On LSAT test day you’ll be expected to write an essay on a given topic. This essay is not graded but is important in the law school application and law school admissions process. The LSAC sums up the purpose of the writing section as follows:
In developing and implementing the writing sample portion of the LSAT, LSAC has operated on the following premises: First, law schools and the legal profession value highly the ability to communicate effectively in writing. Second, it is important to encourage potential law students to develop effective writing skills. Third, a sample of an applicant’s writing, produced under controlled conditions, is a potentially useful indication of that person’s writing ability. Fourth, the writing sample can serve as an independent check on other writing submitted by applicants as part of the admission process. Finally, writing samples may be useful for diagnostic purposes.
From the Writing Sample Pages found here.
In plain English, that means that law schools are looking at your sample to make sure that you can communicate effectively in writing, particularly under timed conditions; they are also going to compare your writing sample to other writing in your application package, such as your personal statement and any addendums. If your personal statement is a masterpiece of style and articulate phrasing, and your writing sample showcases junior high level skills, the admissions committee is going to have some doubts about how much of your personal statement was really written by you personally.
It’s absolutely to your advantage to produce a coherent and easy to read piece of writing that fulfills the assignment and shows that you are a strong communicator. But that doesn’t have to be a challenging part of your LSAT preparation. In the time leading up to the test, create a basic format for your essay, write a few samples, and get some feedback from experienced readers.
The stimulus will present you with a problem, 2 potential solutions, and several criteria for choosing a solution. While there is no “right” answer—both sides can be argued successfully—you should never try to fence-sit or propose a solution besides the one offered. Your job is to be an advocate. There are many ways you can structure your writing sample; one time-honored approach is the basic 5-paragraph essay. This should begin with an introductory paragraph, in which you choose one of the two potential solutions to the problem stated in the stimulus. Clearly state your position, and briefly summarize your evidence. Then devote each of the next three paragraphs to one main point. For example, each paragraph of your essay could examine one of the main criteria and explain how your chosen solution fulfills it. Wrap things up with a conclusion that briefly restates your evidence and conclusion, and if you want to add a little something extra, you can even include a brief mention of why the other possible solution isn’t the best choice.
Maintain a persuasive, professional tone throughout, don’t bring in imaginary facts outside of those provided, use your best handwriting, and remember that the singular of “criteria” is “criterion.” And presto! You have an LSAT writing sample that you can be proud of.
It takes a lot to prepare for law school, and preparing your wardrobe is an important part of the process. While you handle LSAT test prep and LSAT testing to appease law school admissions, take time away from the practice tests to make sure you have the clothes you will need as a 1L.
The first essential is your backpack. Those law books are enormous! The typical school backpack probably will not hold up to the law school load. You need something with lots of carrying capacity, and it needs to wear comfortably. Many 1L law students end up with back pains and doctors visits due to carrying the required books. Some few students use rolling suitcases for books, but it does stand out as different. A good frame-less or internal frame hiking backpack can be great for law school.
It varies from school to school, but 1Ls can usual get away with wearing their standard undergraduate clothing to law classes. There will be a few 1Ls that start school trying to look professional in suits and formal dresses, but these inevitably yield to the norm of casual dress. Do dress up for picture day when it is announced, but there is no need to replace your wardrobe for law school.
There will be formal events requiring dress attire. You will be required to dress well for visiting speakers. If you have to present a brief, you will be expected to look the part of an attorney. Some of the social events are formal. You must have at least one dress suit for law school.
Your primary dress outfit should be conservative. Go with black, dark charcoal, or dark navy in a traditional cut. Make sure to accessorize with a flash of red to show that you are aggressive. This is the traditional interview suit or outfit. It shows that you are a contender with traditional polish.
If you get an internship or clerkship during the summer, you will need at least two dress outfits. You will probably need three. For men, I suggest a summer suit. These are inexpensive and feel a little cooler during hot weather.
My school career adviser encouraged me to shop Goodwill and other thrift stores for suits. I was skeptical, but I picked up my third suit this way. You have to try on a lot of coats, but you can find suits that look great that would have cost you over a thousand dollars at a retail store. All it takes is a good dry cleaning to make these suits look snappy and ready for action. If you find a suit that almost fits, then you can take it to one of the many dry cleaning establishments offering alterations at affordable prices.
It is probably a mistake to spend a fortune on clothes for your first year of law school. You do want to look good for dress occasions, but also remember that attorneys expect that law students are on a budget. Get a good book pack and at least a couple of dress outfits. There will be plenty of time to expand your wardrobe as you progress through law school.
