What is Pre-Law Advising?
Pre-Law Advising within the Office of Undergraduate Education provides counsel to students interested in pursuing a law degree upon graduation from Rutgers. Our advisors will guide students throughout their undergraduate career to ensure they are meeting important steps and deadlines and gaining the depth and breadth of experience required for successful admission to law school.
Through the pre-law office, students have access to advising sessions during the fall and spring semesters. They also have access to a variety of resources including a library of law school catalogs and resource materials, statistics about applications and acceptances to law school, an application checklist, and more.
Meet Our Pre-Law Advisors
Milton Heumann is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and has been the primary pre-law advisor at Rutgers since 1987. In addition to teaching full-time at the University of Michigan from 1973-1980, Heumann has taught or co-taught at Rutgers–Camden School of Law and Yale Law School where he also was a Guggenheim Fellow. He received a Ph.D. from Yale University.
Richard Welsh is the associate general counsel at Rutgers. His practice relates to general transactional matters including real estate, construction, commercialization, and intellectual property, as well as Rutgers University Foundation on development matters, donor agreements, and bequests. Previously, Welsh was legal counsel at Delaware Technical and Community College. He received a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law.
Why Law School?
Many students attribute their interest in law school to common reasons like, “I like to argue,” or “my family is full of lawyers.” While these may be legitimate reasons to begin to consider law school, they are not strong enough motivations to actually attend. As a pre-law student, it is important for you to learn about law school, legal practice, the skills it takes to be a successful lawyer, and whether you will enjoy the practice of law. You should also take time to really consider your motivations for law school. This will not only help you figure out if law school is the right path for you, but it will also aid you as you apply to law school and write your personal statement. Students who are unable to develop a strong reason should explore alternative career paths such as graduate school or full-time employment.
What does the practice of law look like?
The practice of law looks very different depending on the field you choose, but most lawyers read, write, and conduct legal research every day of their careers. There are many different law practices, so it is important to learn about the different fields to figure out which is the best fit for you. Before applying to law school, you should have an idea of the type of law you want to pursue.
Regardless of the type of law you choose to pursue, the following skills, values, knowledge, and experience are essential to succeed in law school and the practice of law, as identified by the American Bar Association:
- Problem Solving
- Critical Reading
- Writing and Editing
- Oral Communication and Listening
- Organization and Management
- Public Service and Promotion of Justice
- Relationship-Building and Collaboration
- Background Knowledge
- Exposure to the Law
What can I expect in law school?
The first-year of law school is a stimulating, stressful, and competitive experience that students often find unnerving until they adjust. There are no lectures, rather students are expected to come to class having completed the assigned readings and cases. Class time is used as an interactive forum where students must answer questions that are designed to explore the facts of the case, determine legal principles, and analyze the reasoning used. Professors will also use hypothetical scenarios to test a student’s understanding of the materials. Unlike college where students can get away with being passive observers in lectures, law students must be active participants in class discussions and be ready to defend their opinions and answers.
Another aspect of law school that first-year students find challenging is that professors typically do not provide feedback until the end of the course, and grades are determined solely by a final exam. This can make it difficult for students to gauge how well they are mastering the material as they assimilate to law school. In the second and third years of law school, students have opportunities to participate in specialized programs, judicial clerkships, legal externships, clinical programs and moot court, and more. Law school can be an intense, competitive environment, but the rewards are considerable.
Law school is an expensive investment, so it is important to consider the cost of attendance and how you will finance your education before making the decision to attend law school. Always check the financial aid page of a law school’s website to learn if there are any additional scholarship or grant opportunities available through a separate application procedure. Many of these scholarships are merit-based, so it is critical to achieve a high GPA and LSAT score. If, after subtracting grants and scholarships from the cost of attendance, you still need financial assistance, you can take out loans through the federal government. However, it is critical to calculate your projected debt and create a plan for repayment, then research employment outcomes and expected salaries for your legal specialties of interest to determine if law school is worth the projected debt.
Four-Year Plan for Pre-Law Students
This four-year plan will guide you through important activities and deadlines you should prepare for in the process of applying to law school, starting from your first year at Rutgers through your senior year.
