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Law School Applicants Willing to Brave Gloomy Job Market

Last week, we released the results of a comprehensive survey of law school applicants that was conducted recently. Our first annual law school applicant survey — administered in partnership with Law School Podcaster and preLaw Magazine — uncovered some interesting insights behind what drives today’s law school applicants.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how some law schools mislead potential applicants by overstating their post-graduation career prospects. Are law school hopefuls aware of the bleak job market, disappearing six-figure jobs, and the heavy student loan debt associated with leading law schools? More importantly, do they care? The answers may surprise you.

The short answer to the question of, “Would today’s law school applicants still apply even if they knew their job prospects would be bleak upon graduation?” is YES, most of them would in fact still apply. And, many of these seem just as concerned about their long-term career prospects as they are with the question of what job they’ll land right out of law school.

Here’s what we found in our survey of more than 100 law school applicants:

• 81% of respondents said they would still apply to law school now even if a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields, while 12% said they would postpone applying until placement rates improved. Only 4% said they would not apply to law school.

• Respondents are equally concerned with finding an appealing long-term career path and maintaining a healthy work/life balance once they start working (79%). Other key concerns include finding a job that allows them to pay off their student loan debt (72%) and using their law degree to make a positive impact on their community (69%).

• 44% of respondents indicated a reasonable desired base salary upon law school graduation to be $75,000-$100,000, while 29% expect $100,000-$145,000. 11% of respondents anticipate base salaries over $145,000.

So why are they applying to law school in the first place? The majority of respondents said they want to go to law school because they are interested in the law and the way it shapes society and business (75%). Some admitted to having more practical reasons: 35% of respondents believe they will always be able to find some kind of job if they have a JD.

We’ve written a lot about ”helicopter parents,” and we know that a lot of these parents are behind their children’s push to get into law school. However, only 13% of respondents are going to law school because their parents want them to attend. (Some of us wonder if the real number is in fact higher, but no 21-year-old wants to admit it.)

Finally, we wondered how much affordability factored into these applicants’ decision-making. According to our survey results, it’s only important to 54% of respondents in the law school selection process. Student loans (38%) and grants/scholarships (21%) were the two most common financing strategies for law school, while 14% of respondents indicated parental support will help them finance the degree. So, despite all of the chatter these days about runaway student loan burdens, it seems that the majority of those who do apply just accept the high costs as a fact of life.

This guest post was authored by Veritas Prep.  Veritas Prep’s law school admissions consulting services ensure that Veritas Prep clients are successfully poised for admission to their select law schools.

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Why Wait? 5 Reasons to Take Time Off Before Law School

A couple of years ago, I attended an informal panel featuring nine or ten in-house attorneys at Google. These lawyers were all kind enough to share stories about their law school experiences and offer up general advice. Their perspectives on law school varied quite a bit – some loved it, some hated it, some had blocked it out of their memories.

However, they all unanimously agreed on one thing: They either wished they had waited a few years after college to attend law school or were extremely thankful that they had. Working as a paralegal, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of lawyers of all stripes – Big Law, public interest, company in-house – and everyone (this word should raise a red flag on the LSAT, but in this case it’s meant honestly) had the same advice for prelaw college students:

WAIT.

Even law school admissions officers offer the same wisdom. As quoted in Richard Montauk’s How to Get Into the Top Law Schools, NYU’s Irene Dorzback states it best: “If all the top law schools agreed not to accept applicants unless they had three-plus years of experience, it would probably work out better for everyone.” In fact, some top law schools are doing just that. Northwestern’s School of Law all but requires post-college work experience, with 98% of their entering students having one or more years of a full-time job under their belts.

 It is virtually impossible to understand the “real world” without substantial work experience. It’s unfortunately not something that can be experienced vicariously. As one of the Google attorneys succinctly put it, “You just don’t know who you are and what you want out of your job until you’ve worked for more than a summer or two and had to pay rent.” That type of self-knowledge is rarely achieved by the age of 22. And yet, each year, anywhere between one and two thirds of entering law school students come directly from undergrad. These young men and women aren’t stupid; they represent some of the brightest minds of their generation. But sadly many are there for the wrong reasons.

