Introduction to Law & Law School

Considering a Legal Career
  • Is Law School Right For You?
  • When Should You Go To Law School?
  • Career Paths
Is Law School Right For You?
There are many different goals and motivations that might draw you to consider law school. Some aspiring lawyers know from the time they participate in high school Mock Trial that this is their career path, others come to law much later after working in a different field and seeing its intersection with law, and many fall somewhere in between! As you consider whether law school is right for you, an important first step is to hear from lawyers about their paths and experiences and gain insight into what the legal profession entails. Wellesley has a welcoming and helpful law community—you can begin to engage with it using the suggestions below!
 
At Wellesley
  • Pre-Law Advisor: available to help students or alums at any stage of their journey—schedule individual advising sessions here
  • Government, International Affairs, Law & Public Policy (GIALP) industry newsletters: these monthly emails will keep you informed about upcoming events, jobs, and internships that can help you explore the legal field—sign up on Handshake
  • Pre-Law Society: a student organization that provides opportunities to network with alums and to learn more about the legal industry
Wellesley’s alumnae network
  • Wellesley Lawyer’s Network: a great community of Wellesley alums who are practicing lawyers, in law school, or exploring the legal field. Students are welcome to join, and questions usually receive an enthusiastic response
  • LinkedIn and The Hive: online platforms to find and connect with alum mentors in the legal profession
  • Current law students: when you are actively applying to law school, you may reach out to the Pre-Law Advisor to gain access to a list of Wellesley alumnae who are currently in law school and have agreed to share their contact information with Wellesley law school applicants
 
When Should You Go To Law School?
If you are sure about your interest in law and are ready to take on a rigorous academic program, you may decide to attend law school directly after graduating from Wellesley. Alternatively, you may first take some time to explore your professional and personal interests. On average over the past 5 years, nearly 90% of Wellesley law school applicants have waited a year or more after graduating to apply to law school (49% applied 1-3 years after graduating, and 40% applied 3+ years after graduating). Whether you choose to work or to pursue other opportunities, your experiences may help you decide whether and when to invest in a legal education. Remember that this is a personal decision, and there is no “right” answer, despite the well-meaning advice you may hear. Taking time for self-reflection and talking through your decision with trusted mentors, family, and your pre-law advisor can all be beneficial in determining what will work best for you.
 
Career Paths
Obtaining a degree in law opens many opportunities in the legal industry and beyond.
 
Lawyers are often broadly categorized into litigators, who represent plaintiffs and defendants in cases, and transactional lawyers, who help clients with contracts and negotiations of all kinds. Their work can be further categorized by specialized industries or fields, which are numerous and as wide-ranging as immigration, civil rights, and patent law. You do not need to decide on a legal career path before entering law school. In fact, law school gives you the chance to explore and develop legal interests and concentrations. Gaining exposure and experience in these fields may help inform your decision of whether this career path is right for you. Explore “Additional Resources” below for general industry information, job postings, and internship opportunities.
A growing number of law school graduates are entering into “J.D. advantage” careers, which are law-related positions that require legal knowledge but no bar admission. Jobs exist in many areas, including government & policy, tax and regulations, business and compliance, and technology and cybersecurity.
 
 
Academic Preparation
  • Academic Performance
  • Skills
  • Extracurricular Activities
Law schools do not require any particular undergraduate major or coursework. Instead, they look for a strong transcript that reflects a challenging and well-rounded education. The American Bar Association (ABA) encourages students to “pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills.” Note that certain legal professions may require specific qualifications. For example, patent practitioners are required to have a scientific or technical background, and many careers in international law require foreign language skills.
 
Academic Performance
Law schools look for students who pursue an intellectually rigorous curriculum that prepares them for the demands of a legal education. A strong academic record looks different for each individual, and is about more than just GPA: it may include completing more than the required number of 300-level courses, pursuing an independent study, or writing an honors thesis. When selecting courses and activities, note that studying subjects that genuinely interest you can motivate you to excel academically.
 
Grades are a significant component in law school applications. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) offers a tool to help you gauge your chances of being accepted to select law schools based on your undergraduate GPA and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores. Your pre-law advisor can provide additional information on GPA and LSAT scores of Wellesley applicants who have been admitted in the past.
 
Don’t be discouraged if your GPA is not where you’d like it to be! Law schools look at applicants holistically, and your recommendations, essays, and addenda all contribute to a complete picture of your ability to succeed in law school. There are countless examples of Wellesley applicants matriculating at law schools where their GPA was below the school’s median.
 
