Students sometimes struggle through their first semester of law school or college. However, if you find yourself frustrated with the environment or resources offered at your school then consider other options. Transferring can stir up a lot of anxiety. Traci Cosby, third year law student, was unsure about her decision to transfer but ultimately found a great fit at Widener Law. See her story on YouTube: Traci Cosby Talks About Transferring to Widener Law.
On November 11, 2011, Widener Law invited Pre-Law Advisors from regional colleges and universities to visit the Harrisburg campus and discuss recent trends in law school admission and education. Topics included the worth of law school, alumni occupations, and advice to offer undergraduates. Since this blog serves prospective students, I’ll focus on the information most pertinent to you. And, since there was a wealth of information, this post is long but worthwhile!
First, Professor Ben Barros proficiently addressed the controversy over law school tuition, debt and salary statistics. If you graduate from law school, you will likely leave with a great diploma and a debt around $90K-$100K, unless you have alternate means like a scholarship or sponsor. Yes, that’s daunting. But recall that you have decades to pay off your debt and initial salaries increase within a few years. Consider the investment you are making, this is your life and you will very likely find a job within law that will cover your debt load. Dean Linda Ammons reminded us that professional schools in general require a hefty investment, take a look at the tuition rates for medical programs (how about dentistry?).
But don’t take my word for it, take a look at statistics. The website Law School Transparency uses American Bar Association (ABA) data to formulate reports about salaries, job characteristics, credential requirements and geographies. Professor Barros encourages everyone to consider the wide range of salary data and look at the whole picture. What is the cost of living within the region? Where do graduates obtain jobs? Typically, law schools are regional. Plan to practice where you study, that’s where you network, secure internships and learn the law. It makes sense to place location high on your list of criteria that determine your choice of schools.
The following session showcased alumni addressing their experiences at Widener Law and finding employment. Once again, networking was a general theme since most, if not all, of the graduates secured a job through friends, colleagues and mentors. LeaNora Ruffin, Assistant Dean for Career Development, added that Widener offers a mentoring program between alumni and students to learn more about important skills and network into the profession. She also addressed the difference between J.D. preferred and J.D. required jobs. J.D. preferred positions tend to require the skills developed in law school, such as leadership and writing. The jobs, such as lobbyists and executives, associate with the law but are not directly involved in proceedings.
In regards to undergraduate preparation, the panel stressed the importance of writing persuasively. English was an excellent choice of major for several panelists. Specifically, they mentioned rhetoric and persuasive writing classes as more beneficial than creative writing. Additionally, public speaking classes can help define the skills necessary to support and argue a legal position.
During the question and answer session, Pre-Law Advisors asked what characteristics are necessary to succeed in law school. Professor Ben Barros and Vice Dean Robyn Meadows stressed the importance of focus and dedication. Too often they see students in class wasting time on facebook or attending because it is expected by Mom and Dad. You should attend law school because it is your dream and passion. If you don’t like what you do, it becomes obvious in time. With dedication, most students succeed. Widener Law professors feel it is their job to train future attorneys and, while a few students are simply not capable of “thinking like a lawyer”, the majority do succeed if they truly desire.
Additionally, when considering scholarships students should ask how many scholarship recipients retain their award. At Widener Law, the vast majority keep their scholarship since the Admissions office strives to award funds only to those most likely to show extraordinary performance in their first year of law school as illustrated through the LSAT and undergraduate GPA.
Overall, professors, advisors, administrators and graduates encourage incoming students to really consider their professional skills. Professors are transitioning into practical, versus doctrinal, teaching to develop students into professional attorneys who do not need significant orientation upon entering their first job. For this reason, they expect students to seek opportunities as they arise. Don’t wait for a test to find out you don’t understand the material, ask questions often. As an attorney, you will be expected to dig for information. That is only achieved by asking questions. So start now, what is your goal? How do you get there? What are the details involved? Who can guide you? What questions can you ask them?
As always, I’m a resource to you if law school admission is your goal!
In my travels this fall, many prospective students showed interest in International Law. First – about specializations:
Take your time to select an area of law you wish to practice – if you select one at all! There is no requirement to focus on just one area, in fact, most of our students graduate with a wide variety of electives on their transcript. Some stress that specializations arise in internships and first year employment as you recognize your strengths through law school. Furthermore, you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you try it. Reflect on what your strengths REALLY are as opposed to what you THINK they are.
The number one, most important aspect of law school is to prepare students for the bar. Take the classes that are emphasized on your state bar exam. Don’t get distracted from your purpose for attending law school – passing the bar exam!