 Here are 5 things to consider when you’re making your decision:

 1. A JD is a technical degree

 A law degree prepares you to be a lawyer or someone intimately connected with the legal practice. Period. The true multipurpose degree is a BA or BS, which is what makes college such a valuable experience, or perhaps an MBA, which very often does offer skills that are transferable to a number of careers. (A word to the wise: If you’re using phrases like “universal degree” to justify getting a JD, law school is not for you.)

 2. Not all legal whizzes go straight to law school

 Two words: Barack Obama. Post-Columbia, Barry worked for two years in New York, then spent three years serving as a community organizer in Chicago before finally deciding to attend law school at Harvard. Other famous law graduates who waited a year or two before studying law include John Adams (who worked as an elementary school teacher), Bill Clinton (Rhodes Scholar), Stephen Breyer (Marshall Scholar), and Elena Kagan (Master’s at Oxford). Admissions officer Monica Ingram from the University of Texas promises, “There is absolutely not a penalty for waiting some years after graduating college to apply.”

3. Legally Blonde is slightly misleading

 Law school is a good deal more challenging than it seems on TV, and attorneys aren’t always crusading for justice like Atticus Finch. To see if you’re merely drawn into the glamour or prestige of calling yourself a “lawyer,” try this mental exercise: simply replace the word “lawyer,” with all its cultural baggage, with another title. If the job were called “word accountant,” or “trial attendant,” or “case pleader,” would you still be as interested? If so, great! You’re genuinely excited about the law. If not, you should strongly examine your motivation for going to law school (note: this exercise also works for “doctor”).

 4. Law school teaches you how to be a lawyer, not how to think.

 “Learning how to think” was what the last eight years were about. If you’ve made it all the way through high school and college and still don’t know how to learn or think, another three years probably won’t make much of a difference.

 5. You always have options

 Many students rush to law school right out of college because they don’t know what else to do. The irony is that at the time of college graduation you can do almost anything except practice law. Only a handful of jobs require an advanced degree, whereas a vast array of positions require either a bachelor’s and/or previous work experience. It’s true that a liberal arts major may not lead to a specific career, but that open-endedness should provide a sense of freedom, not panic.

 It’s true that the post-college graduation years can be a frightening—sometimes even a painful—experience. But ultimately, they are the best time to discover who you are and what you want to do with your life. It’s certainly possible that you’ll find that practicing law is exactly what you want—this conviction will make you a more driven law school student, and in the end a better attorney. You’ll walk through those hallowed ivy covered gates with a newfound air of maturity and wisdom. As Rick Geiger of Cornell Law says, “It’s never a bad idea to take time off before law school. We’ll still be here, and a legal career lasts for a very long time, so there’s no need to rush.”

Matthew Busick is a Content Developer at Knewton, where he helps students with their LSAT prep.

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How to Get Into Law School: Top Myths, Mistakes and Must-Haves


This is your one-stop primer — by the numbers — where admissions deans debunk popular admissions myths, share tips for making you stand out among other applicants and caution against some of the common mistakes made.

The law school applications process can seem like a maze at times, filled with false passages and mythical obstacles. But it need not be such a heart-wrenching experience. Even though you have never been through the process, others have. And by following their guidance and experience, you can avoid the mistakes and instead make your application stand out.

Here we identify the three best ways to stand out, how to avoid the six most-common mistakes, and we debunk the four biggest myths.

3 ways to stand out (besides your GPA and LSAT score)

Everyone knows that an applicant’s LSAT score and grade point average are the two top indicators of how one will fare in the admissions process. Still, understand that admissions counselors don’t just look at the numbers.

(1) A well-written, effective personal statement

“Often, candidates underestimate the power of the personal statement,” said Chloe Reid, associate dean and dean of admissions at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. “This is your story. Your story is different from the person standing next to you.”

