Applying to Law School
It is strongly recommended that you consult with the Stanford Pre-law advisor as you prepare to apply to law school.
The application to law school is processed through LSAC.org, an umbrella organization that serves as a clearinghouse for law school applications. Applicants use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) located on this website to fill out the common application, and then fill out each school specific application before submitting everything electronically. The LSAC forwards your applications to each school you have applied to (i.e. you do not send the application directly to the schools).
Visit the LSAC online for an overview and detailed explanation of application process to law school.
Steps to Apply to Law School
- Meet with the Stanford Pre-law advisor for an overview of the application process, to ensure that you know about resources for Stanford applicants to law school, and for answers to any questions you have about applying.
- Register for the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. All ABA approved law schools require applicants to use this service. There is a fee.
- Send official transcripts from Stanford and all colleges you have attended to LSAC. Visit How do I request an eTranscript to be sent to LSAC? to order your electronic transcript.
- Request Recommendations and have them submitted to LSAC. If you use the LSAC service, you must download and give each recommender the required form.
- Fill out and electronically submit your application online, attaching the Personal Statement and Resume. More detailed advice can be found at Personal Statement Advice #1 and Personal Statement Advice #2.
- Pay your application fee.
- Your LSAT score is automatically reported to schools as part of your application.
Additional Advice for Applicants
When to Apply
- Applicants typically apply one year before starting law school. Applications open in September and official deadlines are typically in February (check for specific deadlines) although some law schools accept applications until all seats have been filled (usually by June). It is strongly advised that applications be completed no later than November 1, because there are more seats available early in the process.
Diversity in Law School Admissions: Advice for Underrepresented Applicants
Increasing applicants who represent diversity is a goal of law schools, who aim to have a student body and practicing lawyers in numbers more representative of the US population. Diversity is broadly considered to include ethnicity, sexual identity, low income and first generation applicants, and applicants with disabilities, among others. If you are a member of an underrepresented cohort, law schools are interested in understanding how this has impacted you. There are opportunities available to you to understand the resources available to you both to prepare for and apply to law school. Please also review the Resources for Pre-law Students section.
Your pre-law advisor is available to assist you in identifying resources and strategies to ensure your successful application to law schools.
Resources for Diversity Students:
- LSAC Racially/Ethnically Diverse Applicants
- LSAC Helpful Resources for Racially/Ethnically Diverse Applicants
- LSAC How to Prepare for Your Legal Education
- LSAC Diversity Scholarships
- LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog
- Kristen Mercado, UC Davis Admissions: 6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Applied to Law School
- Law School Applicants with Disabilities: FAQ for Applicants with Disabilities
Diversity in Law School Admissions: Advice for International Students Applying to US law schools
US law schools generally welcome applications from international students. However, financial aid can be limited for international students (international students are not eligible for federal financial aid programs). If you are an international student, it is important for you to review the websites of law schools in which you are interested, and if possible, you are encouraged to visit at least a few law schools for a discussion about your status as an international applicant. Your pre-law advisor is available to assist you. See below for a few helpful links.
Advice for International Students Applying to US Law Schools:
- LSAC International Transcripts
- UC Berkeley Law International Students
- An International Student's Guide to Applying to U.S. Law Schools
- Law School Application Tips for Foreign Students
- 15 U.S. Colleges That Offer the Most Financial Aid to International Students
- Harvard Law School - FAQ for International J.D. Applicants
The personal statement is a critical piece of the application. You are encouraged to consult with your pre-law advisor, who may also ask to review a final draft of your statement. More detailed advice is also available at Personal Statement Advice #1 and Personal Statement Advice #2.
Detailed advice related to Recommendations can be found here.
Applicants attach an updated resume to each school application. Stanford Career Education offers assistance with content and formatting of resumes. If you would like the Pre-law advisor to review your resume before you apply, please send your resume as a Word document to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pre-law advisor at Stanford is not able to review documents from students/alumni from schools other than Stanford University.
Extracurricular activities are of interest to law schools who are looking for applicants who have been engaged in their community in leadership positions, public service, athletics for competition or healthy lifestyle, and activities that reflect your values and interests.
