Did you know that “pre-law” is not the best major to prepare you for law school? Law schools value diversity and will accept a variety of different undergrad degrees offered at Maranatha. Applying to law school can be a daunting task for any undergrad student. This article will give you several helpful tips.
Christian Lawyers Are Not a Dime a Dozen
You’ve all heard the jokes about how there are too many lawyers in America. Perhaps you have also had people try to discourage you from studying law since there is more competition due to the number of available lawyers. You, however, are not the average lawyer. As a Christian, the causes you would advocate, the cases you would take, as well as your outlook on those cases, set you apart. Christian lawyers are rare and there is a great need for them.
Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
Before applying to law school you will need to take the LSAT. Students should well-prepare themselves for the LSAT because it represents a key component of your law school application and serves as a predictor of your academic success at the next level. The LSAT is unlike any test you have ever taken in your life, as it is not a test of what you know. Instead, the LSAT tests your ability to reason logically and analytically, as well as testing reading comprehension and writing skills. The test uses a number of unique testing schemas, and you will need to practice for several months to hone your abilities and enter the testing center with confidence. While there are a variety of print and online test preps you can take advantage of, the most popular prep program, and arguably the best, is the Kaplan® prep course. Classes and personal prep tutors are available as well as self-guided prep courses. The key to a good LSAT score is practice. Take as many practice tests as you can until your score is consistently at or above your target range. (Most likely, your score on the “live” LSAT test will be a few points lower than your practice test results.)
It’s best to take the LSAT during the summer before the senior year of your undergrad study. This allows you time to apply for law school during your senior year. Taking the early summer test gives you time for a retake should you be dissatisfied with your first results.
Applying to Law School
The best time to begin applying to law schools is the fall of your senior year. Law schools have application deadlines and every school is different, so be sure to check each school’s deadline. Many applications will require you to send in your résumé and a written essay. Law schools are ranked by quality into three tiers. (US News & World Report publishes the rankings.) You should apply to 5-8 different law schools based on their quality ranking. You will find helpful information on Law School Admissions Council website (lsac.org) where you will submit your undergrad GPA (and official transcript) as well as your LSAT score.
Remember to request letters of recommendation far enough in advance so that you will have them in hand when you apply. Check each school’s instructions for these letters since schools have different requirements.
If you apply to schools in the fall you will typically hear back from them by the beginning of the year. Keep careful records of all your applications since some state bar associations require you to submit copies of them when you apply for bar admission after graduating law school.
Researching Possible Law Schools
There are several factors to consider as you look at the potential schools you may be attending.
- Look for schools that offer the specific program or emphasis you desire to study. There are no “majors” in law school, but various institutions develop reputations and specializations in certain fields. If you know what kind of law you want to practice, apply to schools that offer you an advantage in that area.
- Apply to schools from different tiers based on your GPA and LSAT numbers. Apply to a school that would be a stretch for you as well as a “safety school” that you could fall back on if you aren’t accepted into other schools.
- Visit potential schools to see what they are like, meet faculty, and get a feel for the program. Some law schools are located in downtown urban areas, while others are located within a more traditional university campus. Consider the fact that most lawyers practice within 100 miles of the law school they attended.
- Research the cost of tuition and cost of living in the area.
- Check out the available options for a good local church to connect with as a law student. As a Maranatha graduate, you should make faithful church attendance and service a high priority while you are in law school. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot serve faithfully while you work hard and make good grades. You’ll establish important habits for yourself that will continue throughout your legal career and prove to yourself that God is faithful. Additionally, the support of a church family and Christian friends will be crucial to survive the stress of law school.
- Ask about available scholarships:
- In-state tuition. Most schools will give you a tuition break if you live in state. This is usually defined by the state your family lived in when you graduated from high school. It is also possible to apply for in-state tuition breaks if you plan to stay in state after graduation. (Keep in mind that attending college in a state doesn’t qualify you for residency in that state.)
- GA working scholarships.
- Female scholarships. Since there are fewer female lawyers some schools will give women a tuition break. Other scholarships may be available based on race or interest/commitment of military or other public service.
- Research or ask about other possible scholarships.
Thoughts to Consider
As you prepare for law school, remember that your undergrad work is part of your training. Here at Maranatha you undergo training and discipline in studies that prepare you for the next level. Doing your best now will be valuable training for the future. Stay balanced in your studies now as well as in grad school and life after graduation. Balance means not being overly consumed with any one thing. Don’t let work run your life. Always make God your priority. Find a good church and be faithful in attendance and involvement. Remember that as a Christian you claim the name of Christ. This means you may not represent every person that comes along or approach every case the way other lawyers might. Your Christian profession is a higher calling than your legal profession. Always put God first in every area of your life “To the praise of His glory.”
If you have any questions, feel free to look up Dr. Matthew Davis, current Executive Vice President of Maranatha Baptist University. He graduated from Southern Illinois University and has practiced law for over 20 years. Additionally, Dr. Davis is willing and available to support MBU students interested in going to law school.