Being Admitted to Top U.S. Law Schools

Credit: Chensiyuan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvard_Law_School_Library_in_Langdell_Hall_at_night.jpg 

Credit: Chensiyuan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvard_Law_School_Library_in_Langdell_Hall_at_night.jpg 

A Quora reader recently asked how difficult it is to be admitted to top law schools in the United States.  Many prospective law students think about this question since the most prestigious law schools (typically known as the "Top 14" schools in the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings) often lead to the best job opportunities.

It’s difficult, but not impossible to be admitted to a Top 14 school.  Law school admissions is a numbers game, so the most important factors are a high LSAT score and undergraduate GPA.  As displayed here, the top schools require the highest LSAT scores and GPAs.  Many qualified, intelligent candidates continue to apply to law school, so admission to the top schools remains competitive.

The LSAT is the most important factor, and arguably the most difficult to maximize.  Still, the LSAT a learnable test, so you will be able to increase your score by simply putting in the time.  I’d recommend taking a prep course (I used Testmasters) and taking as many old, real LSATs as possible.  You’re going to need to put in months of work to prepare yourself for this exam.

As an aside, the landscape has recently changed as Harvard Law announced that it would begin accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT.  While Harvard is the only top school that currently accepts the GRE, others may follow Harvard’s lead.  This is something to monitor if you don’t intend to pursue law school for some time.

Besides your LSAT score (or potentially GRE score), you’re going to need a solid GPA (the higher, the better).  Luckily, this factor is also somewhat within your control.  Having said this, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend choosing courses or a major solely to maximize your GPA so that you can attend a great law school.  College is a time to pursue your passions instead of immediately jumping onto a pre-professional track.  Further, you may ultimately decide that law school isn’t right for you, so it would be a shame if you selected your courses based on your desire to attend law school.  The bottom line, however, is that your GPA is going to play a large role in the eyes of law school admissions officers.  Regardless of your major, make sure to study hard and do well in your courses.

Beyond the LSAT and GPA, there are several secondary factors like your personal statement, letters of recommendation, and your personal experience.  You obviously need to dedicate time to these secondary factors, as they may mean the difference between you and a candidate with similar numbers.  But still, you’re going to want to focus on the LSAT and your GPA.  Doing so will increase your chances of being admitted to a top school.