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LSAT Scores: The Waiting Game

Need to keep busy while you wait for your LSAT score? Why not paint your apartment!?

It’s late June, which means those of you who took the test earlier this month are “playing the waiting game,” as they say (the same people who use expressions like “have a case of the Mondays” and “TMI”). I wanted to write a post on how to wait when you’re impatient, so I googled “how to wait.” The tips that I found included suggestions like doing something you enjoy, and trying not to think about whatever it is you’re awaiting. I deserved these results, of course, for actually googling “how to wait.”

In the interest of sharing some ideas for dealing with impatience that aren’t patronizing and useless, here are a few activities that have worked for me in the past**.

1. Manufacture drama. Break up with someone! Go into debt! Adopt a cat and put it on Craigslist two weeks later! Creating drama can be an incredibly effective means of quelling impatience. The emotional trauma you will experience is guaranteed to be distracting, and your LSAT score will have arrived before you know it.

2. Google your ailments. If you haven’t been sleeping, google lack of sleep. Even if you have, you can still google lack of sleep so that you’ll know what it means if you ever do have sleep issues: scurvy. The news of your impending death will give you some healthy perspective.

3. Paint your apartment without researching how to paint, consulting your landlord, or covering your furniture. Who knows where the magic in this one lies–the fumes, the furious letter skidding under your door, or the eternal splashes of Citrus Celebration that now adorn your couch and desk. Between the cursing, sweat, and turpentine, however, you’re bound to forget about the LSAT. Suddenly, there your score will be!

Why sit quietly reading a book when you could be telling your parents you’re moving to Argentina with your significant other (even if you’re not)? With a little creativity, July 6 will be here before you know it. Until then, try some of these waiting strategies, and please, if you haven’t done so already, you can sign up for Manhattan LSAT’s FREE online review of the June exam.

**With the exception of signing up for the Live Online June LSAT Review Session, Manhattan LSAT does not officially endorse any of the above strategies for coping with impatience.

This post is courtesy of Mary Adkins at Manhattan LSAT. Manhattan LSAT is a leading LSAT-exclusive test preparation provider. If you don’t know much about the LSAT, you can read the Manhattan LSAT intro guide or attend one of the free workshops (available in NYC and Live Online).

 

 

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Law School Admissions Tip #4: Choosing a Topic for Your Personal Statement

  

The Top 15 Things Every Applicant to Law School Should Know is a series that will teach you the ins and outs of successful law school applications. Stay tuned for the remaining elements. This week we’ll discuss the importance of extracurricular activities in the law school admissions process

In my 15 years working in graduate and undergraduate admissions, I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of personal statements. A scant few of those essays have been…well…really bad. Most have been well written and satisfactory. But there are a few that have stayed with me over the years. I haven’t saved them and I don’t refer back to them, but I remember them, and here’s why.

Are these memorable essays interesting, plain and straightforward, or self deprecating and humorous? Are the topics unusual or seemingly ordinary? Do people write about intensely personal experiences, or choose philosophical topics? The answer to all of these questions is yes. There truly is not a set formula, but without question, the most important thing is that the essay is authentic. Choose a topic about which you are passionate, which you believe really illustrates who you are and what you believe. These are the essays that admissions committees most enjoy reading. It can be about your love of horses, the first marathon that you completed, or the band that you play in every Saturday night. Any topic will work as long as you write about something that is meaningful to you and demonstrates who you really are. However, there is one topic I recommend avoiding, which I have dubbed the “I want to be a lawyer so I can give back to the world” essay. This is so overdone and very, very difficult to write with any degree of originality and sincerity. Take my word for it on this one – choose another topic.

A long time ago, I read an article about the importance of basic kindness towards others. The author’s message was that people will not remember exactly what you said. They will not remember exactly what you did. But they will remember how you made them feel. Choose a topic that is so important to you and so authentic that the admissions officers reading the essay will remember how your story made them feel, long after your first day of law school has begun.

By Catherine Cook, an Accepted.com admissions consultant, published author and former Duke Law admissions officer. Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company, has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994.

