Law School and Pre-Law Advising
Interested in attending law school one day and becoming a lawyer? While Rutgers does not have a law undergraduate major or concentration, Criminal Justice is a great place to start: it will provide you with a foundational knowledge of criminal justice and how the criminal justice system works from all three aspects of the field of criminal justice: law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Consider majoring in such fields as political science, philosophy, or English and combining that with a second major in Criminal Justice or a minor in Criminology.
If you are interested in preparing yourself for applying to law school one day, you should definitely consider pre-law advising as early as possible. Offered through the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office, there is a Pre-Law Advising office with a pre-law advisor who is available to help you with all aspects of “pre-law school.”
What exactly is pre-law advising? “We use the expression as a convenient way to describe all training, studies, and experience which precede formal law study. It should not be understood as implying that such work is a mere preparation for the study of law. The success and effectiveness of your legal training depend greatly upon the breadth and depth of your background and experience. The student who plans to enter law school would be wise, therefore, to take traditional and demanding academic courses.
The pre-law advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Education counsels students interested in preparing for admission to law school. A library of law school catalogs and resource materials is available, as are statistics about application and acceptances to law school. Pre-law advising is available during the fall and spring semesters.”
Is Law School Right for You?
“Given the fact that law school is a time consuming (three years minimum), intellectually demanding, as well as a costly proposition in terms of both tuition, and living expenses, as an undergraduate at Rutgers-Newark you ought to make very sure that a career in law appeals to you BEFORE you apply. The stereotype of a lawyer as one who was always victorious in the courtroom, winning case after case, was very popular more than a fifty years ago, but it has long been just that--a stereotype with little basis in reality. Today, many lawyers never see a court room, and indeed their primary purpose as attorneys will often be to keep their clients out of court rooms. Today, a lawyer is primarily a problem solver, a facilitator, a negotiator, an arbitrator, a compromiser and communicator—one who tries to shape agreements, as well as to head off disagreements before they arise. Above all, he/she must be a good and understanding listener. It does not hurt to have a sense of compassion as well. Do you enjoy listening to people, and have an interest in solving their problems? If so, Law School may be right for you.
The worst reason to apply to Law School is because “my parents want me to, “or “my parents expect me to be a lawyer.” Your parents are not considering law school. You are, and it should be for reasons which can withstand careful scrutiny on your part. Further, law school in itself does not make you a lawyer. Upon graduation from an accredited law school (more on that shortly,) you must take what is known as a “Bar exam,” a two or three day exam which tests your general knowledge of law. Further, before you are admitted to the bar, you will be investigated by a board of bar examiners. Virtually every state has one. And, while you are not necessarily expected never to have received a ticket in your life, any run in with the law should be mentioned. Similarly with law school applications (Rutgers, for example, has an eight page form,) your motto should be “if in doubt, spill it out.”
There are approximately one hundred ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law schools in the United States. The most common degree they award is the J.D. or juris doctor, which is the foundation for practicing law. In New Jersey, there are only three law schools in the entire state, and two are connected to Rutgers—one in Newark and the other in Camden. The third NJ law school is also in Newark, and is a part of Seton Hall University. Students at Rutgers Newark who wish to consider a career in law are extremely fortunate, because two law schools are within walking distance from the campus. Indeed Rutgers Law School-Newark is right across the street. This means that would be applicants from NCAS have the opportunity not only to visit a law school, but to see its facilities, talk with it students and even—with advance notice—sit in on a law school class. If you take advantage of this, and also examine the law school catalogue, you will discover that there are now many different fields of practice within law.
Some—but by no means all of them--include, corporate law, labor law, property law, criminal law, civil rights, intellectual property law, entertainment law, international law, sports law, administrative and business law—to mention only a few. But before you can understand principles, precedents and procedures in legal fields such as these, you need to understand of what the legal process consists, and how it works. This is what you will be exposed to during your first year in law school, a year in which you will probably have virtually no choice in what courses you take. You will study criminal law, property, civil procedure, torts (a fancy term for wrongs other than those of a criminal nature,) contracts, as well as be introduced to legal writing. Yet many students will find a transition from Rutgers- Newark to law school to be daunting experience, even though they may well have just graduated--possibly with academic distinction--from four years of college. Why might this be so?