Prepare early for outstanding success in law school. While you wait for law school admissions to tell you if your LSAT test prep and LSAT testing has paid off, use your time wisely to start preparing for your networking success. Start early making your connections in the legal community to insure that you will have interning and clerking opportunities your first summer. Along with judges and attorneys, determine to establish relationships with the clerks.
Many courts will have local clerks to oversee the management of record-keeping and other administrative functions for the court. Each municipality and each county (or borough or parish) will usually have a clerk responsible for each court circuit that holds sessions in that jurisdiction. Therefore, there may be a great number of clerks in your intended area of practice.
Clerks and their staff normally are in charge of taking filings from attorneys and sending out official court notices related to litigation. A good relationship with the clerks can make life much easier on an attorney. Often clerks have close contact with judges, so it is wise to be cordial with the clerks.
As a law student, you may find the clerks to be invaluable sources of information. Law school teaches the letter of the law and legal theory, but you will also need to learn how to do filings and research in the real world. If you manage the relationships carefully, clerks will often graciously provide training in how to manage the local record systems.
Clerks can show you how to file a divorce, literally. They can introduce you to local land records and teach you how to trace deeds and liens. Each course case has a file managed by the clerks, so clerks can grant you access to invaluable records showing exactly how to navigate in the local system. Once you start practice and need a template for a filing, you can find these in the court records. A friendly clerk can streamline your search by directing you to files of attorneys known to be experts in fields of litigation. The clerk may know of a relevant recent case that will save you hours of research.
You cannot rely solely on training from law school. A wise law student will seek simultaneous education in the trenches of the real legal system. Clerks are stewards of the records and can be huge assets to the savvy student. It never hurts to deliver doughnuts to the clerk’s office. Locate your local clerks, learn their names, and get to know them.
Have a question for a former law student? Ask Andrea!
Before doing LSAT test prep, LSAT testing, and writing your bio for law school admissions; it is a good idea to know what you are in for if you get into law school. Law school is more than a series of very demanding courses. It is also an intense social networking and life management training intensive immersion program. Here are 10 things I needed to know before deciding to go to law school.
1. Law school is as much about building your social persona as it is about learning the law. Go in with the expectation of being socially polished by the experience. Law school demands it, and life will be easier if you embrace this aspect.
2. Being a 1L is very similar to being in grade school, except the material is harder. All 1Ls have the same classes at the same times. When the bell rings, you all charge into the hall at once. It is a little discomforting how much it feels like being herded as children from one session to another.
3. Most of your classes will have only a single exam at the end of the semester. For most of your first semester, you will have no idea how you are doing. Being able to speak in class effectively is not the same as doing well on the final exam. Unlike in undergraduate studies, you get very little feedback on how you are doing until it is too late.
4. The process is very demanding, but law schools no longer try to eliminate half of the students in the first year. Deadlines are assigned on the fly, sometimes the day of events. The schools simulate the fast-paced lifestyle of large firms and busy practices. One component of the law school experience is conditioning you to be adaptable and always seeking the next immediate task.
5. Only a few students can be in the top 10%, and those who compete for this level will have to devote ungodly hours of study. Those in the top 5% or 10% can land clerkships with federal judges after school or demanding positions in top firms, but the commitment required is extraordinary and never-ending. Figure out early if you are in this group, and relax if you are not.
6. It is important to balance your personal life with law school. Dedicate a set amount of hours each week to study, and stick to that schedule. Reserve plenty of time to maintain relationships with friends and family. Law school can seem so daunting that you can get lost in the demands. Resist that urge. Practicing attorneys will tell you that, in the end, a law degree is a law degree, regardless of class rank. Neglecting personal relationships during skill, however, will haunt you.
7. Extra curricular activities are important. Joining clubs allows you to build relationships with other future attorneys that you will be practicing alongside. The networking you do in school will affect you for the rest of your career. Also, future employers will look to your activities as one measure of how effectively you built networking connections during your law school experience.
8. Integration into the legal community should be a primary objective during law school. While grades are important, you should also focus on making connections with practicing attorneys and judges. Some will make presentations at your law school, and you should attend as many of these as possible. More importantly, seek opportunities to get out into the real legal profession early while you are still in school.
9. The legal industry is upon hard financial times like the general economy. Jobs are scarce and income potential after graduation is down. It is important to live beneath your means while in school. The new lawyer with the least amount of debt will have an advantage over other new attorneys when looking for employment.
10. You should be looking to build legal experience from the moment you decide to go to law school. Use your social networking with the legal profession to seek summer internships with judges. Take clerking jobs with firms during the school year even if the pay is low. Sign up for winter and summer volunteer trips to help the needy. One of your primary missions in law school is to build your practical experience for your resume. Even if you plan to be a solo practitioner, your practical experience will be the difference between whether or not you begin practice as a novice.
