A question about law school admissions

I have been considering the idea of switching careers and possibly going to law school. However, I’m curious as to what my chances for admission would be. In specific, I’m curious as to how a law school would look at my “record.” Keep in mind that I’d be going on a part-time basis, so that would also limit my choices of school.

I’m 35 years old and haven’t been in school for the last 12 years. I have a B.A. degree (in Television and Radio) and graduated with a 3.17 GPA (not great, I know). I also took a one-year non-degree certificate program in Client/Server programming (from which I acquired the skills for my present job).

For the last six-plus years I’ve been working in computers as a database developer/programmer.

I have no criminal or academic disciplinary record. Not even a moving violation.

In short, I have a low GPA and haven’t been in school for a long time. However, I would think (perhaps mistakenly) that my last few years of experience in a technical position would be a plus.

So, how do you think a law school would view my record? Would I stand only a slim chance? What could I do to improve it?

Zev Steinhardt

A lot depends on your LSAT scores. With a great score, your average GPA and years away from school could be non-factors, especially for getting into part-time programs. But I’m not speaking from the vantage point of people making the admissions decisions, but only from people I know who decided on law school later in their career. I once had a woman who was a crackerjack programmer for me who took the LSAT and did spectacularly, got admitted to a top 10 school, and even got published in the law review.

Please take my advice: Don’t go to law school–you can make so much more out of your life! :wink:

If you’re bound and determined to go down that sadomasochistic path, it sounds like you shouldn’t have any problem getting into a good law school. I went to a private law school that catered to working professionals. With your well-rounded background (and assuming you do OK on the LSAT), you’ll definitely land at a good school.

Good luck to you!

Although you may think your GPA modest, your GPA makes mine look pathetic. My aspirations in college were pretty much getting my rock band signed to a label and my GPA reflects it. On the other hand, my LSAT scores were very very good. My GPA kept me out of Harvard Law, but I got accepted to every law school I applied to.

If your LSAT is high enough, you can even get scholarships based on that alone. I had a couple of schools in California offer me full rides for my first year and continuing full rides if I kept my grades up (to my complete surprise, since I’d never gotten one before), but I decided to stay here in Texas.

Gotten a scholarship, I mean. My high school grades sucked, too.

My undergrad GPA was 2.7. And that’s rounding up!

Law schools love second career people because they’re more serious students than the people for whom law school is just another three years of college. Do well on the LSAT’s and you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting in to a good school.

Law school is great. For a person with any intellectual curiosity, it’s a ton of fun.

I’m not so hot on being a lawyer, though.


It will also depend on where that GPA is from. Law schools keep track of how much grade inflation exists at each undergraduate institution, and sometimes makes appropriate adjustments. For example, I was fortunate (or unfortunate, given the lack of grade inflation) to go to an undergrad institution where I got about a +.2 bump to my effective GPA when applying to law schools.

And the LSAT stuff is spot on as well. Having been out of undergrad for awhile, if you nail the LSAT, you’ll get into at least a few top 25s I think with your GPA.

I also second reconsidering law school as a choice.

Thanks, everyone for the responses. They have been very helpful and would love to hear from more of you with additional advice.

I’m curious why you would recommend against law as a second-career choice SlyFrog.

Zev Steinhardt

Actually, I have been wondering the same thing.

I got 159 on my LSAT, which seems to me to a good score, but not a great score.

I went to the College of William & Mary (a school known for tough grading) and graduated with a GPA around 3.3, that was around 10 years ago. Of course, I took lots of different classes – Calculus, Physics for Majors, Buddhism, Russian, etc. My GPA in my major classes was more like 3.7. I also worked throughout college and played a team sport and was heavily involved in Theater. (Just trying to paint a picture here).

Since graduating I’ve been writing professionally in a corporate environment. This year I took a “year off” and I’ve been working on a horse farm and doing some freelancing.

I am trying to understand my chances of getting accepted at a top school like UVA or Berkeley, and having a hard time estimating them.

Zev, the next LSAT testing date is in October. If you don’t take it then, you will be at a disadvantage, applying towards the end of the applications cycle.

