My 1L School Supplies

In a few short weeks, I will be starting law school. I have been working towards this goal for over a year, so I am excited, though trying to manage random bouts of anxiety when I realize how much I still have left to do! I move in to my apartment three days before classes start. I still have to order furniture and housewares, set up utilities, and register my car in my new state.

Moving out of state is already pretty stressful, so I am trying not to lose sight of the reason why I am doing all of this: to get that JD, baby! I know that I want to set myself up with the best tools for my studies. Plus, I am pretty sure that it’s a proven fact that shiny new school supplies make you work harder and be more organized (at least for the first month or so). I managed to get most of my school supply shopping out of the way, so that I can spend the last few days before school starts focusing on the logistical nightmare that is moving. Here is what I will be using this year:

Backpack

In undergrad, I used a small, cutesy backpack with super thin straps that dug into my arms. This is law school, so it’s time to get serious. I expect to be lugging around my laptop and heavy books everyday. This backpack is bigger than my old backpack, and has thicker, more comfortable straps. It is fairly inexpensive, but seems to be very good quality. I love the color, and it is a bit more mature-looking than my undergrad backpack. It also has some nice features like an anti-theft combination lock, a compartment to connect an external phone battery, and a water bottle holder. I am happy with it so far, and can’t wait to put it to the test once school starts.

Binder and dividers

I want to minimize the volume of books and supplies that I will be carrying around, so I will be using only one binder with a divider for each class. Though I have not bought my binder yet, I will likely buy one that is 1.5 – 2 inches. I think that size will be sufficient since I plan on typing my notes (if the professor allows laptops). I bought these dividers because they are very durable and have pockets where I can store any miscellaneous handouts for each class.

Pens


In undergrad, I bought the cheapest pens that I could find. Since I began working, I have seen the light. My office always had these pens in the supply closet and it wasn’t long until I was hooked. They are very inky gel pens that write super smooth. They are simply delightful. It’s the little things.

Post-it flags


These are another luxury item that I grew attached to in the office. I used them a lot when I was highlighting relevant portions of hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts. I’m not sure yet exactly how I will use them in law school, but I am sure they will come in handy.

Highlighters


If there is one thing that I have learned about law students, it’s that they love their highlighters. I hear a lot of students use several different colors when reading cases. I ordered this this pack because the price was right. Gotta love Amazon Basics.

Mug


My brother got me this mug as a present, and it quickly became my favorite. The perfect balance of cute and obnoxious. Treat yo self.

Laptop


Thankfully, my laptop is only about two years old and is very reliable. However, if yours is on its way out, you should probably invest in a new one before school starts. When my laptop finally kicks the bucket, I think I will go for the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s fast, lightweight, versatile, and pretty sexy.

Tell me what is on your back-to-school shopping list in the comments!

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It’s quitting time!

Many law students have full-time work experience before starting law school. If you are working full-time and have made the decision to go to law school, it has probably dawned on you that you will need to quit your job soon. Maybe you hate your job and cannot wait to get out of there, or perhaps your goodbye will be more bittersweet. Regardless, telling your employer that you are leaving can be a very awkward conversation.

How do I put this?

Have a sit down conversation with your boss. Don’t do this over email or phone call! Explain to them that you have chosen to pursue law school, and will be leaving the company. Express how much you love working there, but law school is the next step for you. Hopefully your boss is happy for you, but be prepared for the possibility this news may stress them out or make them upset. There is nothing you can do about their reaction. Just remain confident in your choice, and know that you have not done anything wrong. You are going to law school for you. If your boss is inconvenienced by your dreams, so be it.

Your boss should be the first to know that you’re leaving. Perhaps you have told a couple of close coworkers about your plans to go to law school, but your boss is still blissfully unaware. Definitely keep this on the DL. Your boss would likely feel disrespected if they find out they were the last to know about your plans.

How much notice should I give?

