Sunday, September 30, 2007

Should You Cancel Your LSAT Score?

My phone has been ringing off the hook this weekend. Everyone wants to know - Should I cancel my LSAT score?

The good news is that in today's law school admission landscape, the highest of mulitiple LSAT scores is the one that matters. As a result, there is very little reason to ever cancel a score.

The Answer is YES if:
1. You completely screwed up. Did you mis-bubble? Leave a whole section blank? Get violently ill in the middle of the exam? Fail to finish a significant portion of a section?
2. Getting the score would be so demoralizing to you that you would be unable to live with yourself.
3. You already have one LSAT score that you're happy with and you're pretty sure you did worse this time and you don't want to have to explain it in your application.

The Answer is NO if:
1. You are absolutely sure you want to go to law school in Fall 2008. Pinning all of your hopes on the December LSAT is dangerous. What if it goes even worse?
2. You want to apply early decision and/or early notification.
3. You're hoping to take advantage of the rolling admissions process and get things underway early.
4. You're not sure how you did but you didn't absolutely panic or anything.
5. You made a slight error, were unable to finish a question or two, but nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Coming this week: What to do while you're waiting for your LSAT score.

Also: A Reminder: Saturday, October 6th 9 am PST/Noon EST Free Webinar -
"I've Taken the LSAT; Now What?"
Sign up today - as of right now only 6 places are left so email me today:

Friday, September 28, 2007

How to Pay for Law School

Please check out Frugal Law Student for a great posting about how the new bill President Bush signed into law will impact your law school debt.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why Going to Law School is Worth The Sacrifice

I am shocked, outraged and offended by the esteemed Anna Ivey today. I think, as a result of her posting today at that I am going to stop having a link to her book on my web site.
Here's why:
Her premise is that it's only worth going to a "top tier" law school and that all other ABA law schools are a waste. She bases her conclusion on starting salaries and tuition dollars.
There's one very big problem with this logic; it fails to take into account salary growth through the years. I will give you a very personal example with very personal details:

I graduated from law school (the University of Miami School of Law, which Ms. Ivey would say was a waste) with loans in 1999. (You can see my interview on the Frugal Law Student for more details about my student loans). When I started practicing law, my starting salary was $65,000. Six months later, I was making $85,000 based on my performance and billable hours. The next year, I made $100,000. My starting salary was not a good indicator of whether my initial law school debt was worthwhile.

Can I use my husband as another example? He went to California Western School of Law. His starting salary as a first year attorney was something like $55,000. But he got bonuses and raises each year and within no time was making a six figure income.

These are just examples from my personal life; Ms. Ivey may not think very much of the schools that we graduated from but I will tell you these were absolutely worthwhile decisions. Today, we have a family and live in Santa Barbara, California where we enjoy a fabulous quality of life and my husband is always home for dinner no matter how many hours he bills.

Besides, if Ms. Ivey wants 180+ law schools in this country to go out of business for lack of students, who will serve the underprivileged? Who will be prosecutors? public defenders? Who will defend homeowners in the insurance bar? Who will take on injured workers? Law is not just about big firms. Is the practice of law a struggle? Is it sometimes a sacrifice? Of course. This is not a career for the lazy or unimaginative. This is a challenging career and a worthwhile one, no matter where you go to law school.

After the LSAT; What's Next?

Don't wait for your LSAT score; there are things you can do in the 2+ weeks that you're waiting for your score. Here are some of them:
1. Request letters of recommendation.
2. Have your transcripts sent to LSAC.
3. Finalize your resume, taking out things appropriate when seeking employment and adding in things that law schools want to know about.
4. Draft your personal statement and get it to the point that it's ready to be adapted to each school's request once you know your LSAT score and finalize your schools list.
5. Participate in one of my free 1-hour webinars entitled, "I've taken the LSAT; Now What?" The next two available dates are Monday, October 1st (8pm EST/5pm PST) and Saturday, October 6th (Noon EST/9a.m. PST). Each webinar is limited to the first 15 participants. To sign up, e-mail me at
6. Hire a Law School Admission Consultant to help you get going with all of these tasks while you wait for your score, and who can counsel you about your strategy in choosing schools once you have your score. Here is more information about Things to Consider When Hiring a Law School Admission Consultant.

Good luck on the LSAT this weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Law School Personal Statement Tips

Here is a great post with advice from the University of Chicago Law School with tips about the personal statement (I concur with all of it)!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are You Ready for the LSAT?

The September LSAT is a little over a week away and a lot of my clients are starting to feel the pressure. Here are some things to keep in mind as you approach the exam date:

1. Have you prepared adequately? If you've spent 6-12 weeks steadily preparing, taking practice exams, fixing your mistakes, and you've seen at least some improvement since the first test or two, then you're probably ready for the exam.

2. Are you disappointed with your practice scores? Ask yourself why you're disappointed. Is it because you really liked the way a 165 sounded and your practice exams are steadily in the high 150s? Giving yourself a "goal score" is not a reasonable way of approaching this test. If you've prepared for the exam, take the exam.