This blog post originally appeared on Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog.
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Fuel Your Mind for the LSAT: Brain Food for Test Day Success

Hungry? If you’re gearing up for next week’s June 2012 LSAT now is not the time to grab a Snickers. As the clock ticks closer to the big day you may have found yourself in the repetitive study, eat, sleep, routine. Hopefully by now you have the studying and sleeping down to a science, but it is just as crucial to keep in mind that what you put into your stomach could be just as important as all that LSAT knowledge you’ve been planting in your brain. Before you hit the grocery store this weekend, check out some of the top brain foods to add to your list as well as the best times to indulge in order to have your mind ready for optimal performance on test day.

Fuel up on Brain Food Fuel up on Brain Food

 

Sunday night’s dinner: if your body operates like most humans, your adrenaline will be overflowing and your nerves will be getting an exhausting workout the night before the exam. However, a restful night’s sleep is of utmost importance if you want to perform your very best on test day. In preparation for bed, make sure to eat a healthy dinner at least two to three hours before you go to sleep so that you have time to digest. Fill your plate with an omega-3 fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut) or a lean meat (chicken, turkey, lean beef), a side of nutrient-dense veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale, bok choy), and a small helping of healthy carbohydrates (whole grain bread, brown rice, sweat potatoes). Skip the soda or sugary juice tonight and be sure to drink plenty of good ol’ H2O!

The importance of breakfast: The best way to prepare for the LSAT in final hours before it begins is to have a hearty breakfast that will stick with you for the duration of the exam. As tempting as those Pop Tarts and frozen waffles look, they do not provide all of the essential nutrients that your mind and body require to perform most efficiently. The best options are meals that combine protein (for mental performance) and complex carbohydrates (for energy) and that are void of too much fat (which will make you tired and sluggish). Some healthy, nutrient-laden meals that meet these requirements are yogurt with granola, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs with a side of toast, oatmeal with fresh fruit and raisins, a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk and some fresh strawberries or blueberries. If you’re a regular caffeine junkie, you can have your coffee and drink it too, but don’t drink so much that you’ll find yourself constantly in need of the bathroom (maybe consider a small shot of espresso). While we suggest a meal that fills you up, be careful not to eat anything heavier than you normally do, as you don’t want to enter into a food coma and feel lethargic and nauseas.

Snack Time: The 15 minute break period between sections 3 and 4 of the test is probably every test taker’s favorite part of the exam! It is extremely important to use this time wisely and to use it to your greatest advantage. This means bringing food and drink to the test center to replenish your energy and to hydrate your body. Remember, you’re allowed to bring in a snack, as long as it fits in your gallon-sized zip lock bag. Be sure to pack a snack that will fit easily and can be consumed in a few bites. Energy bars or granola bars are a great choice. They are small, neatly wrapped, and provide a nice boost of energy for the remaining sections of the test. Whole pieces of fruit such as a banana, an apple, or an orange are other smart options as they are easy to peel, quick to eat, and contain natural sugars to keep your brain alert and awake. Though you may trigger some rather interesting facial reactions from your fellow test mates, consider noshing on a hard-boiled egg. They are small and easy to pack and, best of all, packed with protein to keep those stomach growls at bay. It is likely that your test center will have a water fountain but it never hurts to be too prepared (or cautious of germs), so don’t forget to bring a WATER bottle to rehydrate (I emphasize the word water to deter attention away from the “quick fix” energy drinks that will have you jittering out of your seat only to send you into a crash landing before section 5).

Though it’s not stated in the textbooks, eating the right foods is an essential element to your prep plan. As the big day quickly approaches, take a break from your prep book, get some fresh air, and take a trip to your nearest food store to stock up on the aforementioned goodies. Besides, what better way to kick off your summer than with a 180 and a trimmer waist line?

Have any foods or eating tips that worked for you in the past? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting @ManhattanLSAT or @LAWPodcaster!

Good luck on Monday!

This post is courtesy of Manhattan LSAT. Manhattan LSAT is a leading LSAT-exclusive test preparation provider. If you don’t know much about the LSAT, you can read the Manhattan LSAT intro guide or attend one of the free workshops (available in NYC and Live Online). 