Perhaps in college, you have become accustomed to sitting in class for a lecture twice a week as a passive observer, a non participant with the exception of taking notes. Law school will be a very different experience, and a new student usually needs a while to get used to it. The Law school class is typically one of constant participation in the form of questions, challenging of one’s assumptions, disagreements and debate within an active environment. Most college students are not accustomed to defending their answer in class, or being challenged with a series of differing hypotheticals or alternatives by the instructor. In short, they are not used to responsive thinking as they consider a case or some other legal material. Indeed, stripped down to its essentials, the famous phrase of “thinking like a lawyer” simply means the careful consideration of facts, theories and alternatives relevant to the issue at hand.
As was noted above, many graduates from law school do not undertake trial work, but there are a great many fields in which legal training can be very helpful. Some of them include criminal justice and law enforcement, energy and natural resources, civil rights, academic administration, labor relations, municipal administration, real estate, and academic instruction. Obviously, law school cannot guarantee a job upon graduation, but law school training is a very beneficial tool to possess for work in a wide variety of employment.”
If you are considering becoming a pre-law student or especially if you are uncertain or even if you are keeping a very open mind about career aspirations, considering taking this brief questionnaire to gauge how likely you might enjoy being a lawyer.
Meet the Pre-Law Advisor
Dr. Milton Heumann is Professor of Political Science and Rutgers University Pre-Law Advisor. He was Chair of the Political Science Department from 1997-2003. He teaches courses on civil liberties and civil rights, the politics of criminal justice, and judicial decision-making, and has been the primary Pre-Law Advisor at Rutgers since 1987. In addition to teaching full-time at the University of Michigan from 1973-1980, Professor Heumann has taught or co-taught at Rutgers-Camden School of Law and Yale Law School (where he also was a Guggenheim Fellow). His current research interests include a series of studies on the consequences of felony convictions (for voting, for professional licensing), an examination of jury nullification in light of recent sentencing reforms, a large scale study of public and private whistle-blowing, and study of the constitutionality of vouchers for public and private school education.
Professor Heumann received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1968, and his M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Yale University (1971, 1976). His publications include Plea Bargaining (1978), Speedy Disposition (1992, with Thomas Church), Hate Speech on Campus (1997, with Thomas Church), and Good Cop, Bad Cop: Profiling, Race and Competing Visions of Justice (2003, with Lance Cassak).
Scheduling an Appointment
Dr. Heumann’s pre-law advising hours are by appointment only in Milledoler Hall Fellows Room on the 2nd floor (located on College Avenue Campus). Appointments are available during the fall and spring semesters on Thursdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to meet with the pre-law advisor, first check the appointment calendar. If you see an available time slot that you would like, click the button to request an appointment for that time. You can access the appointment calendar here.
Contacting the Pre-Law Advisor
See the above section to schedule an actual appointment to meet with the pre-law advisor. For general inquiries, you may reach out to Dr. Heumann by filling out and submitting an online contact form.
How to Prepare for Law School
“The best preparation for law school is a sound background in liberal arts. At Rutgers, there is no such thing as a pre law major. However, there are three skills which a law applicant must demonstrate some skill:
- The ability to comprehend and understand what you read.
- The ability to write with lucidity and clarity: to know what words mean.
- The ability to logically analyze and understand complex ideas and issues.
It will immediately be seen that familiarity with these skills can come from a wide variety of courses and/or majors. The old stand-bys such as history, political science, and economic remain popular, but so does a science major, or concentration in philosophy, sociology, or mathematics. It bears repeating that the skills necessary for success in law school are unique to no undergraduate major in particular. Rather, of much greater interest to a law school is how well you do in whatever major you select. Does your transcript, for example, reveal a superior quality of work over four years, with evident maturation as a student? Is there evidence of demanding course work in such offerings as calculus, or a laboratory science, writing, a history or economics seminar—to mention only a few?