3. Thinking about not taking the test or cancelling your score? Most schools are looking at the highest of multiple scores so there is almost no downside to taking it. If you're scared of being labeled by your LSAT score, remember this is not a number that you'll ever have to tell anyone about during job interviews. It's not going to be engraved on your tombstone. It's just an admission test and while you'll have to craft a strategy for yourself (picking the right schools for you) based on this exam outcome, it's not (despite what others might have you believe) the overall determining factor for your entire career and future.

4. Are you just not the best standardized test taker in the world? It's totally ok. Really. You're not alone. Do the best you can and work with it. I have clients who initially get into schools where their LSAT is far from being the best and they still graduate near the top of their classes. Also, I have clients who are initially somewhat limited by the LSAT in deciding where to apply but then they transfer to top law schools after earning solid grades during their first year.

Yes, the LSAT is serious. Yes, it is weighted pretty heavily in the law school admissions process. But don't let the goals that are right for someone else determine what you expect of yourself. I have clients with 170 LSAT scores who are still upset they didn't get a 174; they are just as upset as people with a 146 who didn't get the 150 they hoped they would.

Whatever your score is, you'll craft a strategy for success. Be confident in your own abilities and you will go far.

Monday, September 17, 2007

7 Ways to Save Money on Law School Applications

Thanks to my friend Brett McKay at Frugal Law Student for allowing me to guest host his great blog today. You can check out my article "Applying to Law School? 7 Ways to Save Money" there.
I urge law school applicants to read Frugal Law Student regularly, and to be honest the advice is so good that I often share his postings on tantric shopping with my friends who tend to go crazy with designer clothes. If you don't already read Brett's blog, you should.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Law Schools are Bullied by U.S. News Rankings

By now you know how I feel about U.S. News Rankings of Law Schools: The rankings are not the most important thing to consider in choosing a law school.

Last week, my post described how law schools are able to manipulate the data that goes into the ranking computation by offering application fee waivers to students they will never admit.
I also talked about how law school administrators and graduates vote on the schools without really knowing anything about them.

What is even more shocking, however, is that law schools keep the consequences of the rankings in mind with every decision - How to spend money, hire faculty, admit students, and create marketing materials. Here is a great article on the subject:
The conclusion of the article is that, because law schools make decisions based on how it will impact their rankings and not how students will benefit, picking a law school based solely on ranking is a mistake. The only reason to pick #31 over #39 is if it's the better law school for you(More on how to pick a law school here)

I apologize if you're getting tired of hearing this from me, but it's very important stuff. Make the best decision for your own future and do not get sucked into pressure. The more you know about what really composes the rankings, the better the quality of your decisions. The ability to ask the tough questions and not be afraid of the answers will serve you well in law school and in your career as an attorney.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Preparing for the LSAT? Tips and Strategies

When I googled "Preparing for the LSAT" this morning, I found a lot of bad information and a little bit of good information (which I promise to share with you here).

One post requires comment and clarification. It's called "Five Myths About Law School Admissions." It's unclear who authors this lawschoolratings site, but after a few links, I found a plug for EssayEdge, offering 100 free admission essays. If you don't know what's wrong with a free admission essay, then you're probably beyond my help : )

Below are my comments about the LSAT related advice given on this site:

Taking the LSAT Multiple Times:
While I agree that taking the LSAT without adequate preparation is not a good idea, I disagree that it will "destroy your chances for admission to a good law school." The article incorrectly states that schools will average mulitiple LSAT scores. As of June 2006, ABA policy states that schools will report only the highest of mulitiple LSAT scores and almost all law schools have switched to this format. Law Schools will see all of your scores within the last 3 or 5 years (depending on school policy) but the one that truly "counts" is the highest. You may choose to explain a low score anyway, but in most cases it will not be averaged with the higher score.

Why Do Law Schools Rely on LSAT Scores? What does the LSAT Prove?
Also, the Myths article is wrong about what the LSAT proves. It states that the LSAT is used just to have some objective criteria and doesn't provide evidence of anything concrete, but this is wrong. Each school's admission index formula is based on statistical evidence of who succeeds at that law school and who passes the bar exam on the first try. There have been many, many studies done on what the LSAT does and does not prove.
The LSAC and individual law schools spend a lot of money commisioning these studies. One study at the University of Dayton said:
"Both law school grade-point average (LGPA) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score were the strongest predictors of bar examination passage for all groups studied."
Similar research results can be found at
I'm not defending overwhelming emotional weight that is placed on a numerical score, but it is not totally baseless either.

Oh My Gosh, Is Everyone But Me Getting a 170 on the LSAT???
I usually discourage law school applicants from listening to other law school applicants - it's the blind leading the blind and you don't know whose opinion you can trust. There also seems to be an overwhelming (vocal) contingent out there from the "I have a 170 LSAT score and so should you" club. All this does is demoralize 99% of LSAT takers (and also 99% of law students and future lawyers!!). However, if you can look past this, there are some worthwhile LSAT Tips by a future law student.

