0L, Advice, Law School, Lists

LSAT 101: Tips and Tricks for the LSAT

Hello everyone! It’s been a while, I know. I’m still awaiting the start of Law School, so I haven’t had much to report. In a few weeks I’ll be moving (once again) far, far away from my home state. This time I’ll be moving 1500 miles instead of 1200!

Since the new school year is just around the corner I thought I’d go a little bit more into the Law School Admission Test (aka the LSAT). Some of you are probably now deciding if Law School is something you want to pursue (whether you’re a Junior in college, a Senior, or you’ve been out of school for a while). Now is a good time to start thinking about the LSAT and Law School.

Having gone through the process of taking the LSAT, applying and getting in to Law School, I’ve had some time to reflect on it all. This list will be made up of both things I did and things I wish I had done.

Without further ado, here is the list:

 

  1. Enroll in an LSAT Prep Course. I truly, truly wish I had done this. I did not do nearly enough studying and I did it all on my own. I did take one free online class. It was just for a few hours on one day in September. It was extremely helpful, but to be honest I forgot many of the helpful tips by the next day. If I had the structure of a class and the help of a professional I think I would have done much, much better. There are several types of classes out there, though. Do your research, look into their teaching styles. Find which one will be best for you and your learning style. It will cost a pretty penny, but it will be worth it in the end, PLUS there are always special deals on LSAT Prep courses.
  2. Set up a study plan. I literally marked into my calendar exactly when and what I’d be studying. My last semester most of my classes were online (fun fact: I actually HATE online classes) so I would get to the Library by 08:00 and stay until 17:00 or 18:00 (my schedule was slightly different on days when I had an actual in-person class). I would dedicate about an hour to studying for the LSAT in the morning once I got to the Library then I’d move on to my class homework. If I got done with my homework before 17:00 I’d move to studying for the LSAT. Then I’d come home and give myself an hour or so for dinner (I’d usually put on tv to relax a little bit) then I’d study for the LSAT until 22:00. I’d make sure to be in bed by 23:00 so I had a good amount of sleep. This is a lot of studying but the LSAT is a big and difficult test. Note: Make a study plan even if you’re taking a Prep course. Just because you’re taking a class doesn’t automatically mean you’ll score well if you don’t put in the effort and study. 
  3. Get LSAT Prep materials. Go to the book store and pick up the LSAT Prep books you can. Do your research first, though. Some prep books are not good resources at all and some are amazing. If you come across one you don’t recognize from your research browse through it first before buying it. I’d also recommend getting books dedicated to certain sections of the LSAT. For me, and most people I talked to (there are a few people who had trouble with other sections), the Logic Games section was the bane of my existence. I bought a book dedicated to Logic Games and it helped tremendously. The first time I took the LSAT I didn’t use this resource very much. I looked at maybe one or two chapters of the book and that was it, but the second time I focused on this book the most and I ended up scoring well on the LG section. I’d also highly recommend finding resources for the Writing Section. The Writing Section is the part most of us studied for the least. For me, it was because you don’t really get a score on that section so I didn’t bother studying for it the first time. Here’s a tip I learned for the Writing Section: Use ONLY the facts presented to you in the prompt. The basic format of the Writing Section is they give you a scenario where a person has to choose between two options. They present the facts (the pros and cons of each option) then you have to argue for one option or the other. This is not something where you want to bring in your life experiences and outside resources. They care only about your ability to look at the facts presented and use said facts to persuade your audience to choose one option over the other. I learned this from talking to a friend who took a prep course (and had taken the test twice already) right before taking the test. The second time I took the test, when I was studying I focused mostly on LG and the Writing Section. One of my Prep books had a whole section on studying for the Writing Section that I had completely ignored the first time round. It was extremely helpful! It taught me some tricks for legal writing that I never would have thought about before. I’d definitely recommend looking up some examples of legal writing too. Legal writing is a bit different than everyday and academic writing. Why should you study for the Writing Section if it isn’t graded? Because schools are looking at your writing samples. It is one of the big things they look at when considering whether or not they should accept you. They want to make sure you’re an intelligible human being.
  4. On test day don’t worry about looking cute and put together. Wear something comfy! It is a LONG day. You will be spending hours testing. You want to be comfy. You do get a fifteen minute break in the middle. During this break I did a lot of stretching. Sitting down at a desk, in testing mode for several hours will literally cramp your body up and this makes it harder to focus. During your long break stretch it out. You’ll come back feeling much better. I’m a former dancer so I already know what stretches are beneficial for my body. If you don’t already, look some up before you take the test. Again because you spend so many hours testing you will be able to focus much better if you’re wearing comfy clothes. When the day of the test comes, trust me, NOBODY cares what you look like that day.
