Why I Chose W&L Law – Angela Kerins

October 22, 2013

A.KerinsWe asked several of our new students to discuss their decision to attend W&L Law. Today, Angela Kerins, a graduate of The College of New Jersey from Westfield, New Jersey, takes on the question.

I’m sure we can all agree that picking a law school is not an easy thing to do. After my umpteenth pro-con list and multiple visits to each place, I knew that there wasn’t a way to quantify this decision. I had to go with my gut and my gut told me I was home at Washington and Lee.

As a proud Jersey girl, going to a New Jersey state school for my undergraduate education was a no brainer. I spent four years close to home, my family, and friends and I thoroughly enjoyed my life in the Northeast. When I started to think about where I would attend law school a similar decision seemed equally as obvious. I never expected to abandon my northern roots and head south of the Mason Dixon Line for school, but now that I’m here I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

When I first started my application process I didn’t know much about Washington and Lee. My advisor mentioned it because one of his students attended a few years earlier and suggested I look into it. From the beginning of the application process I could tell that this school was different. The members of the admissions staff promptly answered every single question I had. Many efforts were made to put me in touch with alumni, current students, and faculty in order for me to get a good feel for the school. This legitimate concern for prospective students became all the more apparent at the Admitted Students Weekend (ASW). It didn’t take very long for me to see that W&L was a special place. I know that sounds corny and cliché but it’s true. The sense of community is tangible even to weekend visitors. Throughout the ASW I had an opportunity to talk to both current students and alumni. Current students couldn’t say more wonderful things about the school, but what really stood out to me throughout the admissions process were the alumni. The fondness that each one held for their time at W&L was so apparent through their genuine desire to answer all my questions and share their own law school experience.

It’s hard to ignore the law school horror stories of book destroying and note stealing, but that could not be further from the academic experience here at W&L. It’s clear that every single student cares about their school work, but not at the expense of their classmates. Recently I had to miss a class, and many of my classmates offered me their notes.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a collaborative environment that fostered teamwork and communication. Professors’ hands-on approach only furthers this sense of community. I built strong relationships with my professors in my undergrad and it was important to me to have a similar experience in law school. Not only are their doors always open for students to drop in, but half of my professors have already required one-on-one meetings to track our progress and go over class material. The job market is so competitive that meaningful relationships and connections with professors are key, and it’s clear that they will be a natural part of my time at W&L.

I originally thought I wanted to be in a big city for law school, but I’m glad that I decided otherwise. It’s a whole lot easier to stay in the library on a Saturday night here in Lexington than it would be elsewhere. Don’t be misled though; we’re not always studying! The school does an amazing job providing us with excuses to leave the library. Every Friday afternoon Law school football brings the entire school out onto the lawn for friendly two-hand touch. Don’t worry if you’re not athletically inclined, I’m my team’s #1 sideline cheerleader. The Student Bar Association also plans a ton of fun activities, like pig-roasts and drive-in movies, which provide plenty of reasons to take a study break.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an adjustment period – law school is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – but W&L has done everything in its power to make the transition as seamless as possible. Although I’ve only been here a month, I can already call Lexington my home, and I cannot wait to spend the next three years at Washington and Lee Law.

Summer Employment Opportunities, #2

February 15, 2013

DSC_6500We asked several of our 1Ls and 2Ls to discuss the role W&L Law has played in their summer employment search.  Nigel Wheeler, a 1L from Dallas, Texas, offers us his perspective.

I couldn’t believe it. The response showed up in my inbox within minutes. I figured it had to be a mistake. It just had to be.  Mr. Toles was likely hunting jackals in South Africa, or maybe trekking through the Khyber Pass or wait, even more likely, spelunking his way through the Carlsbad Caverns- you know something super awesome and super exotic, something that big time lawyer guys do. He certainly wasn’t wasting any of his time responding to a 1L- oh wait, at that point I wasn’t even a 1L, I was lowlier  than that – I was a prospective 1L.  I deduced that Mr. Toles’ prompt email response was just one of those annoying,  send you from hero to zero,  auto-reply emails- the kind that inform you that the desired recipient is off somewhere doing something incredible and that if you need immediate assistance you should call Rick or Sue or some other monosyllabic stranger.  I was totally wrong. Mr. Toles had written me back.

