Spoke some things into the universe and they appeared
I say it's worth it, I won't say it's fair
Find your purpose or you wastin' air…
Victory Lap x Nipsey Hussle ft. Stacy Barthe
If you're reading this, heyyy! This post was originally a long email that I would send to many friends when they asked me about law school. At this point, it's easier to share this info as a blog post.
I am so excited that you wish to pursue law! We need more black women and men in the legal field. I have no doubt that you can succeed. I'm in my third year now but I am nowhere near a professional in this realm, and therefore, I can only tell you what I know from my own experiences. This is pretty lengthy but I tried to cover everything for you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
The first thing I'll tell you is to check out my blog post if you haven't done so already, describing my journey to law school. I like to think that my journey was very unique from most of my classmates but yet, I still made it. You are already on the right path so no worries. Here's the link: www.tanishamanning.com/blog/lawschooljourney
Next, ask yourself why you want to attend law school and write it down. It can be a few words, a paragraph, or a simple sentence. Hold on to that as you study and prepare. Hold on to it when you get to law school and watch how your reasoning may expand or completely change, or how you may rely on it to keep you sane.
When do you want to attend law school? That will determine when you should take the test. The LSAT is offered approximately every September, December, February, and June. This is unlike the GRE which you can take at almost any time of the year so you really have to be mindful of when you take the test. Classes start in August. The September before that August (yes a whole year) is always a great time to take your first LSAT. If you don't like your score, you still have December and February. I suggest (some may disagree) that February is the last time you take the test for August. SOME schools still accept June scores but it's likely still going to lead you to being waitlisted if they do accept your score. Even with me testing in February I felt like I was cutting it close.
Pay attention to registration deadlines for the LSAT. Deadlines are usually a month before the actual test so be mindful. I would write down each test date and next to it, write down the registration deadline and have it posted somewhere for you to see.
The LSAT costs, a lot. First create you an account on LSAC.org. This is how you register for the LSAT and apply to every school. This is the most important website for you right now and also the one website that you'll probably never look at again after you start law school.
For the test, you can apply for a fee waiver if I'm not mistaken, but I paid for it outright which also adds to why I knew I had to take the test serious. You must pay for the (1) test AND (2) another fee for the application component, PLUS (3) an application fee for every school. So, each application requires a $35 fee from LSAC. Then the school typically has an application fee as well. But the fee the actual school charges can be waived. I literally called or emailed each school I applied to and asked for a waiver and each one provided me with one. Here's two actual emails I used to request a waiver:
I am Tanisha Manning and called on Tuesday to request a fee waiver for my application to _____ Law. I have just received my scores and was strongly encouraged to apply to your school.
Is it still possible to receive a fee waiver? I wish to turn in my application as soon as possible.
Thanks in advance!
I recently received my LSAT scores and was strongly encouraged to apply to _____ Law. I would like to request a fee waiver for the application, if possible.
I may be contacted directly at ________. Thanks.
Whatever you do, don't let the money discourage you from applying (if you feel like that will be an issue). When there's a will, there is a way.
There are a couple of routes that you can take to prepare for the LSAT. You can take a study course or self study. Now that you've read my blog, you'll see that I chose to self study. That worked for me and has worked for several others. Study Prep Courses can be expensive but they have also worked for a lot of people as well. You just have to ask yourself what you think is best for you.
There are many study books, guides, and outlines that you can utilize to study with. I chose the LSAT Trainer. It was great for me! I purchased it on Amazon for approximately $40. I happened to be googling how to study for the LSAT and came across this article: https://lawschooli.com/lsat-prep-books-self-study/
Now, I actually followed everything the article stated. Don't do that. Here's what I took from it:
- Self Discipline. Need I say more. You literally will have to push yourself to do what you need to do some days. I am in love with social media so I had to delete the apps from my phone. (Now that I'm in school I usually have a friend change my passwords for me). If you're serious about this, start adapting self discipline habits and stay CONSISTENT.
- Seclusion. You may need to seclude yourself whether it's in your room or at the library. You literally have to put. in. the. time. People will not understand it and you will hate it in the beginning but this is honestly practice for how your first year of law school should be.
- Take plenty of TIMED, SIMULATED, practice exams. (I excluded the essay portion but you can do that too if you feel like you need it. One time should do it). Then actually review each test. This is the best prep because of course, practice makes perfect. So take one BEFORE you crack open a book, to test your knowledge, or maybe after one or two days of studying if you feel taking it completely beforehand is just not fair enough for you. Then continuously take tests throughout your studying period and see if you increase or decrease your score and determine what areas you may need to focus on more.
- Give yourself 3 months to study. I think the best results are from a good 3 months. I had "okay" results with one month (technically almost 2 if you count that one month during the summer I studied) but I know for a fact that had I studied diligently for 3 months, my score would have been even better. I have a 12 week study guide if you want it.
- Don't purchase all those books; maybe only 2 practice exam books (at most 3) and the LSAT Trainer. I never opened the bible books but I've been told those are helpful. If you feel you need them, wait until after you start studying and see which ones you may need.
- The Logic Games are hard but at least try to gain a strong foundation on how to solve them. I believe if I kept working at it I would have become a true professional at solving them. Don't let them defeat you!
- Review your material. Even if that's just reading over certain sections again. This may include waiting a few days and working out some of the same activities and questions again that you've previously completed to see if you find the same results/answers. Read explanations or explain to yourself why you got an answer wrong. If you don't know, try to find out why you got an answer wrong. If you got it right, try to re-explain to yourself why you got it right to determine if it was just a lucky guess. Reviewing is key.
- GO IN WITH A POSITIVE MINDSET. DO NOT DREAD STUDYING. BE EXCITED! BE HAPPY! TELL YOURSELF THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO LEARN LEGAL INFORMATION (even if it turns out not to be as legal as you thought) THAT WILL KICKSTART YOUR LEGAL JOURNEY! I'm a nerd at heart and actually enjoyed studying which I think reflected in my results as well.
There are also study apps I believe and different websites, videos, and lectures on the LSAT that you can find if you google search for them. Sometimes reading a book is just not enough and you may need other methods.
Remember, the LSAT itself is just one portion of your entire application. There is so much more that you can bring to the table besides just that score.
Now that you've studied and have taken the test; you can start on your applications. Scores may not be in for a month or so but this is the perfect time to begin on the application because there are so many components. And schools have deadlines. Most schools look at overall applications, just like in college. Your GPA and LSAT score carries the most weight, yes, but your other application components can grant you an acceptance.
- Recommendation Letters
- The earlier you request them, the better. One reason I waited so late to turn in my applications was because I was waiting on a professor to write his letter, it took a long time. So ask early and stay persistent if they take a while to get back to you.
- Professors are the top people who should write you a letter. They can speak on your academic strengths the best which is what law schools want to see. Typically law schools ask for 2 maybe 3 letters and I would suggest at least 2 of those come from professors and maybe a third from an employer, mentor, or even academic advisor
- The professors have to create an account and submit the letter themselves. It is important for you to remind them to do so
- The higher your GPA, the more flexible you can be with your LSAT score. Academics are definitely key in law school. My GPA was a 3.6 but I know people who have been accepted with lower GPAs and were also still offered scholarships.
- Personal Statements
- I have two different personal statements that I used for my applications. My longer personal statement was written initially for the Rhodes Scholars Program at Oxford. I had a lot of help from my VP of Academic Affairs at the time. I used that one and took a paragraph or so and decided to write a more personalized and unique story that revealed more of me. I decided to be very personal with a situation that occurred years ago. The second statement is the one I submitted at Tulane, which was just a personalized story of a unique situation that occurred to me.
- Have someone, preferably a former professor or maybe a current law student, to look over your personal statement. You want more than one set of eyes on your statement but not too many because everyone simply writes differently. I didn't have anyone look over my second statement because I was pressed for time but I still encourage you to do so.
- View this link, it really helped me. It's examples of personal statements from accepted students at the University of Chicago law school. You will notice how they center around one particular incident in their lives and expand it to their desire to study law in some way or another.
- You will have to submit a different personal statement for each school with that school's name in the statement. It will be the same statement but with that school's name on it. Which means you will have to save and upload the statement each time. This is a tedious process but important!
- Transcripts have to be mailed in from your university. There's a whole process for it on LSAC.
- Additional Statements
- If you feel your GPA and LSAT as well as other application components need some additional support, then write another statement. Most schools allow this option and it allows you to shed more light on why you deserve to be in law school, because you do! I didn't write an additional statement but looking back on it, it may have helped me more with gaining more acceptance letters.
CHOOSING A SCHOOL:
There are so many law schools, it's crazy. The reality is that not all schools are good schools. Yes, it all depends on who you are as a person and yes successful people have come from the smallest law schools but still be very considerate when selecting a school.
The other reality is that they are all very expensive. Of course in state schools are cheaper for us but they are still expensive. I didn't let money deter me because I understood that this degree was going to cost but it would be worth it in the end. (Hopefully, lol).
Typically, (not always) the region you go to school in is the region where you will easily find a job. Thankfully, Louisiana and Texas are close so it's pretty easy for me to secure employment, resources, and more in both states. The more well known your school is, the least it matters what region you're in. For instance, Tulane Law graduates are also known to work in New York, so if I was to interview for a job in New York, they wouldn't question as much why I'm all the way in New York applying for a job because Tulane is connected there on some levels. Loyola Law school here in New Orleans typically graduate students who stay in Louisiana to practice. Tulane graduates are known to leave the state and practice elsewhere. Harvard, Yale, U of Chigaco students, etc. are never really questioned, of course.
Some schools are more aligned with a certain type of law. For instance, Tulane is known for its Maritime law program. I'm not interested in that at all but many people come to this school for that reason. Howard is known for its dedication to civil rights and justice. This is not such a heavy factor though because every law student graduates with a general law degree, you can't specialize in a certain type of law. I've still been able to carve out my own path here.
You will be successful wherever you go. Know that. Believe that. But be smart as well. There are 6 HBCU Law schools. I applied to two of those. They produce just as excellent lawyers. I just knew however that since I attended an HBCU for undergrad that it was important for me to attend a PWI for law school.
Check the rankings, the percentage of students who actually pass the bar, the programs they offer, the region the school is located in, and whatever else you think that comes to mind. Check what LSAT scores they typically accept and what GPA ranges. Check how diverse or not so diverse the school is. Check to see how large the class size is and if you need a smaller or bigger school. Check to see the weather in that area. Check it all because it's all important and will affect your law school journey.
As I stated in the beginning and in my first blog, these are simply notes from what I've learned from my own experiences. I applied to 7 schools. I was accepted to 3, waitlisted by 2, and denied by 2. My last two acceptance letters didn't even come in until after I had already committed to Tulane (which goes back to doing everything in a timely manner. The earlier you apply, the earlier you'll receive a response and one that won't state waitlisted.)
I've given you a lot of information to digest, so take some time to soak it all in. It may only take one day or it may take you a few days. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Other law students/lawyers probably have had different journeys and different tips, and that's fine! Take it all in. To other lawyers and law students, drop some tips in the comments!
Going to law school is honestly the BEST thing I could have done in life (so far) and I know you'll feel the same!
YOU GOT THIS!