Susan Smith Blakely

Wait List Season:  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


Here we are again.  Wait List season for law school applicants.  This is a good news, bad news scenario.  Being "waitlisted" means that you still are in the running for admission. Being waitlisted also means that nothing is certain in your life and that the waiting game is full on and annoying.  Yes, I know.  It is unpleasant, but you have to try to look on the bright side and act prudently.

Being placed on a law school Wait List is 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 need to know to handle the situation wisely and adeptly.  As I have pointed out in a prior blog on the subject, “Storming the Bastille” and sending the school admissions office reams of additional paperwork and electronic files — evidencing your credentials and acceptance worthiness — may not be the best idea.

So, what is the best way to handle it?  I typically default to this article that appeared on the Above the Law website several years ago and is still very relevant.  It contains some valuable guidance on what kinds of things and how much to send to augment your file and when it becomes too much.

Shy away from the gimmicks and singing telegrams.  You will be amazed to know the kinds of gimmicks that applicants have used in the past, and I have heard some outrageous ones first-hand from law school admissions deans.  That is where the ugly comes in.  These attempts at getting noticed are embarrassing, and you do not want to appear that desperate or foolish.

Additional recommendations is something that many of you will think about, and it is specifically addressed in the article.  Here are some things you should 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
If you opt in favor of an additional recommendation, make it very clear to the proposed writer what you need addressed on your behalf.  If the writer is reluctant to address that topic, you need to know it and, hopefully, find someone else to help you out.  

As you can see, being waitlisted is a game of strategy, and there is no place for impetuous decisions. Read the article, factor in your particular circumstances, and make an informed decision.

Good luck to all of you who find yourself in the waiting game.  I hope to see you in a law school audience somewhere next Fall.  Break a leg!


Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, 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.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

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, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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