We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Minnesota 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?
Applying early can help an applicant a great deal. With a rolling admissions process, the most space in an incoming class is available at the beginning of the application cycle. As the cycle progresses, the applicant pool becomes considerably stronger. Also, applicants can set themselves apart from their peers by identifying in their application why they are interested in attending the University of Minnesota Law School, specifically. Students are encouraged to cast a broad net when searching for law schools, but our Admissions Committee is often impressed by applicants who take the time to tailor their application for Minnesota.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Minnesota's award-winning legal writing program recognizes that written communication is vital to the success of our graduates. The Admissions Committee therefore uses the personal statement not only to assess the applicant's writing skills, but also the applicant's judgment, passions and analytical abilities.
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 LSAT score is an important part of the application, but it does not determine the success of an application by itself. The Admissions Committee reviews each application holistically and in most cases stronger portions of an application can help an applicant's chances of admissions more than weaker portions can harm them. An applicant's LSAT score can be enhanced by a strong undergraduate GPA and vice versa. Those applicants who are not confident in the strength of their LSAT score or GPA can improve their applications with work/internship experience, a well-written personal statement, strong letters of recommendation and/or strong academic performance in a graduate program.
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?
Prior work/internship experience can enhance an application, but the lack of experience typically does not hurt an application if the applicant is able to demonstrate maturity through the personal statement and letters of recommendation. Applicants with prior work/internship experience can often benefit from the perspective and focus that can come after time away from undergraduate education. For applicants with no work or internship experience, however, participation/leadership in extra-curricular activities or volunteer service can also develop positive qualities that not only would be helpful in writing a strong personal statement, but can ultimately contribute to success in law school.
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?
The University of Minnesota Law School has excelled at providing its students with practical learning tools that enhance traditional doctrinal study. From first-year legal writing classes of 10 students or less, to offering 18 clinics to our second and third-year students, Minnesota strives to ensure that each student has many opportunities to put theory into practice before graduation. Minnesota is able to do this while being relatively affordable. With nearly 90 percent of our students receiving some financial aid and more than 60 percent receiving a merit-based scholarship each year, Minnesota provides a nationally recognized education that is economically accessible.
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 University of Minnesota Law School requires two letters of recommendation. Applicants who are still in college or recent graduates should choose recommenders from an academic setting. If an applicant has been out of college for more than two years, letters from an employer may be submitted. The Admissions Committee is particularly interested in letters from recommenders who personally know the applicant and can provide specific examples and insight about his or her character and academic/work abilities.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
All admission decisions are made on a rolling basis. Applicants are encouraged to complete their applications early in the application cycle (the application is available mid-August through April 1). Once an application is received, it is evaluated to determine if all the required components have been included. When an application becomes complete, the Admissions Committee begins the review process. Applicants to our binding early decision program will be notified no later than December 1, provided that they submit their application by the November 15 deadline. All other applicants typically receive a decision 10 to 12 weeks from the date an application becomes complete.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Large law firms and firms of all sizes, government employers, and public interest and non-profit employers all recruit from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Approximately 60 percent of our graduates find entry-level employment in private practice. Large law firms that recruit frequently from our school include national and international firms such as Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Hogan & Hartson; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Mayer Brown LLP; and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP. Locally, all of the largest law firms hire from the University of Minnesota Law School; Dorsey & Whitney, and Faegre & Benson have hired the largest number of our graduates in Minnesota.
Each year, a large number of graduates enter government practice and judicial clerkships as well. Among these options, the highest number of graduates find employment with the Minnesota courts. A large number of graduates clerk with federal judges across the country and this year, a law school graduate will begin clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the non-profit and public interest arena, our graduates have been successful applicants for the Equal Justice Works Fellowship, Skadden Fellowship, and other fellowships. The Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis has hired several of our alumni.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The most common mistakes applicants make often result from failure to proofread or hastily putting together an application. In a large and competitive applicant pool, typos or naming the wrong law school in a personal statement can detract from an otherwise strong application. Prospective students are encouraged to choose recommenders with whom they have good relationships and who can speak specifically to the applicant's abilities as a prospective law student. While letters of recommendation are required and addenda can be very helpful, committee members may become distracted by too many supplemental letters or documents.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Students at the University of Minnesota Law School come to us with varied educational backgrounds and life experiences, and each brings a unique perspective to our law school community. Ultimately, we are looking for law students who are prepared and excited to engage in an innovative and academically rigorous curriculum. We seek students who will contribute positively to their communities and will become part of a worldwide network of dedicated alumni.