For example, Harvard says: 

Harvard Law School considers applications from all undergraduate majors. There are no fixed requirements with respect to the content of pre-legal education. The nature of a candidate’s college work, as well as the quality of academic performance, are reviewed in the selection process. However, in preparing for law school, a broad college education is usually preferable to one that is narrowly specialized. The Admissions Committee looks for a showing of thorough learning in a field of your choice, such as history, economics, government, philosophy, mathematics, science, literature or the classics (and many others), rather than a concentration in courses given primarily as vocational training.”

And on the topic of “unrelated” majors, such as STEM: 

“Harvard Law School encourages applications from every academic discipline. Lawyers with experience in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are currently involved in some of the most important legal and regulatory questions of our time and will continue to be similarly engaged. If you have a STEM background, you may wish to work in the field for a few years to garner practical experience in the sciences before studying the legal aspects that regulate such work.”

However, you should consider how hard it is to get a good GPA. Law schools care about your GPA score – it’s one of the most important parts of your application. 

(Although you can use your application to show why they should be sympathetic to your lower GPA – for example, if you pursued a more “rigorous” major.)

The most popular majors among law school applicants are, along with their median GPAs: 

  • Political science (median GPA: 3.56)
  • Psychology (median GPA: 3.52)
  • Criminal justice (median GPA: 3.42)
  • Economics (median GPA: 3.62) 
  • English (median GPA: 3.6)
  • History (median GPA: 3.62) 
  • Philosophy (median GPA: 3.6) 
  • Sociology (median GPA: 3.5)
  • Communications (median GPA: 3.5)
  • Finance (median GPA: 3.5)

Ultimately, what should your GPA be to get into law school? 

This depends on the law school you want to apply to. 

For example, here are the GPA scores T-10 schools require: 

University

Median GPA 

Low GPA

High GPA

Stanford University

3.92

3.84

3.99

Yale University

3.94

3.87

3.99

University of Chicago

3.91

3.81

3.97

University of Pennsylvania (Carey)

3.9

3.61

3.96

Duke University

3.85

3.73

3.94

Harvard University

3.92

3.82

3.99

New York University

3.88

3.72

3.94

Columbia University

3.87

3.78

3.95

University of Virginia

3.94

3.69

3.99

Northwestern University (Pritzker)

3.89

3.63

3.93

 

So as you can see, to attend a T-10 law school, a “safe” GPA is at least 3.85.

Your GPA score isn’t everything, though. With the right application, you can get into a top law school even without the “perfect” GPA

Like my clients did here: 

D.C. 3.6 GPA, 170 LSAT – 3.6 vs 3.85 median 

  • Attending Georgetown, GPA median 3.85, LSAT median 171 

E.D. 3.2 GPA, 171 LSAT –  3.2 vs 3.84 median 

  • Attending University of Michigan Law School, GPA range 3.84, LSAT median 171

LSAT requirements for law school 

The next step is your LSAT score. 

Your LSAT score, which measures critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and persuasive writing, is one of the most important aspects of your application.

Your number is calculated based on the number of questions answered correctly. 

But LSAT isn’t THE most important thing.

You can have a lower LSAT score and still be accepted to a top law school.

Here are just a few of my clients who shouldn’t have been accepted to top law schools, but were despite their LSAT. 

However, some LSAT scores are simply too low for law school. A good rule of thumb is that you need to get an LSAT score that is at least 140 to make the cost of law school feasible. 

For top law schools, here are the LSAT scores T-10 law schools require: 

University

Median LSAT 

Low LSAT

High LSAT

Stanford University

173

170

176

Yale University

178

171

175

University of Chicago

173

169

175

University of Pennsylvania (Carey)

172

167

173

Duke University

170

168

171

Harvard University

174

170

176

New York University

172

169

174

Columbia University

173

171

175

University of Virginia

171

166

173

Northwestern University (Pritzker)

171

166

172

 

As you can see, you’ll be on the safe side if you get an LSAT score of at least 170 if you want to attend one of these law schools. But, again, you can still get in with a lower score. 

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Write a personal statement 

You also need a law school personal statement

Now, too many applicants think that all that matters are their LSAT and GPA scores.