First & Sophomore Years
- Be serious about your studies. Take courses that will enhance your writing, reading comprehension, and analytical skills. Your grades are a very important part of your law school application, so it is important to focus on academics and do well.
- Expand your knowledge. Develop your logical reasoning ability and increase your awareness of human institutions, social values, and the world at large. You should also develop a realistic view of legal careers. Look for opportunities to obtain law-related experience. Talk to lawyers about their work.
- Pursue your interests in the classroom and beyond. Find the right balance between academic coursework and extracurricular activities. Choose a major that represents your own academic interests, and pursue your interests outside of class—but not at the expense of your grades.
- Create a plan. Learn more about the law school application process and attend LSAC Forums. Begin to consider how you will finance a legal education.
- Make this your best year academically. Your acceptance to law school will depend greatly on your academic record. If you hope to go on immediately to law school after graduation, your junior year and first-semester senior year grades will be what schools look at most closely.
- Prepare for the LSAT. Usually, it is not a good idea to take the LSAT prior to June, but you should start reviewing old copies of the tests and exploring the option of enrolling in a commercial test preparation course. Sample tests are available in the LSAT registration packets (available upstairs in Milledoler Hall) or in LSAT prep books.
- Continue to explore and learn about the legal profession. Learn as much as you can about the legal profession and the specific area of law you wish to pursue. Read articles, pamphlets, and books. Talk with and observe lawyers. Take part in law-related activities on campus.
- Start investigating law schools. Think about where you want to spend three intensive years of study. There are a number of variables to consider: location, size, prestige, cost, special programs, student body, chances of admission, etc. Visit prospective law schools during your travels, and remember that reading and talking to others can help. You can also take advantage of pre-law programs and the pre-law society. Do not write to law schools for catalogs and application forms until you return to school in August. Their printing deadlines for current-year materials are late summer.
- Give some thought to letters of recommendation. Most law schools require two faculty letters, and the most persuasive ones are often written by faculty who know you well and for whom you have done your best work. Consider taking another course from such professors, and get to know faculty.
Summer Between Junior & Senior Years
- Register for the LSAT and LSDAS. Pick up an LSAT/LSDAS Registration Packet in Milledoler Hall. Read the packet thoroughly to make sure you understand all phases of the application process. This is the single most important step. Plan to take the LSAT in June or October so that you will get your scores back in time to select an appropriate range of law schools to apply to.
- Develop a list of schools to apply to. Read the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, if you have not already. Begin to develop a list of 8 to 15 law schools you are interested in applying to. This list will need to be refined once you receive your LSAT score because you should be choosing schools which, given your GPA and LSAT scores, offer a reasonable chance of your gaining admission. A few schools on the list should be “reaches,” but most should be in the “more likely” range. It is also a good idea to have one or two “safe” schools. Most applicants wind up sending applications to 6 to 10 schools.
- Keep track of all application details. Develop a system to effectively keep track of all registration and application materials and details. Create duplicate copies of all forms, applications, and correspondence for your own records.
- Request applications. You can request applications from law schools using the postcards in the LSAT/LSDAS packet or start looking at online applications. The LSACD (provided by the LSAC) is a great way to apply to lots of schools with minimal typing.
- Meet with an advisor. Make an appointment with a pre-law advisor to discuss your plans and go over the application process.
- Gather application materials. Pull together ideas for a personal statement or essay, and begin drafting and revising. You will also need to conclude arrangements for your letters of recommendations and request that the registrar send your transcript to LSDAS using the transcript matching forms in your LSAT/LSDAS packet.
- Apply for financial aid. Obtain financial aid applications from the financial aid office if you intend to apply for aid. Investigate other financial aid possibilities.
- Submit your applications. Finalize and send your applications with the Law School Matching Forms in LSAT/LSDAS Packet to law schools before Thanksgiving, if possible.
- Follow up. Double-check everything. By mid-January, make sure the law schools received your applications, your LSDAS reports, and all letters of recommendation.
