5 Traits of Successful Law School Applicants

On your applications, prove you possess these characteristics.

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You already know that you typically need a high GPA and LSAT score to earn admission to the top law schools, but those are not the only important factors in your law school application.

Here are five traits that every law school candidate should ideally demonstrate in his or her application:

1. Intellectual curiosity: While your college transcript and GPA may speak for themselves in terms of your academic potential and work ethic, you should consider highlighting a specific academic project, like a thesis, to illustrate your intellectual curiosity.

Lawyers spend much of their time reading about, researching, and analyzing complex situations, so law schools want to see that you not only have these skills but also enjoy this type of work.

2. Ethics: Lawyers are held to an extraordinarily strict code of conduct, and one serious infraction can lead to disbarment. No law school wants its name to be associated with such a case, so admissions officers are looking for applicants who hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.

You do not need to (and should not) explicitly profess your honesty, but you should include examples that show your commitment to integrity. You might also ask your recommenders to speak to this critical factor.

If you have any kind of criminal record (even if it has been expunged) or you have been arrested, you will almost certainly have to disclose this in your application. Honestly and directly explain the situation and show the admissions committee that you learned from this misstep and are not defined by it. Do not be tempted to lie about criminal matters on your application as the consequences can be very severe and could even include not being admitted to the bar.

3. A passion for law: Having a personal and meaningful reason for going to law school is essential for a successful application. With many college graduates still applying to law school because they are having trouble finding employment, you need to prove to the law schools that you truly want to practice law.

Try to pinpoint a defining moment in your life that made you decide to go into law. You might also discuss what you plan to do with your law degree in the short and long term.

4. Tenacity: Lawyers are often up against seemingly impossible odds, whether in a courtroom or a boardroom, so law school admissions committees are looking for applicants who have faced challenges in the past and successfully overcame them.

Think back to a time when you faced an obstacle in a class, in a job or internship, or in a more personal context, and use that experience in your application to demonstrate your determination, resilience, and perseverance. Be sure to focus on your role in surmounting the challenge and what you learned from this trying ordeal. 

5. Leadership: Holding a leadership position requires a range of skills that law schools highly value, such as organization, the ability to communicate effectively with diverse individuals, and assertiveness. You can gain leadership experience in clubs at your undergraduate institution, through class projects, and at work or in your internships.

When explaining a leadership experience in your essays, mention how you were selected to undertake this role, what positive impact you were able to make, and any lessons you learned from your experience.

What makes you an excellent law school applicant? Let me know in the comments below, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.