We posed questions to admissions officials at Lewis & Clark Law School 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?
Applicants can set themselves apart in several ways, but being different from everyone else is not required in order to be admitted. Some students stand out because of their academic success, others stand out because of their work accomplishments, and others stand out because of their unique backgrounds, accomplishments, or success in the face of significant obstacles. Ultimately, those who show strong academic potential, maturity, a sincere interest in law and in Lewis & Clark, and evidence of pursuing personal and professional development, seem to impress the committee the most.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The essay provides an opportunity for the Admissions Committee to learn more about the applicant beyond the statistical indicators and basic information that are provided in his or her application. We look for motivation, maturity, interest in obtaining a legal education, and interest in Lewis & Clark Law School in particular. We also use it to assess writing ability. Statements should be carefully proofread and the writing should be clear. When writing the essay, applicants should also be personal, genuine, and true to themselves.
Lewis & Clark also seeks to enroll a diverse class, so candidates may write an optional essay that specifically addresses how their interests, backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives would contribute to the diversity of the entering class. Further, they may describe any disadvantage they have faced with relation to their education, socio-economic status, culture, or other significant challenges they have successfully overcome.
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?
The Admissions Committee does not use any formulas, indexes, points, or numerically weighted factors when reviewing applications. All applications are read in their entirety and each factor is considered in relation to the others. That said, indicators that show one's ability to succeed in law school are given significant consideration. These factors include a combination of grades, rigor of curriculum, and LSAT score. However, they are considered along with one's professional work experience, examples of leadership, strong writing ability, life experiences, challenges overcome, and other accomplishments, along with letters of recommendation.
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?
There isn't any particular amount or type of work or activities that the admissions committee is expecting to see on a résumé. For example, we do not expect an applicant to have worked in a law firm or have a certain number of hours of community service. We are interested in learning about all of an applicant's various pursuits and interests outside of his or her coursework. The résumé gives us a good idea of the experiences the applicant will bring to law school and can highlight things about him or her that might be different from other applicants. There is no "typical" or "expected" résumé, but applicants who have not stretched themselves beyond the classroom are usually less interesting to the admissions committee.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students attain at your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
Rather than comparing us to other law schools (which is difficult for us to do when we have not attended all other law schools), we feel this question is best answered by discussing the reasons why our students chose to attend Lewis & Clark. These reasons are based on surveys we conduct with our current students.
1. Location: The beauty and outdoor recreation options of the northwest, the vibrant city of Portland, Ore., and the amazing setting of our campus in a forested state park are all reasons that lure students to Lewis & Clark Law School. Our campus, city, and region are each attractive and unique, and the lifestyle is hard to beat. Lewis & Clark is also the only law school in Portland, making the legal opportunities highly accessible to our students.
2. Faculty and curriculum: Lewis & Clark law professors are very interested in the quality of their teaching and developing relationships with their students, much like one might experience at a smaller undergraduate school. Professors know their students on an individual basis and care about what their students are learning.
While we prepare students to practice any type of law, some students come to Lewis & Clark because they want to study subjects in which we are considered to be particularly strong. Some of these include business and commercial law, environmental and natural resources law, intellectual property law, public interest law, Indian law, animal law, criminal law, crime victim advocacy, tax law, and growing course offerings in global law. These tend to be the subjects in which we really shine, but even so, the curriculum is full of many other types of courses so one can be a generalist, or even create a focus of one's own. The curriculum has the breadth to assure students have the opportunity to cover all the fundamentals needed for a thorough legal education. Our graduates practice everything under the sun, and we encourage students not to limit themselves. Additionally, some students are attracted to the flexibility in our curriculum provided by our evening program and part-time options.
3. Cost: We offer scholarships to 45 percent of our incoming class, making the cost of law school more manageable. The school also has a Loan Repayment Assistance Program and several summer stipends available for students going into public interest law. In comparison to other private law schools and many public schools' out-of-state tuitions, Lewis & Clark's tuition is competitive and the cost of living in Portland is reasonable.
4. Student body: Critical to the atmosphere at any law school is the way students treat one another. The atmosphere at Lewis & Clark is collegial and cooperative. Students treat one another as colleagues and friends, not as competitors. One finds the environment here supportive, engaging, and friendly.
L&C's student profile is impressive. Our goal is to admit intelligent, diverse, and interesting students and we believe that is reflected in our student body. Further, the average age of our students is slightly higher than most schools', and many of our students have significant work experience prior to coming to law school. Finally, we are proud of our low attrition rate, which reflects a high rate of student satisfaction as well as a class that is academically strong.
5. Opportunities: getting a job and being able to gain practical skills while in law school is very important. Our Career Services Office is top notch and offers a wide range of services and programs to help students find summer jobs, internships, externships, and employment after graduation. Our faculty and administrators are also very helpful to students with their career search. We have some fantastic clinical opportunities—in consumer law, landlord-tenant law, tax law, employment law, domestic violence and family law, small business transactions, environmental and natural resources law, international environmental law, crime victim advocacy, and animal law—as well as strong moot court teams, three law reviews, and study abroad options. It is crucial that students develop their resumes while in law school and there are numerous ways to do that at Lewis & Clark.
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?
Letters of recommendation help the Admissions Committee evaluate an applicant's academic competence and ethical character, evaluate one's ability to relate to people and society, and assess an applicant's professional promise as a lawyer. Letters should be written by people who are well acquainted with the applicant and who can attest to his or her ability to enter a competitive professional academic program. Letters that speak to one's analytical, critical thinking, writing, problem solving, and people skills are most helpful. We discourage applicants from sending letters of recommendations from friends and relatives, or from prominent individuals or attorneys who have little personal knowledge of the applicant, as they do not provide useful information to the Admissions Committee.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Applicants can apply anytime between October 1 and March 1. International applicants or applicants who completed their undergraduate programs outside of the U.S. or Canada should complete their applications no later than January 15. It is in an applicant's best interest to apply early in the process for the best chances of admission and scholarship consideration.
Decisions are made on a rolling basis and files are reviewed in the order that they are completed (meaning that all required materials have been received at the Law School and the file is ready to be reviewed). Applicants can expect to receive a decision anywhere from four to eight weeks after their files are completed. The first decisions are mailed in December.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Along with firms, government agencies, and non-profits from around the country, the large Portland law firms recruit heavily at Lewis & Clark Law School. In addition, a number of federal and state government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, HUD, and the Oregon Department of Justice, recruit heavily at the Law School. Our graduates also go into public service and public interest work at a higher rate than the national average.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Common mistakes include applying late in the process when space and scholarships are sparse; not reading the application instructions and thus not providing what is ask for; not proofing the essay and/or misunderstanding what the committee wants to know; not explaining things like poor grades or not providing a thorough explanation in the Character and Fitness portion of the application if there are issues there to be addressed; and not preparing fully for the LSAT. Other mistakes are not researching law schools well enough before applying, applying to too many law schools, or applying to schools only because they offer a fee waiver. This usually results in an application that is generic and not tailored to the individual law schools.
10. Can you describe the archetype student for your school?
There is no archetypical student at Lewis & Clark Law School. Ultimately, we aim to enroll a class filled with people who will succeed and thrive here, and who contribute a variety of perspectives and experiences.