Our department offers pre-law advisement to all TCU students regardless of their major.
Why do you want to go to law school? Do you have a passion to be a lawyer, or do you aspire to a career that requires a law degree or passage of the ABA (American Bar Association) bar exam? We hope so, because being a full-time law student will involve at least three more years of your life.
For most law students, significant debt is incurred as well, as you have to pay for law school tuition/books/fees, have money to live on, and most law schools frown on – or prohibit you – from working during the academic year. Moreover, we can’t expect law school tuition to decrease over time, as law schools are “cash cows” for many universities.
As a result, 85% of law school students rely on loans to finance their education. Typical graduates of public law schools emerge with around $80,000 in student loan debt. For those who go to private law schools, typical student debt is more like $140,000 or higher. That's like paying for a luxury automobile or a ‘starter’ home without having that car or house! Certain types of student loan debt may be forgiven for those who spend at least a minimum number of years in some form of public service: more commonly student loans must be repaid within a 10-25-year span, either on a fixed-amount-per-month or on a specified percentage of your income per month basis. Loan repayment will almost certainly take a significant bite out of your disposable income, and the repayment may start as soon as you graduate, not when you get your first job in the legal industry or successfully pass the bar.
So student debt is a real issue, and you need to think carefully about what it would mean to have to pay it off. Is that acceptable to you? Is it possible to proceed in your chosen career field without a law degree? Again, you need to be sure this is what you want.
There are both positive and negative aspects to legal careers.
- Earning potential
- Opportunity to help others
- Intellectual challenge
- Diverse practice areas
- Work environment and perks
- Transferable skills
- Global influence
- Long hours
- Soaring law school debt
- Competitive job market
- Clients aren't spending as much
- Changing legal paradigms
- Legal process outsourcing
- Poor public image
- You won't like all your clients
Overview of the Law School Application Process
If you choose to go to law school, the Law School Admission Council is the portal through which you apply to law schools. LSAC has a website (https://lsac.org) loaded with information you will find helpful. This information is grouped under headers like ‘Discover Law,’ ‘The LSAT,’ ‘Choosing a Law School,’ ‘Applying to Law School,’ and ‘Data and Research.’
LSAC is the entity that administers the Law School Admission Test (the LSAT) and it administers the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) which serves as a clearinghouse for your application materials. You submit your law school application materials to the CAS, and the CAS then submits your application to the law schools you have chosen.
2020-2021 LSAC Fees:
- CAS fee: $195
- LSAT fee: $200
- Law School Report Fee: $45 for each law school to which you apply
Almost all law schools require their own application fees as well; these vary, and you can request an application fee waiver.
Your application materials will include an online application form, a resume, official
transcripts from every college or university from which you have taken courses, your
LSAT score (or scores), two or more letters of recommendation, and a personal statement
that provides an insight into why you have chosen a legal career.
You may submit your application materials to LSAC at any time once an account has been created. Law schools begin accepting applications on September 1 for the following academic year. While you can delay your application to law schools to the late spring – for the following fall admission – that carries risks. Since law schools begin admitting students before January 1 for the following year, those who wait until the spring will be competing for fewer available seats in a law school’s 1L (first year) class.
Also, most law schools now only accept fall admission for full-time students. Relatively few allow you to begin your law school career in January, as this puts you off-schedule for the traditional 1L coursework.
If you choose, you may also register (at no additional cost) for LSAC’s Candidate Referral Service (CRS). To cite the LSAC website:
When you sign up for CRS, you authorize LSAC to share the following information with law schools, agencies or individuals working on their behalf, and other eligible programs related to legal education:
- Your name, mailing and email addresses, and phone number
- Biographical, academic, and employment information
- Information you have provided about your law school preferences
In this way, more law schools become aware of your candidacy and may recruit you to apply to their program.
How to Prepare for Law School
First, the ABA doesn’t care what major you choose. The ABA wants you to be smart, a good student, and a well-rounded person. So there is no specific major or minor that’s best for all students. You could be a modern dance major and a chemistry minor and law schools would find you interesting!