 

 

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Trying to Beat the LSAT Clock? New Podcast Offers Time Management Tips For the Test

 

Do you feel like the clock is working against you on the LSAT?  You’re not alone.  One of the most challenging parts of the test is working through all the questions – and doing so thoroughly — within the time allotted.  The key is to get your pacing down.  In our latest podcast, Beat the LSAT Clock: Time Management Techniques to Put You On Pace for a Higher Score, you will learn that there are proven strategies for maximizing the number of points you can earn within the time constraints of the test. 

Executive Director of Academics for Manhattan Prep, Noah Teitelbaum sums it up as follows:  “there are the easy, the tough, and the impossible questions.  It’s on the easy questions and the impossible questions that you can save time.  The easy questions should be the things that are in your wheelhouse, the things you’re really good at and you know how to do it; you know what’s coming; you can move fast.  And so you burn time.  And what you don’t want to do is enjoy these easy questions.  And that can be something people do – they luxuriate, Oh, I love this question, it’s so easy.  Let me really, you know, let me get my full point, really.  No, instead, move faster on those.  On the impossible questions, I hate to break it to you, but if they’re impossible, they’re impossible.  So, just move on.  You know, the faster you can get that wrong, the better, because you want to save time from both the easy and the impossible questions, for the tough questions.  These are the questions where you need a little bit more than the average amount of time.  Now in terms of average amount of time, it depends on the section and whatnot, but that… let’s say for logical reasoning, on average, you’re spending a minute and 20 per question.  If you save some time for some tough question you could afford to spend a minute and 50.  And then that’s what you need for that tough question, perhaps, to get it right.”

In this segment, we get you some great tips to help you with your pacing — you’ll know when to skip questions and you’ll learn how to tell which questions to tackle first, or just leave on the table.

Our guests also include:

  • Glen Stohr, Kaplan Test Prep, Senior Manager for Content Development
  • Steve Schwartz, LSAT Tutor, Editor LSAT Blog
  • John Fowler, LSAT test-taker and Columbia Law School student

 

 Put time on your side during your LSAT.  Listen to the full show for more!

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Law School Admissions Tip No.3: Extracurricular Activities, Community Service, and Leadership – What Counts?


The Top 15 Things Every Law School Applicant Should Know is a series that will teach you the ins and outs of successful law school applications. Stay tuned for the remaining elements. This week we’ll discuss the importance of extracurricular activities in the law school admissions process

Part of your strategy for applying to law school should be figuring out what makes you stand apart from the crowd. The numbers are the numbers, but what you do outside of school and how you spend your free time is uniquely your own. And how you present this information is just as important as the information itself. Here’s what you need to know.

In its purest form, law is still seen as a “helping profession,” so having a strong track record with involvement in the world beyond the classroom is important. Hopefully your extracurricular activities include some level of community service and volunteerism, but if not, you might want to consider adding that to your “strategy” for applying to law school. Volunteering for something related to the legal field, i.e. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) or Legal Aid, for example, is a great way not only to demonstrate service, but will also give you a real world glimpse into what it is like to be an attorney. But the reality is that any kind of community service is valuable, so choose something that is meaningful to you and to which you can make a genuine commitment.

Other extracurricular activities that show your involvement with your school and community can include sports, hobbies, clubs, and other activities. Again, if you have written law related articles for your school’s newspaper – great! But if not, your extracurricular activities will give the adcom an idea of who you are and what is important to you. The best kind of extracurricular activities are the ones that are most meaningful to you and the ones in which you have taken a leadership role. You don’t need fifteen different activities, just a few that you really care about. Highlighting your authentic interest in and commitment to these activities will be an important part of your application. If you are uncertain how to go about doing this, admissions consultants can help you figure out how to best frame this part of your application so that you stand out from the crowd. It’s all part of your overall strategy to convey to your readers who you are, the causes that you care about, and what you can bring to the school to which you are applying. By making sure that you demonstrate this commitment to the world around you, you are setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack.

