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LSAT, Law School Prep

I’m in the process of studying for the LSAT, looking at schools, etc. I’m just curious to hear from anyone who’s already walked this road – any ‘words of wisdom’, recommendations, experiences worth sharing, etc.

For example: How far in advance do you recommend prepping for the test? How significant do you feel it is? Are there any study methods/books/classes you used which you found to be of particularly high value?

[quote]SinisterMinister wrote:
I’m in the process of studying for the LSAT, looking at schools, etc. I’m just curious to hear from anyone who’s already walked this road – any ‘words of wisdom’, recommendations, experiences worth sharing, etc.

For example: How far in advance do you recommend prepping for the test? How significant do you feel it is? Are there any study methods/books/classes you used which you found to be of particularly high value?[/quote]

It’s the single most significant part of your application that you can still influence (I’m assuming your GPA is essentially set at this point).

I taught at The Princeton Review, and I liked their stuff more than Kaplan’s. I heard very good things about TestMasters as well, though they weren’t as widely available. That said, I took it in 1996 and last taught LSAT in 2002, so you may want to get someone with a more recent perspective.

Aside from test-prep companies’ materials, the best preparation stuff I can recommend is: 1) Read lots of hard stuff, over a broad range of topics - particularly social science and history articles written for academics (for the reading comp section); 2) Study up on the logical fallacies - memorize them and learn to recognize them - election season is good for this, as there will be a lot of them floating around (for the two arguments sections); and 3) Get a book from the LSAC of all the old tests - use some of the oldest ones to get practice games problems, and the newer ones as practice exams.

Start reading hard stuff and learning the logical fallacies immediately. Make a plan for the other stuff a few months out - most of the test-prep classes are anywhere from 4 weeks to 8 weeks in length.

The test-prep companies are best at teaching you general test-taking techniques (Process of Elimination!), techniques for the games and time management. They are somewhat useful in teaching how to solve the logical arguments. They are nearly useless on the reading comp - no one is going to teach you to read well in a month. They are also good at giving you motivation to actually study - they schedule and score the practice tests, and you can ask your instructor questions (and for what you’re paying, you should damn well be motivated to do what they tell you).

I took the test last fall. I wouldn’t recommend taking it cold, but it’s really not that bad. I read a bit out of a Princeton Review book by the pool and then took the test in October. I didn’t do as well as I wanted for a variety of reasons. I took it again in December without having done anything in the intervening time and nailed it.

I would probably practice the logic games. It will be hard to boost your reading speed/score if you don’t already know how to read, and the logical arguments section seems to be a more intuitive thing, once you have looked over the types of questions it asks. While the logic games aren’t difficult, per se, it is important to know how to do them quickly and is something that can easily be learned.

I took Testmasters a few years back and that program was very good. It’s a relatively long and intensive program but I learned a great deal from it. If you’re a few months out from even taking a prep program, I’d recommend doing some reading on basic logic like applications of sufficient/necessary and maybe getting a generic book of logic games to get yourself used to doing those.

Like the above poster said, the only thing that can’t be learned outright is the reading. I kinda think that the LSAT is more a test of a persons ability and/or willingness to prepare for a test than it is a test of aptitude or whatever it’s supposed to be measuring.

I took the LSAT this past december. I definitely didn’t prepare well enough. My weaknesses were definitely the logical fallacies and the logic games. I recommend studying/practicing those.

With that in mind, your weaknesses are likely to be different than mine. I recommend taking a practice test so you can see what you need to work on the most. My school career development center offered free practice tests this winter, and I’m pretty sure you can find them online.

What schools are you looking into? What type of law are you interested in right now?

[quote]mundele wrote:
I took the LSAT this past december. I definitely didn’t prepare well enough. My weaknesses were definitely the logical fallacies and the logic games. I recommend studying/practicing those.

With that in mind, your weaknesses are likely to be different than mine. I recommend taking a practice test so you can see what you need to work on the most. My school career development center offered free practice tests this winter, and I’m pretty sure you can find them online.

What schools are you looking into? What type of law are you interested in right now?[/quote]

All the Test Prep companies will pretty much offer free practice tests as well. The caveat is that they will find the hardest of the recent tests they don’t plan to use in their class materials and use that as the practice test (the more scared you are of the test, the more likely you will be to purchase their classes - assuming you’re not scared away from taking it altogether).