Second, are there certain types of courses you should take as an undergraduate? Yes. Any course in any field that requires you to read and write a lot is good preparation for law school and a legal career. Typically-recommended courses include those that require reading actual legal cases. Those can be found in business, communications, political science, as well as other academic departments. For those who aspire to a legal career in the world of business or commercial law, a basic accounting course would be a good idea. Some students also find such courses as logic, offered by philosophy department that teaches inductive and deductive reasoning and courses on constitutional law, offered by political science department, as useful preparations for law school.
Third, we can break down the typical undergraduate pre-law career by school years:
• First-year and sophomore priorities – You want to get your GPA as high as possible,
as it and your LSAT score are two very important components of your application to
law school. Once you have the GPA where you want it, look for professional internships
or work experiences you can pursue, but do not prioritize them at the expense of your
GPA. Dr. Grant Ferguson in the Political Science Department is in charge of our local
internships. You can seek an internship either with a legal firm or a local court
during the academic year or during summer. You can receive 1 or 3 hours of credit
for these internships and some are paid and others are unpaid. For more information
on this you can contact Dr. Ferguson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Junior year priorities – Now you typically shift to learning how to navigate the LSAC.org site, meet with pre-law advisors, and possibly begin your preparation for the LSAT. It is recommended that you take the LSAT late in your junior year or the summer thereafter, so if you don’t do well, you have the time to take it again and seek a higher score. You may also begin thinking about where you want to live and work in the future and what that might mean in terms of the law schools to which you apply.
• Senior year priorities – Create your LSAC account and take the LSAT if you have not yet done so, compile the various components of your application materials to submit to the CAS, and choose the law schools to which you apply.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Any major is welcome.
Yes, in the broadest sense that courses that require considerable reading and writing are good preparation for law school and legal careers. Beyond that guidance, courses that require you to read law cases are helpful, as is a basic accounting course for those who envision a career in commercial law or the business sector.
No. The average GPA for law school applicants from TCU is around 3.5. However, circumstances matter. Some majors – like science and engineering – often have lower GPAs and law school admissions officers understand that. Those admissions officers also are cognizant of how your GPA was constructed. Did you do better over time? That can help offset a more modest overall GPA. Was your GPA wrecked by one terrible semester or year? If so, you can include in your application materials a very brief, matter-of-fact addendum as to why your performance suffered at that time. Also, are you a military veteran or do you have some other life experience that law schools may take into account in considering your application?
Law schools realize that the pandemic affects us all. You will generally not be penalized for having P/NC (pass/fail) grades on your transcript during the spring 2020 term and possibly the fall 2020 term. Law schools are currently trying to teach their classes online.
No. You don’t have to have an internship at all, but law schools do look favorably on any internship in a professional setting, as you’ve gotten some sense of the professional world of work. Some law firms reserve their internship opportunities for 2L or 3L (second year or third year) law students. However, local government or social service agencies – and your local court systems – often accept undergraduate interns.
No, but it may help. Working under someone’s supervision and/or being responsible for services provided or results seen helps demonstrate positive work habits on your part.
Unlike other exams you’ve taken, this exam does not test your knowledge; it tests your logic, critical thinking, effective writing, and comprehension skills. You need serious preparation to do well.
A good place to start is with the Khan Academy which has a free online preparation service created in conjunction with LSAC. LSAC also has some free practice tests on its https://lawhub.lsac.org/# site.
Beyond that, a wide array of for-fee preparation vendors exists, ranging from LSAT study guide books to online courses to in-person classes and even individual tutoring. The more individualized your preparation, the more it will cost. Online packages that are self-taught can start as low as $50, whereas in-person courses normally start around $1,000 and escalate from there.
No. What works best for one person may not work best for others. Choose the preparation modality that seems to best fit your learning style, your schedule needs, and your pocketbook. As for the pocketbook, try to think of the cost as an investment in your future.
The best answer is when you are best prepared for it.
Yes. To cite the LSAC website:
• Three times in a single testing year (the testing year goes from June 1 to May 31).
• Five times within the current and five past testing years (the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools).