A question might be raised as to whether or not a transcript is more persuasive to the law schools because the student has taken undergraduate courses in law related subjects such as constitutional law or legal history. The answer is--not really. A law school course in constitutional law, for example, is usually very different from an undergraduate offering in the same field. But if such courses do not materially improve one’s chances of admission, in another sense they can be very helpful to the undergraduate applicant. A student who finds a course in constitutional law, American legal history, or logic either confusing, boring, or both should seriously consider whether or not he/she wishes to undertake at least three years of difficult courses in closely related subject matter. It is far better to solve such a question before applying to law school.”
Camden’s Pre-Law Advising Office has produced an extensive and valuable pre-law guide for those considering law school. It is worth the time to read through the guide. Keep in mind that some of the information pertains to Camden, but much of the information can be extrapolated to whichever campus you are located at Rutgers. You can find the guide here: Pre-Law Guide.
Student Timeline of Pre-Law Prep
Freshmen and Sophomore Years:
- Take courses that will enhance your writing, reading comprehension and analytical skills.
- Develop your logical reasoning ability and increase your awareness of human institutions, social values, and the world at large.
- Develop a realistic view of legal careers. Look for opportunities to obtain law-related experience. Talk with lawyers about their work.
- Choose a major that represents your own academic interests. Be serious about your studies.
- Do well! Your grades are a very important part of your law school application.
- Find the right balance between academic coursework and extracurricular activities. Pursue your interests outside of class, but not at the expense of your grades.
- Begin to consider how you will finance a legal education.
- Attend LSAC Forums.
- Make this your best year academically. Your acceptance to law school will depend to a great extent on your academic record. If you hope to go on immediately to law school after graduation, your junior year and first semester senior year grades will be what law schools look at most closely.
- Usually it is not a good idea to take the LSAT prior to June, but start reviewing old copies of the test and exploring the option of enrolling in a commercial test preparation course. Sample tests are available in the LSAT registration packets (available upstairs in Milledoler Hall) or in LSAT prep books (such as Barron's).
- Do not write to law schools for catalogs and application forms until you return to school in August. Their printing deadlines for current year materials are late summer.
- Continue to explore and learn about the legal profession by: reading articles, pamphlets, and books; talking with and observing lawyers; taking part in the law-related activities on campus.
- Start investigating law schools. Think about where you want to spend three years of intensive study. There are a number of variables to consider: location, size, prestige, cost, special programs, student body, chances of admission, etc. Again, reading and talking with others can help. Take advantage of the pre-law programs and the pre-law society. Visit prospective law schools during your travels.
- Give some thought to recommendations. Most law schools request two faculty letters, and the most persuasive ones are often written by faculty who know you well and for whom you have done your best work. Consider taking another course from such professors, and get to know faculty.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year:
- Pick up an LSAT/LSDAS Registration Packet in Milledoler Hall. Read the packet thoroughly to make sure you understand all phases of the application process. This is the single most important step.
- Register for the LSAT and LSDAS.
- Read the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, if you have not already. Begin to develop a list of 8 to 15 law schools which, given your GPA and LSAT scores, offer a reasonable chance of your gaining admission. A few should be "reaches," but most should be in the "more likely" range. It's also a good idea to have one or two "safe" schools. Most applicants wind up sending applications to 6 to 10 schools.
- Prepare for and take the LSAT in June or October so that you will get your scores back in time to select an appropriate range of law schools.
- Develop a system for keeping track of all the registration and application details. Duplicate all forms, applications, and correspondence for your own records.
- Request applications from law schools using the postcards in the LSAT/LSDAS packet, or start looking at online applications. The LSACD (provided by the LSAC) is a great way to apply to lots of schools with minimal typing.
- Make an appointment with a pre-law advisor to discuss your plans.
- Pull together ideas for a personal statement or essay. Begin drafting and revising.
- Conclude arrangements for your letters of recommendation.
- Use the transcript matching forms in your LSAT/LSDAS packet to request that the registrar send your transcript to LSDAS.
- Obtain financial aid applications (available from the financial aid office) if you intend to apply for financial aid.
- Investigate other financial aid possibilities.
