We posed questions to admissions officials at Notre Dame 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?
Notre Dame Law School seeks to build a dynamic and supportive community of students from diverse backgrounds and distinctive experiences, and our goal is to identify and attract students who are interested in joining us in this effort. Applicants can and should stand out among their peers by using the application to tell us who they really are, and about their commitments, interests, and ideals. They should use the application fully, highlighting their academic strengths, extracurricular activities, life and work experiences, dedication to service, passion for a cause, special skills, etc.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The application essays not only reveal the applicant's skills and style, they also tell us about the person "behind the numbers." The essays should educate our admissions team about the applicant's character, motivation to study law, skills that could be valuable in the study or practice of law, leadership or service opportunities, and diversity of experiences. We want to know what it is that is inspiring or calling an applicant to the legal profession. NDLS has a long-standing and cherished tradition of being an incredibly welcoming, collegial, supportive, and active law school. The essays are an opportunity for applicants to embrace that tradition, and tell us how they could contribute to and benefit from it.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weight it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
Notre Dame Law School is an academically rigorous program enrolling some of the brightest and most talented law students in the country. We understand that to enroll the kind of interesting and engaging community we desire, we must consider the entire person. While grades and test scores are important indicators of success, we also strongly consider leadership potential, commitment to service, personal stories, and life experiences. All of these factors are seriously considered, and there is no formula or rule for weighing them.
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?
Since we aim to enroll a class filled with students from various backgrounds, applicants' life and work experiences are important elements of their application. However, since we use a holistic approach when reviewing applications, no particular amount of work experience is expected or required of any particular applicant. If an applicant is not coming directly from undergraduate school, life and work experiences may play a more significant role in the application review depending on the number of years that the applicant has been out of school.
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 Concannon Program in London, which focuses on International and Comparative Law, is unique to Notre Dame Law School. It is the only full-year, ABA-approved study abroad program. In addition, we believe that our close-knit and supportive community sets us apart from most other law schools. Notre Dame is well-known for its welcoming and collegial environment which fosters lasting friendships among and between faculty and students. Our community extends to our loyal and dedicated alumni network who always seek to help our current students, especially with respect to finding employment. We also stand out by virtue of our dedication to educating the whole person, and forming lawyers who are not only well trained in a technical sense but also encouraged to construct an integrated, balanced life in the profession and in their communities. At NDLS, law is thought of as a rewarding vocation rather than just a job. When assessing a law school, applicants should evaluate a wide range of qualities and characteristics including the curriculum, faculty, educational philosophy, extracurricular opportunities, student environment, community, career placement opportunities, etc. Applicants are encouraged to learn more about Notre Dame's distinct opportunities by visiting law.nd.edu.
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 can be very helpful in assessing how the applicant will perform as a student especially if the letter is from a professor or employer and addresses specific skills that could be helpful for law school. We appreciate letters that can also comment on an applicant's character as well as his/her academic/work performance. Letters from prominent figures who do not know the applicant are not helpful.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
The majority of applicants submit applications online through LSAC. If the applicant has all of the required elements on file with LSAC (LSAT score, transcripts, two letters of recommendation), the application file is mailed to us. Typically within seven to 10 days the application is received, processed, and considered complete and ready for review. Depending on when the application is filed, a decision will be mailed in about eight weeks from the time the application is complete. If an application is received in the early part of the cycle, a decision may be received in four to six weeks; however, if an application is filed near the deadline, it may take about 10 weeks for a decision.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Notre Dame students are recruited by a diverse array of the nation's top law firms, government agencies, and public-interest organizations, from around the country— from New York City to Los Angeles. Our graduates are contributors and leaders in the profession at all levels and in every specialty and discipline. Some of the private firms that hire the highest percentage of our graduates include Baker & Hostetler, Bryan Cave, Jones Day, Latham & Watkins, Mayer Brown, McGuire Woods, Sidley Austin, White & Case, and Winston & Strawn.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Mistakes in the application are usually found in the essays. Applicants should be very careful to follow application instructions and proofread everything submitted in the application. Essays that are not well structured (e.g.,s a narrative résumé) or that rave about another law school are usually not viewed favorably. Finding and replacing the law school name in an essay is usually not effective. Applicants should draft a separate essay for each school.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
With our smaller class size and our desire to enroll a dynamic class filled with people of varied backgrounds and experiences, Notre Dame Law School does not have a typical student. We are not looking for specific activities, internships, work experiences, or backgrounds. Rather, we aim to enroll a very diverse class in every sense of the word. There are common factors in those students admitted to NDLS—strong academic ability, demonstrated leadership in extracurricular, internship, or work experiences, and a commitment to serving others. We aim to enroll a group of students that will both challenge and complement each other.