Many people are under the impression that they are legally required to give at least two weeks notice before quitting a job. The truth is, most states in the U.S. are “at-will employment” states, so you can quit whenever you like. However, the general etiquette is give a minimum of two weeks notice before you leave.

Deciding how much notice to give is a very personal decision, as it comes with the risk of losing your job. You really have to know your employer to determine the best route. Though I had my Letters of Recommendation done before I gave notice, some applicants want to get an LoR from their supervisor, so they have to let their employer know about their plans almost a year in advance.  

I work in a law office, and I gave my employer six months notice. It worked out well, as my boss was able to hire my replacement four months before my departure. I helped train her, and she is now ready to take on my responsibilities when I leave, minimizing any disruption in workflow. My boss is thankful that I gave her so much notice, which allows me to leave on a positive note and maintain a valuable professional connection in the legal industry.

Of course, giving six months notice is very risky, as my employer could have decided to terminate me at any time. I considered this risk and determined that based on my relationship with my employer, it was unlikely, and that the benefits outweighed the risk. However, if you believe that your employer may terminate you, certainly give less notice. You need to prioritize your best interests over those of your employer.

When should my last day be?

Once again, this is up to you and depends on your financial situation. I am leaving at the end of July, so I will have about six weeks off before school starts. I am using this time to have some quality time with the fam, and go on a Euro trip with the ole ball ‘n chain. You may also need some time to move and get settled into a new place. However you choose to spend your summer, I hope you are able to take some time to relax and recharge before school begins.

Ask a Law Student: Master’s GPAs and personal statements

This is a new series I will be starting where you can ask me all your law school questions, and I will post them anonymously along with my response. Please feel free to send me your questions here, slide into my DMs on Twitter, or tweet with the hashtag #AskaLawStudent. Tell me what you would like your pseudonym to be, or I will assign one to you.

As of posting, I will not be a law student for another two months, so I can only answer questions about the admissions process. However, come fall, I should be able to start answering questions about 1L year and law school in general.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not an expert. I’m not a professional admissions consultant or LSAT tutor. However, I have learned a lot about the law school admissions process over the past year from reading various articles, looking at hard data, listening to podcasts and participating in forums. Hopefully I can shed some light on some aspects of the process for those of you who are going through it now.

 

Will the higher GPA I got obtaining my Master’s degree help my admissions process when my undergraduate GPA was in the lower 3’s? I’ve heard it helps, but not sure how.

Thanks,

Better Grad than Undergrad

As you begin your law school applications, you have probably heard a lot about rankings. Specifically, the US News and World Report law school rankings. Law schools care A LOT about these rankings and always want to be ranked as highly as possible.

The USNWR rankings are almost entirely decided by the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of each school’s students. The higher the numbers, the higher the ranking. That is why your LSAT scores and GPA are the most heavily weighed components of your application.

As graduate GPAs are not factored into a school’s ranking, it has very little effect on your application. However, it will signal to the law school that you have become a better student since your undergraduate days, which could sway the admissions committee slightly. If you feel that your graduate grades are more representative of your ability to succeed in law school than your undergraduate grades, than you can attach a supplemental essay (usually referred to as an “addendum”) to your applications explaining your reasoning. However, don’t expect your graduate GPA to count for much.

 

What are topics you should stay away from when writing your personal statement? As in, are there overly discussed topics admissions is tired of seeing? If so – how do I make myself stand out without overdoing it?

-JRC

Most personal statements basically boil down to “Why I want to go to law school,” so it is natural to fear becoming a cliche. I think the best way to stand out is to let your voice shine through, and make it authentically you. You probably have a good reason for going to law school, so tell them the truth! Weave your reasons into a clear, coherent narrative that is representative of your personality. A flat, dispassionate essay will not be very compelling, so don’t be afraid to add some emotion. You want to prove to the admissions committee that you are confident in your decision to go to law school and your ability to succeed there. The fact that you love watching Law & Order or that you “wanted to be a lawyer since you were a kid,” are not very convincing reasons.

