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Work before going to Ivy League law school

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: July 12, 2013 11:53AM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw, I am a sophomore at the University of California Berkeley majoring in Rhetoric. I have a 3.85 GPA and will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in three years. I want to go to Harvard or Yale Law.

Can you tell me what GPA and LSAT scores I need to have a reasonable chance for admission? Will going to grad school before applying help improve my chances if I don’t earn a high enough score on the LSAT?

Signed: Aspiring Law Student

Dear Aspiring Law Student, In all honesty, your LSAT scores are more important than any other factor in top law school admissions decisions. Take the test this fall to find out how well you do.

The personal interview and essay required by most top schools are also important but only if you score 173/180 on the LSAT.

Piling on graduate degrees will not help you if you bomb on the LSAT. Let this be a guide on deciding whether or not to apply to a top law school. I know this may sound rather cold but here are the facts: According to US News & World Report, the median LSAT score for Harvard and Yale is 173. Columbia is 172, NYU and the University of Chicago is 171. The median LSAT score for all law schools is 157.

Law schools cherry-pick a large number of America’s top graduates in order to fill their classrooms. If your grades and test scores put you in the running here is what they are looking for in an applicant and what will set you apart.

I can’t overemphasize the need to be different — to have distinguished yourself in some important way beyond academia. Gaining admission straight out of college is hard without having some form of work or military experience backing you up.

For example, the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, was admitted to Harvard Law School straight out of college. He had taken his degree in three years at Harvard College, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree, summa cum laude, in history and had established himself as a brilliant scholar.

The list of scholar admits in the Harvard Law School Class of 2013 is impressive. It includes one Rhodes, three Truman and 10 Fulbright scholars. Admits with some work experience, however, include 24 Teach for America alumni and three former Peace Corps volunteers.

Harvard’s 2013 class represents the most experienced student body in recent history, with more than 70 percent of the class having taken time off before attending Harvard Law.

So, before you apply, I advise you to take your time and think about the credentials it takes to get admitted to a top law school. You might decide that you need a few years in the working world before you apply.



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