Top 10 Tips for Succeeding in Law School (Part 1)

Desk-old-fashionedI love hearing from my former students and clients. I enjoy connecting with them again, seeing how they’re doing, and hearing what law school life, or the lawyering life, is like. More often than not, they convey tips and stories to me to pass on to new law students.

Many thanks to Val, James, Travis, Ray, Ali, and all the students who’ve shared their advice with me.

Here’s part 1 of the top 10 law school success tips that I’ve collected over the years.

Tip #1: Do not underestimate your time.
However long you think it will take to do that assignment or study for that test, triple it. Especially during your first year, it will likely take longer than you think to study, prepare for class, and do your homework. Treat your first year in law school like a full-time job. Put in your 40 hours a week (classes, reading, homework) in order to stay on top of your studies.

Tip #2: Show up, but do not take on.
During your first year, do not volunteer for anything unless it only involves showing up. Do not become a club officer, take on a job, organize a fundraiser, or anything like that. Do not take on. Participate. Engage. Meet people. But do not take on more work.

Tip #3: Find people you can trust.
You shouldn’t go through law school alone. Take time to get to know your classmates in your first year section, in your cohort, and at your law school in general. You can’t pick who will be in your classes but you can choose who you want to spend time with outside of class. Make friends with people that are supportive and positive. Find at least two or three people that you can trust for good notes when you’re sick and can’t go to class, and for going out or just commiserating with when you need a break. They will help you when you need it and you will help them in return.

Tip #4: Buy study guides.
Consider buying an E&E, Gilbert’s and Acing for each of your 1L courses. They are not a replacement for taking notes in class or writing your own outlines, but they can be essential to your academic success. As one student says, it’s totally worth the money.

  • Examples & Explanations (E&E) fleshes out cases. Examples with answers. Good, solid explanations.
  • Gilbert’s study guides are all outlines. Clear explanation of rules. Find the guide that corresponds with your class’s textbook. Great for Property.
  • Acing is also all outlines. Their checklists are especially helpful for studying for exams. Great for Civil Procedure and Contracts.

More law school tips coming next week!

Who to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Who should you ask for letters of recommendation (LORs) for applying to law school?

I recommend choosing three professors, teaching assistants (TAs), supervisors, or mentors who know you well, know your work, and still like you.

For more details and examples, watch the video posted above. Go ahead. I’ll wait.


Good. Now, let’s go over some more details about LORs.

Most schools require two LORs but I recommend getting three.


First, it is possible one of your recommenders may not follow through. It sucks, but it happens.

Second, you may need that third LOR for some law schools. Many schools require two LORs, but some require three. In general, I recommend sending in what they require, not what they will accept. So, if they require two, but will accept four, just send two.

Third, for law schools that only want two LORs (and many do), and then later place you on the wait list, you might be able to send your third LOR as further evidence that you are a great candidate.

Back to who you should ask for LORs.

If you are a current student, focus on securing all your LORs from professors and/or TAs.

If you graduated college two or more years ago, and are no longer in touch with your professors, ask for LORs from your supervisors and/or professional mentors.

How to Negotiate Scholarship Offers (Part 2)

hurdlersSo many of you wrote in comments and questions in response to my post on how to negotiate scholarship offers, that I felt compelled to write a part two.

First, thanks to everyone who wrote in with their specific scholarship negotiation situation. By writing about your personal situation, and being willing to receive feedback and advice, you gave my current and future blog readers a chance to learn from your experiences.

Second, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you must advocate for yourself before you advocate for others. If you want to become a lawyer, start acting like one now. Starting with the first day that you begin your law school application process, carry yourself with respect, work hard, and do not settle for less than what you deserve. It’s not over after you get admitted. You need to think hard and work hard to make sure that you choose the right school with as many resources (aka. money, moula, mean green, etc.) as possible.

Third, always remember, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

On that note, I want to share with you the scholarship negotiation situation posted by Missy. Missy was the first person to comment on my scholarship post.

Here’s what she first posted.

What about negotiating with an unranked school? I’m a mom so I can’t take on debt and need to be part time. I work near a law school so I hoped to work part time and go to school part time. I’ve gotten a few full or close to full rides from ranked schools but the part time day time program at the Unranked school near me offered me barely anything!!! Are Unranked schools just stingy because they have less money? How would you go about negotiations?

