Pre Law Frequently Asked Questions
- How long does law school take to finish?Law school typically takes three academic years to complete. Most law schools require you to start in the fall semester, as the first year of law school often follows a common sequence of courses without much, if any, room for electives. Some law schools offer accelerated programs that include summer courses and allow you to finish in fewer than three years. You might also have the option to complete your law degree (Juris Doctor or JD) in conjunction with another graduate degree such as an MBA, though this will likely require at least one additional year of school.
- Can I attend law school in Alaska?There is currently no law school in Alaska. UAA students wishing to attend law must be open to leaving the state for their course of study. However, an increasing number of law schools offer remote options allowing students to conduct much of their studies remotely, often with a requirement of travelling to campus a couple times a semester. And, 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?
In short, law school is expensive. Costs vary greatly among schools. Tuition may range from $10,000 to over $30,000 per semester. This does not include additional expenses you will incur. 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.
You should consider law school a full time job. You will likely not be able to work much during law school, particularly in your first year as you adjust to the schedule and rigors of law school. Many law school students do work in the summer for law firms to earn money, though taking an unpaid internship for experience is also an option.
- Is financial aid available 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.
There are also broader based financial aid resources you may want to consult. A good starting point for exploring financial aid options is the “Paying for Law School” page on the LSAC website. This website includes information on obtaining loans and on law school scholarships.
You should also familiarize yourself with the programs available through Access Group, a nonprofit organization formed to make financing more accessible to law students. The Access Group website 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. Federal information on financial aid loans can be found at the Federal Student Aid website.
- Do I need to attend an accredited law school?Attending a non-approved or non-accredited law school is not recommended. Alaska Bar Rule 2 on Eligibility for Admission, 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?
There is no formally recognized system of law school rankings. All accredited law schools will provide you the opportunity for a solid legal education. Qualities of a law school that appeal to one applicant may not be as important to other applicants. Many law schools promote specializations in various areas of law and may offer specialized legal clinics to provide advanced law students an opportunity to engaged in the supervised practice of law. Location is also important, as prospective legal employers (law firms, government agencies, etc.) tend to recruit from nearby law schools.
That said, higher ranked law schools may offer opportunities for more prestigious clerkships and job opportunities than would be available at schools not as high in the rankings. 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.
- 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.
Law schools are required to include on their websites information on the 75th percentile, median, and 25th percentile GPA and LSAT scores of their most recent entering class (though there is no set location on their website where this must be included). This information is also commonly available on a variety of law school-related websites, such as the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings.
- Should I apply to start law school right out of UAA or plan on gaining work experience
first?Law schools certainly accept applicants coming right out of finishing their college degree. However, many law schools increasingly favor students who have work experience, particularly experience in the legal field. This experience can be obtained after graduation or through an internship during college. (UAA Legal Studies bachelor and Paralegal Studies Post-Baccalaureate Certificate students are required to complete an internship.) Ultimately, law schools want to know that you will be able successfully to complete your law degree, and demonstrated success in employment can help convince law school admissions officers that you will be able to replicate that success at their law school.
- Are there sources of information especially created for members of populations historically
underrepresented in law schools?A recommended starting point for this information is the Diversity in Law School page on the LSAC.org website. This page offers information tailored to racially/ethnically diverse, LGBTQ+, and disabled law school applicants. You might also consider visiting the CLEO (the Council on Legal Education Opportunity) website. 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 by assisting low-income, minority and other disadvantaged students in successfully preparing for and applying to law school.
- 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.
- What resources are there about practicing law in Alaska?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 also provides links to the Alaska Bar Rules, which explain Alaska’s requirements for admission to the practice of law.