Your resume, personal statement, or an addendum can convey to law schools not only that you are a successful student, but also a sense of how well-rounded you are.
The LSAT is the standardized test required by virtually all law schools. In 2017, Harvard and a few other schools accepted the GRE instead of the LSAT, but this is still the exception rather than the rule. Taking fully timed practice tests is considered the best way to prepare for the test. It can take 3-6 months to adequately prepare, and it is advised to take at least 10 practice tests. Your Pre-law advisor is available to help you decide on a preparation strategy for the LSAT.
The LSAT is designed to test the skills needed to succeed in law school and consists of five 35-minute sections, including:
- (1) Reading Comprehension section
- (1) Analytical Reasoning section
- (2) Logical Reasoning sections
- (1) writing section.
Another section is unscored, and is used as a variable section to try out new test questions. For complete information about the LSAT, including practice materials, test description, test dates, etc., visit LSAT Prep.
Where to Apply
- Choosing a law school demands research and self-evaluation that, frankly, many students approach with insufficient attention. Although law school rankings are somewhat helpful, the emphasis on “numbers” neglects the more subjective aspects that might make a particular law school a strong match for an applicant.
- Visiting schools before you apply is highly recommended, but a visit before accepting an offer of admission is absolutely essential. Schools offer “admit” weekends that are aimed at helping you make the decision of where to attend.
- Criteria that applicants consider in making a decision about where to go to law school include:
- Grading policy
- Financial package
- Student life
- Bar passage rate
- Employment trends
- Where the applicant plans to practice
- The LSAC offers several resources to help you with the decision of where to attend law school:
- Law school is an expensive endeavor, and careful planning is essential to financing your law school education. Your first step is to actively consider the costs. The ACCESSLEX is an online resource that offers tools for paying for law school.
- When you apply to law school, you will request information on financial aid in the application. Each school will ask for specific information about your financial resources (you will need to fill out the FAFSA forms) and usually, your parents’ income tax information. Most law students depend on loans to finance law school: be sure your credit is in good condition in order to obtain the money you need. There are scholarships available for law school, but competition for grants and scholarships is fierce. See the specific school web site for information. Some schools offer only need-based scholarships; some offer only merit based scholarships; some schools offer a combination of need-based and merit based scholarships.
- If you are seeking financial aid to pay for law school, you are required to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and you are advised to do this by February 1 or earlier.
- Many law schools offer loan repayment programs for law school graduates who pursue public interest law or similar jobs that benefit underserved populations. More information can be found on school-specific websites as well as the American Bar Association (ABA).
Helpful Resources for Financial Planning
- Stafford Loans are federal loans for qualified citizens of the United States. Applicants who are independent and who fill out the FAFSA may apply for subsidized loans for graduate school.
- LSAC Financial Aid Guide
- Scholarship database
- Financial Aid Law School
Some schools require a “Dean’s Certification” to be filled out by your undergraduate institution, often requesting information about academic standing and community standards issues. At Stanford, the Office of Community Standards is responsible for processing this form. The Academic Advising Pre-law advisor is not authorized to complete this form.
For complete instructions, please review the Dean's Certification FAQ's and helpful information at:
- Frequently Asked Questions About Certifications
- Dean's Certification Forms Instructions and Information
Formal interviews taken into consideration for admission purposes are uncommon among law schools. Some schools are now conducting Skype interviews with at least some applicants. These are usually 20 minutes and focus on the content of your resume and application content. Do dress appropriately, and prepare: have a few questions of your own at hand.
When you visit law schools as a prospective student (see section on “Testing Your Interest in Law School”), you typically have the opportunity to meet with admissions. While this is an informal meeting, it does represent an opportunity to make a good impression.
Tips to Prepare for a Law School Visit
- Review the specific school website and have several questions about specific opportunities – specialties, clinics, student life, etc. – that indicate you have a sincere interest in the school.
- Dress in business or business casual clothes.
- Behave professionally.
Your Pre-law advisor is available to help you in preparing for a law school visit.