- Finalize and send your applications (with the Law School Matching Forms in the LSAT/LSDAS Packet) to law schools before Thanksgiving, if possible.
- Double check everything. By mid-January, make sure the law schools received your applications, your LSDAS reports, and all letters of recommendation.
- Once admitted, send a deposit to reserve your space in the entering class.
- After hearing from all law schools, but before graduation, let us know your results and decision, and let your recommenders know of your application results.
- Arrange with the registrar for a final copy of your transcript to be sent to the law school you will attend.
Pre-Law Society and Phi Alpha Delta
Students who are interested in joining a community of peers who are also interested in the study of law may consider learning more about the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, an international professional law fraternity advancing integrity, compassion, and courage through service to the student, the school, the profession, and the community. To find out more about the Rutgers chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, click here.
Applying to Law School
“Besides the undergraduate transcript, most law school applications contain several other segments that should be noted:
- The first is some sort of personal statement explaining why the applicant wishes to attend law school, including—perhaps--some past experiences that contributed to it. As law school admission personnel read these essays with some care, they should be written in the same manner.
- Second are at least one or two recommendations from faculty, or employers, or individuals who can provide insights into the applicant as an individual. Students should give serious thought to who they select as their letter writers. If at all possible, the faculty member should know the applicant well enough as a student to be able to assess, candidly his/her intellectual potential for the study of law. Simply giving an A in a large course with virtually no personal contact between the professor and student is not a sufficient basis for a recommendation.
- The third part of the application is the required Law School Admissions Test, or the LSAT. A standardized test, it is the sine qua non for all law school applicants, and along with the undergraduate transcript constitutes the two most important parts of the application. Most law schools decline to state which is more important in terms of admission—the academic GPA, or the LSAT score. However, it would appear that an outstanding GPA will help to offset a mediocre LSAT score, while an outstanding LSAT score will not offset an unimpressive GPA.”
Tips for Asking for a Faculty Recommendation
All advanced degree programs require faculty recommendations. When asking a faculty member for a recommendation, consider choosing a faculty member you have a good rapport with and whose class(es) you have taken during your undergraduate career—for which you have earned relatively good grades. For this reason, it is good strategy to start cultivating a relationship with one or two faculty members early on in your undergraduate career. A relationship can be established simply by first taking a faculty member’s class. Speak up in class and answer questions with thoughtful answers. Go to the faculty member’s office hours and get to know your professor. Consider doing an independent study with that professor. Good relationships with your faculty members will help in your quest for good recommendations.
When you approach a faculty member for a recommendation, do so politely and in such a way where you will not be inconveniencing your professor. What does this mean? First and foremost, be aware of deadlines and plan accordingly. Make sure you provide your professor with well-advanced notice and plenty of time to complete the recommendation. If the faculty member agrees to write a recommendation on your behalf, make sure your professor is aware of the deadlines. Absolutely do not hound your professor repeatedly to inquire whether the recommendation was completed, but do check in once or twice with gentle reminders. Make sure you give your faculty member all of the information and all of the materials necessary to write an appropriate recommendation, which includes not only the information of the program you are applying to, but also an addressed and stamped envelope so your professor is able to send the recommendation once completed.
Every faculty member is different in what he/she would like from you when asked to write a recommendation. However, there are also several materials which would always be beneficial to provide your professor with when asking for a recommendation:
- Your statement of purpose or any application essays you submitted
- Your CV or résumé with your education, employment, internships, extracurricular activities, research projects, and skills
- Specific and clear deadlines for all applications
- A stamped and addressed envelope for every recommendation being solicited
- Any cover sheets or forms that must accompany the recommendation
- List 2-3 things you wish the faculty member to highlight in their recommendation about you
“The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. The test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.
How do I sign up for the LSAT?
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website can get you started.
What kinds of questions are on the LSAT?
