Susan Smith Blakely

Is Being Waitlisted for Law School Your Problem?

It is that time of year again.  Prospective students have applied to law schools, and some are being waitlisted.  That can be both a hopeful and a frustrating experience, depending on the school and the applicant's expectations, and there is a certain amount of protocol you should know to handle the situation wisely and adeptly.  "Storming the Bastille" and sending the waitlisting school reams of additional paperwork and electronic files --- evidencing your credentials and acceptance worthiness --- may not be the best idea.

So, what it the best way to handle being waitlisted?  Fortunately, this question has been asked and answered many times, but this may be your first encounter with it.  In that case, I recommend the following article to you.

"Waitlisted by Law Schools?  5 Tips on Maximizing Your Chances of Getting In" appeared on the Above the Law blog recently, and it contains some pretty good guidance on issues like Supplemental Essays or Materials, Letters of Continued Interest, Additional Recommendations, and more fundamental issues like the importance of taking time off before entering law school and considerations in the transfer decision.

Although you may think that you have the answers on these issues, don't be surprised to find that you may be a little off-base.  At the very least, it is a good read to sharpen your focus as you go through the agonizing waiting period.  It can take most of the summer to get accepted off a law school waitlist, and the temptation is to do something to get the attention of the admissions dean and the admissions committee.  Not so fast!  Or, if you do go that route, make sure that you are following a prudent path that may actually result in success.  Resist the temptation for gimmicks, and try to put yourself in the positions of the decision-makers.  How would your proposed acceptance tactic "play in Peoria" so to speak?

My favorite part of the Above the Law article addresses the subject of additional recommendations.  Much of the advice was based on an interview with a former admissions dean at a very prestigious law school.  Here are some things from that interview to consider before requesting an additional letter of recommendation:

Assess your application "holistically" to identify weaknesses and reasons that you were waitlisted.  Think about adding a letter of recommendation that can bolster your application on that particular issue;
Try to figure out what your other recommenders have said about you and use that information to calculate the likelihood that another letter from that same person would be helpful; and
In asking for the additional recommendation, make if very clear what you need the proposed writer to say on your behalf.  If the proposed writer is reluctant to say that, you need to know it and find someone else to help you out.

As you can see, it takes a lot of thought.  This is no time for impetuous action.  Read the article, factor in your particular circumstances, and make an informed decision.

Waiting is difficult.  But patience is a virtue.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 


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