Some people talk about role models, or a legal situation that a friend or family member was in, as part of their reason for going to law school. Those can be great topics, but it is a personal statement, so make sure that you are always the focal point. You don’t want the admissions committee to walk away from your essay knowing a lot about your cousin’s drug conviction, and very little about you.

Leave out any overly flowery language. If you need crazy adjectives to make your essay sound smart, you probably need to work on your writing. Admissions committees will see right through that. Stay away from any weird philosophical discussions or legal arguments. This is not the place to prove to the admissions committee that you are very smart – your LSAT score and GPA took care of that part. You may think that submitting a unusually out-of-the-box personal statement will make you stand out, but it will likely reflect poorly on you. Law schools want to know that you can succeed within the constraints provided to you. Prove that to them.  

“Soft” factors and your law school application

When applying to law schools, it is natural to want to compare the process to undergraduate or other graduate admissions. However, law school admissions are different because it is largely a numbers game. You probably remember loading up on extracurriculars during high school to bolster your college applications. Though law schools claim to take a “holistic approach” to evaluating applicants, your LSAT and GPA are by far the most important components of your application.

Basically everything that makes you you other than your LSAT and GPA are considered “soft factors” in the world of law school admissions. While law schools take these soft factors into account when reviewing your application, don’t expect them to actually help you unless you have a soft that is quite rare. The below pyramid can help you determine where your softs fall. The rarer, more prestigious softs are on the top, and the more common ones are on the bottom.

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The pyramid of “softs”

 

If you have any Tier 1 or Tier 2 softs, you will most likely outperform your numbers. For the majority of us who only have Tier 3 and Tier 4 softs, we can expect our LSAT and GPA to be good indicators of our admissions outcomes. This is a great tool to see your chances of admission and scholarships at any given school, based on prior applicants’ outcomes. 

If you are applying to law school straight out of undergrad, you may be discouraged to see that all of your extracurriculars that were prestigious in college are at the bottom of the pyramid. You may have thought that interning for a senator or being the president of your sorority would really set your application apart, however, almost every applicant has cool internships and club positions on their resume. When you consider that you are being compared to many applicants who have been out of school for quite a while, you can understand why your undergraduate thesis may pale in comparison to being an officer in the military for five years.

The moral of the story is: You are probably not special. But that’s okay! Most of us are not special. That just means that you have to get on your LSAT grind and shoot your best shot.

Law School Essays – Part 2: Diversity Statements

Law schools typically have a section in their application where you can submit supplemental essays. Most schools give you the option to submit a “diversity statement” which is a short essay (usually about one page) where you write about how you will contribute to the school’s commitment to diversity.

Each prompt for a diversity statement will be different, though most of them want you to talk about factors you cannot change. Good topics for diversity statements are your race, ethnicity, immigrant status, socioeconomic status, or LGBT identity. Of course, you don’t have to pick just one topic. If you can weave multiple factors into a story about your intersectionality, all the better.

There are some topics that may or may not work for some diversity statements. You may be able to pull off a diversity statement about military status, parental status, or unusual work experience. Make sure to read each prompt closely to see if the parameters allow for a more out-of-the-box topic.  

Then, there are some topics for diversity statements that are just awful. Please, please, please for the love of god do not write a diversity statement about how you are a white Republican male at a liberal college, so you are “politically diverse.” Just no. Also, don’t write a diversity statement about being a woman unless it intersects with another identity. Yes, us women are underrepresented in many high-powered positions in the legal field, but we are not underrepresented in law school. If you are grasping at straws to come up with a topic to write a diversity statement about, it usually means you should not write one. Not having a diversity statement will not hurt your application. Submitting a diversity statement about a frivolous matter will likely highlight your lack of self-awareness and harm your chances.

Should I stay or should I go?

