We posed questions to admissions officials at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
The Maurer School of Law looks for applicants who, in addition to strong academic and leadership credentials, demonstrate the capability to become accomplished and ethical leaders within the legal profession. College activities that show engagement and leadership in student and academic life are helpful because these behaviors are likely to continue in law school. Undergraduate courses that focus on writing, challenging majors, and significant life experiences also go a long way toward building a strong application file. Applicants who take the initiative to plan an in-person visit, meet with alumni, and reach out to current students always stand out.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The essay should provide additional information that doesn't appear in the application form, résumé, or recommendation letters. Essays should illustrate the student's passion, tell us what he brings to the table, and why he decided to apply to law school in the first place—reasons other than "my mom told me I should go to law school because I like to argue." We'd like to know why the student is eager to invest time, effort, and money into three more years of education.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
We take a holistic approach. Each applicant is reviewed individually on her own merits. The LSAT score and undergrad GPA are important, but other skills and abilities also influence success in law school, such as leadership experience, engagement, drive, and interpersonal skills. We take these factors into account along with the more traditional quantitative criteria.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
Most of the Maurer School of Law's students come directly from college: two-thirds of our incoming class is usually under 25. Although work experience is not expected or required, we have found that many previously employed students rise to the top of the class.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
The community at the Maurer School of Law is intellectually rigorous yet close–knit and supportive. To help build this community, all first-year students are paired with a practice group advisor (PGA) who provides front-line mentoring and support. PGAs meet regularly with a group of six to eight students to discuss law school life, introduce them to social networks, and encourage their academic success. In addition, the school's faculty demonstrates a sincere commitment to teaching and helping students become successful, and a nationwide network of alumni helps students with networking and job searches by hosting receptions in their offices, setting up informational lunches, and returning to Bloomington often to assist students and faculty. Students' engagement with each other, with faculty, and with alumni creates a powerful catalyst for growth and success.
Another differentiating characteristic of the Maurer School of Law is an innovative first-year curriculum that calls on students to start creating the career path that is right for them. As part of this process, students assess and compare their skills and interests with those of effective lawyers. Armed with this information, our students are more likely to home in on career opportunities that will lead to long-term professional success.
The scholarly reputation of the Maurer School of Law continues to grow because of the recent additions of distinguished faculty from law schools across the country in fields as diverse as intellectual property, global legal studies, and the federal judiciary. The school's Center on the Global Legal Profession and Center for Constitutional Democracy are the only ones of their kind in the United States.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
The most useful recommendation letters are the ones from faculty who have had significant personal contact with the student. Recommendations should speak to items such as academic improvement over the course of several semesters; comparisons with other students who have been successful law students; and the applicant's analytical and writing skills. Letters from prominent public figures who do not know the applicant are not considered.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We accept applications on September 1 and usually send decision letters after December 1. Two or more members of the school's admissions committee review each application; we strive to make a decision within six to eight weeks following receipt. At that point, applicants are admitted, denied, or placed on a waiting list. Admissions occur on a rolling basis, and students can be admitted from the waiting list as late as August.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Maurer School of Law graduates surpass the National Association for Law Placement average for finding jobs with businesses and government organizations. While the majority of our graduates accept positions with law firms, others have found success with judicial clerkships, public interest groups, and higher education.
The following firms and organizations routinely hire our graduates: Arnold & Porter; Barnes & Thornburg; Bingham McHale; Jones Day; Mayer Brown; Taft Stettinius & Hollister; the Cook County (Ill.) State's Attorney; the Indiana Attorney General; the Marion County (Ind.) Prosecutor; and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Subpar writing skills, grammatical errors, and hurriedly completed applications are common mistakes. In addition, we have observed poor interpersonal skills during campus visits or on-location interviews and unwise decisions about recommendation letters (make sure the writer is willing to give a positive recommendation and then actually sends the letter, for example). Character and fitness issues receive very close scrutiny, including repeated misdemeanor convictions or ethical breaches. All of these factors have a further negative bearing on our decision.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
The Maurer Law student body is diverse in many ways; no two students are alike. In keeping with our holistic approach to admissions, however, we expect all students to become an active part of the law school community. "This is not a place for students who want to be anonymous," our dean of students often says. Students who learn to become collegial and engaged while in law school stand a better chance of becoming successful professionals.