How To Do the “Pre” Part of “Pre-Law”

There’s a lot to learn about the application process. I myself am just beginning to prepare for it, but in my four years at UCLA I have already learned valuable lessons that I know will help me down the line. There are many articles and books about how to write the personal statement, how to study for the LSAT, what extracurriculars to get involved in—but there are not many resources for the “pre” part of “pre-law.” What do you do with your life in the years leading up to the application?

Here are some helpful tips that will prepare you for the preparation of the application process:

  1. Set goals: No matter where you are in the process, there’s always a goal to set. On my second day of college, I attended an admissions presentation by a dean of a top 5 law school at UCLA. I went up to the dean at the end and asked him what I should be doing to be prepared for law school. He laughed and said that as a freshman, all I needed to worry about was my GPA and keeping up the motivation to do well in school. I went straight to the UCLA store and bought some construction paper and glue, hurried to my room, and cut out a banner of the law school’s name. I taped the banner on my desk so that I would never lose motivation to do well in class. Four years later, the banner still hangs on my desk and my GPA has remained high. Setting small goals for yourself whether they are maintaining GPA, getting a job or an internship, or signing up for an LSAT course will keep you on the right track without overwhelming you in the process.
  2. Join a Pre-Law Organization: Having people that care about you and who have been where you want to go will change the type and depth of advice you receive. For me, this meant joining UCLA’s Pre-Law Fraternity, through which I got a job, found people to study for the LSAT with, and obtained a mentor who is already in law school. Every organization is different, but as long as you put yourself in the same room with people who have similar career goals, you are bound to gain some valuable networking opportunities. There are better ways than others to go about the application process and the LSAT. It helps to have someone who can give you detailed advice personalized to you and your circumstances. You can find that (for no additional cost) through peers and mentors on campus.
  3. Challenge your interests: Do different internships so that when someone asks you why you want to do law, you know exactly what it is that inspires your passion. Sometimes this might mean that you realize you do not want to go into law, but at least you discovered that now and not after you are hundreds of thousands in debt. If you have a gap year, follow your passions. It is worth exploring other areas before you commit to hours of hard work and stress. I did internships in tons of areas: criminal, business, public interest/civil, sales and marketing, and even worked at a consulate. All taught me valuable lessons about why it was I wanted to go into law and about which areas I might be interested in pursuing.
  4. Accept your weaknesses and build up your strengths: Finally, you have to admit to yourself that you might not be perfect at everything. Not everyone has a high GPA or can score well on the LSAT. Not everyone has time to do internships or take on extra jobs. You have to be realistic with your abilities and simply make up for your weaknesses. If you know you are not a stellar standardized test-taker (like me), build up your GPA. It might be the other way around. Do what is right for you.

As I have quickly realized, the law school application process is quite daunting. These tips are less for your LSAC app and more for yourself—to find out why you want to go to law school and to plan how to get there. If you have these tools under your belt, writing a personal statement or putting together your resume might be a lot easier. Taking advantage of the opportunities around you now can be a huge help later on your journey to becoming a lawyer.

About the Author: Shezaf Reif is a senior at UCLA majoring in Global Studies and Political Science. She is the current President of UCLA Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law Fraternity and planning to take a year off before law school.

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