Dear 100 Hour Board,
I think there used to be a writer who was in law school. Are they still around? I've got some questions.
I'm really seriously considering law school, though admittedly not for another year or so. I graduated from BYU with a B.A. this past August, and will most likely be in Utah for the next few years. BYU and the U are my only options in this state, and while the U is easier to get into, BYU is far cheaper.
1. My GPA from undergrad is less than stellar. I hate myself for it, but there's nothing I can do now. Would it be beneficial to go become a paralegal and get excellent grades that way first? What things would increase my chances of getting into a program?
2. Any other advice about going to law school in general?
I'm in law school right now! I've got a couple of tips:
- Be aware that going to a paralegal program will not alter the GPA the LSAC gives you based on transcript summarization.
- I don't know if having paralegal experience would increase your chances - that probably depends on a ton of factors including what schools you're looking at, what the rest of your resume looks like, etc. Before you do this, I would:
- Focus really, really hard on the LSAT. I think that there are probably a lot more candidates with high GPAs than there are with high LSAT scores. Schools want to admit students who will keep their admissions statistics the same or higher than they have been in the past. That means that if your GPA is lower than their median, you should shoot to have an LSAT that is as far above their median as possible. Then the school can balance out your high LSAT/low GPA with someone who struggled a bit more on the LSAT but has high undergraduate grades. The folks over on the Top Law Schools Forums have a specific term for high LSAT/low GPA candidates: splitters. Though you should take most of what you read on the internet with several grains (and perhaps an entire shaker) of salt, forums like TLS might have useful information about what schools are most friendly to candidates like you.
- In order to succeed on the LSAT, start studying NOW, even if you don't plan on taking the LSAT until this October or December. Take a diagnostic test under timed conditions and see where you are and what sections you struggle with. Look at whether it makes sense for you to do a full course or to study targeted sections by yourself (for example, I decided not to take a full LSAT course: I struggled with one section of the test, but was fine on the others and didn't want to drop a lot of cash on a course that would include a bunch of stuff I didn't need). Do as many practice tests as possible: they're for sale online and doing timed tests (and reviewing what you missed or didn't understand) is one of the best ways you can study.
- Think about your personal statement and your letters of recommendation. You don't want your personal statement to be an excuse letter, but find good things you can focus on other than your lower GPA. Talk to recommenders (at least one professor if possible, and then probably one boss). Make sure they have specific good things to say about you, especially about qualities that a low GPA might make people worry about.
- Make sure you want to be a lawyer. Getting into law school is not an easy process and neither is being here. Make sure that this is really what you want because the road ahead is not entirely painless and you'll want to be able to remember that you have real, personally compelling reasons to be here.
This is just a couple of tips. If you'd like to talk to me by email and give me more details about your situation (what schools you're looking at, when you're planning on applying, what your undergraduate GPA is, what your diagnostic LSAT is, etc.) I may be able to give you more specific advice.