This multiple choice test of about three and a half hours is not a test of content/knowledge, but rather of technique (some say of endurance). Thus there is nothing for which to study in advance. But there is a great deal for which one can prepare in terms of technique, and careful preparation is often the key to a good score. Currently, the test contains about 5 sections with approximately 120-130 questions. They are divided into three different types:
- Reading Comprehension. This section will include several prose excerpts, followed by about half a dozen questions based upon each excerpt. Also, there are now comparative sections, where two passages might be read, with questions asked about both of them.
- Analytical Reasoning, also known as the “logic games” section. Each set contains a problem which usually involves some sort of grouping or ordering, with questions based upon it.
- Logical Thinking. This section includes several sets with either a paragraph or short piece of dialogue at the beginning. Questions follow which will deal with identifying or comprehending the argument, assumptions, premises or evidence, as well as the possible application of the argument in a new context.
- In addition, there is an unscored writing sample in which the student has to write a brief essay on an assigned topic. This essay is sent to every law school to which the applicant has applied.
How do they score the LSAT?
Although there are usually five sections on a LSAT, not counting the writing sample, only four of them form the basis for the score which is a three digit number ranging from 120 to 180. In other words, one receives 120 points just for showing up to take the test! As the LSAT score is based only on the correct answers, it is acceptable to guess, as one has a 20% chance of getting a correct answer. Therefore, one should never leave any questions blank if he/she runs out of time, as frequently happens. Further, the test questions do not follow any order such as simplest first and hardest last. In other words test takers should NOT assume that the next set of questions is going to be more difficult than the one on which they are currently working.
When should I take the LSAT?
The LSAT is normally administered four times a year—in February, June, October and December. For most law schools, the LSAT should be taken either in October or December of one’s senior year. Because they act on a rolling admission system, it is generally best for an applicant to have the admission packet completed by the beginning of their final spring semester. The advantage of taking the test in October is that if the student does poorly and wishes to repeat it, there is a December test available. The law schools receive scores for every LSAT taken by an applicant, and while some institutions use the higher score, most law schools appear to average the two. The question of whether or not to retake the LSAT is primarily a judgment call. If one had health issues during the first test, was under unexpected or severe mental stress, or made mistakes in filling in their answer sheet—perhaps a repeat is warranted. Statistics are clear, however that it is unusual to gain more than a few points on a remand, and indeed, some test takers go down, rather than improve on the second test.
How do I best prepare for the LSAT?
The first point to understand is that although the LSAT is not a test of knowledge, one should NOT approach this test cold, if only because you will be at a real disadvantage taking it with so many who have prepared. Moreover, there are a number of different ways to prepare. For example, you can take one of several LSAT Prep courses, offered by Kaplan or Princeton Review, to mention only two. For some student they might not represent the best way to prepare, and those particular students might be better off preparing independently with self-help books.
Prep courses appeal to those students who are nervous and insecure about standardized tests. If they had a bad experience taking the SAT and/or College Board Achievement tests, they might feel that prolonged practice test taking in a classroom environment will help them prepare for the LSAT. Their attitude may be compared to one who insists on taking an antibiotic for a common cold. Medically, it does no good, but it may make you feel better in a mental sense. Further, if students do not have the determination and discipline to spend the time necessary for proper preparation, a Prep course offers an easier—although often expensive—solution.
One cannot take too many practice LSAT tests. If at all possible, you should try to take up to a dozen such exams. (This is why one should begin “prepping” for the LSAT at least several months before the actual test date.) The best way to prepare for it is to take a series of tests which contains not only the correct answer to each question, but also an explanation as to why the other four are not correct. In other words, a series of such practice tests helps the student gain needed familiarity with the three types of questions. Familiarity in turn can instill some confidence to face what the student will confront on the real LSAT. While Rutgers does not endorse any Prep Course over any other, neither does the University endorse any of the numerous LSAT test prep books readily available; except to point out that Law School Admissions Council--who prepare and administer the LSAT-- has assembled a series of previously given exams (The SuperPrep Test books) in the format described above.
Any advice for taking the LSAT?
A few tips for the actual taking of the LSAT may be briefly noted.
- Do not be upset if you run out of time, (you probably will) but never leave a question blank. Remember, again, that only the correct answers count: you have nothing to lose by guessing. Further, no questions count more than any other.