Check out this blog article on the key to balancing law school work.
LSAT testing is an art. This is a 10-step guide to systematically using LSAT practice tests to ensure that there are no surprises when your test scores are sent to law school admissions departments. Be systematic in your LSAT test prep to always score in the grade range expected by your target law school. Find out the LSAT test dates here.
1. Start preparing early. The LSAT test is usually administered only three times each year, and law school application deadlines typically end months ahead of the coming school year. It takes time to get the results back from your test. Therefore, it is important to start early to have several possible test dates available to you. You could miss a date due to illness or accident. More likely, you may wish to retake the LSAT in hopes of raising your score.
2. Determine the scoring methods of the law schools you are interested in attending. Some law schools average all of your attempts at the LSAT to determine your score. Other schools count only your single best LSAT result. This can make a huge difference in how you prepare. If your school takes the average of your scores, then the pressure is on to get the highest possible score your first time. If your target school takes the highest score, then you have the luxury of playing the odds and waiting out your peak score through multiple tests if necessary. Check with your target schools for LSAT test ranges from the previous incoming classes.
3. Take lots of actual LSATs. Actual copies of previous official LSAT testing questions are available from various sources. Start with older versions first. Take all four sections in a sitting your first time and post your scores on a chart with breakouts for each section. This is your baseline before studying. With practice you can expect to raise this score by at least several points.
4. Use study aids to focus on each section. Focus on each area one at a time. Periodically, test on individual sections to measure your progress and post the results to your chart. Your goals are both to learn how to handle the questions and to built a point spread for yourself in each of the test areas.
5. Once you have thoroughly immersed yourself in study for each test section, take another full LSAT and grade yourself. Add these grades to your chart. Consider your improvement over your first practice test to determine if your studying methods are proving effective. Ideally, you should see a several point improvement compared to your results before studying.
6. Take the best individual score from each category on your chart and combine these to determine your best possible total LSAT score at your current training level.
7. Similarly, take the lowest score from each section, omitting your first sample LSAT scores from before you studied. Combine the worst from each section to determine your worst possible score if you are going into the test tomorrow and everything goes against you.
8. You now have a range of your worst and best outcomes if you take the test without much additional training. You can fairly well expect to fall within this range every time you test.
9. If you are aiming for a school that takes averages of all attempts, then you will want to keep training until a recent set of sample tests gives you a low range that is acceptable to you. You want to know that you will get, at a minimum, a target score of X when you walk into your first test. You can work to improve your low score threshold by working on questions you missed on your lowest scoring attempts in each section.
10. If you are applying to a school that takes the single best of your LSAT scores, you can plan to take the test multiple times. The odds are that you will eventually score near your high range from your sample tests if you are willing to take the test several times. You can work to improve your max potential score by working on questions you missed in your highest scoring attempts in each section.
Try out this LSAT logical reasoning question for practice.
The dreaded day has finally come. It is the day you take the LSAT. You have taken countless practice tests and endured hours of LSAT test prep in order to do as well as you can, but what should you be doing the day of to make sure you are ready to go ace that test? Below is a list of things you should make sure to do before you step into the LSAT testing room.
Try this LSAT logical reasoning question for LSAT practice!
The Night Before:
1) Get lots of sleep! It is classic test-taking strategy, and yet so many people don’t pay attention. Get at good night’s rest and you will be well on your way to a great test day.
2) Prepare your “Magic Plastic Bag”. This is the one gallon, clear, zip-lock bag of things that you can bring into the testing room. Be sure to check on your lsac.org account for specifics of what you can and cannot bring, but here are the essentials. (Reminder: all of this has to fit in the bag and you can’t bring anything else so pack tightly!)
- Analog Watch to time yourself
- Multiple old-fashioned #2 pencils
- Pencil sharpener
- Valid Photo ID- (Driver’s license, passport)
- LSAT ticket
- Food and or water(in a clear bottle no labels)
3) Set two alarms- just in case!
The Day Of
1) Eat a good breakfast. Countless studies have shown that eating a good breakfast is crucial to ensuring your brain is working at its full capacity! No- a soda does not really count as a good breakfast, try to get something with protein in it such as eggs, or toast with peanut butter.
2) Dress in layers! Who knows what the temperature will be in the testing room, so make sure to dress such that you can be comfortable no matter how warm or chilly it gets.
3) Arrive at the test center early. Getting to the test center at least an hour before the test begins will give you enough time to check in, find a seat, and get settled all without being rushed. As a side note: DO NOT bring your cellphone! They are not allowed at the test.
4) Most importantly- BREATHE! You have prepared and are going to do great! Take time to calm yourself down a little and realize that, while the LSAT is a big scary test, it is only a test and you will do amazingly!