Skills
Because there are so many different legal career paths, there are also different skill sets that can help you to succeed in the legal profession. That said, the ABA identifies several “core skills, values, knowledge, and experience” that provide a solid foundation for a legal education:
  • Problem solving
  • Critical reading
  • Writing and editing
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Research
  • Organization and management
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Relationship-building and collaboration
  • Background knowledge
  • Exposure to the law
 
Extracurricular Activities
Beyond academics, law schools also consider extracurricular activities. Participation in student life at Wellesley may help you develop some of the above-mentioned skills while also demonstrating your contributions to the community. Do not feel that you need to do everything or that you need to have some “theme” to your involvements. Join groups that genuinely interest you and consider leadership roles if your academic, athletic, and work life allows. Wellesley has an active Pre-Law Society that hosts teas with alum lawyers, provides LSAT test preparation resources, and produces a biannual law journal.
 
Law schools similarly have active student organizations and many options for participation in school life. Students can contribute to law journals, serve on boards for minority students, lead admission tours, and join a wide range of student organizations. The ability to balance your academic and other life commitments will demonstrate to law schools that you are likely to succeed in a law school environment.
 
 
Experiential Preparation
  • Legal Internships
  • Entry-Level Legal Jobs
Having legal experience is not a prerequisite for law school but can provide you with invaluable first-hand insight into the profession. Attending state or federal court proceedings or shadowing a legal professional are great opportunities to observe the inner workings of the legal industry. Aspiring lawyers may also choose to pursue law-related internships as undergraduates, or jobs post-graduation. Internship or work experience in any legal field may help you to develop a fuller understanding of a particular practice area and the practice of law as a whole.
 
Legal Internships
Several nonprofit organizations and government agencies offer summer or semester pre-law internship opportunities. Many large organizations and companies have in-house legal teams or legal experts with whom you can have an informational interview. See below for examples and speak with the pre-law advisor for more ideas.
 
Sample Pre-Law Internships
 
Entry-Level Legal Jobs
Paralegals and legal assistants support attorneys at law firms, for-profit companies, and in the public sector. Paralegals do not represent clients or give legal advice. Their duties include conducting legal research, preparing legal documents, corresponding with clients, organizing and managing files, and performing other tasks essential to the functioning of a law office.
 
To learn more about paralegals, check out this Q&A with Alicia Briggs '13 and visit LinkedIn to find paralegal alums. Other examples of entry-level jobs that provide exposure to the legal field include victim witness advocates (district attorney offices) and project analysts (law firms).
 
 
Application Components
  • Getting Started
  • LSAT/GRE
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Personal Statement
  • Addenda
  • Dean's Certification
Getting Started
The law school application process is largely centralized by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) and their Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which most law schools use to receive all components of your application. After registering with CAS, you will need to submit your transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and any other required documents only once. LSAC consolidates your application materials and LSAT score into a single report that it sends to each law school to which you apply. More information and FAQs can be found here.
 
LSAT/GRE
The majority of law schools require that you take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized exam designed to test your reasoning, reading comprehension, and writing skills. The exam includes several multiple-choice sections as well as a separate writing section. You can register at the LSAC website, where you can also find testing datesfees and fee waivers, and FAQs.
 
While the LSAT is still the most commonly used entrance exam, over 70 law schools also accept Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. Law schools that accept the GRE do not have a preference for one exam over the other. There are many reasons you may want to consider taking the GRE, including ease of scheduling, ability to use the scores when applying to other graduate programs, or simply feeling more comfortable with the exam itself. Both LSAT and GRE scores are valid for five years.
 
Solid test preparation can ensure that you will go into the exam feeling confident about your strategy for each type of question, as well as your pacing. Exam preparation may include self-study using books or online services, group classes, and/or individual tutoring. LSAC offers options for free and low-cost ($99) test preparation, which include practice with the authentic test interface and full-length practice exams. Whatever approach you choose, be sure to include several practice tests under simulated exam conditions in order to become comfortable with the exam format and process.
 
Transcripts
You must request every undergraduate and graduate institution that you have attended to send official transcripts to LSAC. Instructions on ordering an official Wellesley transcript can be found here. LSAC transcript requirements and additional information are available here. Information on international transcripts is available here.
 
MIT courses for which you cross-registered are included in the calculation of your Wellesley GPA, so you do not need to request a transcript from MIT. For Babson, Olin, or other courses for which grades do not appear on your Wellesley transcript, you will need to request separate transcripts. Seniors will need to request a new, final transcript after graduation.
 