- Read each question carefully, and do not skim or speed read. Do not spend too much time on one question. Pace yourself evenly, and keep track of the time. Every section is rigorously timed.
- Do not try to answer the question without having read all five choices. There may be some irrelevant material, but do not dismiss it until you have examined the entire question. Only one answer is correct. Every word for the correct answer has been included, and any ambiguity in the answer is probably intentional. Do not fall for what might be called “the attractive distractor,” the choice that is almost but not quite right."
Law School Application Checklist
“Whether you have just begin to think about applying to law school or are in the midst of submitting your applications, the resources available through this section offers information and guidance to help you through the process.
This section will help you keep track of important documents and test scores that you will need for your law school applications, such as your personal statement, letters of recommendation, resume, transcripts, dean’s certification letter, and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
The Law School Admission Council, the non-profit corporation that administers the LSAT, has an informative and helpful overview of the law school application process. Click here to read more.
The following are helpful general tips about law school applications:
- Law school admission is on a rolling basis. Applying early may increase your chances of being admitted and, regardless of the decision, early application may lead to early notification.
- Your application should be typed and error-free. Remember to proofread carefully.
- Follow the specific instructions for each law school application, making sure to adhere closely to guidelines.
- Respond to each question completely, clearly and concisely.
- Make sure you have signed the application in all the appropriate places.
- Pay careful attention to all deadlines. You are responsible for ensuring that all your law school application materials are sent on time. Do not assume that you will be contacted if an item in your law school application is missing.
- If you want to have proof of mailing, you may consider sending important mail (such as the application and seat deposit after acceptance) by certified mail return receipt requested.
Credential Assembly Service
The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) prepares and provides a report to each law school to which you apply. The CAS is an organizational tool intended to streamline the law school application process for both applicants and law schools.
After creating an online account, you can upload necessary application documents to your CAS file, such as transcripts, a writing sample, and letters of recommendations. CAS compiles these documents, along with an undergraduate academic summary and your LSAT score, which is automatically added to your file after you take the test.
After the CAS report has been completed, it will be sent directly to the law schools to which you are applying.
You can set up your CAS file by registering through the LSAC website.
You will need to send official transcripts directly from every undergraduate, graduate, and professional school you have attended to your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) file with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Note that transcripts issued to you or sent by you will not be processed.
Transcripts should include those from the following:
- community colleges
- bachelor's and graduate institutions
- law/medical/professional institutions
- institutions attended for summer or evening courses
- institutions attended even though a degree was never received
- institutions from which you took college-level courses while in high school even though they were for high school credit
- institutions that clearly sponsored your overseas study
- international Transcripts, if applicable
For more information about which transcripts you will need to include in your CAS file click here.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Law School Admission Test is a half-day, standardized test offered four times a year (June, October, December, February) by the Law School Admission Council. An integral part of the process of applying to law school, the LSAT provides a standard measure of reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools use in assessing applicants. The LSAT is structured as five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions. The three main multiple-choice question types include reading comprehension questions, analytical reasoning questions, and logical reasoning questions.
The LSAT should be taken either in June (with a registration by early May) of your junior year or October (with a registration by early September) of your senior year in order to get your results back in time to determine an appropriate range of schools to which to apply. When you eventually apply to law schools, all of your test scores are reported. You may not take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period.
To prepare for the LSAT, there are a number of test preparation guides and commercial test prep courses and programs through for-profit companies such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review. The Law School Admission Council also offers free LSAT prep materials, such as sample questions and practice tests.
For more information about the LSAT click here. Or see the section above regarding LSAT’s and related test-taking advice.
The personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee about who you are as an individual and what makes you unique. Given all the information already included in your application packet (i.e., test scores, transcripts, etc.), the personal statement is your chance to tell the committee something about yourself that they would not know otherwise unless you tell them.
The narrative that you present in the personal statement is what will help set you apart from other applicants. You may consider telling a story or finding a theme for your personal statement. Focus on a significant experience or choose a few key themes and demonstrate how these relate to your preparation for law school. Be sure to make the personal statement interesting.