Law students have a wide range of relationship statuses. Some are married with children, some are engaged, and some are single and ready to mingle. If you’re single, you likely applied to a bunch of schools all over the country, and are excited to move to a new city, no strings attached. If you’re married, deciding which schools to apply to was probably more difficult, but you and your spouse are committed to making it work. Then there are those of us in the middle. Being in a relationship can make the law school application process even more stressful. Here are some things to consider.

Are you in it for the long haul?

Depending on the stage of your relationship, this may be a tough question to answer. Maybe you have only been seeing someone for a few months, but you’re optimistic and want to see where it goes. Maybe you have been together for years, but it’s been rocky lately and you’re not sure how much longer your relationship will last. When high school students apply to college, the overwhelming advice is to dump your bae and go to the best school for you. High school relationships rarely last, though when you are in a relationship in your twenties, you may have a lot more to lose. Ultimately, the decision to stay together or break up comes down to you and your partner. You should try to figure it out before you start applying to law schools.

Don’t compromise for someone who won’t compromise for you

I have seen a lot of people in this scenario recently:

You and your partner both live in Hometown. The closest law school to Hometown is an hour away, and not a great school. You crushed your LSAT and want to explore options other than Home State Law School. Your partner refuses to move with you. They want to stay in Hometown forever and live happily ever after. You are considering going to Home State Law School to save your relationship.

Why are you considering compromising for someone who won’t compromise for you? Your partner should be your biggest cheerleader, and want you to maximize your potential and achieve your dreams. Of course your partner will have their own goals and dreams, which may not allow them to move wherever you want, but you should be able to come up with a plan together how you can both achieve your goals.

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. He is my biggest fan, and I am not sure that I would be going to law school if he hadn’t encourage me to apply. We live about an hour apart from each other in our home state. He has a great job that he loves, but he was willing to leave it to move with me to law school. During the application process, we had an ongoing conversation as to where he would be willing to move. We narrowed it down to a few regions where we would both like to live, and where the job market would be good for his career. This gave me a lot of good options to choose from, and I applied to ten schools. Now, we are preparing to move out of state to a new city where I will begin law school this fall. I am helping him with the job hunt, and I am hopeful that he will find a new job that he loves as much as his current one.

Long-distance

My boyfriend and I are excited to start shacking up together after three years of living an hour apart from each other. I recognize that for others, the beginning of law school means they will have to be apart from their partner for a while. Sometimes, it is impossible for two people to achieve their dreams and be in the same geographic location, so some of you will choose to continue your relationship long-distance

As I have never been in a long-distance relationship, I do not have much advice to offer. Law school is stressful and time-consuming, so be sure to make time to communicate with your partner. It will be hard, but if you really love each other, it will be worth it in the end. Three years is just a drop in the bucket of the lifetime you will build together.

Law School Essays: Part 1 – The Personal Statement

A personal statement is required for each law school application. There are other types of essays that you can submit to law schools including a diversity statement, addendum, and a “Why X?” though these are usually optional.

What is the personal statement?

The personal statement is a short essay, usually about 2 pages long, that you attach to law school applications. Each school will provide you with different instructions for the personal statement, but they tend to leave the prompt pretty open-ended. It may leave you wondering what the heck you should be writing about.

In a nutshell, you want to use your personal statement to talk about why you want to go to law school, and to convince the admissions committee that you will excel in school. This prompt can easily set you up for writing a dry and formulaic essay, so make sure to get creative! Tell a story and let your personality shine through.

In my personal statement, I talked about my reasons for wanting to go to law school. My first article summarized a lot of these reasons, so you can get a feel for how my personal statement was written. Initially, a paralegal wanting to go to law school sounds like a snoozefest. It’s a story that the admissions committees (let’s call them “adcoms” for short) have probably heard a thousand times. However, I realized that there were other unique parts of my background (i.e., applying to become a Federal Air Marshal) that also shaped my decision to go to law school. I made sure to mention some of my interesting experiences in my essay. Not only do I believe this made my personal statement stand out more, but felt like I was telling the adcoms my absolute truth in an honest, yet engaging way.