Also, I sent this to the OP as a PM, but it’s probably useful to others of you as well:

Also, you should think a lot about why you want to go to law school. I’ve obviously got no problems with lawyers, but you should go to law school with open eyes.

There’s a very bi-modal distribution of lawyer salaries: Biglaw lawyers and people who leave Biglaw for big corporate jobs, and everyone else.

If you want to do public interest or government stuff, go to a state school and don’t rack up debt. If you want to work for an AMLAW 100 firm and get a big salary, you should set your sights on a top-20 law school. If you want to get a prestigious government job or teach law, you should really be looking at top-10 schools. The higher the rank, the easier time you will have landing the type of job you want if you find yourself stuck in the middle of the curve.

Below I’m going to paste a bunch of comments that were on a thread on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, regarding the poster “Loyola2L” whom they named Lawyer of the Year (you should Google Loyola2L):

[i]
Some may blame L2L for failing to see the deceptions from his law school when he enrolled. His school, like every other one, highlighted the high-paying jobs and prestigeous clerkships available, yet failed to disclose that only a small portion of graduates would attain such positions. He probably believed the delusional reporting from U.S. News & World Reports. He bought into the high rates of employment and high salaries published in the magazine (and provided by the law schools). Can you blame him for his ignorance, naivete, or being deceived? Perhaps yes and perhaps no. The truth is, the major sources of information that students rely on when they go to law school are biased and inaccurate. The law schools are in it for the money. Law school tuition and enrollment has vastly increased in recent years while overhead costs have remained low. The schools have little interest in discouraging prospective students from enrolling by discussing negative issues affecting the profession. Thus, law school graduates are seldom prepared for the real, dark side of the law that they may be entering. They tell everyone that they will be making money. In reality, though, many lower tier graduates are unable to find jobs as attorneys due to a glut of new lawyers in the market place. The ABA continues to accredit new law schools and the schools, themselves, have no desire to decrease their enrollment. Though qualified, these new lawyers fend for the lowliest of positions (the only ones available) so that they can pay off their massive student loans and try to put food on the table. The fierce competition among new lawyers drives down salaries to the point where most small firm lawyers (where the majority of lower tier grads will end up) will have salaries that cannot keep up with inflation. Even health benefits are no longer a guarantee. So what does this have to do with L2L? Well, how many law students or lawyers heard about this side of the law before enrolling in law school? Few, if any. Should they have learned about this on their own in some way? Maybe, maybe not. What really matters, though, is that L2L has provided information to those who may go to law school that the law schools and legal industry don’t want to talk about. The only way the legal market will correct itself is when potential law students are no longer ignorant or deceived about law school and employment. When potential law students go into other fields, they will have a better chance at success in their employment and will help return normalcy to the legal market for new lawyers. L2L won’t bring about such a change. But at least he’s caused a ripple among law students and new lawyers. Perhaps change will come about in due time.


It is not anecdotal evidence that Tier 2 law students land jobs at top firms. Its a fact. At most Tier 2 schools, I would say about 15-20% get those jobs. If you entered law school thinking that a 6-figure job was going to be handed to you upon graduation, you’re a self-delusional idiot. You have to earn it. Yes, its hard landing a top job. Yes, Harvard kids have an easier time than students at Loyola. Since when are those statements such shockers? Cry me a river�?�of comments and this is exactly what Loyola 2L did. This kid was so proflific in posting his comments on law blogs that he is now famous and is now the Lawyer of the Year (without having passed a bar). Had he focused his energies on his coursework or networking, he would have been better off.

To 11:07: When I was in law school (early 2000s), the SEC, DOJ, CFTC, etc. had excellent programs to recruit lawyers straight out of law school and they seemed to focus on non-top tier schools (perhaps because they had a better shot to get those students). My biglaw friends who are trying to enter the SEC or DOJ have a harder time because they are lateraling in. Here’s some true anecdotal evidence: based on my experienc, its actually easier lateralling into Biglaw from government than landing a top job at a federal agency from Biglaw. Why that is, I have no idea. Perhaps the agencies try to promote from within. Perhaps they consider the young assistant attorney down the hall to have better trial experience than the 4th year from Sullivan who’s done excellent pre-trial work but has no courtroom experience. I don’t know.