William Toles graduated from W&L Law in 1995. Last summer, when I was trying to decide where to go to law school, I called Dean Brett Twitty and asked for the contact information for some law alumni in the Dallas area.  Dean Twitty emailed Mr. Toles’ information to me and naturally I displayed no coolness and emailed him immediately. After a brief email exchange we set up a meeting where I met with Mr. Toles face to face and was also introduced to Morgan Meyer, another W& L alumnus. Mr. Toles and Mr. Meyer were amazing. They were extremely candid about their time at W&L and discussed their classes, the social environment, and their job opportunities upon graduation. The meeting not only convinced me that W&L was where I needed to be, but also helped set the gears in motion that ultimately led to a summer job.

The meeting was a game changer. Through contacts that Mr. Toles and Mr. Meyer helped provide, I talked to somebody who mentioned to somebody that I was somebody who wanted to practice in Dallas.  Eventually I learned of a 1L summer associate position at Bracewell and Giuliani. I applied immediately, interviewed, and miraculously landed the job. This summer I will be working in various departments at  Bracewell’s Dallas office. Ultimately I hope to do public finance, or maybe white collar defense or maybe who knows- I’m a 1L and I have no idea what the heck I’ll end up doing. Bracewell, to some extent, should help me figure it all out.

Mr. Toles and Mr. Meyer were instrumental in helping me navigate through the maze that is the job search process. The OCP (Office of Career Planning) also provided a lot of assistance. OCP helped convert the mess that was my resume into something that actually made sense to employers. Ms. Lorri Olan also helped introduce me to the W&L alumni network. I would be remiss to not mention the OCP-sponsored etiquette training–I now know more about fork selection and soup-scooping than you could ever imagine.

A lot of law school administrators, at least a lot of the administrators at schools that I was considering before coming to W&L, tout the strength of their alumni network. At other schools I was shown pie charts and placement tables and spiffy videos that show alumni all over the world and their support for their school.  At W&L, that spiffy video came to me. By virtue of sitting down and talking to a stranger (that’s me guys),  two W&L Law alumni showed me the true strength of an alumni network. A couple of handshakes, a candid conversation and a free club sandwich with sweet, delicious garlic fries,  was all that I needed to be convinced.

Nearly all alumni responded to my emails and phone calls. At times it took several attempts but it was well worth it. What impressed me most was that not only were the alumni willing to correspond via phone and email, but also many insisted on meeting in person. I admit that those first few interactions were a little awkward but it all seems to have worked out. The alumni here have helped open doors that I couldn’t even see before meeting with them. One day I hope to return the favor.

Our Waiting List…

February 6, 2012

I hope you had a nice weekend! I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our waiting list, so I thought I would take a moment to address a few of the more common queries here.

First, if you haven’t had a chance, please take a moment to review our webpage for waitlisted students as well as our Information Sheet for students on our waiting list. Both of these resources contain a wealth of information and address a number of questions applicants frequently have about the waiting list process at W&L Law.

How many students are placed on the waiting list?

The number of students on our waiting list varies from year to year. In admissions, every year is different, and past experience, especially when it comes to the waiting list, is not necessarily predictive of how a given cycle will unfold.

As you likely know from some of our application correspondence, we tend to proceed very cautiously when assembling a class. This conservative approach is largely the product of our small size and our firm belief that this smallness (for lack of a better word) is at the root of both our educational mission and institutional identity. With an incoming class size of 134, we are simply unable to take everyone we believe could manage the work of attending our law school. Even five or ten extra students would fundamentally alter a class and, perhaps most importantly, classroom dynamic. As a result, we often have to place people we believe could be extremely successful at our law school on our waiting list.

