Three Early Steps to a Smooth Admissions Cycle

Law schools generally open the floodgates for applications around September 1. Last year, the top-10 law schools began accepting applications between September 1 and October 1, with final submission deadlines scattered throughout the spring.

There's obviously a lot of material to put together in order to submit your application. During the summer, when the weather is nice and the atmosphere is more relaxed, you may be taking some vacation time. There's a natural tendency to push off working on the applications until the fall when schools start the admissions process.

It's best to fight this instinct. Early submission of your materials is almost always the wisest course of action when applying to law school. That means it's never too early to start putting your materials together.

But if you can't bring yourself to polish your resume or brainstorm topics for your essays, here are three things you can do right now that will help you during the application process. None of them requires heavy lifting.


Sign Up For The Credential Assembly Service

The Law School Admission Council is responsible for the Credential Assembly Service (also known as the LSDAS -- Law School Data Assembly Service). According to the LSAC:

LSAC collects the US and Canadian academic records of law school applicants and summarizes the undergraduate work according to a standard 4.0 system to simplify the admission process. Applicants who have studied for more than one academic year outside the US or Canada can use the Credential Assembly Service for transcript evaluation and authentication if required by the law schools to which they are applying.

It also synthesizes information on transcripts and your LSAT score(s), and serves as a clearinghouse for your letters of recommendation.

There is no reason to wait to sign up for this service. Most law schools require use of the service, and signing up is relatively painless. Even if you decide to wait until next year to apply, your membership with the service will be active because it lasts for five years.

Signing up early is most important for those of you who naturally procrastinate. During peak season it can take weeks for your letters of recommendation to be submitted and processed by the LSAC. If you're staring down a deadline, those weeks will matter. So why wait? Sign up now and get it out of the way.


Request Admissions Brochures

Sure, the economy is looking up but that doesn't mean you're going to have the funds to visit every law school you're applying to. Rather than making your decision in the dark, go online (or call) to request a law school admissions packet (aka admissions brochure or informational brochure).

Viewing the brochure can provide you with a lot of information you may not already know about the law schools. Take the art and photographs with a grain of salt; every school is going to produce a packet that puts it in the best light. But you may find out important details about a school that greatly increase (or decrease) your interest. These nuggets can be helpful when you're facing a decision on where to apply (or where to enroll).

Some law schools may not yet have their brochures available. Don't worry -- lots of schools will have a mailing list you can sign up for. When the brochures are ready, you'll automatically be sent one.

You might be asking yourself, "Why can't I just read about the school on its website?" You can. The websites are a good source of information. Still, a lot of us associate the computer with work, especially those of us who sit in front of one during a large portion of the day. You don't want to equate your law school search with work, and you may be less likely to poke around about the school if you have to turn on the computer, log on, go online, and so forth.

Having the hard copy of the application sitting at home allows you to glance at it while you're having a bowl of cereal in the morning, or flip through it between commercials on Sunday afternoon without having to worry about actively "researching" your schools online. In short, the hard copy gives you some flexibility so that your search can be conducted at your leisure.

Many of those brochures will also contain a hard copy of the school's application, which leads me to...


Figure Out What You Have To Write

When you get the brochure, you may be tempted to throw out the hard copy of the application. After all, the trend in law school admissions is to complete the applications online.

Don't throw it out. Instead, read everything carefully. It may be a few months before you go online to fill out the application, but you can identify (and organize) your workload as you read.

Law schools may ask you to write any combination of the following: a personal essay, a diversity essay, an academic addendum, a criminal history addendum, an "optional" essay, and an essay on why you want to apply to the school. You may not be required to write every essay for every school -- but it helps to know ahead of time what you're looking at.

Take the applications and make a "to-do" list for each school that includes any written materials that can (or should be) submitted. By the end you'll have a better idea of just how much work you're going to be doing. It may even motivate you to start working on your applications...


Gregory Henning is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School. After graduating from law school, he clerked for Judge R. Lanier Anderson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and then became an Assistant District Attorney in Boston. As part of the Anna Ivey team, Greg works with law school applicants.