Here’s my advice to her.

Thanks for writing in, Missy. That’s great that you’ve received full or close-to-full ride scholarships at several ranked law schools. Congratulations!

I don’t know why the unranked law school that admitted you did not give you a scholarship. That’s a shame. Still, you can do something about it. I would call them and let them know about the scholarships you’ve received at your other schools. See my article above for tips on this.

If the unranked school doesn’t offer you a good scholarship, I would consider the law school where you can attend and graduate with the LEAST amount of debt (for example, sometimes the biggest scholarship isn’t the best buy if it’s going to cost more to live in that city/area).

And Missy’s response back…

…Yes I don’t want to take on anymore debt. I am still paying off undergrad. I scheduled a meeting to meet with someone at the financial aid department of the school I am hoping to go to…would you suggest I bring proof of the other scholarships? Or wait until asked for it? Thanks for the quick response!

My response back…

I’m glad you’re set on not taking on more debt, Missy. I wish more people had your mindset. Debt makes things very difficult–especially when you’re trying to find a job during your 3rd year. When you’re saddled with debt, you don’t always make the best career choices.

That’s great you’re meeting with a financial aid officer at the law school you want to attend. Sure, bring proof of your other scholarships. You don’t need to show them to the officer, just mention them during your conversation. If he/she asks for them, then pull them out of your bag. Good luck with your meeting!

And here’s how things went with Missy’s meeting.

By the way thank you for all your tips. After meeting with the school I just got word that they are granting me a full ride! I can’t express how grateful I am to have found this post!

Yes, you read that right. Missy negotiated a full-ride scholarship to law school.

And here’s some great advice that Missy gave to another reader who wrote in.

And Yoya, I have a 2.5 undergrad and got into T14 schools with scholarships because of my LSAT so don’t worry, I’m sure you will get one and if you don’t, seriously consider the pointers in this post because you really can negotiate a scholarship! The law school I just negotiated with actually told me they appreciate seeing someone willing to negotiate and are more willing to offer extra scholarship money because it shows your commitment to the school.

Missy has a 2.5 undergrad GPA but a high LSAT score. She’s what we call a “splitter.” Think your GPA is going to keep you from getting scholarships? Take a lesson from Missy and make sure you get a high LSAT score.

If you’re afraid of negotiating your scholarship offers, don’t be. As Missy points out, schools appreciate seeing someone who is willing to negotiate.

Missy first wrote in on February 19th and by February 24th (five days later), she had a full-ride scholarship. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

But no, the story doesn’t end there. Here’s what I heard from her on April 11, almost two months later…

I need to tell you thank you one more time for this awesome blog! I had one more school I was considering but that only offered me a small scholarship. I took your advice and tried to negotiate.

First I initiated an email explaining that I was extremely interested in their school but due to financial circumstances there was no way I could go there unless I reviewed a larger offer. I asked if there was anything they could do and they immediately added an extra scholarship of $5k. I decided to push it a little further and explained that would still leave me with a lot of loans and asked if I forwarded proof of larger scholarship offers if they could match it…this is where your awesome advice really came in…they told me to forward acceptance letters with scholarship offers.

Although I had some full ride offers I remembered what you said about peer institutions so rather than sending them the unranked schools full rides, I sent over the schools of equal or better ranking (I only chose 3 that I was SERIOUSLY considering)…this was 3 weeks ago…the lady who had been helping me told me she would forward it to the scholarship committee.

Well yesterday I got contacted from this same lady who had been helping me to let me know she just processed a scholarship increase…they increased it to a 90% scholarship! I can’t thank you enough! Your advice has earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars!

And here’s Missy’s last words of advice…

…with a high LSAT but a low GPA, I thought that getting any money was lucky and I had to take what I could get. I hope anyone applying to law school gets lucky enough to read your advice. So go right ahead and quote whatever you want and THANK YOU AGAIN.

There you have it, folks. Missy’s situation is what I call a “best practice.” A situation that was handled well and can be used as an important story to be passed along to anyone else facing a similar situation.