Use the personal statement as a chance to tell admissions officers what is important to you, what has influenced your life, and what your values are. Remember that admissions officers don’t have a lot of time to spend on each application. Make your personal statement concise, Reid said.

“If you had 10 minutes of my time, what would you want me to know about you?”

It also helps when an applicant includes information about why they chose to apply to the particular law school, said Nicole Vilches, assistant dean for admissions at Chicago Kent College of Law. For example, by listing a particular program that interests you.

(2) Letters of recommendation that impress

Sometimes applicants worry more about the title of the person writing the letter of recommendation than what the person can tell us about the applicant, said Michael Boylen, assistant dean for admissions at Roger Williams University School of Law.

Ask people who know you well, and don’t just ask them to write you a letter, ask them to write you a good letter, Boylen said. And always have an academic letter of recommendation.

Opt for professors who know you well enough to write about you specifically rather than send a form letter. Avoid recommenders who will be viewed as having a bias, such as family and close friends. Also consider giving your potential recommenders an “out” if they are too busy or don’t feel comfortable writing the letter.

(3) Provide an honest and clear picture of who you are, what is important to you, and how law school fits into the “big picture” of your life when listing your activities.

“It’s important to be authentic in your communications,” said Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School. A common theme in winning applications is explaining the “who” and the “why” behind the applicant’s story — whether you grew up in poverty and want to give back to your community through your law school education or grew up helping with the family business and want to use your law degree for corporate work. On your personal statement, don’t simply regurgitate your resume and restate your activities. Explain them in context. For example, how a particular internship has helped mold you into who you are.

6 Big Mistakes

Applicants make mistakes, but some of those mistakes are easy to avoid. Here are some common pitfalls from which you should stay away.

Mistake: Not doing your research or applying to the wrong schools.

Applying to law schools that are beyond your reach or simply outside of your realm (whether geographically, in terms of your goals, costs and expected returns, or simply in terms of fit) may be a big mistake.

“Understand that many law schools are looking for a good fit, just like the student is,” Reid said.

Matasar said pre-law applicants should be realistic in their choices and genuine in their applications.

How to fix: Carefully research law schools before you begin the application process to determine which ones you should apply to. First, turn to the Law School Admissions Council Web site for general information about the law school admissions process and what you can expect, Reid said. Then, research particular schools that are a good fit for you, and for which you may also be a good fit.

“Make time to meet and talk to people,” said William Perez, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at New York Law School. Preferably, travel to the law schools that you apply to, or at least the ones that have extended admissions to you. “At the very least, you should look at the school’s schedule of where we’re going to be.”

Spending a couple of hours to travel to a campus close to you can help you do research about a school that is recruiting.

Mistake: Being unprofessional during the admissions process.

A surefire way to make sure you won’t be admitted to a law school? Be rude to the people at the school — whether it’s admissions staff, alumni reps or support staff. Another mistake? Act (or even dressing) inappropriately when you meet with admissions staff. Also a big no-no — sending inappropriate emails from an inappropriate email address.

How to fix: First off, remember that law school is a fairly conservative place, Boylen said. Not creating a professional email address when you begin the applications process shows a lack of maturity, he said.

Remember that schools look at all of the written materials you submit, not just those that are formal parts of the application. In other words, every letter and even email you send will end up in your file and may be reviewed along with your education.

“We’re looking for the most unvarnished writing,” Boylen said.

Write everything in a formal and professional manner, and proofread carefully. Also, be courteous and understanding of the process, Reid said.

“The fact is, people in admissions are working very hard,” she said. “Every law school’s process is different.”

While you may have received a decision from one school, another school’s admissions office may have a different process with different systems in place. So, be patient and polite when you correspond or converse with people at each law school.

Mistake: Lying, omitting information or submitting an incomplete application.

Some applicants “forget to answer some of the questions or provide incomplete information,” Vilches said. “This ends up delaying the process, [plus] we may wonder why they didn’t provide it in the first place.”