• A total of seven times over a lifetime.
All of them.
It depends on a number of factors, such as:
• Were you ill or did you suffer from extreme anxiety when you took it?
• Did you experience a technology failure or glitch during the administration of your test?
• Is your score clearly less than what you expected based on your practice test results?
Perhaps, but there are some caveats:
• Most people don’t change their previous score by more than 2 or 3 points.
• Sometimes scores go down and not up.
• Don’t expect to prepare the same way you did the first time and score better. You probably need to make some changes in your preparation process.
Scores range from 120 to 180. The national median score is normally 150-151. Any score higher than that helps. In our most recent data, the average LSAT score for TCU students was 155.
No. Most students discover that while in law school.
Don’t repeat what’s on your resume! Do make it personal. Tell your story. The admissions officer is looking for at least two things: you can write well and you have a passion for the law. They want quality people who, once admitted, won’t quit before they graduate. So tell them what makes you a good choice.
Has it been your longstanding career aspiration, and if so, why? Did some event, personal experience, or family experience lead you to law as a career? Do you see law as a vehicle to serve others? Does your story demonstrate personal commitment, leadership, perseverance, etc.? Again, there’s no ideal template for your personal statement, so make it your own. Ask other people, as well as pre-law advisors, to read it.
The answer varies.
If you want to go to a top national law firm – opting for what is called ‘Big Law’ – then you probably need to go to a Top 14 (T14) law school. While these may vary a bit over time, they generally include law schools like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, Penn, Virginia, Northwestern, Cal-Berkeley, Michigan, Duke, Cornell, and Georgetown.
If living and working in a particular locale is very important to you, you should prioritize the law schools in that area. Texas lawyers know Texas law schools best, California lawyers know California law schools best, and so on. Also, it’s easier to take advantage of your law school’s alumni network if you live in that area.
Don’t apply to just one. Most of our students apply to 5 or more law schools, and in that group they typically have one or perhaps more ‘reach’ schools where they don’t think they have a very good chance to be admitted and one or more ‘safety’ or ‘insurance’ schools where they believe they have a very good chance of being admitted.
Again, it varies. If your goal is to get into a Top 50-type law school, you often need a GPA of 3.5+ and an LSAT score of at least 160, with the caveat that other aspects of your application might help offset any shortcomings in that consideration. For a T14 school, you may need a GPA of 3.9+ and an LSAT score in the 165-170 range or higher.
Few if any law schools provide need-based scholarships, but law schools may provide partial or full scholarships to those students whose GPA and LSAT scores really improve that school’s averages. For example, a TCU graduate with excellent numbers might be accepted into Harvard with no financial aid but might be offered a full scholarship at a mid-ranked school like SMU, Texas A&M, or Pepperdine.
A very good source is the AccessLex Institute. Check out these sites:
- MAX Pre-Law by AccessLex (https://AccessLex.org/max-prelaw)
- XploreJD by AccessLex (https://XploreJD.com)
- LexScholars by AccessLex (https://AccessLex.org/lexscholars)
- AccessLex Student Loan Calculator (https://AccessLex.org/calculator)
- Diversity Pipeline Program Directory (https://AccessLex.org/diversity-pipeline-program-directory)
Early Decision means you tell one law school in advance that, if admitted, you commit to go there and cancel all your other applications. This may help you, as it somewhat improves your chances to get into the law school of your choice by emphasizing how committed you are to that school. It helps the law school as well by ensuring a high-quality student will enroll there as opposed to enrolling at another law school.
No, your application normally rolls over into the general applicant pool for that school.
It increasingly matters. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are historically underrepresented in the legal profession, and law schools want more of them to apply. The Council on Legal Education Opportunity (https://cleoinc.org/) provides information and services to help applicants from underrepresented communities improve their chances for law school admission.
Several things come to mind.
First, you can work to make as much money as possible to help offset your future costs. Every dollar made and saved now helps later.
Second, you can read about law school. Highly recommended books include:
- The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking About the Law
- Getting To Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams
- Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience
- 1L of a Ride
- Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System
- The Bramble Bush