By Catherine Cook, an Accepted.com admissions consultant, published author and former Duke Law admissions officer. Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company, has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994.

This blog post originally appeared on Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog.


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Law School Admissions Tip #2: Timing is Everything, and Earlier is Better

 The Top 15 Things Every Applicant to Law School Applicant Should Know is a series that will teach you the ins and outs of successful law school applications. Stay tuned for the remaining elements. This week we’ll discuss the importance of timing in the law school admissions process.

My brother’s favorite saying is, “Go early and go high.” This is the way he enjoys his hiking – pure, pristine, and in solitude. It is how he best appreciates the experience. In the case of law school (and really, all undergraduate and graduate) admissions, the ancillary sentiment is, “Write well and submit early.” There are several reasons for this, and here they are.

1.  While the deadlines for law schools vary (for the class beginning in the fall of 2013, Harvard’s deadline is December 1, 2012 whereas Santa Clara’s is February 1, 2013), it makes sense to work on your applications in parallel and try to submit more or less all at once. You will most likely be using the same, perhaps slightly modified, personal statement for every school, so there is no reason to drag out the process. Who wants to spend six months stressing out over it? Just get it done.

2.   Many schools will fill their class on a rolling basis, meaning if they read your application in September and they like it, you could be admitted in October or November. If you know you want to go to law school and you know you want to go the following fall, wouldn’t you rather start thinking about your options sooner rather than later? This gives you plenty of time to make your decisions, explore financial aid and other methods of funding your law school education, and preparing for this new chapter in your life. In addition, there is generally more financial aid available earlier in the application cycle than later, so your chances of obtaining assistance is greater the earlier you apply.

3.   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, part of the application equation is considering your audience. Admissions committees are made up of real people, who read every single application submitted. In a typical year, Berkeley receives 6000-8000 applications. Someone has to read them all, and it stands to reason that the enthusiasm the readers have for the first 3000 or so applications may wane a bit by the time they get to the last 500 or so. It’s basic human nature. Are you more alert and attentive at the beginning of a lecture than at the end? Are you more engaged when you start reading the New York Times, or after you’ve spent two hours poring over it? You want your application to land on the adcom member’s desk when they are fresh and excited, not when they are spent and exhausted.

We know that the process can be intimidating and it can be tempting to procrastinate. Professional admissions consultants can help you organize your thoughts, brainstorm about your personal statement, and assist you with getting your applications submitted in a timely manner. The earlier, the better!

By Catherine Cook, an Accepted.com admissions consultant, published author and former Duke Law admissions officer. Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company, has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994.

This blog post originally appeared on Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog.


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The Dumb Kids Didn’t Get the Message? Whoa, there.

By Mary Adkins, Manhattan LSAT Teacher. Manhattan LSAT is a leading LSAT-exclusive test preparation provider. If you don’t know much about the LSAT, you can read the Manhattan LSAT intro guide or attend one of the free workshops (available in NYC and Live Online).

You may have heard the news. At the end of a decade of soaring law school application numbers, they’ve finally started plummeting. Over the past two years, there has been a notable dip in the number of people taking the LSAT and, accordingly, the number applying to law school. Interestingly, it turns out that the greatest decrease has been among test-takers scoring highest on the test. The smallest change has been among students scoring at the low end. In other words, the potential 170s are mostly the ones deciding to forego law school. The potential 150s (and under) are still showing up.

I have been troubled over the past couple of weeks by the chatter about why this may be the case. The popular consensus that has emerged: the smart kids are “getting the memo” that law jobs are few and far between, so they’re moving on to do other things. Then there the dumb kids, who just don’t get it. They’re still applying.

This speculation is pretty myopic, and I’m sort of awed by how readily the authors who suggest it—not only at The Atlantic and Above the Law—seem to assume that most people decide to go law school based on identical professional goals (with some minor lip service to the “less affluent” crowd, as if it’s at the fringe): super high-paying, big city, highly competitive.

