Top 3 Law School FAQs, Objectively Asked & Answered

So, by about now you’re probably deposited at the law school you’ll be attending next year and may have some questions about what’s in store. For this reason, I thought it would be helpful to answer a few frequently asked questions I’ve recently received via email. Here you go!

Question #1

What is Law Review, and why is it such a coveted credential on a lawyer’s resume?

Every law school boasts several “law journals” — student-run publications that publish scholarly articles dissecting cutting-edge legal issues. At every school, however, there is one journal that is more prestigious than the others. This is called the Law Review or, if you’re heading to Yale Law School, the “Yale Law Journal.”

There are several reasons why every law student seeks an invitation to serve as a Law Review editor. You see, historically, Law Review membership was by invitation only and was offered only to the top 5-10% of the 1L class. While many schools now include a writing component to help aid in Law Review selections, top grades remain an important factor. Consequently, Law Reviews are viewed as quasi-honor societies whose membership is comprised of only the brightest students.

For obvious reasons, Law Review membership offers a big boost to any resume. The most selective (and often highest paying) legal employers love to boast how they only hire the “best” — as evidenced by the number of former Law Review editors they employ. However, the benefits of Law Review membership extend well beyond simply a resume credential. Law Review members develop and practice research and analytical skills — skills often not gained by their non-journal classmates — that insure that they will contribute and add value as practicing attorneys.

Question #2:

I’ve been awarded a merit scholarship. Doesn’t that signal I should be a shoo-in for an invitation to Law Review?

Not necessarily. The merit scholarship that the Admissions Office awarded to you was for past performance; likely your LSAT score and/or undergraduate GPA exceeds those of your future classmates. You see, the Admissions Offices at most law schools award merit scholarships to attract students with higher metrics in order to (hopefully) improve their schools’ US NEWS rankings next year — in anticipation for the next admissions cycle.

The truth is that while a student’s LSAT score and UGPA may have some value as predictors of success, they are no means dispositive. Having a high LSAT score may qualify you for a merit scholarship, but it does not mean that you’re genetically predisposed to grabbing a Law Review invitation. Although there are some notable exceptions (see: Abraham Lincoln and David Boies), the overwhelming majority of successful law students did not win the genetic lottery. Instead, they employed proven study and exam-taking skills that provided an advantage over their classmates who opted to rely on a “trial-and-error” approach.

Similarly, if you’re admitted to your top-choice school by the wait list that doesn’t mean that you are destined to the bottom 90%. Every year, scrappy students who are admitted off the waitlist receive an invitation to Law Review by working smarter (not necessarily harder) than their unprepared classmates.

Question #3:

The law school I plan to attend is not my first-choice school. Are there opportunities to transfer between law schools?

Most definitely. As much as they may loathe them, most law schools are very cognizant (and thereby protective) of their US NEWS rankings. As mentioned above, as a result, they typically only admit applicants with metrics that help maintain (or improve) their school’s rankings.

That said, top law schools regularly “poach” top students from lower-ranked schools by awarding them the opportunity to transfer for their 2L year — and the privilege of having those students pay “sticker price” for the remaining two years of their education. You see, UGPA and LSAT scores are merely loose predictors of how well a student will do in law school. The true test of a student’s scholastic abilities is how well he or she actually did in law school. First-year grades provide that evidence. Also, coincidentally, schools do not have to report the LSAT score and/or UGPA of a transfer student, so there’s no risk to damaging the school’s rankings. If a student can do the work and pay full tuition, it’s a win-win situation for all involved.

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