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UAA Pre-Law Advising Information
"almost nothing has more impact on our lives... than that something we call the law."
Lawrence M Friedman
Law in America, 3 (2002)
Disclaimer: This information is provided as a general guideline to the process of applying to law school, and is intended as a starting point of reference only. Every effort has been made to present accurate information, but all of the information is subject to change without notice. Neither the author, the Justice Center, nor the University of Alaska guarantees the timeliness, accuracy or completeness of the information provided below, or provided at any of the linked websites. Any use of or reliance on such information is voluntary, and should be undertaken only after an independent review of its accuracy. Links or references above to a specific product or service, or to any public or private organization or group do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation. Neither the author, the Justice Center nor the University of Alaska assumes responsibility for any damage resulting from the use of the information set forth above, or from the use of information obtained at any linked Internet address.
There are many different routes to law school. Though all applicants will need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, there is no single major that is "best" for law school preparation. You should choose an undergraduate major that interests you, will help you develop critical thinking skills, and will prepare you to communicate well orally and in writing. In choosing your electives, be sure to include courses in advanced composition, as strong writing skills are essential, and courses that will provide you with a good understanding of American history and government. As you move through your undergraduate coursework, you should also participate in a variety of public service activities that meet your interests, and will prepare you to take an active role in your community.
American Bar Association / Law School Admissions Council
There is a wide array of commercial information marketed to pre-law students, and much of it is very good. However, the best resources available to you are the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). Both of these organizations maintain comprehensive websites with reliable information on preparing for law school, getting into law school, and choosing the best school for you. Links to their websites are listed below.
ABA Section of Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education.html
Another valuable resource is the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. This book is updated yearly, and provides a wealth of information on each law school approved by the American Bar Association. It is available in print at most commercial bookstores, and is also available online, in a searchable format, at the LSAC website. You may access the online guide at http://officialguide.lsac.org.
UAA Consortium Library - Martindale Hubbell Directories
The UAA Consortium Library also provides useful information on law schools and legal careers through its Lexis-Nexis database. It includes the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory Listings, with details on more than 900,000 lawyers and law firms throughout the United States and around the world, and the Martindale-Hubbell Law School Directories, with information on over 250 American law schools. You will need your UAA user name and ID to access this information on-line. You may link to this information at http://consortiumlibrary.org.
Alaska Bar Association
Information on becoming licensed to practice law in Alaska, and on sitting for the Alaska Bar Examination, is available through the Alaska Bar Association. Its website provides links to the Alaska Bar Rules, which explain Alaska’s requirements for admission to the practice of law. That information may be accessed at www.alaskabar.org.
UAA Justice Center Resource Library
In addition to the resources listed above, the UAA Justice Center maintains a small library of materials relevant to law school admissions, including copies of the LSAC registration booklet, a current copy of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, and numerous law school catalogs. These materials are available during Justice Center operating hours, which are normally 8-5 Monday through Friday. The Justice Center is located on the main UAA campus, in the Professional Studies Building (PSB), Suite 234.
Students in the Bachelor of Arts in Justice program who intend to go to law school should consult with a pre-law advisor for help in planning their academic schedule.
Most ABA-approved law schools rely on the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), through its Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), to simplify the admissions process. You will submit your application information to the LSDAS, which will use the information to prepare a standardized report. The report will typically contain your law school admissions test score and copies of your writing sample, a summary of your undergraduate academic performance, copies of prior academic transcripts, and copies of your letters of recommendation. The LSDAS will send this report directly to the law schools to which you are applying.
The most important event in the application process is the law school admissions test (LSAT), administered by the LSAC. The test is given four times per year, and is designed to measure skills important for law school success. It includes five sections of multiple choice questions covering reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. A 35 minute, unscored writing sample is administered at the end of the test. Schools vary in the importance they attach to the LSAT score, but you should assume that it will be a significant factor in determining the success of your applications.
The following is a brief overview of the application process. For more detailed information you should visit the LSAC website, www.lsac.org.
- Begin preparing for the LSAT.
- Register for the LSAT and LSDAS.
- Have your official undergraduate (college-level) transcripts sent from the University's registrar's office to the LSAC.
Ask your references to send letters of recommendation to the LSAC, using the LSAC preprinted forms (unless a school to which you are applying requires that letters of reference be sent to directly to the school).
To request a letter of recommendation from a Justice Center faculty member, complete and submit the following forms to the Justice Center office (Consortium Library, LIB 213):
- Request for Letter of Recommendation Form
- Student Reference Request, FERPA Release, and Release of Liability Form
- Take the LSAT.
- Check your LSDAS Master Law School report to make sure your transcripts have been summarized, your letters of reference are in, and your file is otherwise complete.
- Apply to your schools of choice as directed by each individual school (most schools now prefer that you apply electronically through the LSAC).
