The Perfect Law School Admissions Timeline: 24-Month Countdown (Part 1)

By Jessica Tomer

When should you take the LSAT? When should you ask people to write your letters of recommendation? When should you decide where you’ll go?!

If applying to law school is in your future, this timeline will tell you exactly what you need to do and when to do it.

 


 

It’s recommended that you start about two years before you intend to enroll in law school, giving yourself ample time to research and apply to schools. For example, if you wanted to enter law school the fall after you graduate from college, you’d start planning around the fall of your junior year. And while that may sound like a long time, it will definitely fly by.

Of course, there’s plenty of flexibility in this timeline, and you can and should make it your own. You can also start earlier if you like. Or, with hard work and a lot of hustle, you can start a little later—but just make sure you give the law school admissions process the time and attention it deserves.

24 months before law school starts                  (August of junior year)

Start by reflecting on your goals. Why do you want to go to law school, and what do you need to succeed while you’re there? Turn those reflections into a list of law school search criteria.

Research legal career paths. If you want to go to law school, you probably already have a pretty distinct career path in mind. Maybe you want to be an intellectual property lawyer or work as in-house counsel in a specific industry. But how much do you really know about the work? Before researching law schools, you should get to know the legal field, including any specializations that interest you. You’ll be better prepared for the application process and may even uncover law schools you should consider along the way.

Talk to your college’s pre-law or graduate advisor. They can offer valuable insights for the law school admissions process, make sure your timeline is on track, and perhaps even recommend schools. You might be able to access their services as an alumnus too.

Make an LSAT study plan. The LSAT is now offered six times a year. Most people take a winter and/or a summer test the year before they intend to enroll in law school, so they have time to retake the test if necessary. Work backwards from when you plan to take the LSAT to schedule time to study, take practice tests, complete an LSAT course, and perhaps work with a coach or tutor. Keep in mind that you’ll need to register for the LSAT at least a month in advance too.

23 months before law school starts                  (September of junior year)

Create a tracking system (like a spreadsheet) for your law schools and search criteria. You can track everything from application deadlines to info session dates to whether or not the school has your favorite rec athletic team. You might even come up with your own ranking or color-coding system, if you want to get really crazy.

Start searching for law schools that fit you. Take the list of criteria you brainstormed and use law school databases, guidebooks, and good ol’ Google. Keep your options open for now, including geographically if you can. Remember this list is a rough draft; you’ll do more research later to narrow your options.

Go to law school admissions fairs, forums, and related events. Your undergraduate institution might host one, or you could go to an LSAC law school forum. If you’re still in school, you might also go to other pre-law events, like informational panels with law students, admissions representatives, and working lawyers.

22 months before law school starts                  (October of junior year)

Take a practice/diagnostic LSAT to familiarize yourself with the test and get a sense of what you need to focus on in your studying.

Request information from law schools. Requesting a law school’s viewbook or brochure will give you a sense of how the school interacts with students (which can be telling), you’ll see the school’s “highlight reel,” and you’ll learn what they value.

21 months before law school starts                  (November of junior year)

Create an LSAC account. You’ll need this to register for the LSAT and apply to law schools. You can also use it to check your status once you’ve applied.

20 months before law school starts                  (December of junior year)

Research your potential law schools. What to look for in a law school is a blog post—or book—unto itself, but for now we’ll say this: make sure you’re doing a deep dive into your schools, and use varied resources, like law school search websites, ABA reports, student reviews and forums, faculty ratings, guidebooks, the pre-law advisor at your undergrad school, and even chatting with any lawyers you know. Make sure you collect admitted student stats too (known as the “class profile”), and seek out schools that would constitute as your “reach,” “safety,” and “target/match” schools, based on your GPA and test scores.

Familiarize yourself with the potential costs of law school, including living costs, and assess your savings and potential borrowing ability.

Investigate your financial aid and student loan options. Include any separate financial aid applications in your law school admissions plans too.

19 months before law school starts (January of junior year)

Keep studying for the LSAT. The February test is almost here! Use your winter or holiday break (if you have one) to really buckle down.

18 months before law school starts                  (February of junior year)

Take the February LSAT, if relevant. You’ll get your scores about four weeks later. Then things really get interesting…

17 months before law school starts                  (March of junior year)

Use your LSAT scores (if you have them) to adjust your plans. Once you have a real set of LSAT scores, you have an important benchmark to work with. You can refine your list of law schools and future research, focusing on schools within a reasonable range of your score. And you can decide if you want to retake the test and re-up your studying accordingly.

Visit law schools. This is your chance to get a feel for life at a particular school. So tour campuses, go to information sessions, and spend some time in the surrounding area for as many law schools as you can. You want to prioritize the schools on your list, of course, but even a visit to a law school you’re not seriously considering can be helpful.

16 months before law school starts                  (April of junior year)

If retaking the LSAT, register for the appropriate exam and study strategically. Use practice tests to zero in on your weak spots and come up with a real plan of attack! Remember too that law schools vary in how they consider multiple LSAT results; many only consider the highest score, but some look at all scores, some take an average, etc.

15 months before law school starts                  (May of junior year)

Ask your recommendation letter writers. These should be professors, employers, mentors, and others who really know you and can speak to your strengths and character. Give them your résumé and a timeline of when your law school applications are due to guide them in their writing.

14 months before law school starts                  (June before senior year)

Take the June LSAT, if relevant.

Start your personal statement/application essays. At this point you can focus on just getting through a rough draft, because you’ll have time to revise later. But you should still keep personal statement best practices in mind.

13 months before law school starts                  (July before senior year)

Take the July LSAT, if relevant.

Update your résumé. It may not be required for your application packet, but it’s a helpful resource you can share with recommendation writers, and updating it is a good exercise in remembering all the great things you’ve been up to and should include in your law school applications.  


 

Jessica Tomer is the Web Content Manager for New England Law | Boston. Founded in 1908 as the first and only law school for women, today New England Law is coeducational and known for its rigorous academics, welcoming community, flexible programs, and ample real-world experiential learning opportunities.

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