Welcome to the Pforzheimer pre-law page! The purpose of this page is to introduce you to Pfoho's pre-law committee and to help you familiarize yourself with the various elements of the law school application process. The pre-law committee exists to aid and mentor Pforzheimer students and alumni who are thinking about law school and legal careers, and especially those who are currently applying to law school. It is headed by our Resident Tutors in Law, Zack Zahner and Eliel Sanchez Acevedo. At the bottom of the page, you will find links to the documents referenced below, including the pre-law questionnaire and several required forms. Additionally, OCS hosts many informational events throughout the year which you should consider attending. We recommend that you regularly check the OCS Pre-Law website for updates and be sure to read through all of their online resources.
Law school applications generally become available in the early fall and are due mid-winter in the year before you enter. Most schools operate on a rolling admissions basis, so it is to your advantage to apply early. Some schools offer early decision and early acceptance options. Although some schools may still accept paper applications, we strongly recommend applying online to save time (see info on LSAC and CAS below). You can start completing applications as soon as they become available and save and return to them at any time. Research each school's application for individual requirements (e.g., some schools require a Dean's Certification with the application itself, additional essays, etc.). Application fees vary and some schools may offer you fee waivers. School websites, blogs, and books like Barron's may be useful in helping you decide where to apply. Contact schools directly to be put in contact with current students and to arrange campus visits -- don't be shy!
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a required component of law school applications and is offered 4 times during the year. Register for the LSAT through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) (fee waivers are available). Some schools require you to take the test no later than the fall test date for consideration in that year's admissions cycle (i.e., the December and February test dates are sometimes too late -- check with schools individually to verify specific requirements). Most current applicants take the June or September test. Regular deadlines for test registration are typically one month earlier than test dates. There are early deadlines for international testing sites and alternative testing days if you observe the Sabbath on Saturday. Register as early as possible (but not until you are ready!) in order to get a good a testing site. (Note: Boston area sites fill up very quickly!) There are many books and companies that will help you prepare (e.g., Kaplan, Princeton Review, TestMasters) which have their own deadlines for review course enrollment. Many people find that the best preparation is actual old exams. You can order them through LSAC or Amazon.
Credential Assembly Service (formerly LSDAS)
Whenever you decide to apply (whether or not you have already taken the LSAT), you must register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS, formerly the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS)) (fee waivers are available) through LSAC. CAS will be the clearinghouse for most of your application materials, including your LSAT score, transcript, letters of recommendation, and applications. All this information will be saved to your electronic file. It takes some time for CAS to process your materials, so the earlier you send them in, the better. There is LOTS of crucial info at LSAC (including a useful application checklist) -- become familiar with all of it as soon as possible! People often simultaneously register for the LSAT and with CAS, but you only need to register with CAS when you are actually applying. Once you have an account, you can view the current year's applications. Your registration is valid for several years. The steps described here (except for the LSAT and collection of recommendation letters at the House) can only be done once you have an account.
