Law School Application Process: Overview and Timeline

Applying to law school: what you need to know

Find out when you need to complete each step of the law school application process

Though each law school has a different application deadline, you should give yourself at least 10 months to complete the necessary steps.

Making the decision to apply to law school is exciting! But the excitement is quickly overshadowed by worry and confusion. When do I apply? How do I apply? What steps do I need to take?

So many questions... and Enjuris is here to help give you answers.

First, let’s look at the facts. Law school enrollment in ABA-approved law schools is up for the first time since 2010. While this is good news for law schools, it means increased competition for law school applicants like you.

One way to get a leg up on your competition is to start the application process early enough so that you can apply as soon as law schools begin accepting applications. It’s important to realize that most law schools employ a rolling admissions process that favors those who submit their applications early.

In general, you should start the application process by January of your junior year of undergraduate college so that you’re on track to submit your applications in October of your senior year.

Let’s take a close look at what you need to do during this 10-month period.

January: 10 months before you submit your applications

Create your LSAC.org account online. You’ll use this account over the next 10 months for everything from registering for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to submitting letters of recommendation.

Applying to law school: Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
Enjuris tip: It’s never too early to talk to your college’s pre-law or graduate school advisor. They can offer valuable information and assistance throughout the law school admissions process.

March: 8 months before you submit your applications

Begin preparing for the LSAT. The LSAT is a standardized test administered several times each year by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at testing centers around the country.

The LSAT is made up of the following sections:

LSAT Sections
Section Time Format
Logical reasoning (2 sections) 35 minutes for each section 24-26 questions in each section
Logic games 35 minutes 22-24 questions
Reading comprehension 35 minutes 26-28 questions
Experimental section 35 minutes 22-28 questions
Writing sample 35 minutes 1 essay

For most people, the LSAT will be unlike any other test they’ve taken. The questions are difficult and the time constraints are nerve-wracking. It’s a good idea to put aside at least 3 months to study for the LSAT.

Though everybody prepares differently, here are some common approaches to studying for the LSAT: 

  • Take a timed practice test. A free practice test is available here from LSAC. Taking a timed practice test will allow you to determine your baseline score (your score before doing any studying). This will help give you an idea of how much you’ll need to improve. In addition, you’ll get a feel for the sections of the LSAT as well as the time you have to answer each question. Don’t worry if you fail to finish the entire test in the time allotted or if you score poorly. This is why you’re getting an early start – to practice and improve!
  • Order additional sample exams. You can order actual prior exams from LSAC here. Most people feel that taking prior exams is the best way to prepare for the LSAT. With each exam, you’ll become more familiar with the test. As you score each exam, you’ll begin to recognize the sections you need to work on.
  • Order LSAT prep books. There are hundreds of LSAT prep books available to purchase. Each book is a little different, but most include an overview of the LSAT sections, sample questions, and strategies for tackling each type of question.
  • Enroll in an LSAT prep course or hire a tutor. It’s by no means required, but if you have the financial means, it may benefit you to enroll in an LSAT prep course or hire a tutor. 

April: 7 months before you submit your applications

Register for the LSAT using your LSAC.org account. You can also register by phone. For more information, visit the LSAT Registration page.

Enjuris tip: The deadline to register for the LSAT is approximately 1 month before the testing date. However, there are only a certain number of designated testing centers around the country. Because of this, the testing center closest to you may fill up. It’s a good idea to register as soon as possible to avoid having to travel a long distance to take the exam.

May: 6 months before you submit your applications

Register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) via your LSAC.org account.

The CAS is the gatekeeper between you and the law schools. You will submit all of your application materials to CAS and CAS will verify and submit the materials to each law school. Most ABA-approved law schools require applicants to use CAS.

Enjuris tip: The fee to use CAS is $195. However,fee waivers are available to qualified applicants.

June or July: 4 or 5 months before you submit your applications

Take the LSAT! The date to take the exam has arrived. Here are some tips to keep in mind for the night before and the day of the test:

  • Make sure you know what you need to bring on test day and have it prepared the night before.
  • Go to bed early so you can be sure to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast, but don’t eat or drink anything you wouldn’t normally eat or drink (now is not the time to find out you’re allergic to oats or that coffee makes you have to go to the bathroom every two minutes).
  • Dress in layers for the exam.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the test center (account for getting lost, traffic, and accidents).

July: 4 months before you submit your applications

Approximately 3 weeks after you take the LSAT, you’ll receive your LSAT score via email (scores range from 120–180). You’ll want to compare your score with the average score for the schools you want to attend so that you can decide whether or not you need to retake the LSAT.

Enjuris tip: When considering whether to retake the LSAT, keep in mind that some schools consider the highest score, other schools average the scores, and some schools take all the scores into account.

August: 3 months before you submit your applications

Based on your LSAT score (and other factors), begin narrowing down the list of schools you want to apply to.

Enjuris tip: For the 3rd year in a row, women once again outnumbered men in law school classrooms across the country in 2018. Read our report on where women go to law school.

Use the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools to identify schools that accept applicants whose GPA and LSAT scores are similar to your own.

Applying to law school: ABA approved law schools

Consider discussing your options with your advisor as well. Your advisor might be able to put you in touch with alumni who attended the schools you’re considering.

September: 2 months before you submit your applications

Begin gathering the necessary materials for your applications. Most schools require the following:

  • Application form
  • Application fee
  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • 1 to 3 letters of recommendation
  • Undergraduate transcript
  • LSAT score
Enjuris tip: Many undergraduate schools have on-campus law school informational meetings and fairs. Consider attending one to make sure you’re doing everything you should be doing.

October: 1 month before you submit your applications

Begin applying to law schools using CAS. Most law schools start accepting applications between the end of August and the beginning of October.

Keep in mind that while most schools don’t stop accepting applications until sometime between February and June, almost all schools have rolling admissions which benefit those who get their applications in early.

Enjuris tip: Be sure to check in with the schools that you apply to in order to make sure they have received all the necessary information (particularly the information that’s submitted by third parties, such as letters of recommendation and official transcripts).

January

Submit your updated fall semester grades to CAS (for those schools that require you to do so).

February through April

Acceptances and rejections begin to arrive! Good luck on your adventure.

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