Reviewers will look to glean from your personal statement things such as evidence of maturity, motivation for pursuing a legal education, interesting personal attributes, independent thinking, ability to thrive in a rigorous academic environment, and whether you would be a good fit for the school.
The personal statement is also a sample of your ability to write, so be concise, write in a clear and direct style, and avoid jargon or pretentious language. Remember to proofread the statement carefully to avoid any grammatical or spelling errors. You may consider asking friends, family, professors, and advisors to review your personal statement and to give you feedback.
Also be sure to adhere to each school’s instructions and follow the required page limit (usually no more than 2 pages).
Letters of Recommendation
Most schools will ask for at least two letters of recommendation. The best letters of recommendation come from those who know you well personally and who have had ample opportunity to assess your work (and, ideally, an instructor of a class in which you excelled).
When selecting a recommender, don’t pick someone based simply on their fame or rank. Law schools will be more interested in a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well and who can speak concretely about your academic performance and intellectual qualifications, rather than from someone famous who doesn’t know you at all.
You may consider an instructor from a small seminar course in your major department, or a professor of a class in which you participated actively, or someone with whom you conducted an independent study or research project with.
See the appropriate section above for more information and tips on soliciting a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.
Prepare a well-written, persuasive, succinct resume that highlights your educational achievements, awards or honors, work experience, community or volunteer service, skills, and extracurricular activities that make you stand out as a strong candidate. Focus on achievements and experiences after high school, since one of the things reviewers will be looking for in your application is evidence of maturity. Use reverse chronological order in all the subsections of the resume by listing the most current or recent events first.
For the “Education” section, list each school attended, the city and state in which the school is located, the actual or expected date of graduation, your major areas of study, and GPA (rounded to the hundredths). Don’t list your LSAT score.
Your “Honors and Activities” can be listed under the respective schools at which you received them. Be sure to list any nationally recognized honors or prestigious scholarships/fellowships you have received, and any honors that indicate high academic achievement. If you have held positions of leadership in university or community organizations, or have been involved significantly in extracurricular activities, list these as well.
In the “Experience” section, list the name and location of your employers, followed by positions held, dates employed, and a brief job description, beginning with your most current or recent position first. If your employment history is not particularly lengthy, you may consider including significant internships and volunteer experience. Use action words when describing your duties and accomplishments, and quantify successes. Avoid leaving large employment gaps in your resume.
In the “Skills” section, you may include foreign language proficiencies, computer skills, artistic or musical talents, athletic pursuits, etc.
Select a professional-looking font that is at least 10-pt or 11-pt. Check to make sure that the formatting is consistent throughout the resume. Use a 0.5 inch margin and have some white space on your resume to make it readable. Limit your resume to one page.
Finally, remember to proofread carefully, since typos and grammatical errors can hurt your chances at getting an interview.
Rutgers Career Services has a multitude of résumé writing tips, resources, and in-person counseling help. Be sure to check out Rutgers Career Services for more information.
Dean's Certification Letter
Some schools require a Dean’s Certification or Dean’s Letter as part of the application process. If you are a Rutgers student in need a Dean’s Certification or Dean’s Letter, please review the following list for the appropriate person to contact:
- For School of Arts and Sciences students, please click here.
- For School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students, please contact Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Robert M. Hills, at 732-932-3000, ext. 512.
- For School of Engineering students, please contact either Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Fred R. Bernath, or Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Lydia Q. Prendergast, at 732-445-2212.
- If you are a student in ANY other School in New Brunswick, and are seeking a law school Dean's Recommendation or Certification, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Education at 848-932-4001.”
Financing Law School
Please see the Law School Admissions Council website for more information and resources about how to finance the costs associated with attending law school.
Pre-Law Frequently Asked Questions
What are the requirements for admission to law school and when do I apply?
B.A. or B.S., no particular courses or majors are preferred. If you want to attend law school right after college, you should apply during the fall of your senior year. Although application deadlines are often spring dates, early applicants have a distinct advantage. Plan to have everything in the mail before Christmas.
What do law schools generally ask for from applicants?