This is far from the truth. 

Plenty of applicants with top scores get rejected from the best law schools because their overall application doesn’t stand out.

And in the same way, plenty of people get accepted because their application is just that good. 

That’s what YOU can accomplish with your personal statement. 

For example, my student David didn’t have perfect scores. Even worse, his stats were significantly below his top law schools’ medians. 

Today, he’s attending his top choice law school. And he says: 

“As a result of working with Mara, I’m going to have plenty of options. So far I have 3 admissions offers and 2 scholarship offers that I would never have thought possible.”

…All this thanks to the quality of his application. 

But what makes your personal statement stand out? 

First, you need a cohesive story. 

A common mistake is to try and include many themes or interests. 

This makes the admissions officer question whether you as an applicant can commit to anything. And it makes your application come off as chaotic and like you don’t have a sense of self or why you want to attend law school. 

Instead, you want to use a cohesive story that shows the reader that you can commit, have a genuine depth of interest, are stable, and understand yourself and your decision to apply to law school.

The best way to create your story is to use a broader theme – for example, knit together a few experiences and show how they all support your passion for innovation.

That’s exactly what one of my clients did – and her story worked perfectly with her application, which focused on her goal of becoming a patent lawyer. Which showed the admissions offer why she wanted to become a lawyer. 

The final thing you want to show with your personal statement is that you can think critically. And in the example above, my client demonstrated her thinking by finding a gap in the patent market and explaining how she, as a lawyer, could fix it. 

Here’s how she did that: 

“Working with a variety of different clients as a mechanical design engineer consultant, I shifted from wanting to create and solve problems, to being the voice of innovative products. I encountered numerous instances where patents were crucial to progress, but the lawyer’s failure to grasp the innovation of a product proved fatal to the product’s success . . . 

With ever-increasing connections and access to information, I believe intellectual property law is indispensable to progress. Our modern-day society is constantly changing as technology and the way we do business rapidly evolves. Laws surrounding technology and innovation that provide structure for an uncertain future must constantly be re-evaluated and interpreted in a way that fits with the needs today. The decisions we make today about what is deserving of a patent, and thereby how we classify innovation, will impact future progress. Lawyers who understand the mechanical details of a product and impact in the context of law are necessary to make such decisions. I intend to be one of those lawyers. A knowledgeable advocate can make all the difference.”

You definitely don’t want to make your personal statement a glorified cover letter – admissions officers can look at your resume to get a better understanding of your background. 

Instead, use your experiences to make your point and show how your internal thinking evolved to that point. 

You can see a real client example here and how her personal statement went from a glorified cover letter to a final, strong personal statement.

Write a law school resume 

Your application also requires a law school resume

Like your personal statement, a law school resume can make a big difference in your application. And in my opinion, it’s one of the most underused application assets. 

Your resume gives an overview of your education, legal and other professional experience, and other categories with personal interest or community involvement. 

It typically includes your: 

  • Education
  • Professional Experience and/or Employment
  • Activities
  • Community Engagement
  • Publications
  • Accomplishments
  • Skills/Interests

However, your resume isn’t a job application resume. A law school resume is something different and the most important thing is that you position it in the right way.

You see, law schools want to see a broader array of experiences than what would be included in a job application. 

A well-written resume shares skills and characteristics law schools are looking for.

The way you’d want to organize your resume is to support the overall theme you’ve curated for your application. 

Get letters of recommendation

You also need letters of recommendation.

Typically, law schools ask for at least two letters of recommendation. (Although it can vary.) 

The biggest question most applicants have is: 

Who should you ask for letters of recommendation? 

This depends on different factors, such as what types of weaknesses you need to make up for, what perspectives you need, and how long you’ve been out of school. 

The way your recommendation letters should boost your application is by:

  • Highlighting the skills you need to succeed in law school (critical and complex thinking, writing well, and thriving in stressful and rigorous academic environments) 
  • Painting a well-rounded picture of you

 You should aim for three letters of recommendation. Be specific about who should give them – preferably, you’d get at least one from someone in academia (such as a professor or other academic supervisor) and none from friends or family. The admissions officer won’t care about what your mom thinks of your likelihood to succeed!