One prime example is questions dealing with an applicant’s character and fitness, such as questions about prior arrests, convictions, academic discipline and the like.

Matasar said omitting information or providing false information on those questions is a huge mistake.

Vilches points out that different law schools phrase application questions differently (often modeling them after their state bar exam application questions). So, be sure you read questions carefully and understand what you are being asked. If you need clarification, call the law school rather than guessing on your own.

How to fix: Be honest throughout the process and make sure you answer all of the questions asked precisely and completely. If the application asks you to explain an answer in more detail, provide those explanations.

Mistake: Trying too hard to be different—causing you to stand out the wrong way!

Some applicants are “trying to be too different or unique and trying to put together a package that sets themselves apart, but instead causes their judgment to be in question,” Reid said. Cutesy
jingles, poems or plays in your personal statement? Probably not a good bet.

How to fix: Stick to telling your story, and be genuine. Remember that admissions officers are judging you by the content of your written materials. Don’t use an inappropriate format just to try to stand out.

Mistake: Becoming disorganized.

Losing applications, submitting the wrong information, submitting the wrong draft or even submitting the only copy of a supporting document are just some examples of disorganization among applicants. You’re probably applying to more than one law school. Each school has a different application with different questions, deadlines, requirements and supporting materials. Don’t let disorganization keep you from getting in.

How to fix: “Once you get started in the process, make sure you stay organized and keep a good record,” Reid said, adding that applicants should view and treat the process as they would treat a job.

Perez recommends creating a spreadsheet to keep track of things. For each school, track what’s required to complete your application, the deadlines by which you must submit, the materials you have submitted, the dates on which you submitted those materials, any correspondence or conversations you have with the admissions staff and any responses you receive from the school. And be sure you meet all deadlines.

Mistake: Not asking the right questions.

Don’t call the admissions office to ask questions about median LSAT scores or GPA, or the law school’s address. This is public information, and you can look it up on your own, rather than wasting the admissions staff’s time.

How to fix: “Questions that probe a little bit farther” get Perez’s attention. For example, when an applicant asks what makes the law school unique, or examples of what graduates have gone on to do in their careers, or how the school can help facilitate the goals and opportunities in which the applicant is interested.

4 Common Admissions Myths

Some applicants just don’t know the real deal when it comes to the admissions process. The following are four common admissions myths — debunked.

Myth No. 1: The process is just a numbers game, and nothing matters besides the GPA and LSAT score.

Truth: “This is not an automated process,” Vilches said. “There are real people reading these applications.”

Everything in your file will be reviewed. Also, the two big numbers aren’t always the be-all, end-all in law school applications.

“There are real candidates who have a low LSAT score who get into multiple law schools every year,” Boylen said.

Myth No. 2: To get into law school, you have to follow a typical road map. For example, an applicant had better have lots of impressive activities that he or she may list on the application — even if the applicant is only doing them to get into law school.

Truth: “I can smell nonsense, but if someone is genuine…they stand out,” Perez said.

Each different aspect of your application should present that “big picture” of your qualifications as an applicant. Admissions officers like to see that something is genuinely important to you, not that you’re signing up for a particular activity just because you think it will help your chances. The bottom line? “Never do anything just to get into law school,” Perez adds.

Myth No. 3: There is a magic formula or format to personal statements and applications, which must be followed.

Truth: If you’re spending all your time scouring sample personal statements, you’ve already lost, Perez said. Rather than trying to duplicate something you are not, write something that represents who you are.

Content beats format every time, Vilches said.

“It’s important for the applicants to write in their own voice,” she said. You don’t have to quote “To Kill a Mockingbird” or begin with the sentence, “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer,” to conform to what you think is some “winning formula.” You simply have to present who you are and how this particular school fits into that.

Myth No. 4: You should go to the law school that your mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, teacher or personal trainer chose for you.

