Law School Requirements: 7 Steps in the Pre-Law Process

Updated July 31, 2023

Becoming a lawyer is a rigorous multi-step process that takes years of intense postsecondary coursework and study. Law school programs are graduate programs that can be challenging to get into—starting with the academic requirements to apply. That's why you’ll need to do as much preparation as possible before you submit your final application to law school.

In this article, we discuss the basic steps required for a competitive law school application and how to achieve them.

How to get into law school

Getting into law school can be a time-intensive process since there are many steps to complete before you submit your law school application.

Here are the steps you'll want to take to get into law school:

1. Research the role of a lawyer

Before you pursue a law degree, it is wise to thoroughly research the different aspects of being a lawyer. Think about why you want to go to law school. There are many misconceptions about lawyers, from the glamorous television portrayals to the idea of being incredibly wealthy. Going to law school requires extensive coursework and unwavering focus. Lawyers spend the bulk of their time reading, writing and researching complex documents. Their time spent in court is minimal in comparison.

Perform a salary search for lawyers in your desired area on to get a realistic picture of future income. The national average salary for attorneys in the U.S. is $89,667.

Read more: Learn About Being a Lawyer

2. Complete a bachelor's degree

While many graduate programs require the completion of certain prerequisite courses, law school programs do not. People who apply to law school often possess all types of degrees. The important thing is that you complete your bachelor's degree with a high grade point average. The courses you take in college don't matter as much as your undergraduate GPA. Pay special attention to achieving the GPA that your school of choice requires, as law schools focus on this aspect of your degree the most.

Completing your undergraduate degree usually takes at least four years. You'll want to prepare yourself early for taking the LSAT and gathering the additional forms of documentation that go with your application.

Related: College Degrees With the Highest Starting Salaries

3. Pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

You'll need to take the LSAT as part of the application process. The average cost of the LSAT is $500. The score you receive is the most important metric in determining your admission into law school. For this reason, students often start studying for the exam a year in advance. At a minimum, you should devote at least three months to this cause. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the LSAT:

Enroll in an LSAT course

There are many online resources devoted to helping you study for the LSAT. Some options are free while others can be quite expensive. It all depends on the quality and amount of the material. An organized prep course will guide you through the different components of the LSAT.

Get a private tutor

Get a recommendation from your school's law department, or another college or university in your community, for any law professors or advanced law students who can offer you private tutoring. You may also be able to find private legal tutors online.

Self study

Many students choose to study at their own pace, especially the highly organized. But if you get too distracted and need that extra support of a guided course or tutor, you might want to forego this option.

Before you spend any money on preparing for the LSAT, take time to think about how you learn the best. Your approach may be a combination of self-directed and friend-supported study, or you might use an online course to keep you focused after your first attempt at studying didn't work out. Do what you can to ensure that you're within the average score of 150.

Related: Top 10 Study Skills and Techniques

4. Request your official transcripts

You'll need to gather any official transcripts from all undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs before applying to law school. Each copy will cost you about $10 to $20. When you're applying to multiple schools, this can add up quickly. The process of requesting your transcript may take several days, so you'll want to get started well ahead of time. If you owe any fees to your alma mater, you'll have to pay those before they'll grant your request.

5. Write a personal statement

Another requirement for admission to law school is the personal statement. Think of this step as an opportunity to show the admissions committee your personality. You can talk about career goals, academic achievements and anything else you feel is relevant. Some schools may have specific prompts, but if not, you can do further research to learn about winning statements.

Read more: 6 Tips for Writing a Great Graduate School Personal Statement

6. Obtain letters of recommendation

Law schools generally require at least one letter of recommendation, though you'll likely want to include more. Ask your undergraduate professors who worked with you the most to write these letters. You might even ask an employer who could vouch for your ability to balance work and school life. Consider meeting with them beforehand to discuss which elements of success you'd like to have included in your letter.

7. Apply to law schools

You should consider applying to at least five schools to increase your chances for acceptance into law school. When you're deciding which schools to target, do the following:

Research the total financial cost

The cost of law school should be a big part of your overall decision. Depending on your point in life, you may have a family who relies on your income for support. There are educational loans available to law school students. Do some research to learn more about your options.

Consider the viability of the school's location

You'll likely need to relocate to another area for law school, much like other graduate students. Some areas may be more expensive than others, which can put a strain on your finances even further.

Analyze your specific career goals

Determine what type of law you want to practice and where you envision yourself working. Some schools may be better suited for your purposes in this regard.

Ensure American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation

Only apply to schools with this designation to ensure proper credit for your time.

It is best to submit your applications by the end of November at the latest, even though the official deadline may not be until the following year. This is because law schools adhere to a rolling admissions process that accepts students into the program before the deadline. The number of spots available may decrease significantly, and if you wait you might miss out. The key is to apply early.

Frequently asked questions

Can I attend law school if English is not my first language?

You can attend law school even if English is not your first language. Proficiency in English is typically a requirement, as law school education heavily relies on reading, writing and analyzing complex legal texts. Some law schools may require applicants to show their English language proficiency through standardized tests, such as the TOEFL or IELTS.

Can I attend law school if I have a criminal record?

A criminal record doesn't automatically disqualify you from attending law school, but it can affect your admission prospects and future career as a lawyer. Each law school has its own admission policy regarding criminal records, and it's often a requirement to disclose any criminal history during the application process and show personal growth and rehabilitation. Many people with criminal records can make great lawyers.

Are there any age restrictions for attending law school?

Law schools typically don't have specific age requirements, so people of any age can apply. Recent work experience may be a consideration during the admissions process, but those with the right qualifications can apply without concerns about their age.

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