- Secure your spot. Once admitted, send a deposit to reserve your space in the entering class. Arrange with the registrar for a final copy of your transcript to be sent to the law school you will attend.
- Let us know your decision. After hearing from all law schools, but before graduation, let us know your results and decision, and let your recommenders know of your application results.
Law School Application Tips
The following are helpful general tips about law school applications:
- Law school admission is on a rolling basis. Applying early may increase your chances of being admitted. Nonetheless, do NOT apply early if it results in your taking the LSAT's before you are as prepared for them as you can be. Any marginal advantage of an earlier application will be more than offset by not obtaining the highest score that you are able to achieve.
- Your application should be typed and error-free. Remember to proofread carefully.
- Follow the specific instructions for each law school application, making sure to adhere closely to guidelines.
- Respond to each question completely, clearly and concisely.
- Make sure you have signed the application in all the appropriate places.
- Pay careful attention to all deadlines. You are responsible for ensuring that all your law school application materials are sent on time. Do not assume that you will be contacted if an item in your law school application is missing.
- If you want to have proof of mailing, you may consider sending important mail (such as the application and seat deposit after acceptance) by certified mail return receipt requested.
Law School Application Components
The sections below provide a general overview of what is needed to apply to law schools. Students are advised to also make an appointment with a pre-law advisor to review each step of the application procedure in greater detail.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is a crucial part of a candidate’s application materials. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) maintains that its purpose “is to test the skills necessary for success in the first year of law school,” and most certainly the LSAT score is a major variable in the admission decision. It tests skills in reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing. COVID has led to several substantial changes in LSAT's and these changes will be in place at least for the 2021-2022 admissions period. All exams are administered online and are remotely proctored.
There are two parts to the exam. The major piece is the multiple-choice exam, testing reading comprehension and analytical and logical reasoning. Returning to a pre-COVID exam format, starting this August there will be one unscored section in addition to the three scored sections. The purpose of the unscored addition is to help LSAC develop questions for future exams. There will be a ten-minute break between sections three and four. Also, it should be noted that a number of schools have recently decided to accept GRE grades in lieu of LSAT scores. Applicants should check with the schools to which they are applying if interested in this option.
A second part of the LSAT is a machine-proctored written essay. This exam can be taken as early as eight days before the multiple-choice section.
The LSAT’s will be administered eight times from June 2021 until June 2021. A student can take up to three LSAT’s in a one year period, and not more than five in a five year period. One change from last year that will carry over at least for the 2021-22 year: if a student pays a small fee, the first time and only the first time the student takes the LSAT, he/she will be able to see the score, and cancel it before it is published. Nonetheless, students should take the LSAT expecting to not repeat it since all scores, except the first one if cancelled, are seen by law schools.
LSAT Prep Resources
In order to prepare for the test, students ought to study sample LSAT's and then take a preparatory course. The Law School Admission Council offers a free LSAT prep course through the Khan Academy, which also includes a diagnostic test and lessons based on the sections of the LSAT exam. In addition, there are many private prep courses offered by for-profit companies. A non-exhaustive list of these include:
Finally, the Rutgers Pre-Law program has raised funds to support a tutoring program for our students. After meeting with the pre-law advisor, students will be given the option for up to five free one-on-one tutoring sessions. These are designed to help students address their weakest areas as evidenced by their performance on practice LSAT's.
Credential Assembly Service
The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) prepares and provides a report to each law school to which you apply. The CAS is an organizational tool intended to streamline the law school application process for both applicants and law schools.
After creating an online account, you can upload necessary application documents to your CAS file, such as transcripts, a writing sample, and letters of recommendations. CAS compiles these documents, along with an undergraduate academic summary and your LSAT score, which is automatically added to your file after you take the test.
After the CAS report has been completed, it will be sent directly to the law schools to which you are applying. You can set up your CAS file by registering through the LSAC website.
You will need to send official transcripts directly from every undergraduate, graduate, and professional school you have attended to your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) file with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Note that transcripts issued to you or sent by you will not be processed.