How many students were placed on the waiting list last year?

As a general policy, we do not release these sorts of statistics. However, as noted above, the number of students placed on the waiting list in a prior year has little to no bearing on the number of students who will be placed on the waiting list this year. No two admissions cycles are alike, and, consequently, the number of students who are admitted, denied or waitlisted in a given year largely depends upon a great many variables specific to that cycle (application volume, overall quality of applicants, enrollment goals, etc.).

How many students are typically admitted from the waiting list?

This too varies from year to year. In my four prior admissions cycles, we were able to offer some applicants on our waiting list a seat in our incoming class, however the number of seats offered varied (and sometimes considerably) from year to year. This variation to be expected. It is largely the product of the fact that the waitlist process depends upon a great many factors (number of seat deposits, enrollment goals, summer melt (i.e. how many deposited applicants we lose over the course of a summer), how we are working to round out class) that are often beyond our control and naturally change with each admissions cycle.

Last year, there was a great deal of waitlist activity at a number of law schools, and we extended a number of offers to candidates on our waiting list. In the prior year, very few people left our class between our two deposit deadlines (as noted above, this is called “melt”). Consequently, we were able to admit very few people from our waiting list. The previous year, we experienced slightly more melt and were able to accept a few more people from our waiting list. We may know our enrollment goals, but identifying the number of people who are going to leave our deposit class (the single factor that has the most impact on the waiting list process at our school) is nearly impossible to predict. Consequently, while we will more than likely be in a position to extend offers of admission to people on our waiting list, it is extremely difficult to anticipate just how many offers we will be able to extend. And, of course, it is always possible that we may not be in a position to extend any offers of admission to candidates on our waiting list. Really, only time will tell.

What are my chances of being admitted from the waiting list?

As the above comments indicate, one’s chances of being admitted from the waiting list are not necessarily equivalent to one divided by the total number of students on the waiting list. Receiving an offer of admission from the waiting list depends upon a lot of different things (for example, melt from our deposit class, how your application lines up with our enrollment goals or how we are working to round out a class, your interest in our law school, your willingness to accept an offer on very short notice or late in the admissions cycle), but is not necessarily dependent upon the total number of students on our waiting list.

This may surprise some of you, but I think it’s helpful to think about what we’re trying to do when admitting people from our waiting list. Sometimes, we are trying to round out our class in a particular way, so a certain aspect of your file may be of particular interest to us. If you are one of the people on our waiting list who happens to help us in this regard, your chances of receiving an offer of admission are clearly better than average. More often than not, we are also trying to add people to our class we know really want to attend our law school, and who we have enjoyed getting to know during the previous months. For me, offering a waitlisted candidate a seat in our class, particularly if I know that candidate well (which I often do) is truly one of my favorite parts of my job. That’s always a great day. If W&L is your top choice, you should absolutely let us know. We are not always able to act upon this information, but it is always helpful to know.

Furthermore, given that we typically make waitlist offers in the summer, time is typically of the essence. If someone leaves our class, we usually want to fill that seat as quickly as possible (however, there are times when, for enrollment reasons, we choose not to). Consequently, it is imperative that we reach out to people we know will accept our offer (or who will need very little time to contemplate their decision). Consequently, if you have already let us know that if offered a seat in our incoming class you will absolutely accept, this can sometimes have a real impact on whether or not you are admitted from our waiting list. It is not necessarily a guarantee of anything, but it will rarely if ever hurt your chances of admission.

However, please know, as a general note, if you receive an offer of admission from our waiting list, you will typically have less than a day to think about it. Consequently, you should really take this time to figure out how where our law school falls along the spectrum of law schools to which you applied and just how interested you are in attending W&L Law.

I’m really interested in W&L Law. What can I do to improve my chances of admission?

To be perfectly honest, not too much. However, as noted above, there are a few things you can do that can sometimes have an impact on the course of your admissions cycle at our school.