  5. Know what you can and cannot bring to the testing center. This information is provided with your LSAT Ticket (DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR TICKET TO THE TEST!) You CANNOT get in if you don’t have your ticket with you. You have to have your things in a ziploc no bigger than a gallon (I highly recommend you bring the gallon sized one). Your wallet, your food, your pencils, everything has to be able to fit in that ziploc. You can’t have your phone ANYWHERE on you. They do a full search. You can’t wear a hat. You have to use a regular #2 pencil, no mechanical pencils, no pens. You can’t have a cap eraser on your pencil. You have to have your own sharpener. You can’t have a grip on your pencil. If you wear a hoodie, you can’t have the hood on. If it’s winter and you have a jacket on they will likely do a full search of your jacket. You can’t bring a reusable water bottle in (sometimes they allow it if it’s empty when they check your things and they check the bottle thoroughly). DON’T FORGET YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE! They won’t let you in without it. It’s how they verify who you are. They usually don’t allow chapstick. It’s a massive list of things you can’t have and a very small list of things you’re allowed. The second time I took the test I had a lady try to tell me I couldn’t bring my wallet in. One of the few permitted items on the list is a wallet. So know what you ARE allowed to have as well in case you have someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I made sure to show her the document stating what is allowed and I showed her exactly where it said you’re allowed to have a wallet. I’d highly recommend driving yourself if you can. You’re not allowed to have a phone in the testing center at all, there is literally no where you can put it outside of the center and you will be barred from taking the test if you have your phone with you. This makes it hard to contact anyone if you need a ride. If you do need a ride make sure you can take a bus, or have a really nice friend who is willing to wait an undetermined amount of time for you to finish your test. There is no set time that the test takes. How long it takes depends on how long it takes to get everyone checked in and to go through the instructions and fill out your information. The first time I took it, the test started at 08:00 and went until around 14:00-14:30. The second time I took it I was done between noon and 13:00.
  6. Make sure to check that the information on your ticket is correct at least a week before the test date. I quadruple checked all my information before submitting it and somehow on my ticket they had messed up my birthdate. I was a dumb dumb and didn’t check until the day before the test. I had to send LSAC an email to get it fixed in time. It got fixed but my ticket didn’t reflect the changes in time so I had to bring the email confirmation from LSAC with me to the test so that they would let me take the test. Your information on your ticket HAS to match your driver’s license.
  7. When they tell you where the test location is they won’t tell you exactly where it is until about the day before the test…even then it might just say a general building not a room number. The first time I took the test they only gave the building, which was hard to find in the first place. The second time, at first they only said the university, not where on campus it would be. It wasn’t until the night before the test that they finally said what room it would be in. Two days before I had called the University to ask them where it would be and they didn’t even know what the LSAT was let alone where it would be. It’s extremely frustrating. Just expect it.
  8. While you’re expecting the worse already, I’d recommend signing up for two different test dates. Yes, I’m saying expect to take the test twice. Most people I met during my LSAT prep and testing had to take the test at least twice. Many schools even recommended it. It is an extremely hard test. If you do poorly the first time round you’ll learn what you need to focus on the second time, what sections you struggled with, what ones you didn’t. It also shows growth. From what I’ve been told schools like to see that you buckled down, focused harder, studied better and got a better score the second (or third) time, even if it’s only by 1 or 2 points. It’s perfectly okay to take it three times. Just know that you can’t exceed three attempts over a certain period of time (2 years I think).
  9. Check out what other law school bloggers and you tubers have to say. If you know people in law school ask them too! We all have different perspectives and various tips and tricks. This is an important test and you’ll want to do your best on it. If you put in the effort, do your research, study you are sure to do well.

I hope this list helps all of you whom are preparing to take the first step to becoming a lawyer. This is a big feat. Be proud of yourself for taking on this challenge! I wish all of you the best of luck!

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0L, Advice, Law School, Lifestyle

Resume v. CV for Law School Applications

When I was applying for Law School I noticed quite a few schools give you an option as to whether you want to submit a Resume or a CV (Curriculum Vitae). A lot of people might not know what a CV is. To simplify it, a CV is a more elaborate Resume where you can go much more into depth on your academic history. On a Resume it is possible to highlight one or two elements of you academic history (e.g. research), but you can’t show it all.

