Have you finally decided on a career in law? Can you see yourself standing up in a packed courtroom defending the innocent and most vulnerable members of society? Are you inspired to make the world a better (and safer) place by prosecuting those who would do otherwise? Or would you like to sit on one of the highest courts of all, where you can help shape and uphold the standards of justice and liberty for generations to come? If so, then the first thing you'll need is a law degree.
Securing a place at a good law school is hard, and earning a spot at the more prestigious colleges is one of the toughest things any young person could do. Spaces are limited, and the competition is fierce. Still, no matter where you'd like to begin a legal career, getting your application right is the first major challenge. And there are plenty of things to consider. For example: When should you apply? What should you write in your personal statement? How do you make yourself stand out from all the other applicants? Do I need a letter of recommendation? What if they want me to come in for an interview? I'm terrible at those! And which school is the right school for me?
Thankfully, we've come up with a few pointers that will make the application process as easy as possible. Here are seven tips for securing yourself a place at law school.
Choose the right school
Law degrees last between three to four years, so picking the right school is essential for both your academic success and personal well-being. Do as much research as possible on your preferred colleges before you make a formal application. Look out for open days, where you will have the opportunity to get a feel for the environment and talk to staff members and current undergrads. If you are planning to study away from home, attending open days may be difficult, not to mention expensive. But making that extra effort (and spending a bit of cash) could be the difference between having a great college experience or regretting your decision for the next three years. After all, every university sounds impressive when you read their prospectus. Seeing it for yourself is the best way to know if it is the right place to kickstart your career in law.
Apply as early as possible
There are very few things in life that are worth leaving till the last minute, and applying for law school is definitely not one of them. In fact, if you only take one thing away from this article, then make sure it's this - apply as early as possible! Forget the official deadline date. College admission teams will start assessing applications (and making their decisions) way before the final cut-off, and the longer you wait, the less chance you have of securing a place. Plus, the quicker you get a decision, the more time you have to prepare. If it is good news, you can start getting ready for your adventure, as well as enjoying the rest of your summer vacation. And if the news isn't so great, there's still plenty of time to apply for the next best option.
Start off in the right direction
You probably know where you want to get to, but have you thought about how are you going to get there? Sound planning is one of the most critical steps toward fulfilling any ambition. You might already be feeling overwhelmed by what's in front of you, but breaking it down into smaller goals that naturally follow on from each other will make that larger, and somewhat overbearing, task appear much more manageable. Plus, it's a great what to stay focused, which inevitably means you'll make better decisions.
So even though you might want to become a supreme court judge, start with the goal of writing a brilliant application, followed by getting a top grade in your first assignment, and so on. Because as the ancient proverb says, even the longest journey begins with the first step. And if you still don't where to start your adventure, then start from the end. Cameron Dare Clark is a Harvard Law undergraduate who earned his spot via a program for students from low-income backgrounds. When asked about his ambition to become a civil rights attorney, Cameron said, "The most effective way to create a clear and coherent application is to start with the vision and work backwards."
State your case in the best way possible
The personal statement on a college application is your chance to impress the admissions officer. You can demonstrate your passion, commitment, and willingness to learn. What's more, this is an opportunity to show off some of the technical skills that every good lawyer needs; namely, the ability to make a well-constructed argument. Or, to put it another way, the ability to persuade your listener. But as any expert will tell you, the art of persuasion is a subtle one. So although you will need to convey a sense of self-confidence and ambition, don't try too hard -- this will usually have the opposite effect. Avoid long, rambling sentences packed with flowery language or cliche. Stick to short, concise phrases. Use strong verbs and back up your claims with real-world examples. Speak authoritatively, but not arrogantly, and make sure everything you say supports the argument that you deserve a place on the course. Again, start this as early as possible. Get the first draft together, then leave it alone for a few days before editing. Do this a few times, and you'll soon have a great application.
Get other people to say how great you are
It's all well and good telling someone how great you are, but if they hear other people saying the same thing, they are much more likely to realize that you really are that amazing! In other words, getting a letter of recommendation from a trusted and respected source is one of the best ways to boost your application chances. So start thinking about who you might be able to ask. A current teacher or professor is always a good option, although employers, coaches, or respected members of the community are also suitable. Just make sure it's somebody who understands your best qualities. Having someone with a fancy title sign the bottom of your letter is impressive, but it is the content that really counts. Kim O'Brien is a former director of admission at Concordia University School of Law. She says, "What matters is the substance of the letter. The ones that made a difference were the ones that were specific and gave examples to support their opinion of the applicant."
Get ready to make the right impression
Some law schools may invite you to an interview before they make a final decision. Interviews are always nerve-wracking but think about it as a chance to show off your potential and secure a place. The meeting might be in person or via Skype. Either way, preparation is the key to success. Make a list of the questions they are most likely to ask, and then run the answers through your head. Write your ideas down to help formulate better arguments, making sure you back up your points with some concrete examples, such as past academic experience, volunteering work, or extra-curricular activities. You can even ask a close friend or family member to go over some role-play scenarios. And don't worry if you are still nervous on the day. It's perfectly natural; this is just your body’s way of reminding you that something important is about to happen. Besides, nobody is ever 100% ready for an interview, but lots of preparation will give you the illusion of confidence -- and often that's all it takes!
So, in short, do lots of preparation and get your application in as early as possible. Thousands of other potential students are currently thinking about finishing off that personal statement. Some may be busy with personal commitments, while others are just procrastinating. Set yourself apart from the rest and get yours done now! Law is an extremely competitive field, and making the most of every possible advantage is the quickest way to the top.