Truth: As I wrote in my book, “Law School Revealed,” just like your decision to go to law school, your decision about which school to attend has to be based on factors that are important to you personally. Some of those factors may include a school’s reputation with employers and within the legal community, location, cost, faculty, specializations offered, employment rates and alumni career satisfaction, rankings, admission requirements, diversity and more. In other words, you must make sure that the school you choose is the right fit for you.

This article is authored by Ursula Furi-Perry, Esq. author of Law School Revealed: Secrets, Opportunities and Success! and was published originally in the 2010 Back to School issue of preLaw Magazine. You can click here for the digital edition of the magazine or visit the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school.

Hear more on this topic in our podcast Avoiding Application Pitfalls: What Not to Do On Your Law School Application.

You can also listen to these great podcasts for more information about preparing your best law school application:

Law School Application Strategy: What You Can Do Now to Get Accepted Next Year

Creating the Killer Law School Application: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Application.

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New podcast helps you Avoid Application Pitfalls

It’s amazing how many law school applicants make avoidable application mistakes. It’s unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that these avoidable mistakes can result in an application being rejected.

What can applicants do to avoid the avoidable mistakes, and not only submit an error-free application, but the best application possible? Our latest podcast, Avoiding Application Pitfalls: What Not To Do On Your Law School Application, gets you the answers from the deans who review your applications and who have the final say on which candidates are accepted to their law schools.

We go be behind-the-scenes and talk with New York University School of Law’s Assistant Dean for Admissions, Kenneth Kleinrock, University of Virginia School of Law’s Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions, Jason Wu Trujillo and University of Michigan School of Law’s Assistant Dean for Admissions, Sarah Zearfoss. Leading admissions consultant, Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com, helps applicants navigate the admissions process and weighs in on the most common mistakes applicants make.

Together, our guest experts have seen every misstep and fumble applicants make and they share them with Law School Podcaster to help you avoid them and to improve your application.

Don’t submit your application without listening to this show!

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Atlas LSAT Changes Name to Manhattan LSAT!

Why the change?

Several years ago, Manhattan GMAT created a sister company to tackle the LSAT. “To ensure that this new company developed its own reputation and developed its own LSAT-specific program, it was decided to run this new company separately and give it a distinct name,” according to Noah Teitelbaum, Manhattan LSAT’s Managing Director.

“Atlas is all grown up now and, over the last few years, the two companies have grown closer and closer,” says Teitelbaum. According to the company website, “with the recent launch of Manhattan GRE, it makes sense for all three companies to share a name since they all share the same standards of excellence.”

What’s going to change:

• name
• logo
• e-mails (studentservices@manhattanlsat.com, for example)
• website address (you’ll be automatically re-directed to the new site, so no worries if your fingers memorized “www.atlaslsat.com”)

What’s NOT going to change:

• focus on great teaching.
• LSAT-specific curriculum.
• LSAT-specific audition and training program.
• Your account login, your access to all of our awesome online resources.
• telephone number: 646-254-6480

Manhattan LSAT wants to thank those who have supported Atlas and those who have told their friends about their Atlas experience. And Manhattan LSAT wants your help in making this a smooth transition! If you have had a great experience with Atlas books, classes, or online resources, they’re asking you to write a review on one (or more!) of these review sites:

Google Reviews (NY, Boston, Santa Monica, Chicago)

Yelp (NY, Boston, Chicago, LA, SF-Berkeley, San Diego)

Amazon (Logical Reasoning Guide, Reading Comprehension Guide and Logic Games Guide)

If you shoot Manhattan LSAT an e-mail telling them where you made your review, they’ll send you a thank-you t-shirt proclaiming your love for the LSAT!

Congratulations on the new name and welcome to Law School Podcaster sponsor, Manhattan LSAT!!Labels: , ,

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Recession’s Impact on Minorities at Law Firms: Anomaly or Trend?

Whether you’re considering law school, you’re already there, or you’ll be graduating soon, the legal job market is probably on your mind. A recent survey sheds more light on how things are breaking down in terms of law firm populations.