Let’s get personal

If the first draft of your essay sounds cliche and impersonal, toss it! It’s a personal statement, so it should be absolutely authentic to your experiences. If you’re confident in your decision to apply to law school, it should be easy to write about how you came to this decision. 

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If your personal statement has looked like this for the past month, perhaps you are not ready to commit to law school.

 

Though you should use the personal statement to tell your truth, there is such a thing as oversharing. Trauma, romantic relationships and mental health issues may have played huge roles along your path to law school. If you want to address these topics in your personal statement, use caution. Be sure to do so in a sensitive and tactful way. These experiences may have been a big part of your life, but then can also plant a seed of doubt in adcoms’ minds as to your ability to succeed in law school. You want to be honest, but you also want to convince the adcoms that you’re going to be a kickass law student. You should even be sneaking in some bragging about your skills and accomplishments here and there. Use your own judgement, but if you think a controversial topic in your essay may drag you down instead of raise you up, you may want to leave it out.

Should I have a different personal statement for each school?

Each school has different page length requirements for the personal statement. Most want it to be two pages long, but some schools set the maximum page length at three or four. Though each school’s instructions for the personal statement vary, I found all the prompts to be vague enough that my personal statement was applicable to each one. Therefore, I used the same draft of my personal statement for each school, and just added and subtracted a few paragraphs based on the page requirements.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

This goes without saying, but proofread your personal statement and all of your other essays before you submit them! I proofread my essays a million times, and I still found errors in them after I submitted them. A lot of times you need to have someone else read it to pick up the typos your eyes missed. That being said, don’t freak out if you submitted an essay with a typo. I had my fair share of typos, and I’m still going to law school. I promise, it will be fine.

Buyer Beware: A cautionary tale to potential law students

This article is going to be chock-full of tough love. It may be controversial, and some of you will disagree, but this needs to be said.

The Predators

Sometimes when I mention to people that I’m going to law school, I get a lot of congratulations and “Wow, you must be really smart!” I think a lot of people conflate law school admissions with medical school and other grad school admissions. In the U.S., getting into any medical school is a great feat, and one that warrants celebration. Regarding law school, the truth is there are plenty of schools out there that are more than willing to take your money. A lot of these schools are predatory in nature, as they do not have your best interests in mind.

You probably hear a lot about the importance of law school rankings. While rankings should not be the be-all and end-all of your law school choice, they do give you an indication of the caliber of the school. Pay closer attention to unranked schools and schools ranked 100 higher to make sure you are making a wise investment.

Bar passage and employment rates

When considering a law school, you want to pick a school with high bar passage rates and good employment outcomes. You may be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to this school! You want to make sure you will get your money’s worth when you graduate.

Arizona Summit Law School is an unranked school. Only 26.5% of their students pass the bar on their first try. That is cause for concern. Another unranked school, WMU – Thomas M. Cooley School of Law has shockingly low employment rates. Out of the 352 graduates of the class of 2017, only 111 of them are working as lawyers. No one wants to shell out the money for law school to have a less than 1 in 3 chance of becoming a lawyer after graduation. Both of these schools have been in trouble with the American Bar Association in recent years, and have been at risk of losing their ABA accreditation.

Law schools are required to report their bar passage and employment rates to the ABA. You can click here to check any schools’ stats.

Conditional scholarships

Congrats, you got a scholarship to law school! Sounds peachy, right? Make sure you read the fine print. A lot of law school scholarships are conditional, meaning you have to maintain a certain GPA to keep it. Say the GPA requirement is a 3.0. If you were a great student in undergrad, a 3.0 may seem easy to maintain. However, law school is a whole other ballgame, and a lot of schools purposely rig the grading system so that many of their students will lose their scholarships after the first year. Yikes!

