Ivey Files

May 25, 2010

Reapplying to Law School After Dismissal

I think your blog is incredible and I really appreciate the time and thought that you put into your law school admissions book.I have a question/topic that I would love to see discussed on your blog.

I am wondering what advice you would give to someone who was dismissed from law school after their first semester and is interested in reapplying to law school after the ABA "blackout" application period. Would you advise it? Any insight that you could provide would be most helpful!

Thank you for your time and excellent service.

I thought it might be helpful for you to get the perspective of someone who has been in your situation and did in fact reapply and go back to law school. She was happy to share:

Like most things in life, success in reapplying to law school after a disqualification will depend on how honest you're willing to be with yourself and how much work you're willing to put forth, and even then it may not end up the way you imagined. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Before you can even say that you're interested in reapplying, there has to be some serious introspection about what went wrong and why. Maybe you never really wanted to go to law school, maybe you were too immature, or maybe you just couldn't figure out how to perform on exams. Regardless, it's important to be brutally honest; it will help in your rebranding efforts.

If you're still set on being a lawyer, I'd suggest getting a job in the field in which you eventually want to practice. I took a job as a paralegal in the corporate transactional practice of a big firm. Immerse yourself in your work, find a mentor, and study the habits of successful attorneys around you. Chances are you'll realize that you didn't know what being a lawyer was really like. This work experience will be the basis of your rebranding. Be patient, though, because it took me three and a half years of working in order for me to feel comfortable going back to an admissions committee with hard evidence of why I was different and reasons why they should admit me.

It'll be important to retake and ace (as best you can) the LSAT and get glowing letters of recommendation. Remember that those two things, along with your personal statement, will be all that the admissions committee has to counter your disqualification. Your personal statement and addendum will be the place to articulate and explain your dismissal. The better you understand what went wrong, the better you'll be able to explain how you fixed it. Then couple that with a newly informed statement of your goals, based off of your work experience.

If possible, try to get face time with decision-makers at schools. If you present well, you'll be the best testament to your reinvention. Hopefully your display of an enhanced level of intellectual and professional maturity will set you apart from other candidates. Be flexible, though, and willing to jump through any hoops a school may set in front of you as conditions to admission. For example, I applied for my school's full-time program, and settled for admission to the part-time program as an unofficial kind of 'probation'. In my case this was the perfect compromise for a risk-averse admissions committee.

Overall, be patient and realize that this process will be a marathon. Accordingly, there will be low points when you lose sight of the primary endpoint and need to recommit yourself. If you believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who believe in you, you'll make it happen.

Good luck! Please let us know what happens.

 

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).