For students who want to hone their ability to conduct legal research, analyze and communicate complex issues, and advocate for and negotiate with people.

To practice law in the United States, lawyers must complete undergraduate school, matriculate to law school, obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.), and pass the bar examination in at least one state. Obtaining an accredited J.D. degree is typically a three-year, full-time commitment. Law schools admit students from all academic backgrounds, and many law school applicants take at least one gap year between college and law school to build work and life experience.

Students considering a law career must assess how a law degree aligns with their values, interests, and goals. Connecting with alumni empowers pre-law students to learn more about a typical work day for practicing lawyers, the challenges and rewards of practicing law, qualities and skills that foster success in the profession, and the impact the profession may have on lawyers’ personal lives. Shadowing a lawyer on the job may also enable students to assess if their expectations for the profession align with the reality of legal practice.

Pre-Law Competencies​

While no one academic pathway prepares students best for studying and practicing law, the ABA has identified 10 competencies that they expect to find in competitive pre-law applicants.

  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Reading Ability
  • Writing and Editing
  • Oral Communication and Listening
  • Research
  • Organization and Management
  • Public Service and Promotion of Justice
  • Relationship-building and Collaboration
  • Background Knowledge
  • Exposure to the Law

Standardized Tests

Most ABA-accredited law schools require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a digital standardized exam focused on assessing reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and writing. Since 2016, about a third of accredited law schools have chosen to accept the GRE—a digital individualized exam that assesses basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis, and college-level vocabulary skills—in lieu of the LSAT. Students who are unsure which exam is more appropriate for their needs and school lists should speak with the pre-law advisor.

Application Timeline


  • Ask at least two faculty members to write you letters of recommendation.
  • Decide whether to take the LSAT and/or GRE.
  • Create a two-page law school resume.
  • Begin a personal statement draft in consultation with the writing center and your pre-law advisor.


  • Register for a Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account by July.
  • Request all completed transcripts be sent to CAS.
  • Take the LSAT and/or GRE by October. (Register at least 6-9 weeks before your planned test date.)
  • Research law schools and create a list of schools to which you will apply.
  • Attend a free virtual LSAC Law School Forum.


  • Finalize your list of schools in consultation with your pre-law advisor.
  • Complete your personal statement, diversity statement, and supplemental essays.
  • Aim to submit a strong CAS application by mid-November.
  • Complete a FAFSA application.

Access to Legal Education Expanded Through Increased Distance Learning

Access to Legal Education Expanded Through Increased Distance Learning

August 17, 2023

By James Leipold

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a shift toward distance learning in higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2021, the percent of …

By Karen Macke '00
Karen Macke '00 Advisor for Education and Community Engagement
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What Is Environmental Law?

Many agencies and government departments use environmental law services to protect their interests. So do businesses, advocacy organizations, and law firms that represent individuals.

Environmental law is a growing field with a broad scope of work that encompasses issues related …

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What Is Civil Rights Law?

Civil rights law is about fighting for people’s constitutional rights and against injustice for those who have faced discrimination. If you’re passionate about the law and working to protect the rights of your community, civil rights might be the right …

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  • J.D. Candidate at University of Maine School of Law
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