A Few Questions for a future law school applicant

This post will be a bit all over the place since I have a lot of different questions, but I appreciate all those who take the time to help me out.

Background around me:

19 years old
White/Native American
Graduated High School in May 2020
Attended local community college in Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021
Completed 70 Semester Units with a 3.95. One B, the rest were A’s
Political Science Major (Received my associates degree to transfer in Political Science)
A few years of work experience for my family’s accounting company

I attended community college this past year due to Covid-19 due to financial constraints and needing to stay home and work to help family’s company. I am now transferring this upcoming semester, and I have a few basic questions.
I am transferring this upcoming semester and so far the top three schools I have been accepted to are UCSB, USC, and Vanderbilt. I also received admission to UCSD, UCI, and Tulane. I am still waiting to hear back from U Penn, Columbia, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Duke, but I am not holding my breath on being accepted into any of them.

I am in a unique position that I am only one year removed from high school, but I have 70 college units complete and many AP credits as well.

I have taken practice test for the LSAT and been studying for about a month now and my scored is in the 167-170 range. With a couple more months of studying, I plan on taking it in August and I expect that I can get a 170 +.

  1. I am able to graduate a UC in one year due to them accepting all 70 semester units from CC as well as 20 units from my AP’s. If I take a couple of classes this summer as well as a little more of a heavier load during the school year then I can graduate with only one year spent at UCSB. This would be my preferred route as I hope to get to law school as quickly as possible. My question here is, has anyone seen a case like this. Would top 20 law schools automatically decline me due to being in my first year at UCSB even though I am a senior with a high LSAT?

  2. If I were to attend USC, Vanderbilt, or any other private that I get into then I would need to spend two years due to the units they required to be taken at their school. Again, I am in a situation where law schools will see that two years of my college came from community college. Does that hinder me from top 20 law schools?

  3. Does attending Vanderbilt or USC look much better to law schools then attending UCSB?

  4. Will a past MIP (now expunged) and a past speeding ticket hinder me from getting accepted into law school?

My reasoning for attending law school is that I have always been interested in both serving our country and law. I am currently planning to become an officer in the Marines as a Marine Judge Advocate upon completion of law school. This is my reasoning for favoring graduating in 2022 and going straight to law school. I want to explore a career in politics and public service after my time in the military.

  1. I was wondering if law schools view someone who plans to serve as an officer in the marines after graduation in a different light?

Sorry for the very long post. I understand my path to law school is very unorthodox. I was just hoping to get others opinions on the UCSB route and if anyone had any idea on how law schools would view that.

I am a really strong student, and I really believe I will hold onto the 3.9+ and achieve the 170+ LSAT for those that are curious what my stats will look at the time of application.

While I can’t answer all your questions, some key considerations for students who are seriously looking at law school:

(1) minimize your undergraduate debt because law school almost always involves unsubsidized loans and graduating from law school with significant law school AND undergraduate debt can be crushing.

(2) law school admissions is almost entirely stats based – undergrad gpa and lsat. There are a number of websites which have pretty accurate data about admissions based on combinations of gpa and LSAT. So, one consideration in deciding where to complete your undergrad degree is where can you be the most successful in terms of your undergrad gpa.

(3) work experience/young applicants to law school – many top 20 law schools explicitly say they are looking for students who have worked for at least a year after undergrad. Of course, plenty of “KJDs” (Kindergarten to law school) are admitted and succeed in law school. The reasons law schools say they prefer students with work experience could be many, but presumably it’s because students who have some work experience are more likely to have a better understanding of why they are in law school, what they are looking for, and how to sustain their studying across the entire semester. Most law school “doctrinal” classes – as opposed to skills based classes like legal writing or legal research – are graded on the basis of a single exam at the end of the semester, some classes may have a midterm too. But there are no participation points, no homework that is graded. Success on the final requires both sustained effort throughout the semester and a little bit of luck.