Apply to law school

You’ve done a LOT of work up until now. But there’s one more step… You need to keep track of the actual application process.

  • LSAT: You should take the LSAT latest in the summer or fall of the year you want to apply to law school. 
  • CAS: Register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which is required by most law schools. CAS assembles a report with your transcript, LSAT score, and letters of recommendation. 
  • Application period: Most law schools open their applications in September. Application periods vary, but prioritize your top choices and aim to get your application in by October/November. Many law schools offer early decision options that are due November 1st. You can apply for your second-tier choices in November/December. 

During this time, you’ll also want to ask for letters of recommendation and write your personal statement and resume. 

To keep track of law school admissions requirements, I put together this list with the admissions information for T-20 law schools. 

Stanford University

Yale University

University of Chicago

University of Pennsylvania (Carey)

Duke University

Harvard University

New York University

Columbia University

University of Virginia

Northwestern University (Pritzker)

University of California (Berkeley)

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

Cornell University

University of California –Los Angeles

Georgetown University

University of Minnesota

University of Southern California (Gould)

University of Texas – Austin

Vanderbilt University

University of Georgia

Additional factors

Is there anything else you can attach to your application to boost your chances of success? 

Yes! First, many law schools ask for optional essays. These often revolve around topics like community service, challenges you’ve faced, or your work experience. 

Your essay can really help you strengthen your story and theme and make you stand out as a candidate. 

Second, an addendum offers you the chance to explain poor academic performance or criminal offenses. When used right, an addendum helps you improve your application significantly. However, you wouldn’t include an addendum unless there’s a reason for it, so don’t add one “just because” as it could hurt your chances more than help.  

How to build a successful law career

What can you ultimately do with your law degree? 

There are plenty of opportunities for lawyers, from governmental jobs to law firms and businesses. Either way, your law degree is versatile and you have a lot of options in terms of what you do after law school – and after having passed the bar. 

Here are a few examples of law careers: 

Law firm

One of the most common career paths for lawyers is to work in law firms.

There are various types of law firms; from Biglaw to smaller, local law firms. Your day-to-day can look vastly different depending on where you work. 

You typically specialize and work in a particular legal field, such as environmental law, tax law, or intellectual property law. 

For example, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, I worked for a sought-after public interest law firm.

The judiciary  

You can also work in the judiciary as, for example, a judge, a public defender, or a law clerk. 

Government

Government departments need different types of lawyers. You could also work at a government agency, like NASA.  

International organizations 

There are plenty of international organizations where lawyers are needed, such as the UN, NATO, the International Space Station, and so on. 

Business 

Businesses from corporations to startups need in-house lawyers to work in their legal departments. Depending on the size of the company, you either work with one specific legal area or you have a more versatile role.

Frequently asked questions 

Is it hard to get into law school? 

Yes, it’s hard to get into law school, especially the top ones. Only about 15% of applicants get accepted to T-10 law schools. However, if you want to become a lawyer, applying to law school is completely doable, in particular if you understand what law schools are looking for apart from your LSAT and GPA scores.  

What are the best law schools in the US?

The best law schools in the US are Stanford University and Yale University, both on the #1 spot in US News and World Report’s annual rankings.  

How long is law school? 

Law school is a three-year full-time program. You have summers off but you’ll usually have a legal job then. There are also part-time programs that take about four years to complete. 

How much do lawyers make? 

The average law salary is over $160,000, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. However, this depends on a number of factors, including geography, job function, credentials, years in practice, and industry. 

Next steps

There you have it! That’s how to get into law school.

But getting into your top law school hinges on a few things… And those factors can help you ace your law school application. 

I should know because I’ve helped 100% of my clients get into at least one of their top ten schools. And secure millions of dollars in scholarships. 

Want that same support? 

Apply for my admissions consulting here.

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ABOUT MARA FREILICH

Mara has helped countless law school applicants get into their dream law schools, even without a perfect GPA, the highest LSAT score, or most unique story. Mara used to be a litigator at one of the top law firms in the world and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a prestigious Toll Public Interest Scholar.

        

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