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Ocotober 10, 2013

Panel explains law school admissions process

By John Cuturic

A “demystifying” panel at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law last week explained the law school admissions process to an audience of undergraduate students, telling them how to apply and how to get in.

Law school admissions is a long and complicated process. The first step, as the panelists explained to the more than 40 gathered students, is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Gina Huffman, the assistant director of admission at CM-Law, said that law school admissions can be very competitive.

“This LSAT is not to be played with,” Huffman said. “You need to pump it up a notch.”

Panelist Wayne Wood, a CM-Law senior, said that students should beware of the logic part of the test. He said that there’s a reading comprehension portion of the LSAT that’s like what you would see on the SAT or ACT.

“But there’s a crazy logic section,” Wood said, “and a lot of time pressure.”

A student’s LSAT score can be important, according to Christopher Mallett, a Cleveland State University professor and law school graduate.

“If you get a 170 on your LSAT, you’re going to get into a lot of schools,” Mallett said.

But he said that though scores range from 120 to 180, it’s rare for someone to get a 170.

Brooke Hamilton, who graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University’s law school, said students should start reading the test material now. But she also said that there’s no reason to panic about the LSAT.

“Taking the LSAT is pretty nerve-wracking, but it takes a set of skills that are easy to learn,” Hamilton said. “You can get the skills.”

The LSAT is only one part of the picture, though. Law schools will also look at a student’s undergraduate GPA. Heather DiFranco, who works in career advising and development at CM-Law, said that having at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA is important. And she said that students should consider law school a different level.

“In undergrad, you might be the smartest person in your classroom,” DiFranco said. “In law school, everyone was the smartest person in their undergrad classrooms.”

The essay that goes in with the law school application, called a statement of purpose, is also important, Huffman said, because it’s a chance for students to show their writing skills, which are critical skills for lawyers.

“Ninety percent of what you do as a lawyer is write,” Huffman said.

Students also have to submit at least two letters of recommendation from professors or work supervisors. And they have to inform the law school about any former school suspensions or legal trouble, going all the way back to high school. Professor Kelly Curtis from CM-Law said that students shouldn’t attempt to hide anything.

“The worst thing you can do is fail to disclose something,” Curtis said.

After you get in to a law school, though, what happened with the admissions doesn’t matter as much anymore, the panelists said. No one will care what your undergraduate GPA was, or what score you got on the LSAT.

“The LSAT is just a test,” said Scott Rubenstein, a law student. “It doesn’t define you as a person. After you get in, it doesn’t matter.”

Mallett said that getting into law school is the hardest part.

“Don’t put law school on a pedestal,” he said. “Getting in is harder than doing it.”

A Cleveland State student attending the panel, Stephanie McNeal, said that she plans to graduate with a degree in political science, and after that she’s thinking of going to law school.

“My husband actually goes [to CM-Law],” she said. She said that she also wanted to go to CM-Law.

Riann, another Cleveland State student and international relations major, also said he was interested in going to CM-Law. He said that he enjoyed the workshop.

Riann said he’s wanted to be a lawyer since he had to go to court as a teenager.

“My reason for getting into law school is because I got arrested when I was 18, and I got to see how the justice system was,” he said. “And I never had to be involved in it. After seeing it first-hand, it interested me, so I started doing research on it.”

He said that he thought the workshop was helpful.

“There’s only so much you can learn by meeting with an advisor, but to get other people’s account, I think it’s a really good way to get the ball rolling,” he said.