No doubt that jobs at firms in major cities are hard to come by, have become harder to come by, and are easier (as in, perhaps possible) to come by if you’ve graduated from a top school, for which you need a high LSAT score. Sure. But there are many, many people who don’t plan or want to live in Chicago, New York, or Boston. For these folks, local and/or state law schools ranked below the top 50, or even100, are more than sufficient to obtain JDs and set up shop.

“Small town” lawyers and the lower-tier schools that train them are not the outliers of the legal profession, the minority. They are the majority.

I can think of five friends offhand who went to law schools proximate to where we grew up in South Carolina (and all to schools outside the top 100, by the way). What are these people doing now? They are practicing law near or in our hometown.

Maybe the reason the Potential 170s aren’t taking the LSAT isn’t because they’re picking up on something that the 150s-and-under are missing. Maybe they just want something different. The Potential 170s want Ropes & Gray or Cravath or to run Legal Aid, and in this economic climate, they make the reasonable assessment that for them, law school isn’t a great bet. Meanwhile, a healthy number of the150s have more flexibility in terms of what schools they’re willing to go to and/or what scores they need to get there.

The reason the decreasing number of applications seems to be skewed by LSAT score has, I imagine, more to do with people’s varying values than it does the ignorance of low scorers. Maybe they’re not missing the message; it’s just a message that doesn’t apply to them.

This blog post originally appeared on the Manhattan LSAT Blog.
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Weighing The Value of a Challenging Class, a Low Grade & Some Time Off

Here’s a recent inquiry from one of our listeners and some info from our podcasts that may be helpful: 

I am a college senior with one semester left before I graduate. I am currently studying for the LSAT. This semester I chose to take a logic class and while I am learning the material, the class is difficult and I already know it’s going to lower my GPA. Therefore I’m thinking of holding off on law school right after I graduate. How highly do law schools look at GPA’s if an individual takes time off from school to concentrate on employment or professional experience?

Not surprisingly, some of our guests, including admissions deans from top law schools, have offered their insight on these points.  So, why not hear (or read below) what they’ve had to say on these topics.  If you want to hear from our experts directly, just click on the podcast links below.

•  Mitigating Weaknesses in Your Law School Application: Identifying and Fixing Weak Spots.  In this segment, Dean Rita Jones, of Boston College Law School, emphasized the importance of taking challenging undergraduate courses and said that too many easy classes are a potential weakness in your candidacy.  “It could be a weakness if you’ve taken too many intro-level courses later in your college years, maybe having several jobs on your résumé but no apparent advancement in responsibility or position, lack of demonstrated leadership in co-curricular and extracurricular activities, no demonstration of a long-term commitment to any one endeavor. These are things that I would look for. I don’t know that candidates always think [about] that, but I think it’s something to consider.”

How should you deal with a low grade in a particular class or a weaker GPA?  Dean Jones had the following advice: “You can retake classes. That won’t raise a poor grade or change a GPA, but it might show you’re moving in a better direction. . . I would not suggest retaking a class to, say, boost the GPA unless the low grade was really due to not understanding the subject and that’s something you really want to know. I mean, if it works, if it’s important for you to really have that knowledge that you did not get from the class, it might well be worth repeating it. But I would suggest repeating it just for purposes of boosting the GPA.”

• What’s Your Major? The Courses That Help You Get In & Succeed in Law School is another segment tackling this issue.  Sarah Zearfoss, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions,University of Michigan Law School says admissions officers like to see curricula that is both deep and broad. “You should  certainly be trying to take challenging courses in whatever is your chosen core field, to show that you can perform at a very high academic level. And then it’s also important though that you branch out and test yourself in areas outside your comfort zone. So classes that give you experience [such] as close reading of texts, detailed analysis, logical reasoning, and extensive writing are always helpful.”

In comparing different majors in the admissions process, Ann Perry, Associate Dean for Admissions, The University of Chicago Law School reviews the entire application, and discerns how the student performs in their major fields. “So, it’s looking at their transcripts, seeing what courses they took. Did they challenge themselves within their major, meaning they took upper level classes beyond maybe what was required? I like to see some writing classes — and even hard science majors sometimes take writing classes — because I think that’s a core skill that it would be nice to come with for law school, even though you take a whole year of legal writing. So it’s evaluating that, but also here’s where letters of recommendation become helpful, especially when they’re from a professor who the student had, who can really kind of talk about this student’s academic ability.”