1) Keep in touch. Attending our law school is a very personal experience. You will likely know everyone around you, and they will know you, and we strive for this personal touch in the admissions process. Consequently, we enjoy getting to know our applicants. If you are on our waiting list and are really interested in attending our law school, I would encourage you to reach out to us periodically over the coming months.

Please note, this outreach does not need to be an every day or even every week thing. In fact, I would counsel you against contacting us every day or every week. That’s probably too much (particularly at this point in the cycle, but really any time, for that matter). Typically reaching out to us every few weeks or once a month is sufficient. Please know, this does not need to be in the form of a letter (or something equally formal). While such gestures are appreciated, an email or a phone call is really all that is necessary to convey your continued interest. And believe it or not, an email or phone call is often more effective than a hard mailing. For one, they are more immediate. Secondly, as we are a paperless office, an email is much easier to add to your file. However you plan to approach this process, please be sure you’ve identified a strategy that is sustainable. Patience is a virtue (and definitely part of the process) when it comes to the waiting list.

2) If W&L Law is your number one choice, let us know. As noted above, we are not always able to act upon this information, but it is always good to know, and it rarely if ever hurts a candidate’s chances of admission.

3) If offered a seat in our incoming class, if you will absolutely accept, let us know. Please note, however, that there is typically no scholarship money available when we are extending waitlist offers (this is usually quite late in the admissions cycle and our finite scholarship budget is already completely allocated). Consequently, you will need to take this into account when considering whether or not you will be in a position to accept an offer if one is extended to you. However, if, after reflecting upon the financial dimensions of this decision, you still believe you will absolutely accept an offer of admission if one is extended to you, please let us know. This is also always good to know and rarely if ever hurts a candidate’s chances of admission.

4) Schedule a visit. If you are seriously considering our law school, you really need to know if Lexington and W&L Law are the right fit for you. As you have likely heard many times by now, our law school is different than almost every other law school in the country. We are a very small school (400 total students) in a very small town (Lexington’s population is around 7,000). One of the best (and arguably only) ways to figure out if you are the kind of student who will thrive in our small, personal, collegial environment is to visit.

And you have options. We offer phone interviews, individual visits and even a few Preview Days for Waitlisted Students. Most of our incoming students will visit at some point in their decision-making process, and, if you are seriously thinking about W&L Law, it is imperative that you do your research long before you are ever offered a seat in our incoming class. If you would like to schedule an individual visit, please be sure to check out our Visit Schedule. Provided that classes are in session, all individual visits include the opportunity to attend a class, take a tour of the law school led by a current student, and meet with an admissions representative. Additional information about our Preview Day can be found on our webpage for students on our waiting list.

Please note, doing one of the above is more than ample opportunity for you to learn about our law school, so please do not feel like you need to schedule a phone intervew, visit campus AND join us for our Preview Day to fully communicate your interest in our law program. Similarly, if you come for an individual visit, it is not necessary for you to join us for Preview Day. We know you have limited time and resources, and we do not want you to feel pressured to travel to Lexington multiple times in the coming months. Sometimes, a phone interview is enough for you to get a better sense of our school and have any questions you might have answered.

5) Update your file. Let me begin by saying, with regard to this suggestion, restraint is the better part of valor. In a great many ways, we already have all the information we need to fully consider your candidacy. Consequently, it is not necessary to send in additional letters of recommendation, samples of academic work, or any of the supporting documentation we regularly receive from candidates on our waiting list. Furthermore, absent some significant personal or professional event, please do not feel as if you need to continually update your resume over the course of the coming months. It is not that we are not interested in these things (we are). Rather, our reluctance to accept such supplements is the direct result of the small size of our office. We are only a few people, and, given the fact that we are managing thousands of applications, we only have so much time to devote to updating the contents of each applicant’s file.