Transcripts should include those from the following:
- Community colleges
- Undergraduate and graduate institutions
- Law, medical, or professional institutions
- Institutions attended for summer or evening courses
- Institutions attended even though a degree was never received
- Institutions from which you took college-level courses while in high school even though they were for high school credit
- Institutions that clearly sponsored your overseas study
- International transcripts, if applicable
Learn more about which transcripts you will need to include in your CAS file.
Letters of Recommendation
Most schools will ask for at least two letters of recommendation. The best letters of recommendation come from those who know you well personally and who have had ample opportunity to assess your work (and, ideally, an instructor of a class in which you excelled).
When selecting a recommender, don’t pick someone based simply on their fame or rank. Law schools will be more interested in a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well and who can speak concretely about your academic performance and intellectual qualifications, rather than from someone famous who doesn’t know you at all.
You may consider an instructor from a small seminar course in your major department, or a professor of a class in which you participated actively, or someone with whom you conducted an independent study or research project with.
The personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee about who you are as an individual and what makes you unique. Given all the information already included in your application packet (i.e., test scores, transcripts, etc.), the personal statement is your chance to tell the committee something about yourself that they would not otherwise know unless you tell them.
The narrative that you present in the personal statement is what will help set you apart from other applicants. You may consider telling a story or finding a theme for your personal statement. Focus on a significant experience or choose a few key themes and demonstrate how these relate to your preparation for law school. Be sure to make the personal statement interesting.
Reviewers will look to glean from your personal statement things such as evidence of maturity, the motivation for pursuing a legal education, interesting personal attributes, independent thinking, ability to thrive in a rigorous academic environment, and whether you would be a good fit for the school.
The personal statement is also a sample of your ability to write, so be concise, write in a clear and direct style, and avoid jargon or pretentious language. Remember to proofread the statement carefully to avoid any grammatical or spelling errors. You may consider asking friends, family, professors, and advisors to review your personal statement and to give you feedback.
Also, be sure to adhere to each school’s instructions and follow the required page limit (usually no more than two pages).
Prepare a well-written, persuasive, succinct resume that highlights your educational achievements, awards or honors, work experience, community or volunteer service, skills, and extracurricular activities that make you stand out as a strong candidate. Focus on achievements and experiences after high school, since one of the things reviewers will be looking for in your application is evidence of maturity. Use reverse chronological order in all the subsections of the resume by listing the most current or recent events first.
For the “Education” section, list each school attended, the city and state in which the school is located, the actual or expected date of graduation, your major areas of study, and GPA (rounded to the hundredths). Don’t list your LSAT score.
Your “Honors and Activities” can be listed under the respective schools at which you received them. Be sure to list any nationally recognized honors or prestigious scholarships/fellowships you have received, and any honors that indicate high academic achievement. If you have held positions of leadership in university or community organizations, or have been involved significantly in extracurricular activities, list these as well.
In the “Experience” section, list the name and location of your employers, followed by positions held, dates employed, and a brief job description, beginning with your most current or recent position first. If your employment history is not particularly lengthy, you may consider including significant internships and volunteer experience. Use action words when describing your duties and accomplishments, and quantify successes. Avoid leaving large employment gaps in your resume.
In the “Skills” section, you may include foreign language proficiencies, computer skills, artistic or musical talents, athletic pursuits, etc.
Select a professional-looking font that is at least 10-pt or 11-pt. Check to make sure that the formatting is consistent throughout the resume. Use a 0.5 inch margin and have some white space on your resume to make it readable. Limit your resume to one page.
Finally, remember to proofread carefully, since typos and grammatical errors can hurt your chances at getting an interview.
Dean's Certification Letter
Some schools require a Dean’s Certification or Dean’s Letter as part of the application process. If you are a Rutgers student in need a Dean’s Certification or Dean’s Letter, please review the following list for the appropriate person to contact:
- For School of Arts and Sciences students, please visit Advising and Academic Services site.
- For School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students, please contact Associate Dean Julie Traxler at email@example.com
- For School of Engineering students, please contact Associate Dean Peng Song at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For Rutgers Business School students, please contact Assistant Dean Felicia Norott at email@example.com.