- Submit a personal statement or essay as directed by each school.
- Can I attend law school in Alaska?There is currently no law school in Alaska. UAA students wishing to attend law must plan on leaving the state for their course of study. However, many Alaska students return home during school breaks to work for local law firms, and in that manner acquire information about the practice of law in Alaska.
- How much does law school cost?Costs vary greatly among schools. Tuition may range from several thousand dollars to over $30,000 per year. Cost of living will vary from city to city, but you will need to factor in housing, food, books, and transportation to and from Alaska.
- How do I find out about financial aid for law school?
Each law school will have scholarships or other financial aid opportunities that are not available at any other school. For that reason, as soon as you have narrowed your law school choices, you should contact the financial aid offices at your schools of choice to find out what opportunities may be available. In addition, the LSAC publishes a brochure entitled "Financial Aid for Law school: A Preliminary Guide" that provides a good starting point for exploring financial aid options. It is available at www.lsac.org.
You should also familiarize yourself with the programs available through Access Group, a nonprofit organization formed to make financing more accessible to law students. Access Group's website, www.accessgroup.org, provides specific information on law school loans.
Another organization, AccessLex Institute, provides a databank of nearly 800 scholarship opportunities and writing competitions at their website: AccessLex Law School Scholarship Databank
Other websites you may want to explore include:
- Do I need to attend an accredited or approved law school?Attending a non-approved or non-accredited law school is not recommended. Alaska Bar Rule 2, which governs eligibility to take the Alaska Bar Exam, provides that every general applicant for admission shall “[b]e a graduate with a degree of Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LLB) of a law school which was accredited or approved by the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association or the Association of American Law Schools when the applicant entered or graduated, or submit proof that the law course required for graduation for either the JD or LLB degree from such a law school will be completed and that a JD or LLB degree will be received as a matter of course before the date of examination. Many other state requirements are similar.
- How important is law school ranking?
The American Bar Association does not recognize any system of law school rankings. The website of the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has stated: “No rating of law schools beyond the simple statement of their accreditation status is attempted or advocated by the official organizations in legal education. Qualities that make one kind of school good for one student may not be as important to another. The American Bar Association and its Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar have issued disclaimers of any law school rating system. Prospective law students should consider a variety of factors in making their choice among schools.
A good rule of thumb as you consider the merits of various schools is to review carefully the schools' most recent bar passage rates and employment rate. The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools Online Searchable Edition allows you to research this data in a single search, at the following address: http://officialguide.lsac.org.
- Can I get into law school without a high GPA?
GPA is only one of a number of factors considered by law schools during the admissions process. Admissions officers recognize that a number of factors can contribute to a low undergraduate GPA that do not necessarily reflect on a student's ability to succeed in law school. A high LSAT score and a strong record of volunteer service or extra-curricular activities, combined with an effective personal statement and solid letters of recommendation will often offset a low GPA.
- Should I take an LSAT prep course?
Most students begin their preparation for the LSAT using the sample questions available in the LSAT & LSDAS Information Book and on the LSAC website. Taking the LSAC's sample tests while timing yourself is a good way to familiarize yourself with the LSAT process and to give yourself a general idea of how you might perform in the actual test. These sample tests may be accessed through the LSAC website at http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/preparing-for-the-lsat.
- Are there sources of information especially created for members of populations historically
underrepresented in law schools?
A recommended starting point for this information is CLEO (the Council on Legal Education Opportunity). CLEO is a non-profit organization funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Its purpose is to increase the number of lawyers from disadvantaged backgrounds and motivate them to provide services to low-income communities. Its goal is to assist low-income, minority and other disadvantaged students in successfully preparing for and applying to law school. More information is available at www.cleoscholars.com.
- Can I attend law school if I have a criminal conviction?
A criminal conviction will not prevent you from attending law school, but it may adversely affect your ability to become a member of the bar in the state in which you ultimately hope to practice. Most states have character requirements that must be met before potential lawyers may sit for a state bar exam. For example, in Alaska the Bar Rules require that every applicant to take the Bar examination be an individual "whose conduct justifies the trust of clients, adversaries, courts and others with respect to the professional duties owed to them. Conduct manifesting a significant deficiency in the honesty, trustworthiness, diligence or reliability of an applicant is a basis for denial of admission." A criminal conviction, with the exception of a minor traffic violation, will be "treated as cause for further inquiry before the bar examining authority decides whether the applicant possesses the character and fitness to practice law." See Alaska Bar Rule 2.1(d). In evaluating eligibility, the Bar will consider factors such as the recency and seriousness of the conduct underlying the conviction.
For additional information on pre-law resources at the University of Alaska Anchorage, or to make an advising appointment, please contact:
Ryan Fortson, J.D.
Program Coordinator, Assistant Professor
Prof. Jason Brandeis, J.D.