While it’s no surprise that the economic crisis has affected law firm hiring, promotion and retention as a whole, data collected by Vault.com and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, earlier this year highlights its impact on attorneys of color. Notably, while many in the legal profession felt the recession, the Vault/MCCA survey data suggests that minorities were disproportionately affected. At the same time, the results show slow, but steady progress for women as law firm partners and leaders.

According to Veta Richardson, MCCA’s Executive Director, “The study is encouraging for women lawyers. Despite the recession, they continue to advance in leadership roles in their firms. However, the data is more troubling for minority attorneys. The recession has hit them harder, especially law students, and the decline in their ranks may linger for years.”

The Vault.com/MCCA data is the result of a survey in spring 2010 of more than 260 law firms around the country, including most of the largest and most prestigious national law firms, as well as many smaller, regional firms, on their diversity initiatives, programs and demographics. The results, which include statistics for the 2009 calendar year, have been released in the new edition of the Law Firm Diversity Database.

Some notable findings:

Law firm hiring declined across-the-board

• The 2L summer associate class dropped by some 20 percent since 2008
• Lateral recruiting fell by more than 40 percent
• Less than 75 percent of 2Ls were offered permanent positions (compared to 87.83% in 2008 and 92.69% in 2007)

Numbers for minority attorneys fell

• For the first time in the survey’s seven-year history, the results showed virtually no increase in the percentage of minority equity partners, which remained nearly stagnant at 6.06%, a barely perceptible change from the 6.05% reported for 2008.
• Perhaps most striking of all: minority recruitment was down at all levels. Of all attorneys hired in 2009 (including starting associates as well as laterals), less than 20 percent (19.09%) were minorities, a notable drop from 2008 (21.77%) and 2007 (21.46%). The 2009 2L summer class had the lowest percentage of minority students of the last three years: 25.19% (compared to 25.66% in 2008 and 25.91% in 2007).
• Meanwhile, the percentages of minority associates who left their firms (especially at junior and midlevel) has continued to climb since 2007. This is especially striking with respect to minority women. For example, of third-year associates who left their firms in 2009, 16.64% were minority women (compared to 13.98% in 2008 and 14.36% in 2007).
• Overall, minority men and women represented 20.79% of attorneys who left their firms in 2009 — even though minority lawyers represent just 13.44% of the overall attorney population at these same firms. While it is unclear how many of the departures were the result of layoffs, the fact that firms lost a higher percentage of minority lawyers than they brought in is of real concern.

Some gains for women

• Women’s representation at both the equity and non-equity partner levels grew last year. Women made up 16.84% of all equity partners in 2009, compared to 16.43% in 2008 and 16.06% in 2007. Among non-equity partners, women’s representation grew from 26.39% in 2008 to 27.25% in 2009.
• Women’s representation on executive/management committees has also increased steadily over the last few years, from 14.78% in 2007 to 15.31% in 2008 to 16.13% in 2009.
• Similar gains were made by female attorneys serving as heads of office and sitting on hiring committees, partner and associate review committees.

According to Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s senior law editor “It remains to be seen whether these numbers reflect a recessionary anomaly or the start of a trend. Nonetheless, given the slow rate at which law firms have been diversifying their ranks and the likelihood that recruiting will not return to pre-recession levels any time soon, there’s a danger that even a one-time drop in minority recruitment could have a long-term impact on overall law firm populations.”

You can check out the survey results for yourself. Access to the Law Firm Diversity Database is free, and just requires registration to set up a password. In addition, you’ll find descriptions of law firms’ recruitment efforts and retention initiatives, pipeline programs and ways in which they hold leadership accountable for diversity progress.

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Not Sure If You’re Ready for the October 2010 LSAT?

If you are headed to the October LSAT but are not scoring within an acceptable range on your practice tests, don’t fool yourself – you will not get lucky and suddenly do 10 points better! The LSAT is too well-written a test. To decide whether to show up or not, use this flowchart,

 If you need to start prepping for December, try out a Manhattan LSAT online class

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