Top 10 Tips for Parents of Future Law Students: How to Help Your Son or Daughter Win the Fight for Law School Admission


1. Don’t accidentally contribute to mistakes in your child’s strategy through a misunderstanding of the law school admissions process.

“Just take the LSAT. See what happens.”

“You’ll be going to law school straight from college.”

“I’ll bet you can get into this (fourth-tier) law school. Just go there. It can’t matter too much which law school you go to, can it?”

“The deadline for applications is tomorrow. You’ve still got time today to apply.”

“Don’t worry about getting a job now. Just go to law school.”

I regularly hear from parents who’ve pushed their child (they belatedly realize) onto the wrong path for LSAT preparation, the wrong timing for submittal of the applications, the wrong school choices, and the wrong developmental steps before law school.  Parents, I invite you to spend some time at my website.  Let me know your questions.

2. Understand your child’s need for law-related work before law school. Don’t rush your child off to law school too early.

You want your child to have a successful year during the critical first year of law school. Law-related work--after college, before law school--can greatly contribute to a law student’s competitiveness in the first year. It can also benefit the student in second-year job hunting, post-second-year job performance, and in the transition after law school to the graduate’s first attorney position. Help your child by getting information about suitable law-related work choices before law school.

3. Don’t push your child into the LSAT prematurely.

Don’t push your child to take the LSAT in college. For many, the LSAT can be a beast. People can need time, energy, resources and the ability to focus extensively if not exclusively on this challenge. Often this cannot occur in college, and if it can, LSAT prep and work still can come at too high a price. The college years should be spent on uniquely college-related activities--study, service, sports, volunteer work, and internships. There is plenty of time after college for the LSAT. In contrast to the unique time and place for college, the LSAT is given four times per year, every year. It is always available.

4. Understand the market served by any law school you propose to your child.

Where does your child want to work as a new attorney, immediately after law school? Once you know that, ask yourself if a proposed law school is really good at projecting its graduates into such market(s). You want a law school that is effective in helping your child reach his or her geographic goals.

5. Understand the ranking of any law school you propose to your child. Understand the reality of local, regional and national law schools.

Think of law schools as essentially three types: local, regional and national. Local law schools are easiest to get into, but serve a narrow job market. Their graduates can struggle the most to get jobs, in some cases. Regional law schools may be very well respected in their region, such a state, but not as effective in the broader national market. Regional law schools can be difficult to win an offer from, particularly in the case of public law schools, which make admission decisions in great measure based on the applicant’s GPA and LSAT, as well as legal residency. National law schools are the most prestigious. They can be very difficult to win an admission offer from, but they offer they students the widest range of initial job opportunities. Essentially, think of US News & World Report’s (2009 edition) top 20 law schools as national law schools. (But recognize that many law schools claim to be “national.”)

6. Brainstorm with your child to help him or her understand the riskiness (or lack of riskiness) of the proposed strategy.

I’ve seen applicants who refuse to apply to any law school but one. This is bold, but risky. Brainstorm about other acceptable choices as well. Today applicants may submit ten or more applications. (I’ve seen as high as 25!)

7. Brainstorm about ways to reduce law school cost.

Two ideas: (1) Winning numbers—coupled with strong applications—can result in aggressive scholarship offers from some lower-tier schools. I’ve seen law schools make full-scholarship offers—with lavish additional perks in some cases—to applicants they really want (those with a great story, a high college GPA and a high LSAT score). (2) Going to law school at night can both reduce the challenge of getting into a law school, while allowing the student to work during the day (ideally in law-related work) to make money while becoming a lawyer.

8. Don’t seek to be the editor of your child’s law school personal statement and related documents.

Such writing may be too personal for your child to share with you. But if you are invited, fine. Still, it’s probably going to be difficult for you to be objective and dispassionate about your own child’s life, work, and story. You can be certain that the admissions reviewers at top law schools will be tough and demanding.

9. Celebrate admission successes. Be consoling when rejections happen. Gently suggest time and thought before the final decision is made. Encourage visits to several of the law schools offering admission.

Encourage your child not to rush to judgment when the offers come in. “Try on” different schools. Take the time offered to you by the schools to consider the pros and cons, before the child picks the winner. And if a school waitlists your child, find a prelaw advisor.

10. Encourage your child’s use of a prelaw advisor, well in advance of the start of the process. An experienced guide can really help. For more information about my work for law school applicants, please contact me.

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