(4) An undergrad with a 3.9 gpa and 170+ – especially if that student is Native American – should have very good law school options, including some good merit awards – in the T14 schools. With the move to the online “flex” LSAT, scores jumped, especially in the 170+ range, so scores in the low 170s are less “special” than in past years, though for any student who is currently getting practice scores in the high 160s, they should be able to get above 173 with more practice. If a student is not already getting perfect score on all logic games, then focus on those because most people say that is the easiest section to “train.”

(5) The LSAC recalculates undergrad transcripts to take into account all grades in all college level coursework anywhere. When undergrad schools give a 4.3 for an A+, LSAC will calculate that as a 4.3 – meaning going to an undergrad school with that grading scale can have a LSAC calculated gpa which is higher than others.

(6) there is no preference for graduates of private schools like Vandy and USC than for publics, like UCSB or UCSD. So that should not be a consideration in terms of where you transfer to.

(7) Law school applications require disclosure of academic or other discipline and criminal matters. Schools vary on what exactly has to be disclosed, so it is important to read the questions carefully. But generally, a minor in possession which has been expunged and speeding ticket will not impact admission.

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My daughter seems to have found it helpful to hire an advisor to help her with applications and so on. Just a thought for when you get to that stage.

Most private colleges & universities require one to attend for a minimum of 4 semesters in order to qualify for a degree from that institution.

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First, don’t obsess about getting into at top-20 law school – although who knows what that means? (Rankings are inherently suspect.) The top graduates from any law school will likely have no problems finding work.

“A few years of work experience” is good for several reasons: it hopefully has provided some “real world” experience (although it was a family business), and brings a bit of diversity to a law school class (not everybody is a PoliSci major who is entering immediately after 4 years of undergraduate education). Further, more of the better law schools – UVa comes to mind – are looking for students who don’t go to law school straight out of undergraduate college but look favorably on students with real-world experience before they get to law school. Perhaps a tour in the Marines, or working in a non-family job, before you go to law school might be an option?

This is not true. Unless you define “finding work” as non-legal jobs, which is where many grads of “non-top” law schools end up. Or “legal adjacent” jobs which do not require a JD and Bar Admission (like paralegal).

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US News law school rankings are important with respect to recruiting by “biglaw” law firms. Most focus on the top 14 ranked law schools (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Penn, Virginia, Michigan, Northwestern, Duke, Berkeley, Cornell, & Georgetown) if seeking employment with the largest & most prestigious law firms in the country.

Not attending a top ranked law school can seriously impact one’s ability to be offered an interview with the highest paying law firms.

P.S. FWIW I would be hesitant to refer to “top 20 law schools” as the employment opportunities switch dramatically beyond the top 14 or top 15 law schools. One main difference is that recruiting tends to be regionalized–as opposed to national-- outside of the top 14 law schools.

Yes and no. The top graduates at my law school – state public flagship university – had no problems finding well-paying jobs with large firms in large cities. Since the OP wants to go into the Marine JAG Corps, I am not sure that it would be necessary for him to attend – other than for prestige purposes – a Top 20 law school in order to make that happen.

If you’re planning to go into the military as an officer, the younger the better. You’re probably beyond the point where ROTC would be an option during your undergraduate, but you can commit to the military while you’re in law school in exchange for them paying your tuition.

I am trying to respond to @blossom, but the ad on the page is interfering.

In the 30 years that I have been practicing law, it has been my experience that the best students in any law schools have never had a problem finding employment (for-profit law schools, or law schools catering primarily to a part-time student demographic, might be a different matter). The lawyers whom I know who have had problems in finding employment are the ones who were in the middle to bottom sections of their respective law school classes.

There is certainly a component of luck for everybody in finding work, no matter what your field. But the top students in law schools are the ones who are smart and show hustle; and that is something that can take you a long way in the practice of law. I see it every day in the practice of law.

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You could have posted this initially and then I wouldn’t have any beef with you!

There are WAY too many young people graduating from sub-par law schools with sub-par employment prospects. They are heavily in debt, and their fortunes are not likely to improve with the type of jobs they end up scrambling for just to pay the rent.