• Nontraditional Law School Applicants & Students:  Tips to Help You Apply, Find the Right Fit & Succeed, focuses on the value of taking time off after earning your undergraduate degree and before starting law school. The show offers some perspective on how admissions deans view applicants who take time off.

For example, Frank Motley, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Indiana University Maurer School of Law said that when he started at Indiana in 1977, most people applying had not taken any time off. Increasingly, students are taking time off to work before coming to law school as is often seen with business schools.“Well, business schools require that students have some work experience because they find that they become better students and add more to the classroom experience. While law schools haven’t required that, I think that people are seeing one or two years experience does add to their maturity and makes the law school experience much more relevant.”

Johann Lee, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Northwestern University Law School adds that nontraditional students tend to have time management skills, also a great help. “If you’ve been holding a very competitive complex job, then you learn time management skills. You learn really good time management skills. And so I think when you enter the law school environment, having to juggle a lot – juggle your class work, extracurricular, co-curricular activities, I think old students tend, to me and historically, they seem to do well because they have the ability to juggle a lot of things and do a lot of things effectively.”

Also in this show, Veritas Prep’s Adam Hoff explains that law school is a numbers game — until it isn’t.“Schools are not able to just disregard the LSAT or disregard the GPA. Even if they think those markers are not as appropriate for a nontraditional or an older applicant. But what they are able to do is say, look, we think that the rich experience this person has, we think their nontraditional approach, is going to add so much value to the experience for other students. They’re going to bring so much diversity and spice to the classrooms that we’re willing to absorb the hit on this particular LSAT score.”

Listen to these shows to get more information on this topic!

 

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Law School Admissions Tip #1: Develop Your Law School Admissions Strategy

Numbers and stats for law school admission are important – certainly more so even than for undergraduate – but the right components of your application can make all the difference in the world.

Does it seem like you just finished your undergraduate applications for admission, and now here you are applying to law school? Or maybe you did your undergraduate more than a few years ago, and are returning to law school after an academic hiatus. Either way, it’s important to know what admissions committees are looking for BEFORE you starting working on your application. You need a strategy.

The first thing to know is that the numbers that schools list on their web sites are real. Yale really does look for an LSAT score in the mid 170’s, whereas Tulane is happy with a 160. So look at the web sites of the schools in which you are interested, and make your list accordingly. Of course, you should always reach for the stars by including a couple of reach schools, but you also need to be realistic.

When making your list of schools, other things to consider include location, and whether or not you are able and willing to move to attend law school. For someone in their early 20’s, this often is not an issue, whereas if you are returning to law school a little later in life, you might be settled where you are and therefore are not able to relocate. From a financial point of view, the local school may also be more affordable.

At least as important as location and affordability is focusing on what kind of law you want to study, what you want to do with the degree, and which programs will therefore be the best fit. Are you interested in corporate law or do you see yourself working for LegalAid after graduation? Different schools have different specialties. Do your research and make sure that the schools you are including on your list match your interests.

Once you have done your due diligence and figured out where you can reasonably hope to be admitted, which schools have the best program for your interests, and which two or three schools fit into the “reach” category, then it is time to assess the potential strengths and weaknesses of your application. Suppose you have an excellent LSAT score, but your GPA suffered your junior year, thereby bringing your overall GPA down. Instead of seeing this as only a weakness, you need to make sure that you frame this in the best possible way. (Our professional consultants and editors can help you.)

After assessing and summarizing your professional, extracurricular, and community service activities, the single most important part of your application is your personal statement. This is your opportunity to make your story come to life and give the admissions committee an authentic look into who you are. Make sure you dedicate the appropriate time and energy into this essay. We’ll cover the personal statement in a later post, but if you want to get started immediately or simply want individual advice, consider hiring a law school admissions consultant to guide you.