Even if you’re like Missy and think you’re lucky to get what you get, take her advice and DON’T STOP THERE. Follow the tips I give in my negotiating scholarship offers post.

Be brave. Be diplomatic. Be earnest. Take it to the end of the line.

Remember, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

THANKS SO MUCH to Missy in Southern California for allowing me to quote her and share her negotiation experiences in this post. Dang, girl, you do impress. If your scholarship negotiations are any indication of future success, you are going to be one kick-ass lawyer.

Female hurdlers photo from the Dutch National Archives.

How Do I Write an Addendum for Law School?

So, I get this question a lot: how do I write an addendum for law school?

You should write an addendum whenever there is a weakness in your background.

That could mean a low GPA, some low grades (D’s, F’s, grades of 1.5 or lower), a withdrawal for a quarter or semester or longer during college, and/or a LSAT score that is not representative of your potential.

How long is an addendum?

The addendum is about 3 paragraphs. It should fit on one page, and be double-spaced with a 12-point font and 1-inch margins.

How do you write an addendum?

First, you need to title it. For example, it can be titled “Transcript Addendum” if it’s about your grades or “LSAT Addendum” if it’s about your LSAT score.

You’ll start off with giving the specific time that the problem occurred. For instance, let’s say during your freshman year you contracted the flu and it caused you to be out of school for several weeks and also caused fatigue for the rest of the term. You ended up not doing well in your classes.

Name the quarter or semester and the year that it happened. Then explain what happened. Explain the impact that it had on you. Include anything you tried to do to remedy the situation.

Then take responsibility for it. Admit if you didn’t ask for help during that time. Take responsibility for what you didn’t do and then tell us what you learned from that experience.

For example, in the case of the flu, you may have learned that if you get sick again, you should talk to some professionals on campus (academic adviser, campus health center nurse or doctor, professors, TAs, etc.) to get help. Now you know that if you’re absent from class for a week, you will talk to your professors about making up tests and/or essays or possibly withdrawing from the class.

Last but not least, end your addendum on an uplifting note. Perhaps you had some low grades during your freshman year but in the last two years of college, your grades have been a 3.6 or higher. You should write that! Point out the positive that has happened since the issue occurred.

That’s how you write an addendum for law school. It’s not difficult to write once you know what to do. Watch the video above to hear my tips again.

Want more tips for writing the addendum?

Check out the No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum. This guide provides detailed advice on writing the law school addendum, as well as nine sample essays.

Applying Early Decision to Law School

rope-coilWhat do I think about applying Early Decision (ED) to law school?

I’m against it.

Because of one word.

That word is “binding.”

“Binding” means that if you get into that law school, you are bound to go to that law school.

When you apply Early Decision Binding (and most law schools with Early Decision have a Binding Contract that goes with it), you sign a contract saying that if you gain early admissions into that school, you need to withdraw your applications from other law schools you’ve applied to, pay your seat deposit, and commit to attending that one school.

But what if I get into a different law school that’s higher ranked?

Doesn’t matter. You need to go to the law school you were admitted ED to.

But what if I get into a different law school with a scholarship?

Again, you need to go to the law school that admitted you early with the binding contract.


ED helps the law school. It doesn’t necessarily help you.

Some applicants believe that applying ED will give their application a boost. I don’t believe law schools who say that. In fact, many of them couch it in such a way as to seem like they’re saying that but they’re actually not saying that.

With ED, admissions officers are looking for numbers (GPAs and LSAT scores) to boost their class profile before they get into regular admissions. In other words, if you have the numbers that the school wants, they will want to admit you through ED. If you don’t, they won’t.

So, what should you do instead of applying Early Decision?

Apply in October, November or early December.

Remember, only one third of law school applicants apply by November. Crazy, I know. That bears repeating. Only one third of law school applicants apply by November!

Applying by November is equivalent to applying early. Thus, if you apply early–not through ED–you still have the advantage of hearing your admissions decision before other people hear. More importantly, you have the advantage of being offered scholarships before other applicants.

Do yourself a favor.

Let applying ED go.

Focus instead on making your law school application the best it can be and apply regular admission in October, November, or early December.

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