Scholarship retention rates are an ABA-required disclosure, so you can check to see what percentage of students actually keep their scholarships. Also, talk to the school! You may be able to negotiate away the conditions of your scholarship.

The numbers don’t lie

Perhaps you know a middle-aged attorney who went to an unranked school and is doing great! She’s the managing partner of a firm and drives a Lexus. You want her life! If she had success going to an unranked school, you can too!

It’s important to keep in mind that older attorneys’ experiences will likely not be your experience. There was a huge boom in the demand for lawyers in the 1980s. Recent law school grads had no problem finding high-paying jobs. However, the market has since become saturated, and it is a lot harder for freshly-minted lawyers to get jobs. Therefore, put more stock in a school’s current statistics, as opposed to individuals’ anecdotal experiences.

Law school is a huge investment, so choose wisely. I want all law school applicants to go into this process with their eyes open. Don’t let yourself get scammed out of $200,000.

Let’s talk about letters of recommendation

It’s hard to say how much weight your letters of recommendation (LoRs for short) carry in your application. Your LSAT score and GPA are by far the most heavily evaluated components of your application. American law schools claim to look at your app “holistically,”  but the reality is that it’s a numbers game. However, you only get one shot to convince a school that you’re the right fit for them, so you want to make sure your entire application is as strong as possible.

Give em what they want

Each school’s application usually has an “Instructions” section. Read these! They outline exactly what the school wants in terms of resumes, essays and LoRs. Most schools’ applications open at the beginning of September. However, if you want to get your applications in early, you should approach your LoR writers over the summer. It is standard to give them at least two months to write the letter. If you are choosing your LoR writers over the summer, you won’t be able to refer to each application’s instructions regarding LoRs. Thankfully, most schools are pretty similar in what they want.

Most school require two LoRs. I am not aware of any schools that require more than two, but if you know of any, post them in the comments! Law schools have a strong preference for LoRs that are written by professors who taught you. They want to hear from someone who can attest to your ability to succeed in the classroom. You should definitely have at least one LoR from a professor, unless you have been out of school for 5+ years. Even then, you should still try to get one.

Another good option for LoR writers are supervisors who oversaw your work in employment, internships, or volunteer work. However, keep in mind that schools still prefer LoRs from professors, especially if you are a recent graduate. Steer clear of letters from sports coaches, religious leaders, or family friends. These people are unlikely to be able to attest to your academic or professional aptitude.

In undergrad I prioritized day drinking over attending office hours. Who the heck am I going to ask?

It’s always best to get an LoR from a professor who knows you well. If you have the choice between asking the adjunct professor who knows you super well and you got A’s in three of her classes, and the former state Attorney General department head, whose giant lecture you got a B in, choose the adjunct professor. Though the department head may have a fancy title, law schools can tell when a professor doesn’t know you very well, because they will probably submit a basic generic letter. That being said, it is better to have a letter from a professor who doesn’t know you very well, than having no letters from professors. Also, don’t worry about the subject matter that the professor taught you. It doesn’t matter if it was math, science, pre-law or Spanish. Law schools truly don’t care.

I did not have close relationships with my undergrad professors. I didn’t go to office hours even once throughout my entire undergraduate career. When I decided I wanted to apply to law school, I began wracking my brain thinking about which professors I could ask for LoRs. I was still a recent graduate at that point, as I had only graduated about 6 months prior, so I had it easier than some of you folks that had been out of school for longer.

I decided to ask a professor that I had in my last semester of college. I got a B+ in his class, though I was super close to getting an A, and I felt like I put had put in my best effort. I never skipped class, I sat near the front of the room, and participated a lot. At my graduation ceremony, he approached me and had some really nice words to say. Other than that, I had never communicated with him outside of the classroom. Despite this, he remembered me, and said he would gladly write a letter for me.