The bottom line to all this is to work your butt off that first year in law school. If you don’t end up with the grades to get interviews, go to a federal agency or go clerk or go to a top plaintiffs firm. Last time I checked, the top plaintiffs lawyers make several times the amount of money that Biglaw partners do. You MUST hustle. If you want to whine on law blogs all day, then that’s your choice but you have to live with the consequences.


Okay, I’m going to provide some insight and blow the lid off the world-wide conspiracy:

(1) Shocker No. 1: Law schools make money on their law students. They try to highlight the good parts of the profession and fail to highlight the “dark side”. Only law schools do this. Every employer, med school, undergrad and b-school all tell you the whole truth when they are trying to recruit you. You should sue the law schools.

(2) Shocker No. 2: My firm makes money off of my hard work. The partners are in it for themselves and have no desire to help any associate who doesn’t make the partner’s life easier (I know, I know, hide the children lest they hear). Shockingly, when the recruited me, they told me what a great firm this was and that it wasn’t like the other crappy firms and that they recruit every one that they think will make partner. Then they offered me some Kool Aid.

(3) Shocker No. 3: Life is hard and unfair.

(4)Shocker No. 4: There is no Santa Claus (OH MY GOD, nooooo!).

Now, give me the Lawyer of the Year award.


Most of the posters on this blog are missing the point. The salient point that Loyola 2L is making is that the information available to people coming out of college or the work world regarding the legal profession is incredibly misleading. Almost all of the law schools are providing employment information that highlights that 90+% of the alumni are employed 9 months after graduation. Of course, they don’t tell you that those numbers only highlight those who reply back and covers all employment not just legal employment ( you work at McDonald’s, well you’re employed). The facts are that 1/2 of all people with J.D.'s are out of the profession after 7 years. I would wager a lot of that has to do with a saturated market. Nobody tells you that before you go to law school.
Comment by Anon - December 19, 2007 at 12:06 pm


you should go here:

www.jdunderground.com

this is a good opening thread:

http://jdunderground.com/thread.php?threadId=8907

now i know why you people are lawyers and not i-bankers. i-bankers need to be proficient in mathematics. sorry, but taking out $150,000 in non-dischargeable debt for a 10% chance of being able to live comfortably is a bad deal. outside of BIGLAW, the average starting salary is close to $45k-$50k. try living on that salary with $1200 a month in loan payments.

like i said, lawyers are bad at math.
Comment by jdundergrounder - December 19, 2007 at 12:06 pm
[/i]

If you can’t get into a T14 school, don’t go to law school.

Take a class. Kaplan was good in my day. I think test masters is the hot one now. Don’t buy the books and try and do this on your own. It’s worth the money. Oh, and I’ve had a lot of fun at Michigan. It’s a great place to go to law school. Plus we have football. And that’s a big plus [though our team sucked in the time I was there].

Oh, and you should do A LOT of practice tests. Logic games are the easiest thing to bring up, but you still need to spend a lot of time on everything. If I remember correctly, I basically went through all the sample/practice tests Kaplan had. And there were a lot of them.

[quote]IgneLudo wrote:
If you can’t get into a T14 school, don’t go to law school. [/quote]

I wouldn’t go that far - but I wouldn’t counsel anyone to go to a private school that’s not in the top 25… Not that it couldn’t work for people - it will work for the top of the class most likely - but the percentage of the top for whom it works decreases as you move down the US News rankings, while the costs of private schools don’t really go down much with the rankings.

I would go that far.

[quote]IgneLudo wrote:
I would go that far.[/quote]

Yes, you already made that clear.

However, for people who are interested in a career in law but don’t necessarily want to practice in Biglaw, it’s an overbroad position to take - or even if they do, as there are obviously plenty of people who are working for Biglaw right now who did not attend T14 schools. I know plenty of lawyers who didn’t go to T14 schools who are perfectly happy with their careers.

In fact, “T14” is really quite overcautious as a cut-off point. If you attend a top tier school in a particular market you will have a decent shot at getting into a Biglaw firm in that market or in an adjacent market. Just take a look at the schools attended by 1st year associates at the big firms in a given market. There’s no shortage of BC grads at top firms in Boston, and no shortage of Hastings or Davis grads at top firms in the Bay Area, for example.

What really screws people up is if they take on a ton of debt on the assumption they will start at $160K out of law school but attend a school that dictates that outcome will be relatively unlikely.

[quote]IgneLudo wrote:
I would go that far.[/quote]

It depends on the area of law in which you wish to practice. But do you really want to assert that someone who went to Vanderbuilt, UCLA, or GW made a mistake?