For now, figure out your strategy, make a plan, and get started. You’re ready!

By Catherine Cook, an Accepted.com admissions consultant, published author and former Duke Law admissions officer. Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company, has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994.

This blog post originally appeared on Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog.
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Beyond ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’ – New Podcast Looks at Changes in Law School Curriculum

Should we anticipate saying good-bye to the traditional law school classroom experience, famously depicted in movies, television and shared by legions of 1Ls who have endured it while learning to “think like a lawyer?” Not quite, though there’s a lot of talk these days about changes in the legal profession — and how law schools should respond.  The debate centers on the value and relevance of the traditional law school curriculum and is prompted in large part by the dismal economy in recent years, the shedding of tens of thousands of legal services jobs, and the changing demands of legal employers showing an increased reluctance to underwrite the costs of training recent law graduates.

According to a January post in The National Law Journal, the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in Washington a few months ago drew nearly 3,000 educators and many law schools have some type of plan for curriculum innovation.  These include ”a wider array of clinics, harnessing technology in simulations and student projects, and teaching transactional lawyering skills.”  And, more and more law professors are focusing scholarship on ways law schools should respond to the shifts in the profession.

The question is what balance should be struck between traditional law school curriculum (steeped in theory and books) and a more practice-based skills development.  Should curriculum changes be incremental – and include modest changes such as additional clinics and externships? Or should there be more sweeping reforms – where subjects like executive management, business skills, legal technology and behavioral management are taught?

Law School Podcaster is devoting an entire podcast to this important topic.  Our latest show, Beyond Thinking Like a Lawyer: What Changes in Legal Education Mean for Students features the following leading experts on this topic:

 

Law School Transparency’s Co-Founder and Policy Director, Patrick J. Lynch, says increased skills training is something every law school’s looking at, to improve the services they offer. “I think for many that where they’re going to come down on that is that they have to provide some improvement in the way that they actually train people to practice law. A good example of that is the rise of solo practitioner sort of prep courses, where they prepare people on the chance that the only option to enter the legal profession is to hang out the shingle, that schools are now offering better training, so that people can actually do that right from the get-go. And I think that’s a great example of a really practical skill training method that is probably very necessary at a lot of law schools to do. I think that that sort of thing, it can be very helpful, I think, looking at… we’ve spoken with a number of law schools that are working more with local attorneys to develop mentorship programs, and actually get students very early on during law school really socializing and getting to know and pursuing internships and legal work with lawyers in the community, which I think is a great way to sort of supplement the traditional in-course curriculum with the type of networking and skills training that you really need to succeed in this profession.”

Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor William D. Henderson says additional skills training can give law school students a broader scope for future positions. “I think that there is some usefulness towards skill training in terms of legal writing, some litigation-type training, some transactional drafting-type training. But I also think it needs to go beyond that to focus on collaborative skills, teamwork-type skills, interpersonal skills, communication, effectiveness, trust building, listening skills. I think that these are more transferable and are going to allow law school graduates to be effective in a variety of professional contexts, not just litigation-associated or transaction-associated at a major law firm.”

Don’t expect law schools to completely abandon any time soon the core curriculum that has been the mainstay of earning your law degree.  Most law schools are just beginning to look at adding pilot programs and new opportunities for students to develop real-world skills and knowledge about the legal profession.

Not surprisingly, cost is a factor.  Practice-based training is expensive, says Paul Schiff Berman, Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor at Law, George Washington University Law School.  “One of the ironies of the criticisms of law schools over the last year or two is that people are simultaneously criticizing schools for having tuitions that are too high, and at the same time criticizing schools for not offering enough practice-based training, given that the practice-based training is the most expensive training that we do, because it requires the lowest student-faculty ratio. So it is expensive to do this work, but I think it’s crucial. So, I’ve made a tremendous investment both in creating the professional development course in the first year, creating some more clinical and quasi-clinical experiences, creating a dedicated mentoring and alumni networking coordinator, and also we’ve created various programs at the back end to help students work their way into jobs and move into jobs in the public sector.”

Tune in to the full show to hear more!

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