For my other letter, I asked a professor who I had worked for as a research assistant the summer before my junior year. This lady LOVED me, and said I was the best research assistant she ever had. Throughout my junior and senior year, I would bump into her at department events, and she was always extremely warm and friendly, even going so far as to tell me to reach out to her if I ever needed a recommendation. Though she was never my professor, asking her for an LoR was a no-brainer, because I knew that she could write me a very personal letter.

The logistics

Some people are able to ask their LoR writers in person, but if not, email is the way to go. Write a nice, warm email telling them that you are going to law school and asking them to write a letter for you. Unless you have a very close relationship with them, remind them who you are (“I took Criminology 201 with you in Spring, 2017”). Attach your resume to the email to give them an idea of who you are outside of the classroom. If you wrote any papers for their class that you still have saved, attach that as well so they can refamiliarize themselves with your work.

Be prepared for your writers to respond with a lot of questions! One wanted to know my LSAT score, the schools I was applying to, and read a copy of my personal statement (eek!! Which I hadn’t even written yet!). Provide them with any supplemental information they request, and give them the CAS link to upload their letter. They will likely ask when you need the letter by. Give them a soft deadline of about two months, and follow up with them a week or two before the deadline. Professors procrastinate too!

Help! My LoR writer is ghosting me!

Sometimes someone will enthusiastically agree to write an LoR for you. Then, when the deadline you gave them is approaching, they don’t respond to your follow up emails or phone calls. It sucks, but it happens. This is why it is a good idea to have at least three recommenders in mind, just in case one turns out to be a flake.

Self-studying for the LSAT

If you want to go to law school, your first step is to crush the LSAT. Now you may be thinking, “Well, I’m good at standardized tests. In the past, I never really studied much, and got strong scores, so I don’t think I need to study too hard for the LSAT.”

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!

Unless you’re some sort of LSAT savant who can magically score a 175 on their first try, you have room for improvement. The LSAT is a very learnable test. With proper studying, I find that most people can score 10+ points higher on the LSAT than their diagnostic cold score. I managed to go from a 155 to a 167 with three months of self-studying. When each point on the LSAT is potentially worth thousands of dollars in scholarship money, you owe it to yourself to get the best score possible. No pressure.

You have 3 main options when choosing how to prepare for the LSAT:

  1. An IRL course
  2. An online course
  3. Self-studying

I chose the self-studying route (mostly because it’s the cheapest), so I can’t really speak on the structured courses. Most courses run for about three months, for good reason. Three months is a sort of sweet spot where most people reach their optimal scores. Therefore, plan to start studying three months ahead of your anticipated test date. If your test date arrives but you think you still have room for improvement, you can always take it, then keep studying and retake.

Diagnostic

Before you start studying, your first step is to take a cold diagnostic test. This will give you a starting point, and then you can see how much you improve over time. When you take practice tests, the only way to go is to use real tests that were administered in previous years. Luckily, LSAC has been so kind as to provide us with a free one! The June, 2007 LSAT is the only free test out there, which makes it great to use as your diagnostic before you even spend a dime on test prep.

As you will do with your future practice tests, make sure to strictly keep to the time constraints and do it all in one sitting. Also, you should be filling in your answers on the attached bubble sheet. You want to mimic the conditions of the actual test day as closely as possible.

After your diagnostic test, you will have a score as a starting point, and understand the format of the test. Now, it is time to start learning. You will need a lot more practice tests, along with some other study materials to help you better understand the test.

Preptests

Luckily, Amazon sells official LSAC books that each contain 10 previously administered LSATs. Thankfully, they are not too expensive, and each book ranges in price from $17-$25. These are BY FAR the most valuable study materials you will use. I wound up purchasing five of these books and I used them all.

The newer tests will be more valuable to you. The tests questions evolve slightly over the years, so learning from the newest tests will make you better prepared for the real deal. I recommend starting with book 5 first. It is the second most recent book. I would save book 6, the newest book, for doing full-length practice tests as you get closer to your test date.