First, a high GPA and a strong score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). (Keep in mind that taking easy courses to earn a high GPA at the expense of gaining a diverse and rigorous education and sharpening your analytical and writing skills will work to your disadvantage in scoring well on the LSAT and being prepared for the rigors of legal study.) Beyond the GPA, they look for a program of studies that develops basic skills and insights in written and oral comprehension and expression; the ability to think deductively, inductively, and by analogy; and, creative power in thinking.
Subjective factors such as faculty recommendations, extracurricular interests, and work experience are also considered by many law schools, but they are less important and typically do not compensate for mediocre academic performance.
Which courses should I take to develop these skills?
As we already mentioned, no specific courses are required; however, keep in mind that the spoken and written word are the principal tools of the legal profession. If you intend to study law, you need to develop an excellent knowledge and grasp of the English language as well as a clear and concise style of expression. Seek out courses, in whatever departments, that require substantial writing and provide a thorough critique of that writing. A sound liberal arts education is often best for most pre-law students.
Courses in political science, history, economics, statistics, and anthropology can help you understand the structure of society and the problems of social ordering with which the law is concerned. Studying philosophy, literature, fine arts, foreign languages, and other cultures will make you familiar with traditions, thought, and trends which have influenced, or tend to influence, legal developments nationally and internationally. The examination of human behavior in sociology and psychology will help you to understand the types and effects of human behavior. Studying logic (Philosophy 201) and the sciences can help you analyze, understand, and rationally organize your thoughts. And in some fields of law practice it is useful for a student to have a fundamental knowledge of technology, engineering, computers, and accounting.
As a pre-law student, what criteria should I use in selecting a major?
The best guide is your own interest and inclination. Major in a field that interests you and that you will enjoy. You will earn better grades in subjects you like! (See previous question for more information about courses.)
How important are extracurricular activities?
This varies from law school to law school but they are not a major consideration in admission to most law schools. However, reasonable participation in activities can help you develop valuable leadership, communication, social, and logical skills.
When should I take the LSAT? Should I take it twice?
The LSAT should be taken either in June after your junior year or in the September/October test dates of your senior year in order to get your results back in time to determine an appropriate range of schools to which to apply. When you eventually apply to law schools, all of your test scores are reported. Since most schools average the scores or deduct points from the second score if it's higher, you should plan to take the test only once. If you feel that you are not a skilled test-taker, a Kaplan/Princeton Review course might reduce your anxiety and give you tips.
Where can I get more information about pre-law studies and law schools?
Pre-law advising is available on the Douglass and College Avenue Campuses. The College Avenue advising takes place in Milledoler Hall where there are also reference books and pamphlets with information about the legal profession and law schools. There are also catalogs of most of the law schools to which Rutgers students ordinarily apply. The best single source of information is probably the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools put out by Law Services.
When should I request letters of recommendation from my professors?
Our pre-law advisors recommend that you wait until second semester junior year or first semester senior year to request letters of recommendation. However, if you have requested a letter from a professor prior to your junior year, you have two options for filing it in the interim before applying to law schools.
Rutgers Career Services has a partnership with Interfolio.com, an online credentials service. Interfolio maintains letters of reference for current students and alumni for use in applying to graduate school, teaching positions or other employment opportunities. For more information, visit the Interfolio page at Career Services.
Your other option is to register early for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) at the Law School Admission Council. The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) is the clearinghouse for LSAT scores, transcripts, and recommendations. Please note that there are fees for this service, but there are also fee waivers for qualified applicants.
Whom should I contact for a Dean’s recommendation or Dean’s certification?
- For School of Arts and Sciences students, please click here.
- For School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students, please contact Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Robert M. Hills, at 732-932-3000, ext. 512.
- For School of Engineering students, please contact either Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Fred R. Bernath, or Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Lydia Q. Prendergast, at 732-445-2212.
- If you are a student in ANY other School in New Brunswick, and are seeking a law school Dean's Recommendation or Certification, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Education at 848-932-4001.
Resources for Pre-Law Students
If you are looking for LSAT test prep, law school rankings, sample application essays, legal trends, and so much more, you can find various resources on the following websites: