Are the numbers enough?
May 28, 2008 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me realistically assess/improve my (Canadian) law school prospects.

First, the basics: I graduated from a Canadian university with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2007, finishing with a 3.5 GPA. I wrote the LSAT in the summer of 2006 and scored a 169, which placed me in the 97th percentile. I don't really have any extra-curricular or volunteer work to speak of, most of my education related off-time was dedicated to fiction/poetry writing. I remain (mostly) unpublished, more due to my own laziness in researching and sending out finished material rather than a lack of ability, but I did get a creative writing concentration for whatever that might be worth (not much, I'm guessing). I could also obtain a few glowing letters of recommendation from professors if that would be a factor, though I would feel weird asking for them so long after having been in their classes.

I had planned to apply to law school in 2007, but didn't for what I'm now realizing is quite a stupid reason. Having found some sample personal statements online, I was pretty intimidated by the range of clubs, volunteer work, and general resume padding experience people were writing about. I felt like I had nothing of that caliber to write of in my personal statement, nothing really to distinguish me from the crowd of other people applying to law schools other than my writing, which as I mentioned, remains mostly unproven. That and I wasn't sure whether I really wanted to do law, or whether I had just been telling people that is what I wanted to do so long that I had convinced myself. I'm resolved now though.

So now I am 24, and will be turning 25 in less than a month. I have spent the last year working at a bakery/coffee shop, saving money, and if I'm being honest, generally slacking off having graduated. My intention is send out law school applications in September/October so that I can start attending law school fall 2009, when I will be 26. I only mention my age incase it might be a factor in assessing my application.

My first question is this: what are the best Canadian law schools that I would be likely to be granted admission to based on my gpa/lsat/lack-of-much-else? I'm becoming more and more aware how important the rank/prestige of the law school I'll be attending will be for finding a job afterward, and I want to get into the best school possible. American law school suggestions would be appreciated too, provided there is a reason I should consider them over a Canadian equivalent. I plan on practicing in Canada once I'm done, though mostly out of convenience, and I have a vague inclination towards intellectual property law in particular.

Second: How concerned should I be about my lack of extra-curriculars, and how should I be thinking about my personal statement? Is there anything I can do between now and when I send out my applications to improve my prospects?
posted by paradoxflow to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Your age will be no concern whatsoever. I have a friend who just got his LLB from the U of Calgary at age 42.

2. Congrats on great LSATs!

3. Your profs might have some difficulty remembering you but don't be dissuaded- they have a hard time remembering anybody (I know, I'm a professor and always need some guidance in writing refs). You just have to communicate, explain your motivation for going to law school, that sort of thing.

4. I know nothing about law schools and their specializations aside from my obvious familiarity with U of C (environmental/resources/corporate, no big surprise) but a quick search told me that Windsor, UWO and UVic have programs in intel prop.

Good luck!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:20 PM on May 28, 2008

My personal info is way old (I went to law school from 1991-1996), but I remember only McGill and UVic as requiring anything other than GPA and LSAT for admission ranking. Personal statements were not a common thing in Canada - dunno if that's changed. If you plan on practicing in Canada, there is no reason to load yourself down with American law school debt, IMHO.

As for the prestige issue - it's much less of one in Canada than in the U.S. - really you want to go to law school in the province you expect to work in - you are much more likely to run into alumni - which is better from a networking perspective than "rank"- also, you are more likely to run into local practitioners who have taught some of your classes.

This site has graphs from 2004-2005 for each Canadian law school. You can google for other such sites.

26 is nowhere near being old for law school - only one or two years out from a Bacherlor degree is not likely even "mature student" range.

Good luck - but from your numbers, I think you are competitive at many Cdn law schools.
posted by birdsquared at 10:46 PM on May 28, 2008

As a fairly recent graduate of Osgoode Hall, I don't think you would have any problem getting in with a 169 and 3.5, so long as your 3.5 wasn't from an unbelievably terrible school. Do some volunteer work or something over the next year, and definitely try and get good recommendation letters. If you write in your application why you h avea burning desire to study law (particuarly if you can spin it in a social justice orientation if you apply to Osgoode), I don't think you will have much problem. Oh, and 26 is not old. I'd say the median entering age of my class was 24.
posted by modernnomad at 1:02 AM on May 29, 2008

Best answer: You are competitive on your numbers. My advice: Write a compelling statement, be honest and be yourself. If you weren't sure what you wanted after grad, say so. Then say why law. You don't talk in your question about what sort of exposure to law you have, and I think that's what you should think about most right now.

Also: Don't put social justice in your application unless you mean it. For instance, under its current admission policy, Osgoode does not read personal statements except for mature, access, and special circumstances students. 75% of the class was admitted on numbers alone. No reading of the application. So saying that those who spin their app were more likely to get in is wrong. (I should say that Osgoode has changed its admissions system for 2009, so many regular applications will now be read, so YMMV.) Disclosure: I was involved in the admissions changes at Osgoode over the last 2 years.

Different schools have different ways to weight hard numbers versus soft characteristics. Windsor and Osgoode (under the new system) have holistic assessments. U of T claims to, but their number cut offs are so high it's hard to believe.

Check out This is where I went to ask all these questions as I prepared my applications.
posted by girlpublisher at 4:54 AM on May 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the feedback and information so far, that forum also seems to be a pretty good resource.

I have one additional question while I have askmefi's attention: I know the application deadlines are different for every school, but what would be the ideal time to start sending out applications en masse? Is it a "the earlier the better" scenario, or does it not matter as long as I get them in before a specific date?
posted by paradoxflow at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2008

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