Once you have some real tests to work with, do a lot of section drilling, interspersed with full-length practice tests when you have the time and energy. By section drilling, I mean sitting down and timing yourself 35 minutes to do a single section. Then, score it and review your answers. Try to figure out why your wrong answers are wrong, and LSAC’s provided answer is correct.

I worked full-time when I was studying for the LSAT. Most days, I would come home from work, and drill one or two sections, which would be the extent of my LSAT prep for the day. Usually, I would do one full-length practice test on a weekend morning. I found this schedule to be very manageable, as my job was very 9-5 and I never had to work late hours. If you have a more demanding job and/or family life, you may have to give yourself more than three months to prepare.

Logical reasoning and reading comprehension

So you have a bunch of practice tests, but you need some other materials to help you better understand the test. To work on my LR and RC scores, I used Barron’s LSAT book. Why? Because I was able to borrow it for free at my library (Note: When shopping for LSAT materials don’t cheap out! Each point you score could be worth thousands of dollars, so invest in the best possible materials).

I do not think the Barron’s book is the best tool out there to improve your LR and RC score. They use “sample” LSAT questions as examples. They are not the real deal since they are questions that the Barron’s editors made up, as opposed to real LSAC-written questions, which you can only get from buying previous tests. It is important to learn from real LSAC questions, because the LSAC, not Barron’s, will be creating the test you take in three months. That being said, this book did give me a better grasp on the LR and RC sections, and helped me improve my scores.

Logic games

If you struggle with the logic games, you’re in luck! They are the easiest section to improve, and most people can get near-perfect scores with the right prep.

There is an app called 7sage. Download it now! They have a full-blown test prep course you can enroll in, but they also have free videos that diagram and explain every logic game in existence. After I drilled an LG section, if any games gave me a particularly hard time, I would watch the video, and everything would click into place. I learned how to diagram properly just from watching these videos.

About halfway through my prep I bought the much-hailed PowerScore Logic Games Bible. It’s definitely a good tool and worth the hype, though 7sage had already taught me a lot about logic games, so the Bible just helped me fill in a few gaps.

The only way to get better at logic games is to practice, practice, practice. I did almost every logic game in existence. You may want to buy Preptests book 4, book 3book 2, or even book 1 just to drill the logic games. Once again, I recommend trying to prioritize the more recent tests as the games have changed over time. You will likely drill some LR/RC sections in some of these books as well, but I used the older ones primarily for LG drilling.

Retakes

The best predictor of your actual LSAT is the average of your 5 most recent practice tests. There is usually a range of +/- 3 points that you will score on any given day. The average of my practice test scores leading up to the test was 167, and lo and behold, I scored a 167 on the real deal. However, I had scored as high as 172 on some of my practice tests. I felt that I owed it to myself to retake the LSAT. Though I felt I had reached the peak of my LSAT potential, there was essentially a 50% chance I could score even higher than a 167 next time. If I scored lower, it would not really be a big deal, as most schools only care about your highest score.  

Though I planned to retake the LSAT in December, I missed the registration date!! Do not make my same mistake! Calendar all of the registration deadlines. They really sneak up on you.

The next test was not offered until February, which would be really late, and a lot of schools would not even accept a February score for that year. I made the decision to just submit my apps with a 167, but I will always wonder “what if I was able to score a point or two higher?”

Once you get your first score back, if you think you still have more to learn, or your score was below your practice test average, retake! If you follow my law school timeline in my last post, you will have ample to to retake. Unless you think your score represents the top of your potential, you should retake the test.

 

It has been 9 months since I last cracked open an LSAT book, and let me tell you, I do not miss it. For those just beginning their LSAT journey, good luck! It is hard work, but you will soon begin to see the results of your efforts. I recommend checking out reddit.com/r/lsat. They talk about a lot of great study resources, and you can join a whole community of people going through the same process as you.

For my seasoned LSAT vets, I would love to hear about what worked for you! Let us know in the comments what advice you have for LSAT newbies.