Applying to Law School - timeline?
October 28, 2009 8:15 AM   Subscribe

What can I do now to help prepare myself for writing the LSATs and applying to law school in 1-2 years?

I am planning on taking the LSATs in the somewhat-near future and I was looking for things that I can do NOW to help give me my best shot at the test, and then at getting into law school itself.

I am in my third year of a four year degree at a small Canadian university. I will potentially take an extra year to take some more interesting courses, or I might get a one-year Masters degree immediately after I graduate. Either way, I will graduate with a Joint Honours degree in Canadian Studies and Politics. I am strongly considering applying to law school, and thus will need to write the LSATs. My plan is to write the test the summer after I finish with school (at this point that is looking like 2012), apply that fall, and attend school starting fall 2013. This gives me a while to prepare for the LSAT and the law school admissions process.

Here are some more potentially relevant facts:

I want to attend a Canadian law school (UVic, UofT, Dalhousie, Osgoode Hall, Queen's, etc)
I have maintained an 80+ average throughout school thus far and foresee that continuing into the future.
I play a varsity sport, volunteer a bit in my school community, have had the same full-time summer job for the past three years.
I am interested in pursuing public interest law. Working for a legal aid clinic or public interest advocacy group interests me a lot.

At this point I am less concerned about preparing *specifically* for the LSAT so much as developing the skills that will serve me well on the test in general: logic, reading comprehension, etc. What activities can I do that will help me do better at logic puzzles (never really been my strong suit)? What resources are available for Canadian students considering the LSAT/law school? What can I do while still in my undergrad to make myself the most attractive law school candidate I can be? Extracurriculars? What kind? Thanks, and let me know if you need any more details.

PS - I have checked the archives but nothing seems to be looking at this particular timeframe. Please tell me if I missed something relevant. It's my first question, I'm nervous!
posted by hepta to Education (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As an American I have no specific advice for you, but this website was highly recommended as a resource for Canadian law school applicants in an earlier thread ("This is where I went to ask all these questions as I prepared my applications.").
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:19 AM on October 28, 2009

Take a couple of philosophy classes.

Sort of relevant data here.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:31 AM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: The best 'tricks' I know of are those you can do regularly during the day- so the skills become automatic and not specific to the test.

When reading the newspaper/magazine/crappy brochure in a doctor's waiting room, after a column or paragraph summarize the article to that point in one sentence. After awhile it becomes automatic, improving your overall comprehension, and it takes almost no time to do it on a regular basis.

Logic puzzles and reasoning can be divided into major types: the trick is to quickly determine what sort they are and working out the answer without becoming confused by questions that appear to be all over the map (when the common thread is that their solutions require similar thought processes).

The YWCA in my city has a women's legal clinic for free advisement; paralegals and a lawyer answer questions. See if there's something similar in your area you can volunteer with, pulling information, entering data, organizing papers etc.
posted by variella at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Enjoy sleeping while you still can.
posted by Neekee at 8:46 AM on October 28, 2009

Your school's philosophy department likely has courses in formal logic. Take as many of them as possible.
posted by decathecting at 8:54 AM on October 28, 2009

Start criticizing every premise in newspaper editorials and commercials that you can.
Get a logic puzzles book. There are some for LSAT logic games in particular
Start listening to the free LSAT Logic in Everyday Life podcast [disclosure- I work there but not on this] which discusses how to tear down arguments with specific examples that you see all around you.

Working at a law firm will help you in your future career but won't help at all with the LSAT. The LSAT is really about being able to read critically and dissect arguments and premises. The best way to practice that is just to start being kind of annoying and question the basis of what everyone around you is saying/writing.
posted by rmless at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you're worrying too much. Get one of the books with practice tests in it and see if you still feel like you need to start preparing now. You can get the hang of the logic questions with a little practice.
posted by lakeroon at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2009

I'm considering a similar route and I found this website extremely helpful - there's specific information about each school, the LSAT, and the application process. The other thing I'm doing is talking to some friends of mine who are already a few years out of law school for a real-life perspective. And study the crap out of the LSAT practice tests because you're going to need those skills times a million when it comes time for the bar exam.

Honestly, it sounds like you're well on your way and have good grades and some extracurricular and volunteer activities that precede your interest in going to law school (as opposed to starting volunteer work a few months before the application is due).
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2009

I just took the LSAT in September. Don't overthink preparations just for the test. I got a Kaplan brand review book that came with five REAL PRACTICE TESTS!!! (3 in preint and 2 on a CD ROM). I basically just did questions and tests until my average time per question was 1 minute or so (my main concern for preparation was being able to finish the test in the time alotted). Once you see one practice test book's worth of questions, you've seen most of the question types you will see on the test.

As for other preparations I'm not sure about Canada, but to go to American law schools the biggest piece of preparation advice I would give is: Save up a lot of money before you go. Have a realistic view of the current job market. If possible, already have the money to cover tuition.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2009

Honestly, I wouldn't sweat it. It sounds like you are a capable enough thinker on your own. The LSAT is just a standardized test for which there are myriad preparation programs. Data in, data out. The LSAT has really no bearing on law school (other than getting you in), and nothing you learn to prepare you for the test will put you in better stead when you matriculate--unless Canadian law schools require you to figure out which appellant owns the blue car and lives in the green house with a parakeet.

Unless the legal market is very different in Canada (which it may be), I'd spend more time considering whether the costs are justified. There are a lot of capable lawyers jobless these days. Pro bono work, at least in the US, has ALWAYS been much more competitive than you might expect, and now you've got seasoned attorneys fighting for those jobs, as well.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:16 AM on October 28, 2009

First of all, I want to echo that this is way too early to be worrying about this. Just enjoy life. However, in answer to your question...

How you prepare will depend on how your brain works. When I wrote the LSAT (similar situation to you, I did a politics degree at a Canadian school), I found a lot of the language comprehension questions a breeze. Like, what's the problem here? I found the logic problems quite challenging. When I showed my 6-year-younger sister, in high school at the time, the logic problems I was practicing on, she did them in a few seconds and looked at me like, "what's the problem here?" So what you want to focus on really depends on what you have problems with. I didn't give myself enough time to practice for the LSAT, so I didn't really get a system down for the logic problems, which meant I relied on the other sections to get me through. But with enough practice I think you can master any of the sections.

I would recommend buying the Kaplan LSAT prep book and going through it. Do one of the practice tests so you can self-assess for what you need to work on. Then work on it. The logic problems are all solvable if you can get a proper system down for graphically eliminating options. As for the reading comprehension, I never really understood what the problem was, so I don't know how you would develop a system for solving the problems. Seriously, it always seemed to me like a test of whether you know how to read or not, but maybe I'm misremembering. Anyway, if you have strong language skills and read a lot, I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by Dasein at 9:24 AM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: This far in advance, the best thing to focus on is figuring out why you want to go to law school and checking out what kinds of things you might like to do with a law degree. It will help you write your personal statement when it comes time to apply, which should give you some immediate comfort that this is a good use of your time.

It is also important for you, for the bigger picture. My experience was that people (including me!) were so focused on getting into law school, but they didn't really know why and had little exposure to the actual practice of law -- and some realized they maybe could have done something else that better suited them, if only they stopped to ask someone who had been there a bunch of thoughtful questions. I have no regrets luckily, but some folks were pretty surprised to find that after all their hard work, they didn't really want the thing they'd achieved.

You might want to get in touch with particular organizations you hope to work for, people who are already at law school (older siblings of friends? people who came through your university program?) and who are new and if possible, established, lawyers. Start doing "information interviews" if you can, talk to the career services office at your school, and if time allows, try to find a volunteer or paid position that involves an area of the law / social policy that interests you (e.g. clinics work in: immigration, housing, poverty/welfare reform, etc.) -- not just so you can put it on your application, although obviously that is nice, but mostly so you can know what this thing called "public interest law" really is, and what the constraints of this kind of work are, as well, before you spend $70K on a degree that you might not need to work for the "public interest".

Just to be clear, I'm not discouraging you from law school or lawyerdom (because I supertriple love both) but rather suggesting you focus for the next year not on getting in, but on why you want to get in.

Chances are this research and volunteer time will give you a much more grounded sense of the purpose and possibilities of a legal education which will be incredibly valuable when you are at law school, and will come through in reading your application.

(Maybe you are already on this track as well, so my apologies if i'm stating the obvious here).
posted by girlpublisher at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009

Outside of taking logic classes (which is not necessary, but can be helpful), and having good reading comprehension skills, which you should already have with two liberal arts majors, the best way to do well on the LSAT is to study for the actual test. It's a weird test and there's nothing in real life exactly like it. The majors that do best on the LSAT statistically are those that have some element of logic in the curriculum (#1 physics/math, #2, philosophy).
Now, I know you said you don't want advice on how to study for the test specifically, but I feel like this is still worth sharing: IMO, the best way to study is to buy the LSAT SuperPrep book (written by LSAC-- the people who make the actual test), and get as many real past tests as you can. It helps if you have the hookup with a friend who took a prep class and has a book with 20 years worth of LSATs that they never used. ;-) After you work through the SuperPrep, start taking practice tests and do that as much as possible under actual test-taking conditions. Seriously, I wasted a lot of time with Kaplan and other books, and after getting the SuperPrep, my practice score went up 10 points (which is a LOT on the LSAT). YMMV, of course.
Good luck! Don't let all the naysayers who claim that law school=spending a jillion dollars on school to live in a box after graduation get you down if you really have a passion for going to law school.
posted by ishotjr at 3:45 PM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice! I know it is early, but I am a bit of a worrywart so I would rather know now than later. The websites look really helpful, I plan to look through them a bit more indepth once I have more time.

girlpublisher: I have only recently started volunteering with my local public interest research group related to poverty and food issues so your advice is well-warranted. I really hope that it is a rewarding experience.

Thanks again :)
posted by hepta at 7:03 AM on October 29, 2009

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