I’d say that there are a lot of very good law schools that are eager to admit people who have real work experience and aren’t just out of college. Law school itself is fun. However, I hated practising law. Take a look at your finances and see whether you will be able to go the large-income large-law-firm route in order to pay off educational loans. Better yet, see if you can get some direct experience working with such firms to see if you would really like it. If you can do law school without getting into debt, I’d say go for it, because, then, if it turns out you don’t want to take a large-law-firm job, you have more options.

My academic resume:

3 years at Regis HS in Manhattan. Booted for disciplinary reasons.
1 year at the Hill School, Pottstown, PA. Modest GPA.

2 years at Fordham University (junior status). Withdrew with a 2ish GPA.
Five-year break, worked in medical insurance industry.
Cornell University NYSSILR in Manhattan, 3 years part-time, 3.6 GPA.
One-year break.
Graduated National Labor College, Silver Spring, MD (don’t worry, no one else has heard of it either). Cornell/NLC done while working as a union rep.
1-year break, took LSAT, scored 164.
As you can see, my collegiate record wavers between “unremarkable” and “WTF?”

However, on the basis of my LSAT scores, I got offered full rides at both Seton Hall and Rutgers.

I will attend Boston College Law School this September.
What I have found is that the 25/75 LSAT band each school lists is a pretty accurate indicator of whether you will be admitted there.

I expected my record to scare off schools that can fill their classes with students that presented more upside and didn’t have to explain why their odd history was actually a strength, and this was accurate. No Harvard, Columbia, Stanford for me.

But everywhere that I did apply whose median scores matched mine accepted me.
My point? It’s all LSAT. The right score and you are in. The wrong score and you have to explain WHY you’re in and hope they listen. But I know some alumni readers for big-time programs, and they have told me directly that certain scores get put in the “no thanks” file right away.
Take a review course. Practice, practice, practice the LSAT. The more you take ti, the more you become accustomed to the kind of thinking and decision-making the test looks to identify.

Well, that’s depressing.

I got pretty good grades as an undergrad with a completely non-academic major (Telecommunications, which almost any other school calls “Broadcasting.”) I ended up with a 3.7-something, graduated with honors. Before that, I signed up for the LSAT… just for the hell of it, you see. I was pretty severely depressed, didn’t study, paid a fee to put it off until the next testing session. Got closer, didn’t study, paid another fee to put it off. Eventually it got to be December of my senior year of college, so I looked through a couple LSAT books the day before, and went in to take the test pretty much cold. I ended up with a 159. Good, but not great – I still think it was good considering how little I prepped for it, and what state of mind I was in.

I only applied to one law school and got in, but I deferred myself until the Spring term so I could move home for a while, work, and save money. I worked in a soul-crushing office job and lived with my parents for the next 8 months (more soul-crushing), but saved every penny I made. Went to law school that January, and hated it from the get-go. We’re talking major misery. I took classes that first summer, had a judicial clerkship my second summer (since I knew the judge), and did a clinic with the State Attorney’s Office my third summer, earning credit each time. I did this because I hated law school so much, I was able to graduate in 2 1/2 years instead of 3.

Now I have a job in the legal profession but I haven’t passed the Bar Exam yet. (That’s a whole different issue, or set of issues, that I won’t go into here.) The job is okay, but I wake up every day full of panic and fear, and my first words in the dark of the dawn every day are “I’ve made a huge mistake.” If I had it to do over again, I would do things completely different. Law school was NOT for me.

But your mileage may vary, and I hope for your sake it does. Best of luck t’ye!

I went to law school as a returning professional in my late 20s and had no problem getting in anywhere in Florida. I also found that real world experience gave me a good advantage against the younger students.

On the downside, certain prominent law firms might discriminate in their hiring practices, depending on how they do business. Alot of places like to get not only top students, but young top students…they’re more impressionable and easier to indoctrinate as far as firm culture goes. I was young enough to dodge most of it, but the few guys who were pushing 40 when we graduated did get the cold shoulder when interview time came around.

I’ve never heard of people getting full rides based on LSAT score alone. I’m not denying that someone has received it, just that I’ve never heard of it. Anyway, I went to law school straight out of college, and I graduated college in 3 years (AP credit) with a double major (I should’ve partied more). In essence, I hated law school: very time consuming, a lot of studying, and the Socratic Method is annoying as hell. As others have said, I wouldn’t do it, especially since you already have a career (don’t forget about the family), and if you have to pay for it.