- If you are a student in ANY other School in New Brunswick, and are seeking a law school Dean's Recommendation or Certification, please contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following links contain valuable information to guide you through various aspects of the process of applying to law school, including law school rankings, a law school database search, a financial aid overview, LSAT prep resources, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
A B.A. or B.S. is required, but no particular courses or majors are preferred. It is your performance, more than the specific courses you have taken, that will determine your attractiveness as a law school applicant. Whichever major you choose, you should plan to take a variety of courses to build a liberal arts background with a focus on courses that will develop your analytical and writing skills.
If you want to attend law school right after college, you should apply during the fall of your senior year. Although application deadlines are usually in the spring, early applicants have a distinct advantage. Plan to have everything in the mail before winter break.
Top law school admissions criteria include a high GPA and a strong score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Keep in mind that taking easy courses to earn a high GPA at the expense of gaining a diverse and rigorous education and sharpening your analytical and writing skills will work to your disadvantage in scoring well on the LSAT and being prepared for the rigors of legal study.
Beyond the GPA, schools look for a program of studies that develops skills and insights in written and oral comprehension and expression; the ability to think deductively, inductively, and by analogy; and, creative power in thinking.
Many law schools also consider subjective factors such as faculty recommendations, extracurricular interests, and work experience. These areas are considered less critical and typically do not compensate for mediocre academic performance.
If you intend to study law, you need to develop an excellent knowledge and grasp of the English language as well as a clear and concise style of expression. Seek out courses from any departments that require substantial writing and provide a thorough critique of that writing. A sound liberal arts education is often best for most pre-law students.
Courses in political science, history, economics, statistics, and anthropology can help you understand the structure of society and the problems of social ordering with which the law is concerned. Studying philosophy, literature, fine arts, foreign languages, and other cultures will make you familiar with traditions, thoughts, and trends which have influenced, or tend to affect, legal developments nationally and internationally. The examination of human behavior in sociology and psychology can help you to understand the types and effects of human behavior. Studying logic (Philosophy 201) and the sciences can help you analyze, understand, and rationally organize your thoughts. In some fields of law practice, it is useful for a student to have a fundamental knowledge of technology, engineering, computers, and accounting.
The best guide is your interest and inclination. Major in a field that interests you and that you will enjoy. You will earn better grades in subjects you like. The most important thing is that you receive a well-rounded liberal arts education and perform well in the courses you choose.
Extracurricular activities are generally not a significant consideration in admission to most law schools. However, reasonable participation in activities can help you develop valuable leadership, communication, social, and logical skills, and you should take advantage of leadership opportunities as they arise.
You may also choose to join the Rutgers Pre-Law Society student group or the Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity to learn more about the profession of law and network with other students with similar goals. Find student organizations online.
Prepare well and plan to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) only once. Ideally, you should take it in June, August, or October of the year you apply. If you do take the LSAT's more than once, all of your test scores will be reported to the schools to which you apply. Thus, though they do not usually average the scores, they do see both (or more) of your scores.
Pre-law advising is available on the College Avenue Campus and in downtown New Brunswick. The College Avenue advising takes place in Milledoler Hall where there are also reference books and pamphlets with information about the legal profession and law schools. There are also catalogs of most of the law schools to which Rutgers students ordinarily apply. You can view our helpful links to access online resources but the best single source of information is probably the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools by Law Services.
Our pre-law advisors recommend that you wait until second-semester junior year or first-semester senior year to request letters of recommendation. However, if you have requested a letter from a professor before your junior year, you have two options for filing it in the interim before applying to law schools.
Rutgers University Career Exploration and Success has a partnership with Interfolio.com, an online credentials service. Interfolio maintains letters of reference for current students and alumni for use in applying to graduate school, teaching positions, or other employment opportunities. For more information, visit the Career Exploration and Success website.
Your other option is to register early for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) at the Law School Admission Council. CAS is the clearinghouse for LSAT scores, transcripts, and recommendations. Please note that there are fees for this service, but there are also fee waivers for qualified applicants.