However, for those of you who are currently in school, you should absolutely update your transcript once your first semester grades are available (and once second semester grades are released). The easiest way to do this is via LSAC. Simply send them your new transcript, and they will send an updated CAS report to us.

The above are merely suggestions and are certainly not required. Nor are they guarantees of anything. It is certainly possible to receive an offer of admission from our waiting list without doing any of the above. At this point in the admissions cycle, we are unable to say whether or not we will be in a position to extend offers to people on our waiting list. It is simply too early. This information is merely provided to (hopefully) bring a little more clarity to what we know is a rather vague process, and we sincerely wish there was more definitive information with which we could provide you.

However, wherever you may be in this process, please note, it’s a long time until May 1 (our first deposit deadline and more than likely the first time we will be in a position to reach out to candidates on our waiting list), so patience and persistence are key. As there are updates, we will let you know. And of course, if we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can be reached by email at LawAdm@wlu.edu or by phone at 540.458.8503.

Working on Your W&L Law Application? Need Help?

December 22, 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again. We know a great many of you are currently hard at work on your W&L Law application, and, consequently, we thought it would be a good time to reprise a few of the application-related blog entries we’ve posted over the past few weeks. Need help with your personal statement? Wondering who you should ask to write your second letter of recommendation? Wondering if you should write our optional essay? Not sure if you need to report those moving violations? Our thoughts on/answers to these questions (and many more) can be found in the posts linked below. We also encourage all applicants to also review our webpage detailing our application process, as well as our Frequently Asked Questions webpage, for answers to other common applicant queries:

Personal Statement

Letters of Recommendation

Optional Essay

Inside Our Application – Section 11, Question 2

Advice for Re-Applicants

Still have questions? Have other questions? Please feel free to send us an email at LawAdm@wlu.edu.

Happy Holidays!

So You Just Got Your LSAT Score. Now What?

October 28, 2011

Those of you who sat for the October LSAT administration have now received your score and while some of you are likely very happy with your result, some of you are not. So, what to do?

First and foremost, at W&L Law, we do not use an admissions formula, and applicants are not ranked by any numerical index. While a candidate’s LSAT and GPA are important components of our decision, our application review process extends well beyond the numbers. We consider undergraduate grades and transcripts, LSAT scores, recommendations, significant employment or post-graduate educational experience, extracurricular activities, special skills and talents, community service involvement and the personal statement, to name a few factors weighed when considering an applicant’s potential for success at our law school.

Even still, some of you may be considering re-taking the LSAT. Below are the answers to a number of questions students taking a later LSAT administration often have.

Should I re-take the LSAT?

To be perfectly honest, only you can answer this question. However, your answer should be an informed one. Choosing to sit for a subsequent LSAT administration largely depends upon a number of factors and variables that really only you know. Did you really study and prepare? How did you feel on test day? Was your performance consistent with your practice tests? These are just a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to retake the LSAT.

But what if you studied hard for the October LSAT and your score was still lower than you had hoped? What’s an applicant to do? The next question you have to ask is how much lower was your actual LSAT score than your practice test scores? Furthermore, how reliable are your practice test scores? These are two important questions you must answer before deciding to register for a subsequent LSAT.

As you might know, LSAT scores are presented in a score band. This band represents a range of scores that has a certain probability (68%) of containing your actual proficiency level. The standard of error for a given band is three points in either direction. Consequently, if you took the test and scored a 150, your score could have been a 153 or it could have been a 147. In light of this scoring reality, if your practice tests were not more than three points higher than your actual performance, your score is more than likely an accurate reflection of your potential. However, if your practice scores were considerably higher (more than three points) than your actual test scores, you may want to consider sitting for an additional administration. However, this decision is entirely your own.

Which LSAT should I take? December? February?

If you elect to retake the LSAT, we strongly recommend you sit for the December test administration. Scores are not reported from the February administration until very late in our application cycle – while some seats typically remain available, we have extended many offers and the competition for the remaining spots can be exceptionally keen. Click here to read our earlier blog post on why it matters when you apply.