Also, think about the work you want to get. If you’re solely doing it for the money, the chances of getting a cushy corporate in-house counsel job is very slim (depends on your specialty and your market, super boring corporate tax is still pretty popular, I hear). The more viable option is to sweat it out in a large law firm (then go in-house). My first year out, I billed 2570 hours. I got the same crappy bonus as my friend in the same hiring class, and he billed 2400 (still to this day hasn’t billed more than that). That same day, he got the “find more hours to bill speech” and I got the, “What are you doing on Sunday?” Suprisingly, he’s still there, not making partner (don’t get me started), and I happily went in-house (40 hour work week. Work from home? Sure.)

Also, I’ve noticed purely on observation, entrance requirements seem to be more laxed with part-time, evening students. I’ve also noticed that grading seems to be easier. My friends and I reasoned that it’s probably because the night students has more responsibility, has to take a longer route, and is probably more focused in being a good student than the day time students. All a huge WAG, but the evidence is there.

Before applying, I went to talk to my counselor at university. He told me that law schools put the biggest weight into LSAT and GPA, far and away from any other factor. Also, he told me that those scores weren’t neither indicative of how good a law student one would be, nor how good a lawyer one would be.

Anyway, I saw this site, it might be of help to decide what combination of scores and LSAT would get someone in.

In my school at least, certainly true.

No, we’re just better students. That’s why whenever there was a class of mingled day and evening students we kicked the day students’ butts.


I got letters from Western State University College of Law and Thomas Jefferson both saying they offer full tuition for high LSAT scores, and I’m sure there are probably more. Check out Thomas Jefferson’s FAQ webpage:

Thomas Jefferson School of Law: what scholarships are available?

Oh, and Pravnik reminded me of one last thing: if you’re going to go to law school, regardless of cost, my friends and I are of the opinion that you should go to the best law school possible. It’ll be much easier to find a job that way, especially at large law firms (boy was I wrong about wanting to work there). For sake of perspective, it’s not as crucial to go to the best as say MBA school, but think along those factors. Many jobs and recruiters say they will only work with people from the top 50.

Yes and no. You will potentially find it much easier to generate business and network if you go to a law school in the city where you intend to practice. Particularly if you are not a social, cocktail party working natural. It’s a lot easier to start getting business from the base of people you went to high school, college, and law school with (it’s obviously particularly great if all three are in the city where you want to practice) than it is to move cross-country. You start at a competitive disadvantage in that case that I do not necessarily think offsets a few points worth of school ranking.

It also depends on how well you do in school. My theory is that for most people, going to the top schools acts as a cushion to be only in the top 1/2 or 1/3 of the class, but still get a decent job. If you go to most local schools (inside the top 50 or top 75 overall rankings) and finish in the top few people, you’re still almost certainly going to get a good job.

More on why I would potentially discourage law as a career choice later; I’m running a bit short right now (shouldn’t even be posting this).

I have to disagree with the “regardless of cost” part. My office mate is declaring bankruptcy because he didn’t regard the cost of his law school enough!

I agree that what tier the school you’re looking at made in the U.S. News & World Report rankings is an important consideration, but it wouldn’t be the only one I’d consider. I went to a lower ranked school than I could have, but I did it basically for free, graduated at the top of my class and got a dream job straight out of school. WSU and TJ are giving away those sweet scholarships for a reason: they’re trying to increase their bar passage rate, ranking, and standing with the ABA.

It depends on what you want: if you’re planning on someday making senior partner at Baker Botts or Fulbright & Jaworski, then yeah, go ahead and get the Yale law degree. If you plan on working for the Justice Department, the DA’s office, or opening your own practice, it may be more beneficial to you to get a less expensive (or free) degree and not be $100,000 or more in debt. Despite not being in the top 50, pretty much all of my friends of law school have gotten good jobs or made successful careers for themselves, and some of them even landed good gigs with the big firms like F&B or BB. Carefully you must choose, young Steinhardtwalker!