Letters of Recommendation
Law schools typically require 1-2 letters of recommendation, and may allow additional ones. If you are a student, your letters of recommendation should come from a faculty member, who can be in any department. If you are an alum between 1-3 years post graduation, at least one letter should be from a faculty member and a secondary letter may be from a work supervisor. Remember to check the requirements of each individual school.
 
Choose recommenders who can best speak to your intellect, skills, motivation, and overall academic ability. Skills especially valued by law schools include clear and concise writing, ability to digest complex material, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, organization, time management, and ability to engage in respectful dialogue. Law schools want to understand your motivation and overall preparedness to perform as a law student, as well as the perspective you bring to the classroom community.
 
Personal Statement
The personal statement is your opportunity to show admissions officers your personality and strengths beyond your test scores and GPA. It can be helpful to think of the personal statement as a showcase of your background, qualities, and skills as they link to your desire to pursue a law degree. Creating a polished essay takes several drafts and revisions, so start early and seek feedback and support from friends and family, peers and professors, and the pre-law community.
 
Some schools may have slight variations on the personal statement prompt, so you may need to customize your personal statement accordingly.
 
Addenda
An addendum is an optional supplemental statement. This is a space for you to explain any part of your application that requires additional context. Addenda are most often provided to explain things like a semester GPA affected by extraordinary circumstances, a significant increase or decrease in LSAT score, or a gap in work experience.
 
Dean's Certification
Once you are admitted to law school and have decided where you will matriculate, one of the remaining required documents for most law schools is a Dean’s Certification or College Certification to be submitted by your undergraduate institution. Current students should request that this form be completed by Lori Tenser, Associate Dean for Academic Integration and Advising. Alumnae should request that the form be completed by Nicole Park, the Pre-Law Advisor in Career Education.
 
In both instances, you should complete and sign the first section of the form before emailing it to the correct contact. The exact format and deadline for the Dean’s Certification differs for each law school, but the form is generally given to applicants once they have committed to attend a particular law school and is due back to the law school in July or August before matriculation. The Dean’s Certification often requests class rank, status on physical or emotional health, and information on matters of discipline during the undergraduate years.
 
On behalf of our applicants, Wellesley College informs law schools that:
“Wellesley College does not rank its students. Permanent files of our undergraduates and alumnae do not contain information on physical and emotional health. If the suspension, dismissal, or expulsion of a student resulted from a violation of the college's honor code and occurred after July 1, 2004, the sanction will be recorded on the student's transcript. In addition, the college reports to the pre-law advisor honor code violations that result in a grade of 'F' in a course. Wellesley College does not report incidences of academic conditional leaves, probation or academic warnings.”
We then indicate whether or not the applicant has a violation under Wellesley College policy. We also state that we have recommended that an applicant with a violation report the event to the law school and describe the circumstances.
 
If a Violation Has Occurred
Limited information regarding honor code violations beyond suspensions, dismissals, and expulsions occurring after July 1, 2004, is reported to the pre-law advisor. When the pre-law advisor is informed by the college of an honor code violation—or when any applicant voluntarily tells the pre-law advisor that they have violated the honor code—the pre-law advisor is obligated to both discuss the matter with the law school applicant and strongly recommend to the applicant that they be forthcoming in both reporting and explaining the circumstances of the violation in her application. A law school applicant's credentials and background will be checked by admissions offices and later, more thoroughly, by the bar association(s) in which the law school graduate may pursue membership. Law schools take very seriously any discrepancies between an applicant's statements in their submitted materials and information or violations they may discover through other sources.
 
 

Additional Resources

School Search
  • XploreJD by AccessLex: suggests law schools that match your selected criteria
  • LSAC UGPA/LSAT Search: predicts likelihood of admission to law schools based on GPA and LSAT score
  • 7Sage chart: available as a Google Sheet, this chart of law school data can be filtered and sorted to help you find schools whose LSAT/GPA medians are in line with your numbers
  • The Wilson-Stern Book of Law School Lists: a comprehensive reference for academic programs, joint degrees, clinical programs, scholarships, admission policies and more
Legal Career Exploration
  • LSAC Discover Law: information on types of law programs, fields of law, and diversity in law school 
  • I Am the Law: a podcast that interviews law school graduates about their professions
  • National Association of Legal Career Professionals (NALP): information on Salaries & Compensation, Diversity & Demographics, and more
  • American Bar Association (ABA) for Law Students: Pre-Law Category
  • Martindale.com: directory of private law firms and attorneys who work in private practice. Helpful to search by legal practice area, geographic area, and firm size.
  • Public Service Jobs Directory (PSJD): public interest legal employer search to discover employers in specific legal and/or geographic areas that you may want to research further