For me, in undergrad I did a ton of research, but I didn’t work a lot, especially not work that was particularly relevant to the field of law. Mostly, the work I did do was retail and working at kids camps. Like I said, I did a ton of academic research, though, and it was actually my research that got me recognized by my department and helped me be able to attend a cool intensive conference for top students in my field. Because of all of that, I chose to do a CV.

Remember that overall, the purpose of applications (including the extra elements such as  resumes, personal statements, etc.) is to tell schools why they should accept you (similar to applying for jobs); you need to make yourself standout. So, your choice–whether Resume or CV–should make you standout most. Maybe you have a lot more relevant work experience? Remember that you don’t have to have undergrad/grad degrees in Political Science or Business to go to Law School, so maybe your academic history wouldn’t be as much of a boost for you as it was for me.

I know that for me it is often a lot more challenging to talk about myself and to make myself shine. Bragging about myself was just not something I was good at doing until my junior year of undergrad. That year I had to take a class called Personal Career Development where we actually learned the tools to help us get jobs, how to ace interviews, etc., etc. I would have never actually taken this class on my own, but it is a required class to graduate for my undergrad major. For all of you still in undergrad–regardless of what career you want to go into, or if you want to go to grad/professional school–I highly, highly recommend taking a class like this. One of the things I learned throughout the course of that class, and in life since, is that it’s easier for me to write cover letters/personal statements/choose what goes on a resume if I imagine that I’m helping someone else do this. If I think about it as me writing for me then it’s hard for me to choose what is actually impressive, or beneficial to add. For me, it’s just a lot easier to see the positives in/boast about someone else.

When I was writing my CV I went back through all of my undergrad research and made a list of all the relevant research. I also went back and forth between my CV and my Resume to make sure I didn’t leave information from my Resume off of my CV.

Regardless of whether you choose a Resume or a CV, a great resource to help you make a great Resume/CV is Purdue Owl. Seriously check this website out! It not only walks you through how to format them, they also have examples. They not only show you how to do Resumes and CVs, they also have all kinds of tips for interviews of all kinds (e.g. in-person, phone, Skype, etc.). BONUS, they also are an amazing resource for learning how to do all kinds of bibliographies (they are SO SO SO much better than citation machine (watch out for citation machine, it makes a lot of mistakes!) because you actually learn how to do the citation yourself). Also, if you do choose to do a CV also have a Resume on hand as well. While a lot of Law Schools do accept CVs not all of them do. And, don’t forget to pay attention to any CV/Resume requirements listed by the schools you apply to. Some of the schools want your CV/Resume to have certain elements you wouldn’t normally have.

As a quick side-note, before I end this post, there are some types of CVs that include a picture of yourself, these are NOT the type you want to do for your Law School applications! I’d just stick with a header that is similar, if not identical, to the one you have on your Resume.

I’ve said this before, but applying to Law School can be extremely tedious. It’s not always clear what is expected of you on the application and it can be quite nerve-wracking, trying to figure out exactly how to do everything in the best way that will gain you admission to your schools of choice. The internet is a GREAT resource, use it. You are not the first one to ever go through this and there are plenty of people out there with great tips and tricks who have been exactly where you are.

I hope this helps ya’ll!

0L, Law School

Class of 2020

 

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In my last post, I talked about post-graduation blues. I was in a slump. Though I didn’t necessarily say it, as yet another millennial that struggles with anxiety, I was secretly sure that I wasn’t going to get into law school, I wasn’t going to find a job, I’ll never see my friends again, etc. etc. Over the last few years I’ve had to learn to just accept that there are days where my anxiety is worse. I’m thankful that I live in a time where mental health issues, such as anxiety, are a lot more socially accepted (unfortunately, it also is somewhat romanticized by mine and younger generations, thus it became the “cool kid” ailment/copout to have/use) and there is a lot of information and outlets out there to help those of us that suffer from it. To avoid further digression let me jump into this post:

Life moved on.

I did, in fact, get accepted into law school. I got accepted to my number one school with a scholarship, which I am truly grateful for. I also got a job.

Don’t get discouraged. In the end, positive thinking wins the day. Things may seem bleak but there is ALWAYS a light in the darkness if you only look for it.

