Pre Law TimelineINTRODUCTION
Because pre-law is not a major and there are no course prerequisites for law school, pre-law students frequently find themselves unsure about how to prepare for the rigors of law school and the legal profession. The lack of explicit requirements means that preparing for law school is more of an art than a science. However, this flexibility in the method of preparation does not mean that intentional preparation for law school is unnecessary or unimportant. Indeed, while there are many roads to success in the legal profession, early and thorough preparation is critical.
This timeline is intended to provide an overview of what you, as a pre-law student, should be thinking about during each stage of your undergraduate career. Baylor Pre-Law is available to help you through all of the steps outlined here. Connect with Baylor Pre-Law early in your undergraduate career in order to maximize your preparation for law school. It is recommended that you meet with Baylor Pre-Law at least once each academic year and several times as you prepare for the LSAT your junior year and prepare your applications during your senior year.
Note that later portions of this timeline assume that you will be applying to start law school immediately after graduating from Baylor. Many students choose to work for one or more years before starting law school. If you plan to take this route, consult with Baylor Pre-Law to discuss where departures from this timeline are appropriate.
Connect with Baylor Pre-Law:
- Paul L. Foster Success Center Sid Richardson: Room 101
- Website: www.baylor.edu/prelaw
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaylorPreLaw/
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/baylorprelaw
Contact the Pre-Law Coordinator:
- Email: Prelaw@Baylor.edu
- Phone: (254) 710-8919
Summer before your Freshman Year
- Attend the Pre-Law Session at Orientation. Follow-up with Baylor Pre-Law as necessary with questions.
- Attend Line Camp to explore ways to get involved in the Baylor campus community.
- Consider applying for housing in one of Baylor’s Living Learning Programs. These provide excellent opportunities for learning beyond the classroom and forging deeper connections with faculty members.
- If appropriate, consider participating in the Honors Program, the University Scholars Program, the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, or the Baylor Business Fellows.
- Register for rigorous but appropriate courses (seek guidance from your academic advisor and from Baylor Pre-Law).
- Consider registering for the "Pre-Law Success" New Student Experience Course.
- Check with Baylor Pre-Law to ensure that you have added the pre-law designation to your academic record.
- Continue to develop your reading and analysis skills by reading non-fiction in an area that interests you (books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Supreme Court opinions). See the Baylor Pre-Law reading list for suggestions.
- Focus on your grades. It is difficult to get into law school if you perform poorly during any academic year.
- Attend the Pre-Law 101 information session.
- Consider taking a law-related section of PPS 1100 - either "Law and Public Service" or "Careers in Law" - to begin learning about legal practice.
- Consult with Baylor Pre-Law to develop a four-year plan for law-school preparation.
- Register with the Law School Admissions Council (www.lsac.org) and review its resources.
- Begin to get involved in an extracurricular or service activity. Consider joining Baylor Pre-Law Society, mock trial, moot court, or Model UN.
- Create a Word document where you record all your activities and achievements during your time at Baylor.
- Begin to build relationships with your pre-law peers.
- Set a goal of getting to know one professor reasonably well each semester so that you can begin to develop a potential pool of references for internships and recommenders for law school. Visit each of your professors in office hours at least once to develop your skill of connecting with faculty members.
- Use the resources of the Paul L. Foster Success Center.
- Visit Academic Support Programs for tutoring and to attend programs that will help you to develop study and time- management skills crucial for your success as a pre-law student.
- Visit Career and Professional Development for career counseling to assess the fit of a legal career and find an appropriate major.
- Meet with your academic advisor early to ensure timely registration.
- Visit the Writing Center. If you are having difficulty with college-level writing, you need to address the concern immediately. However, all students would benefit from working with these resources to further hone their writings skills.
- Collect your best academic work, particularly any papers you write. These can be used as writing samples and to assist professors in writing letters of recommendation and references.
- Talk to at least three lawyers about their careers over the course of the year, whether at Baylor Pre-Law events, by connecting with Baylor alumni, or using personal connections.
- Maintain excellent grades, particularly in your major. Law schools will look with particular interest at the grades you earn as you progress through your chosen area of study.
- Focus on participating in your classes as appropriate. The ability to effectively engage in class discussion is crucial in law school and is a skill you should begin to cultivate now.
- Continue your extracurricular commitments from freshman year and, where appropriate, progress toward a leadership position. Law schools value long-term commitment and the development of leadership skills.
- Haven’t found an organization that you are interested in leading? Consider starting your own organization or project.
- Focus on gathering information about the legal field - conduct informational interviews, arrange shadowing opportunities, read about the legal profession (check the Baylor Pre-Law Reading List), and observe court proceedings.
- Develop and maintain relationships with several professors. Letters of recommendation are critically important to the law school admission process, and now is the time to start building relationships with potential recommenders.
- Take a practice Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and meet with Baylor Pre-Law to evaluate the results.
- Register for several challenge classes for your junior year. Look for at least one class that is seminar-style and several classes that are writing intensive.
- Look for opportunities to engage in research or other out-of-the-classroom academic pursuits.
- Do significant non-fiction reading to continue building skills for the LSAT. Consult with a professor in your discipline or with Baylor Pre-Law for suggestions.
- Remember that any summer work you take, even at another college or university, will count toward your law school GPA (even if Baylor does not incorporate the grade into your Baylor GPA).
- Begin reading about the LSAT to familiarize yourself with the basics. There are several good blogs that talk about different types of questions and strategies.
Junior Year (Fall)
- Continue to focus on your grades. Since most students apply for law school in the fall of their senior year, your law school applications will, most likely, only include grades through the end of your junior year.
- Take Philosophy 1306 (Logic). If you have already taken this class, consider taking Philosophy 1307 (Critical Thinking) or an upper-level course in Logic. This is the optimal semester to take a logic course before you begin studying for the LSAT.
- Attend Baylor Pre-Law Society events and begin to familiarize yourself with all aspects of the application process and to develop your networking skills.
- Attend a Law School Fair to begin exploring your options. Compile a list of what you are looking for in a law school - solicit help from faculty, lawyers, current law students, and Baylor Pre-Law when forming this list.
- Arrange to visit a class at Baylor Law School.
- Take another practice LSAT.
- Meet with Baylor Pre-Law to develop a LSAT study plan.
- If you plan to take a commercial preparation course, begin researching now. Most courses will allow you to attend a session for free. If you are going to invest the time and money in a commercial preparation course, you want to make sure the instruction style is right for you.
- Plan your course schedule carefully for the spring semester so that it does not compromise your ability to properly prepare for the LSAT.
Junior Year (Spring)
- If you want a summer internship, begin looking as soon as you return from Christmas break. Work with Baylor Pre-Law and Career and Professional Development.
- Attend a mandatory group advising session for pre-law juniors.
- Study for the LSAT beginning in January. The LSAT is the single most important component of your law school application and, for most students, sustained practice is necessary to achieve their highest potential score.
- Purchase and get used to an analog timing device. Timing is key during the LSAT and you are not allowed to use a digital time keeping device!
- Decide who you will ask for letters of recommendation and speak with them regarding your plans for law school. You do not need to formally ask for the letter at this point but reconnecting with the individuals and soliciting their advice is important.
- Establish criteria for what you want in a law school and begin to research.
- Attend the spring Personal Statement workshop.
- Register early for the June LSAT to ensure a seat in your preferred location (Note: The June LSAT is typically not offered in Waco).
- Focus on final exams. These will likely be the last set of grades that many law schools see before they make a decision on your application.
- Increase intensity of LSAT preparation as soon as you are finished with your final exams.
- Take the LSAT.
- Use the resume journal you began freshman year to create a first draft of a resume. Remember this is an academic resume and you should err on the side of being over-inclusive in your first draft. An advisor can help you pare it down in a later draft. Law schools are interested in how you spend your time during undergraduate, so include as many details as possible.
- Receive and evaluate your LSAT score. If you’re not satisfied with it, explore whether you should retake the exam in September/October.
- Plug your undergraduate GPA and LSAT score into the LSAC search tool, available on www.LSAC.org., to help you determine where to apply.
- Begin working on your personal statement. Excellent personal statements require numerous drafts and time for reflection between drafts.
- Register for the Credential Assembly Service through LSAC. This requires that you pay their separate fee (in 2016 it was $175). This does NOT happen automatically when you register for the LSAT, nor when you get a generic LSAC account or number. All law schools require that you register for the CAS.
- If taking the September/October LSAT, continue studying for the exam and register early to ensure a seat.
- Continue revising your personal statement and resume. Have a draft ready for review by Baylor Pre-Law by the time you return to school.
- Finalize your list of recommenders and compile packets for them.
- Request transcripts from all undergraduate colleges to be sent to CAS.
- Take or retake the LSAT as necessary.
- Enter information about your recommenders into the CAS and print off the appropriate forms.
- Meet with those you have chosen as recommenders to ask for letters of recommendation. Give your recommenders a deadline based on your application timetable.
- Work with Baylor Pre-Law to compile a final list of between 5-10 schools where you will apply.
- Begin working on application forms.
- Read applications carefully to determine whether you will have to write additional essays (including addenda explaining character & fitness issues or low GPA/LSAT). If so, begin drafting.
- Determine whether any of the law schools where you are applying require or offer interviews or alumni interviews. In general, it is advisable to participate in any optional interviews. Meet with Baylor Pre-Law and Career and Professional Development to prepare for any scheduled interviews.
- If you took the September LSAT, receive and evaluate your LSAT scores. Adjust your list of schools if necessary. If dissatisfied with your score, consult Baylor Pre-Law about options for retake and/or deferring applications.
- Continue to work on applications and essays.
- Send a handwritten "Thank You" note to your recommenders. This will serve as a reminder to those who have not already written your letter and an appropriate gesture to those who have. Follow up with recommenders as needed to ensure timely receipt of letters.
- Finalize all application forms, resumes, and essays for admission.
- Aim to have all applications complete and submitted by no later than Thanksgiving. This is important because both admission to law school and the award of financial aid are rolling. Considering deferring your applications to January only if you believe your second semester grades or LSAT retake will materially help your application.
- Research financial aid application requirements at schools where you have applied and begin to gather necessary paperwork
- When fall grades are released, send the CAS copies of your updated transcript.
- Encourage your parents to do their taxes early so you can timely submit financial aid applications.
- Begin comparing schools where you are accepted and financial aid packages. Note that financial aid is negotiable, but that the negotiation process is delicate. Consult Baylor Pre-Law if you have questions about how to handle these negotiations.
- If you are placed on any waitlists, consult with Baylor Pre-Law regarding appropriate follow-up.
- Visit law schools you are considering.
- Decide where you will attend law school and submit your deposit.
- Let Baylor Pre-Law know where you plan to attend law school and register for the Pre-Law alumni database.
- Begin looking for housing. Talk to the school or other students about good possibilities. Time during law school is very scarce, so carefully consider distance from the law school and study environment when selecting an apartment.
- Send a copy of your final transcript and certification of graduation to your law school.
June - August
- If you are moving to a new state for law school, research to determine whether there is anything you need to do to begin establishing residency for in-state tuition or bar-examination purposes.
- Do some basic reading on legal analysis (The Bramble Bush, Getting to Maybe or other selections from the Baylor Pre-Law reading list) to prepare for law school. Some students choose to take commercial preparation courses. These classes are expensive and the quality varies significantly. Research carefully before signing up for any prep course. Most students are better off simply doing some reading.
- Develop a good system for scheduling your time. Once classes start, a schedule is critical! Because you are graded based solely on a final exam, procrastination represents a serious risk and is the top explanation for poor law school performance. Create a plan to avoid it.
- If you are moving for law school, aim to move to the city at least 2 weeks before classes start and take care of all logistical matters before courses start (banking, driver’s license, and basic supplies). Once classes start, you don’t want to waste your minimal free time doing these things. You will even have cases to read for the very first day of class.
- Study hard. Your first-year law school grades are critically important. If you have followed the above timeline and taken advantage of the academic resources Baylor offers, you should be prepared for the rigors of law school and a successful career in law.
- Continue to stay in touch with your Baylor pre-law peers. They will understand what you are going through during law school and can serve as an important part of your professional network once you enter the legal profession.