Many of these Law schools offer “made up” jobs to their graduates (working in alumni relations, for example- a job for which you don’t need a JD) in order to juice up their statistics.

So I hate to see folks posting on CC the equivalent of “it doesn’t matter where you go to law school”. It absolutely does. That does NOT mean that the top grads from a bunch of fine but not T-14 schools will be unemployed. But for the vast majority of people, if you can’t get admitted to a top 25-ish private or a flagship public U’s law school, the universe is telling you something.

The most generous person my town (Have no idea if she’s the richest, but her name is on everything, including an 8 figure gift for a new cancer center at the local hospital) is a graduate of a law school nobody ever heard of. Her success fosters the “it doesn’t matter where you go” narrative. But she’s in her 60’s-- her career trajectory cannot be compared to a new grad. AND she’s a personal injury lawyer who was in on the ground floor on both tobacco and asbestos class action litigation. So 7 and 8 figure settlements were not uncommon back when she was in her prime.

Her experience is not the norm. And there are plenty of personal injury lawyers I know who make a decent but not fabulous living chasing small slip and falls/coffee too hot at the diner claims. Hard to get rich off a case load of modest “Here’s 20K to go away” settlements, even when you’re getting a third of it…

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Most attorneys don’t work at “biglaw” firms. This site is always obsessed with “elite” colleges, t-14 law schools and IB though the vast majority of people will never go to/be in any of them.

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I agree with everything you say here.

I apologize for any confusion in stating the basis for my perspective.

http://schools.lawschoolnumbers.com/ can show you scatterplots (recalculated college GPA and LSAT) of self reported law school admission decisions for each law school.

Law School Reports | LST Reports can show post-graduation employment information for each law school.

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Okay from what I have taken here is that they really like to see work experience/high scores. In order to accomplish both my goals of serving in the military and going into law, I have deemed this to be the best option to plan for from what I have heard and the research I have done.

I am going to go to UCSB and spend the year there and major in Political Sciece while focusing on mantaining my high GPA.

After I graduate, I am going to plan to go to officer candidate school for the Marines as an officer.

After spending my 4-5 years there, I will be 24-25 and study as hard as I can for the LSAT and use the yellow ribbion program the military offers to pay for my law school.

I do agree with both posters above about the importance of T14 and how if you finish top of your class no matter where you go that your job prospects will be good. For me, I have really big plans for my future and the T14 is something I am really striving for.

Note that no specific major is required for law school, although political science seems to be seen as the “go to” major for pre-law students. But if it is not your favorite or academically strongest subject, you may want to consider whether other subjects may be or greater interest to you or relevant to your future career paths.

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One thing to think about (and perhaps do a little research into): When I took the LSAT many years ago, the results were good for 5 years. If there currently is a similar period of time for using your LSAT results, you might want to consider taking the LSAT during your senior year in college – when you are in the study mode already – rather than waiting until you are in the midst of serving in the Marine Corps. It may be easier to take any LSAT test preparation course while you are in school, as well. (Once you get out of school, life has a habit of getting in the way of many things.)

That way, if you get good LSAT results the first time around, you can bank them for a few years and use them when you apply to law school after spending a few years in the Marine Corps. This is what I did – I took the LSAT while in school, went and worked for a couple of years, and then used my previous score when I applied to law schools. And, if you don’t get the LSAT results you want the first time around, you will have time to prepare for and take the LSAT again before you exit the service.

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This. My undergraduate major was in a physical science (and for certain types of law – such as patent law – degrees in engineering or science are necessary). I think that law schools are looking for a more diversified body of students, with different backgrounds that they can bring, than seeking out only persons whose undergraduate major was political science/history/English/business.

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OP- have you met with a military recruiter yet to discuss your plan?

Worth an hour of your time before you get too far down the road.

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Yes. I have met with the OSO in my area and I train with the other people that are hoping to go to OCS. I have currently been on the aviation route, but I was interested in going the law route with the marines. However, these answers accompanied with my own research has led me to believe it would be best to continue with the aviation route or switch to ground route then to go to law school using the yellow ribbion program after.