Letters of Recommendation
Schools typically require two letters of recommendation from academic instructors. If you are an alumnus with other experiences, an additional recommendation from an employer may also be appropriate. You should choose people who know you and your work well. A TF may be a more effective recommender than a professor, but you should try to have at least one letter from a full professor (admissions officers have said that they value those letters more highly). You should give the recommender as much information about yourself as possible, including a copy of your resume. You should also give the recommender a deadline of at least 4 weeks after you have requested the letter and expect to have to remind him/her gently as the deadline approaches. It may be better for both you and the recommender to request the letter over the summer. Remember to send a thank-you note! If you are a current applicant with an LSAC account, give the recommender: 1. a completed LSAC Letter of Recommendation form (available once you register; see details at LSAC on Letters of Recommendation), 2. a completed Pfoho Request for Recommendation (Waiver) form. Recommendation letters should be sent directly to LSAC by your recommenders in order to become part of your online applications (you can designate which letters go to which schools), but we strongly recommend that you keep additional copies in your House file in case something goes wrong at LSAC and/or you want to use them again later (so ask your recommender to ALSO submit a copy of the letter to the House along with the Waiver above). Ask each recommender to send one copy of his/her letter directly to LSAC (the letter to LSAC should be accompanied by the LSAC Letter of Recommendation form which you download from your LSAC application, and these together with the letter can be faxed to LSAC by the recommender), and also have the recommender send one copy of his/her letter directly to the House office accompanied by a completed Pfoho Request for Recommendation (Waiver) form (attn: Academic Coordinator). *** If you are NOT a current applicant, simply ask the recommender to send the letter to the House office (attn: Academic Coordinator), and when it is time to apply, meet with your recommenders and ask them to update your letters and tailor them if you so choose and then have the recommender submit it directly to LSAC. It's very important to allow plenty of time for recommenders to finish letters and for LSAC to register receipt of the letters. Both of these steps always take longer than you would like them to! Have your recommenders either email it to the Academic Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) or mail it to Office of the Resident Dean of Pforzheimer House Re: Letter of Recommendation for [your name] 56 Linnaean St. Cambridge, MA 02138.
A copy of your college transcript must be sent to LSAC by the FAS Registrar; see details at LSAC on Transcripts. You can request a transcript online from the FAS Registrar and follow LSAC’s directions for sending it to LSAC. You may need to provide the Registrar with the LSAC Transcript Request Form (available once you register). If you have a transcript from another college or university, you will also need to ask that school's registrar to send a transcript to LSAC. Again, carefully read the LSAC’s directions and follow them precisely. If you have any questions, contact the LSAC directly!
Resume & Personal Statement
Without interviews, the personal statement is your best chance to reveal who you are and demonstrate your writing ability, both of which will take some time to do effectively. Although the statement is typically quite short (most schools require 2-3 pages -- pay attention to word/page limits!), expect to write several drafts. We encourage you to seek feedback from both your assigned tutor and any other members of the pre-law committee. Drafts can also be reviewed by staff at the undergraduate Writing Center. You should also update your resume. We recommend attaching it to your (electronic) applications as an additional document.
Some schools require that a Dean's Certificate form/letter accompany your applications; others don't require one until you are definitely attending. Check the Supplementary Forms in each school's individual application or school profiles at CAS to determine whether and when it is required. Dean's Certificates are signed by Pfoho's Resident Dean, Monique Roy, and sent directly to schools from the House Office (not via LSAC). Once you've decided where you are applying, please send to the House Office (attn: Academic Coordinator) the Dean's certificates for each school -- students need to fill out the student portion of the certificate and send it to the Academic Coordinator. This can be the hard copy OR a PDF if students prefer to email it to the Academic Coordinator (email@example.com), after which the form will be printed and mailed. The House will provide the stamp and envelope. We encourage you to submit your Certificates as soon as you know where you want to apply. You can always add (or delete) schools from the list during the application period.
Based on the the results of OCS's recent survey of many law schools which found that the old non-academic (non-LSAC, non-required) house letters are not valued, Pfoho is joining many other houses in discontinuing formal letter writing except in special circumstances to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The purpose of the letters will be to explain or highlight special pertinent issues that you are otherwise unable to adequately address in the other application components. If you believe that a house letter would be an appropriate addition to your applications, please contact the tutors to discuss. Where a full letter would be unnecessary but a brief explanation of a particular issue would be helpful to admissions officers, consider adding an addendum to your applications; this is easily done through LSAC. We are happy to review drafts and solicit feedback from the Resident Dean who has extensive experience with academic and disciplinary issues that you might choose to address in this way.
As mentioned above, with rolling admissions, it's best to apply early! Applications generally become available in mid-September and are typically due no later than late January / early February. Please DO NOT DELAY any of the above steps in the application process! Circumstances outside your control (e.g., an overdue recommendation letter, a hold-up at LSAC in confirming receipt of your materials, etc.) may delay your applications despite your best intentions. We strongly encourage you to work with your tutors to set a timeline that meets your expectations.