One of the reasons I chose to write the last post is because whilst scouring the law-school-lifestyle-blog side of Pinterest, I found that most, if not all, of the blogs were all sunshine and roses, so to speak. I personally think that not posting about the hard times, the bad times, etc. gives a false sense of perfection. Nothing and nobody is perfect. I wanted to feel like there are others out there like me and I knew that not everyday is so perfect–so good–for me. I have AT LEAST one bad day a week. So, I wanted others to see that there are less-positive times too. I also think that most of us who go into law genuinely do want to help people and that’s what I want this blog to do. I want this blog to be helpful for people like me, making this journey, this quest (quest sounds much cooler than journey) of becoming a lawyer.

Anyway, I am so excited to be part of the Class of 2020!

Here’s to being on the way to becoming a lawyer!

0L, Law School, Lifestyle

Preparing for Law School

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Let me start off by saying that preparing to apply to Law School takes months and months and months of preparation and even then it’s still challenging.

I started preparing around July of 2016 to apply for Fall 2017. First, came the endless research. I scoured the internet for tips from current and former law students on how to choose the law schools you wanted to apply to. There seems to be a general consensus: Ranking, Area, Focus Areas, ABA approved–not necessarily in that order. I knew I didn’t want to go to a school that was ranked really low because, well, there is a reason they are ranked low. When I started undergrad I started at a low ranking school and ended up transferring to a much, much higher ranking one for better educational opportunities. I don’t want a sub-par education and I don’t want to make the mistake of going to a low ranked school again. Along with rankings I noticed the high ranked schools also had a higher percentage of students passing the bar. That’s another huge thing I looked at that I didn’t see many people explicitly saying. Many schools ranked in the middle, or even a little bit lower, still have a high bar pass rate. I don’t want to go to law school to not become a lawyer, so bar pass rate is definitely important. Another, HUGE thing for me was whether or not the school was ABA approved. ABA stands for the American Bar Association. Basically, if a school is not ABA approved you can’t even take the bar exam in most states. As I mentioned previously, I’m not going to law school to not become a lawyer. Believe it or not, there actually are quite a lot of law schools that are not ABA approved. Next, was looking at focus area, i.e. what type of law do I want to practice. My major in college was essentially studying international law, except it was looking at the most depressing parts of world conflicts and how they exist in the realm of international law. If you’re looking for some chipper stories definitely do NOT ever read my undergraduate research. Long story short, I knew I wanted to go to a school with international law as an option. However, I still wasn’t sure what other areas of law I’d be interested in. It took a long time to figure it out, in fact, I didn’t figure it out until around November 2016. The last thing I looked at was where in the country I might want to live. That was another daunting task. I’ve lived in the NorthWest mountains, Souther France bliss, and the sunny, almost-always-like-summer desert. Where would I want to live next? While I think ultimately the schools themselves should be the main focus, I think it’s important to keep physical area in mind too. By now in life you’ve probably figured out some types of places you hate and would do almost anything to avoid living in. If a school you’re considering is in one of these areas, really take a moment to consider if you would hate the area so much that you would end up hating law school.

When narrowing down a list, my undergrad school recommended having 8-11 Law Schools on my final list. Honestly, I knew I couldn’t financially afford that. I found several blogs and talked to several friends who are currently in Law School. One of my friends did apply to a lot of Law Schools, but another applied to 5. I found one really helpful blog that said 3 should be your minimum: 1 should be a school you 100% know you’ll get in to, 1 should be a middle-ground school (probably your #1 pick) and 1 should be your reach school that you don’t know that you’d be qualified to get in to. Everyone, including my school, recommended a reach school because you never know. You could get in. Personally, I originally narrowed the list down to 5, but ended up dropping it down to 4.

While the various blogs and Pinterest posts prepared me for what to look for when evaluating schools I never got a good sense of how long this would actually take. There are some people out there who already know exactly which schools they want to apply to and have it all figured out. I was definitely NOT one of them. (I didn’t finalize my list until February 2017!) There are a lot of schools to look at and thinking about where I wanted to live, it all took a LONG time to finalize. I saw most timelines giving about a month to two months for this process. This whole process took so much longer than that. As I mentioned, I started around July and I didn’t finalize my law school list until February after two rounds of LSATs and considerable application prep was already underway. Honestly, if you know you want to go to Law School by your Junior year of college, start then, don’t wait until your last year/semester. If you are only just realizing that you want to go to Law School and you’re about to start your last year, really buckle down and get to it. Part of why it took me so long was because I would do my research sporadically.