A few students, however, know which firm or specialty they will pursue upon graduation. They have no doubt in their goal and no interest in other options. In that case, there are certificates you can earn while obtaining your J.D. Visit our Certificate Programs page for more information.
I mentioned International Law for a reason; Widener offers great opportunities :
The Global Externship program prepares students to practice on an international level. Students have been placed with the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, International Trade Agency, the US Department of Commerce and United Nations Development Office. Click here for a video introduction.
The Institutes offer a variety of international perspectives; particularly in business, environmental and health law.
Study abroad programs in Italy, Switzerland, Australia, Kenya and China. There are a variety of comparative law courses each year to suit your interests.
Renowned professors assist students in developing their legal skills and teach electives in Comparative or Global Law.
Student Organizations on both the Harrisburg and Delaware campuses promote networking and learning about current trends.
The Career Development office assists students in honing interviewing and networking skills to find and land jobs and internships.
As always, email me with comments, questions, suggestions, etc. – email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
So you have no idea what to write and you don’t think you’re special. What should you do?
- Think positive. You’re not that average, you’re applying to law school. Not everyone has that privilege. In fact, only around 10% of the U.S. population earns a professional degree. That in itself is remarkable! So how did you get into this elite group? You might be judging yourself more harshly than you realize. Although cliché, everyone really does have a different perspective to offer in a classroom discussion. In the U.S., it seems ordinary for some to go to college and graduate school. But this is certainly not true. Even if you had support along the way, you didn’t just sleep your way through high school and college (hopefully). Take the typical and turn it around.
- Take the pressure off and just write whatever comes to mind. Once you have exhausted your thoughts and then review your brainstorming session. Collect what’s relevant and form it into a paper. You know how to do this because you’ve been trained to write since childhood. But if you’re struggling organizing your thoughts, then visit the writing center at your college or alma mater.
- DO NOT start with “although I’m not traditionally diverse . . .” Widener Law’s Admissions Committee seeks diversity in many ways, some you may not even consider in yourself – reflect. What have you done that your friends or family have not? How have you been praised? What’s your favorite hobby? Where have you traveled? Who raised you? Anything that has led you to the point of considering law school is significant. You have a story to tell, no matter what your background.
- The personal statement is important but it certainly does not make or break your application. Make sure it is well written, grammatically correct, and purposeful. Keep in mind, however, that Admissions uses your scores (LSAT and undergraduate GPA) as the objective indicator of success in the first year of law school. Spend time on every component of your application, all of it is important, but if you have to choose between mulling over a sentence in your personal statement or mastering an LSAT question – go with the LSAT.
Finally, watch Dodgeball for some inspiration (and probably a much needed break). The Average Joes come out on top!
Questions about applying to law school? Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org or visit law.widener.edu/admissions
I have received great feedback from applicants about my posts, especially those who are struggling with the LSAT. I write to help you through this small (but not easy) part towards your goals and aspirations and your questions are important.
What questions do you have? What do you find most challenging about the application process? What worries you about admission to law school? Post your question and I will respond or address common concerns in a future blog.
Law schools offer an overwhelming array of concentrations, certificates and diplomas. Do you feel out of the loop? That’s okay, specialties and interests bloom as more classes and organizations fill your schedule. Just like college, some students arrive with a specific interest; some will stay the track while others will deviate. Still, a majority of incoming students have no clue where their degree will lead.
So how will you decide?
Your classes will guide you. Although every foundational course has its value, students typically find a niche within their first two years. For example, contracts might not be your path if you prefer trial advocacy. Or maybe you have a strong scientific background that compliments patent law. Take your time, reflect on your interests and network!
Ask professors. Yes, meet your professors during office hours. Most will be more than happy to talk about your interests – especially if it’s a similar field. Don’t be shy, explore your options.
Meet Career Services. Career counselors are paid to know about legal job options and market availability. They are a great resource for guidance on landing a job in your preferred field. They can candidly discuss job options. Furthermore, they offer resume and interview coaching to give you an edge in the job market. Again, network, explore and learn.
Join professional organizations. Do not just join student groups, become involved. Meet guest speakers or better yet seek out speakers for the group. Attend conferences and professional organizations. You might meet a future employer.
Participate with a clinic. Clinics offer pro bono experience to law students. At Widener Law, students represent a client from swearing in to a settlement or verdict. The interviewing, case briefing and research skills provided through clinics are extraordinary. If you are considering traditional attorney work, seek out clinical opportunities.
Overall, take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Your skills and talents develop in time. As always, feel free to contact me with questions: email@example.com
Wondering about legal job opportunities? Many applicants ask about our employment placement rate (which remains at 93%) and career options. There’s a lot of talk in the media about the economy and lawyers, but with work, commitment, dedication and a bit of networking law school graduates can find a fulfilling career.
Certain legal fields continue to offer lucrative opportunities. Specialized attorneys in corporate and health law, which are concentrations on the Delaware campus, often secure positions in firms, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and businesses. A background in administrative or legislative law offers excellent preparation for government careers. Our Harrisburg campus holds numerous resources to help you network towards state or federal positions.
Widener Law’s esteemed alumni work as judges, district attorneys, mayors, representatives, partners in law firms and a variety of other areas. How can you find similar jobs? Start by meeting graduates. Use the resources available to build a professional network, it will help immensely when seeking internships and jobs! Also, advice from recent law graduates may help you.
But a law degree does not mean you must practice. Our Multicultural Affairs Officer, Dean of Admissions and Director of Admissions received a J.D. (all from Widener!) but pursued alternate paths. Besides law school administration, graduates may become financial planners, mediators or consultants. Check out some stories from law school graduates pursuing alternative careers.
The U.S. Occupational Outlook Handbook holds a wealth of information about work descriptions and job outlooks. Our Career Development Office also assists students to seek out opportunities, build strong resumes, ace interviews and succeed in fulfilling positions.
I hope this helps you with your journey to law school. As always, do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions!
It’s been a while! The Admissions office is busy preparing for the new class and continuing to read files. Remember our deadline to apply is May 15! Take advantage of our free application through our website to be considered for Fall 2011. We will accept a June LSAT score, visit LSAC.org for registration information.
Lately, I’ve received many questions from applicants who were not offered a seat this year. First, remember that you can achieve your goals with dedication and persistence. Work hard for what you seek. Secondly, the Committee carefully reviews every application in its entirety. However, your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA are significant when making a decision. They are an objective way for the Committee to gauge your skill level. Although these scores are not directly pertaining to law, they do indicate your level of reasoning and scholarly potential. If your scores do not approach our medians, admission will be more challenging. A strong personal statement, persuasive letters of recommendation and supporting materials can help offset lower scores. Additionally, if you have any weaknesses in your file then address them in an addendum, or separate statement. You may email any supporting documents to email@example.com to add to your file.
As another application season winds down, we will continue to offer events and guidance for the entering class. I welcome any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) recently changed their check in procedures. Test takers are now required to bring a photo.
“All candidates must attach to their ticket a recent photograph (taken within the last six months) showing only the face and shoulders. The photograph must be clear enough so there is no doubt about the test taker’s identity, and must be no larger than 2 x 2 inches (5 x 5 cm) and no smaller than 1 x 1 inch (3 x 3 cm). Your face in the photo must show you as you look on the day of the test (for example, with or without a beard).” – lsac.org
The Admissions office is bustling with activity as we fill our incoming class. If you are still thinking about applying, it’s not too late! Our application deadline is May 15 and yes, we do accept June LSAT scores. Just list your registered test date in the LSAT portion of our application and the Admissions office will review your file upon receiving your score.
For those who already applied, congratulations, you’ve accomplished an arduous task and it’s commendable. As decisions roll into your mailbox (or inbox from Widener Law), I hope you find yourself challenged with selecting a school. Consider your options carefully, there’s more to a school than its price tag or ranking. Do some serious self-reflection; your choice will impact your future.
Research the faculty. Does anyone stand out? Align with your interests? What classes are offered? Are they accessible and helpful? Faculty have a profound influence on your education, networking and training. Widener Law’s faculty ranges from judges to CEOs with strong ties to Pennsylvania and Delaware legal communities. What do you want to do and how can the faculty help you achieve that?
Consider the school’s location. Is that where you want to practice? What are the internship and clinical opportunities? Will you be able to network and build your career while in law school? Widener Law is optimally located in the epicenter of major cities (Philadelphia, New York City, DC) offering a wealth of opportunities. We are also uniquely able to offer an education in an urban/suburban or more rural setting with the Harrisburg and Wilmington campuses. Where do you feel most comfortable?
Review the programs. Along with specialties, what core courses are required to graduate? Talk to students and alumni, how do they feel about their preparation? Widener Law prides itself in a practical orientation that prepares students to pass the bar and fully integrate in a professional setting upon graduation.
Ask. Research. Review. Do not rely solely on rankings or publications to make your decision. Visit law schools and sit in on classes. Talk to professors, lawyers, students, alumni and anyone else associated with the law. Your intuition will tell you which school will best prepare you for your path. Choose wisely!