I’m currently a first-year law student at Drake University in Iowa. It’s not a T14 school, nor is it even in the top 100 in the rankings. However, it is the only law school in Des Moines, and so it capitalizes on a lot of the government jobs. They also offered me the most money.

Regarding the LSAT, I did good, not great (163, the 89 percentile). I had a low GPA. And I got waitlisted at some of the higher ranked schools.

There are practice tests available. Do one, and see how it goes. There are a few people that can do really well on it without taking a course. I took the AceLSAT.com course, they are based in the west, and have a DVD course. The logic games were my best area (I got them all right on the test), I struggled with the logical reasoning section.

A good website to check out is lawschoolnumbers.com I don’t know how accurate it truly is, because it is voluntary, but people post their GPA and LSAT scores and say which schools they were accepted and denied, and scholarship offers, if any. It can give you a small insight to see if you have a chance or not.

As far as how much in advance you need to study, it depends on where your current ability is to where you want to and need to be. The higher the GPA, and how well-written you can make your personal statement, the better your chances are. Also, many law school now take the highest LSAT score, whereas before, they averaged your scores.

[quote]kcushijima wrote:

As far as how much in advance you need to study, it depends on where your current ability is to where you want to and need to be. The higher the GPA, and how well-written you can make your personal statement, the better your chances are. Also, many law school now take the highest LSAT score, whereas before, they averaged your scores.

[/quote]

Good points. Basically, your LSAT and GPA are your application - each school puts together a weighted average of the two (the Admissions Index), and the higher-ranked schools tend to give more weight to the LSAT. However, if you’re not an automatic admit based on the Admissions Index, then the other parts of your application take on a lot more importance.

You can also get good information on the previous years’ admitted classes for each school here: http://officialguide.lsac.org/UGPASearch/LSATGPA.aspx?ref=inline&sidstring=

This isn’t political, just fact: If you’re a middle-class white male, you need to be above the averages to have a decent shot of admission.

One other thing regarding GPA, it didn’t happen to me, but I know some other applicants that had this problem.

Your undergrad GPA may not necessarily be the same as your LSAC GPA. If you repeated the same course to get a higher grade, some undergrads just took the higher grade and counted it towards your GPA. Unless LSAC has changed it recently, they take all of your grades to compute your LSAC GPA.

So if you had a 3.5 GPA from your undergrad, it is possible that LSAC will say that your GPA is 3.1 if you repeated classes.

Regarding diversity, it definitely helps. But not just with race and socio-economic background. Your undergrad major and life situation play a big role. So be sure to use your personal statement to illustrate what your scores do not tell about you. There are law students straight from undergrad and students who are in their 40’s who have had kids, divorces, and previous careers.

In my statement, I wrote about being a songwriter and I also brang up some life experiences. Then tied it in with why I want to go to law school. I also mentioned that I was able to get the company I worked for to pay for my LSAT prep course. The company had a continuing education program, and I was able to convince HR that an LSAT prep course should be considered as continuing education even though I would not receive school credit.

Regarding law school rankings, here’s another survey to take into account: schools ranked by percentage of graduates employed in the NJ250 law firms:

Northwestern and Columbia were the top schools last year by that measure.

[quote]kcushijima wrote:

Regarding diversity, it definitely helps. But not just with race and socio-economic background. Your undergrad major and life situation play a big role. So be sure to use your personal statement to illustrate what your scores do not tell about you. There are law students straight from undergrad and students who are in their 40’s who have had kids, divorces, and previous careers.

In my statement, I wrote about being a songwriter and I also brang up some life experiences. Then tied it in with why I want to go to law school. I also mentioned that I was able to get the company I worked for to pay for my LSAT prep course. The company had a continuing education program, and I was able to convince HR that an LSAT prep course should be considered as continuing education even though I would not receive school credit.

[/quote]

True, they do look at other stuff as well - provided you meet the threshold for the school’s Admissions Index. Which is a different threshold for racial minorities. I have a friend who got into Michigan Law School pretty much solely based on the fact he’s 1/4 Native American.

His LSATs were at least a standard deviation lower than yours, and his grades were decent but not spectacular - around a 3.4 in Poli Sci at UCSD. This is a guy who was adopted as a baby and brought up by middle-class white parents.

Another article that prospective law students should read: