If you're planning on going to law school straight from college, the law admissions process starts in your junior year. Getting this early start gives you the luxury of extra time to rethink and retool any elements of your application that may need fine tuning before their deadlines are upon you.
If you haven't been doing so, you need to begin scheduling regular meetings with your pre-law adviser to make sure you're on track for law school admissions. Don't wait until it's too late! Your adviser can be integral in making sure you're taking the right classes and sticking to a schedule that will keep you on the path to your Juris Doctorate.
Registering for the LSAT
Taking the Law School Admissions Test is a key part of the law admissions process. During the spring of your junior year, you should get a registration form for the LSAT. There are several ways to obtain one: from your pre-law adviser, from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) directly by calling (215) 968-1001, or by printing a copy off the Web at www.lsac.org.
Register to take the LSAT in June. This may seem too soon, but you'll know your GPA and get an early return on your scores so you can hone in on law schools accordingly. You'll also have to time to retake the test in October if needed, and will still be in the running with many of the other law school applicants around the country. Best of all, you'll be on summer break (hopefully) and will have time to study for the LSAT without it interfering with your class work.
Law school requirements include the LSDAS
Get yourself registered with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). (You should be able to get the necessary forms from your pre-law adviser.) Almost every law school requires that you sign up for this service, which prepares a report on your behalf and sends it to each law school you're applying to.
This report includes a summary of your undergraduate record; copies of your entire undergraduate, graduate, and/or law/professional transcripts; a copy of your LSAT scores; and copies of your letters of recommendation. These reports are requested by the law schools themselves after they receive your application. The entire process actually saves you time.
Preparing for and taking the LSAT
By the end of your spring semester, you should be preparing diligently for the LSAT. Take at least one practice test and start to identify potential law schools that may be appropriate for you. Take your LSAT in June, after school is out for the summer. Scores come back pretty quickly and you should have them by late June or early July.
Delving into the law school admission process
In August, before you senior year, it's time to start writing, e-mailing, or calling law schools to request their catalogs and admission materials. Hopefully, they should all arrive in September and you can begin reviewing your choices more in-depth.
If it's appropriate to do so at this time, go ahead and request that official transcripts be sent to the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) from all higher education institutions you attended. These will later be sent to the schools that you've chosen for your applications.
If your LSAT scores have limited your choices (or ruled out some that you're really wanting), consider registering to take the LSAT again in October.
After you've decided on the schools that you'll be applying to, meet with your adviser to review your choices. This is also the time to start requesting letters of recommendation that should be sent directly to the LSDAS by their authors.
The law school application
Start preparing your applications. They should all be submitted well ahead of the deadlines. It's ideal if you have them all in by December 1. Remember, certain elements of your law school application will be sent to the schools by the LSDAS when the schools request them — which will be after they receive your application.
If February 1 rolls around and you haven't heard anything about your status, start calling the schools you applied to and verify that your applications were complete so you can send any additional materials they may need to finalize their decision.
When you receive your acceptance letters, fill out your required financial aid forms as soon as possible so you can be eligible for the best deals possible by getting in on the game early.
What a tremendous decision you've made to go to law school. It's a rigorous but rewarding path, and before you know it, you'll be welcoming your first clients. Congratulations!