Next thing to do was to register for the LSAT. I was originally going to register for the August LSAT, but decided to wait until the December one so that I would have more time to study. In a perfect world that would have worked out. Instead, I had a very heavy course load and I was dealing with some massive life curve-balls. It ended up being very, very difficult to study for the LSAT. In fact, it wasn’t until the last month before the LSAT that I started having time to study for the test and even then it was only a few days a week. The last two weeks I finally just decided to truly spend my life in the library. I got up early (between 06:00 and 07:00), went to the library, studied for the LSAT, did homework, then studied some more until around 18:00. Then, I went home, ate some food and studied more until about 23:00. Rinse, lather, repeat. If I would have employed this method much sooner, I honestly would have done a lot better. When I realized that I was not nearly as prepared as I wanted to be, I registered for the February LSAT as well. It cost a lot of money, but it was the best thing to do for me. (It’s important to note how much money preparing to even get into law school it takes. The test is almost $200, you have to pay for CAS which is close to $200 as well, test preparatory material is between $20-$50 a book, preparatory classes can be $100+, if you choose to take a class, applications run from $50-75+, plus for each application LSAC charges you a $30 fee for their services. It’s a bit overwhelming.) For the February LSAT I was even less prepared, unfortunately. I was dealing with a family tragedy and I was not in the right head-space. Even though I hardly studied I did still manage to get a better score. Taking the LSAT more than once, even though it’s expensive, is a GOOD thing. Even if you do well the first time, I recommend still taking it at least one more time. A better score is a better score. Even if you don’t study as much, knowing what to expect on the test gives you an advantage. That being said, it’s important to remember that life happens, our plans don’t always work out. All we can do is make the best of what we are given.

After you’re all registered for the LSAT/taken the test and you’ve narrowed down your schools it’s time to start applications. I didn’t start any applications until after I took the LSATs. I used my scores to sort of influence my final list of schools. After graduating college in December, I had very, very little money and couldn’t afford to apply to a lot of schools I’d have no chance of making it in to. My reach school is still a reach, but not a large reach. It’s not like I’m trying to get in to Harvard. Unlike Elle woods, I did not get a 179 (175 in the musical)…not even close.

The timelines I had found for applications all said to get your transcripts and letters of recommendation a month before the earliest application is due. So, I waited until February because my earliest application was due March 1. DON’T DO THIS. For transcripts you need a transcript from every college you attended, whether you graduated or not. You don’t generally need a transcript from a school you studied abroad at, but it sounds like a few schools here and there do ask for that as well. It took a month just to get one of my transcripts. I attended 2 different universities because I transferred so I, obviously, needed a transcript from both schools. My second school (the one I graduated from) took almost TWO MONTHS to get the transcript to LSAC. Then, there is the issue of getting letters of recommendation. It took a month to get a response back from my professors…a month for just a response, not the letter. Because of this I had to drop one of my schools from my list. Thankfully, it was the last school on my list (i.e. it was number 5 on my list of 5), but it’s still a little disappointing that I had to drop a school.  Of course, though, I am incredibly grateful my professors were willing to write these letters of recommendation. I’d recommend, AT THE LATEST, waiting 2-3 months before your earliest application is due. For transcripts, I’d recommend giving 2 months before your earliest application is due, just to be safe.

Now comes the fun (?) part: personal statement, resumé/CV, essays, etc. Because you’re trying to get in to a professional school, they make you work for it. There is a fair amount of writing involved with Law School applications. Just remember that these take time to complete. Some schools allow you to submit a resumé OR a CV. When this is an option I opt for a CV because I don’t have a lot of “work” experience but I have a TON of research experience. The CV allows me to showcase my extensive research, whereas the resumé only lets me highlight a little bit of my research. As far as personal statements I recommend having a general 2 page one that can be edited to fit each school. The schools have similar requirements, but some want you to address certain questions so I think it’s a little bit of a time saver to have a general one that can be edited. Some schools have optional essays you can write. One of the schools I’m applying to has one that asks me to basically describe in 250 words why I want to go to that school. Those extra essays add to whether or not they accept you. Because I’m putting so much time, money and dedication into applying (because I obviously really WANT to go to Law School, it’s not something I’m doing on a whim), I am all for anything that boasts me and helps my chances.

Right now, I’ve got one application fully submitted, I’m working on finishing another and the rest aren’t due for a few months. I hope this helps some of you hopeful, future law students!