So, on Monday night I was watching the Men’s 400 meter race and women’s uneven bars, playing Star Wars because Madden hadn’t dropped yet, and drinking. Near the end of the evening, I stopped by Facebook (supposedly on my way to read reviews of more goddamn pediatricians), and I had a new message.
It was a friend of mine who has another friend who is thinking of going to law school. Knowing my stance on such things, my friend asked me to pretend like the decision to go to law school was inevitable and focus on a different question: what can college seniors do to increase the chances of getting into a good law school in case their LSAT scores are low?
I’ve got an answer. And really, the sober answer isn’t all that different than the one I had hammered out at 2:00 a.m….
Let’s start with what I said to my friend on Facebook:
There is nothing you can do, extracurricular wise, that’s worth five extra points on the LSAT. If you think you can save the trees or cure cancer, then surely you can do those things *after* you get five more points on your LSAT.
To sharpen the point… it’s really all about the LSAT (assuming that there’s no longer anything he can really do about his GPA). Nobody does a prospective law student any favors by downplaying the importance of that test. And really if you can’t handle the pressure of the LSAT, you’re going to crumble during two days of the bar exam anyway.
It sounds like a flip answer, but it really is the best advice. If you want to get into a good school with a crappy LSAT score, TAKE THE LSAT AGAIN. If you try again and still have a low score, take a year and spend every weekend studying and taking practice tests.
Because when it comes to getting into a good law school (and there aren’t 200 “good” law schools), your extracurricular stuff doesn’t matter a hill of beans. Especially not the the stuff that you can start in your last year of college. Sure, if you are an Olympic athlete that’s probably going to help your chances. If you have a Daddy who is rich and powerful, that helps too. But there aren’t a lot of people who can decide to win the birth lottery starting in their senior year.
For most people, by the time they decide to apply to law school, they are what they are. People fool themselves into thinking that becoming the “editor” of their school newspaper or climbing K-2 or whatever is going to help their law school application.
It will not. What will help is five more points on the LSAT. Five points on the LSAT is the difference between Vanderbilt and Harvard. It’s the difference between American or Berkeley. In this market, it could well be the difference between having a job when you graduate and having to live in a cardboard box.
And it’s not that hard to raise your LSAT score five points over the course of a year. The LSAT is a freaking reading comprehension test. It’s teachable. The section that scares most people, the logic games, is actually the section that is the easiest, because all the information is right there in the question. If you can’t afford an LSAT prep course, then borrow money for a freaking course! You’re going to borrow money to go to law school anyway.
(That’s my honest advice, not a shill for a sponsor. Of course, if you happen to work for an LSAT prep company and would like to advertise on Above the Law, we’d love to have you as an advertiser.)
Getting into law school is not like getting into college. They’re not looking for well-rounded individuals. They’re not trying to get a class full of people with diverse interests. They don’t care if you write your personal statement in crayon. They’re trying to look good for U.S. News. And that magazine doesn’t care how many bestselling authors a law school admits; it cares about your LSAT score.
If you are serious about going to law school, you should be serious about getting the best possible LSAT score you can get. What should you do if you have a low LSAT score? DON’T apply to law school until you make it better.