‘Typical law school candidate’ is a myth | Law Admissions

Lawyers tend to err on the side of caution, and the legal profession is notoriously resistant to change. This may be one of the reasons why many people have a strong mental image of a “typical lawyer” – a pale, elderly man with a briefcase and a suit that looks like it came out of a dinosaur egg. .

When many aspiring lawyers picture a “typical law school candidate,” they imagine a younger version of the same guy – possibly his son – who always knew he was going to be a lawyer, worked at a law firm. lawyers every summer and relaxed by reading tax law. decisions and management of mock trial tournaments.

The persistence of such stereotypes leads many law school applicants to believe that their personal, academic, or professional background makes them an exception. Not only are these beliefs daunting, but they also cause candidates to present themselves in a way that seems overly defensive, insecure, or even self-centered.

The facts about diversity in law school

While there are reasonable disagreements about how to make legal education fairer and more inclusive, law schools are hardly stuck in the 1950s. Law students are more varied and diverse than meets the eye. generally think.

For example, women have outnumbered men among incoming law students since 2016. They accounted for 57.4% of incoming students in 2021, according to data collected by the American Bar Association and the Law School Admission Council. The same data showed that 34.7% of incoming law students in 2021 self-identified as students of color, including 10% Black and African American and 12.3% Hispanic and Latinx.

In recent years, admissions offices have become increasingly sensitive to the challenges faced by underrepresented applicants and first-generation applicants, and new opportunities have arisen to support them.

Unusual candidates are appreciated

Gender, race and ethnicity are not the only lenses to see diversity. Applicants may feel outlier because of the path they took to law school.

Whether you’re an older applicant, a veteran, an athlete, or an entertainer, it’s safe to assume that admissions officers have read more similar applications than you might imagine.

It is true that the most popular majors among law applicants are social sciences and humanities. A 2014 study found that the most popular major among 2013 applicants was political science, whose majors accounted for 21.3% of all applicants, followed by English at 6.1%, psychology at 5.7% and history at 5.5%.

However, this is likely due more to applicant self-selection than admissions officer preferences. After all, the same study found that classical majors had the highest grade point averages and LSAT scores, while other top-performing majors included math, philosophy, economics, and history of science. art. Law schools value applicants with a background in science and technology or other analytical fields.

Even applicants with unusual backgrounds in the arts or skilled trades can win over law school admissions officers by showing how their former careers prepared them for success in the legal field.

Don’t overexplain yourself

Too many candidates waste ink on their personal statements and elective essays by over-explaining common issues, like changing majors, feeling lost or alienated as teenagers, struggling with their identity and beliefs, or putting years off. to settle into a legal career. They become so focused on how they break the mold that they fail to consider that law schools aren’t looking for premade lawyers.

Rather than justifying how far you’ve come or setting yourself apart from other candidates, show what you bring. Law schools may not be looking for “typical” candidates, but they seek to build a balanced class of students who are very different but share qualities that will help them succeed.

Jon J. Epps