And here's a blogger whose LSAT strategies are not ideal, but at least he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Here's someone who did take him/herself seriously (back in 2005) with regard to LSAT prep and specific question-answering strategies.

And of course, I always think Austin at the CALI PreLaw Blog has a good perspective on these things, so please check out his postings on the subject of LSAT Tips.

My #1 tip for LSAT Preparation, RE-Taking the LSAT, LSAT Advice, and Perspectives for people with very low LSAT scores are all available on my blog.

Good luck on the September LSAT and don't wait for your score to get started on your applications!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Six Mistakes People Make in Law School Personal Statements

Here are Today's 5 Words & Phrases that make me Cringe in Personal Statements:

1. "Worldview"(I'm not convinced this is really a word.)

2. "Personally..." (It's a personal statement - of course everything you say is your own personal opinion. If it's not, you're doing something wrong.)

3. "In Conclusion...." (Blech! Just conclude; Don't announce that you're concluding.)

4. "I believe" (It doesn't matter what you believe about your ability to succeed in law school or what you believe is important in your application - the fact that you believe it is immaterial. Just state the facts so that the reader's independently-arrived at conclusion is that he or she believes whatever you're trying to prove.)

5. "Unique" (Very few things in this world are "unique", especially the use of the word 'unique'.)

6. "Firsthand Experience" (What is a second hand experience and why would anyone write about it? Of course your experiences are "firsthand"....Again, I'm not convinced this should really be a word.)

P.S. This list is not all-inclusive. As I read more personal statement drafts this fall, I promise to post additional tips on the subject of personal statement.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Did a Law School Offer you an Application Fee Waiver?

I always learn something while reading Brian Leiter's Law School Reports blog and rankings site and here's a fact he posted about U.S. News Rankings that got my blood boiling (but for once I'm angry at the law schools and not at the ranking-fallacy issue):

"2.5% of the overall score [US News Ranking] is the acceptance rate for students. Highly Manipulable. . . . many schools inflate their "selectivity" by giving fee waivers to applicants who have no chance of getting in. NYU is reported to have pioneered in this arena, but many others have followed suit."

So many of my clients get excited and e-mail me when a school offers them a fee waiver. I don't like that law schools are preying on the hope and vulnerabilities of law school applicants (especially my applicants) and this makes it very easy to fight back -

If your numbers aren't in the realm of realistic possibility for a school and they offer you a fee waiver without knowing anything about you, don't get sucked in. It's a silent protest, but a worthwhile one.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

How to Judge a Law School's Reputation?

Today, the Chronicle of Higher Ed posted an article which points out one of the flaws with the US News Law School Rankings. Today's reason for taking the rankings with a grain of salt is that the people who are voting on reputation don't know anything about the law schools they are ranking (except how they have already been ranked by the magazine in the past). It's a self-fulfilling prophecy based on an unglued house of cards.

All of this is very important to law school applicants; make informed choices about where to apply. Don't buy into the Rankings in making life decisions unless you understand the methodology behind them. You're entering a profession where you will be trained to think and approach all sides of an issue. Start now.

Thanks to AboveTheLaw for calling my attention to this, and to PrawfsBlawg's posting with fascinating comments following on the subject of judging a law school's repuation.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Early Decision Deadlines for Law Schools

Some of my clients are already submitting law school applications. Most schools made them available September 1st although there are a few hold-outs. One of the first decisions you'll have to make after solidifying your schools list is whether to apply under an Early Decision program.

The rule with Early Decision applications is that this is a binding agreement you are making with the school; if admitted, you will attend that school and withdraw all applications from other schools. In return, you will receive your admission decision a little bit faster (usually before Winter Break). The caveat is that in many cases your application will simply be "deferred" until the "regular" admissions cycle. But Early Decision is a great option for that school that you know, no matter what, you would attend.

Most schools with an Early Decision option have deadlines in November. Here are a smattering of schools and their Early Decision deadlines. (Please keep in mind that you should check each school's deadline and Early Decision information independently and not rely solely on this list). Also, please take note that for most schools applications must be complete by this date and not merely submitted by this date.
American 11/14
Case Western 11/15
Chicago 12/1
U. Cincinnati 12/1
Columbia 11/15
Georgetown 11/1
Hofstra 12/1
Houston 11/1
Indiana 11/30
Kent (Chicago) 11/1
Michigan 11/15
Missouri 11/15
NYU 11/15
Northwestern 12/1 (interview by 11/15)
Notre Dame 11/1
Ohio State 11/14
Pace 11/3
Texas Tech 11/1

And here's an independent list I found online of early decision deadlines at top law schools. (But beware - it's from 2006-2007)

Great Resource for Low LSAT Applicants

For those of you who struggle with the LSAT and are from low-income and/or groups under-represented in the legal profession, you should know about the 6-week intensive CLEO program. This is a great opportunity for those who have overcome significant disadvantage to seek a law degree.