If I choose to take the December LSAT, should I go ahead and begin sending in my application materials?

Yes. I repeat: Yes. If you choose to take the December LSAT, we encourage you to submit an application now, and begin sending along the various constituent parts of your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) report (transcripts, letters of recommendation) to LSAC. By doing this, your file will be complete (and therefore eligible for review) much sooner than if you wait until you receive your results to begin the application process.

But I took the October LSAT. If I apply, how can I make sure my application is not reviewed before my new LSAT score is available?

If you’ve previously taken the LSAT, do not worry that we might somehow review your (technically complete) file before we receive your new LSAT score. Simply provide us, on your application, the date of your future LSAT administration, and we’ll hold your file for review until we receive scores from that test.

If you’ve previously applied and plan to sit for a later LSAT administration and, consequently, would like us to hold your file for review, please just send an email requesting such action to LawAdm@wlu.edu, and we will make sure a hold is placed on your file.

If my file is not complete until late December, won’t I be really far behind?

No. We make admissions decisions on a rolling basis, and we offer no early action program. Each year, we wait until we have a critical mass of applications to begin our review process (so that we might have some perspective on the kinds of applications we’re seeing in a given cycle), and this year we will mail out our first admissions decisions in mid-November and will continue making decisions over the subsequent months. In fact, we receive a number of applications after the first of the year, and typically make most of our admissions decisions in January and February. Consequently, if your file is complete by the end of December, you will still be in a competitive position for consideration at W&L Law.

But what if I elect to sit for the February LSAT. Won’t I be really, really far behind?

Maybe. If you elect to sit for the February LSAT, please, please, please go ahead and submit the other parts of your application. This way, your file will be complete (and therefore eligible for review) as soon as February LSAT scores are released (traditionally, late February). If you proceed in this fashion, your file will likely be complete by late February, and at our school, we guarantee all applicants whose files are complete prior to March 1 a decision by no later than late March/early April.

However, if you wait until February scores are released to begin the application process, your file will likely not be complete until after March 1, and, therefore, after our “decision-by” deadline. We have no application deadline at W&L Law and accept applications throughout the year. However, for those files that go complete after March 1, we do not guarantee a decision by a particular date. As a result, if you take the February LSAT and your file is complete after March 1, you will likely have to wait until late April or May (or later) for a decision. As this example attests, if you’re taking the February LSAT (or even applying later in the admissions cycle), a few days can make a big difference.

But if I take the February LSAT, can I still receive an offer of admission at W&L Law?

Maybe. The answer to this question really depends upon how our admissions cycle develops, and every year is different. As previously noted, the February administration is rather late in our admissions cycle. By February, while some seats typically remain available, we have extended a number of offers, and the competition for the remaining seats in our incoming class can be exceptionally keen. Nevertheless, even at this late hour, it is still possible to receive an offer of admission, but the odds are certainly more favorable earlier in the admissions cycle.

How will the Admissions Committee look at my multiple LSAT scores?

In accordance with our policy of reviewing all the materials submitted with an application, we look at each of your LSAT scores as we consider your candidacy. Absent a compelling reason that persuades us otherwise, we place the greatest weight on your highest score because statistical analysis indicates that a student’s highest score is the best predictor of his/her success at W&L Law. In accordance with American Bar Association guidelines, the median LSAT score for an entering class is calculated using matriculants’ highest LSAT score.

What if I change my mind and choose not to sit for the December or February LSAT? Or decide to sit for another administration?

If you change your mind and decide not to sit for the test after all, or decide to sit for a later test administration, simply contact us so that we can either remove the “hold” on your file or change the date on which we’ll check for a new score.

Have other questions? Please feel free to send us an email at LawAdm@wlu.edu.

No Application Fee in 2011-12

October 25, 2011

For the 2011-12 admissions cycle, no application fee will be assessed when you apply to W&L Law. We know these are challenging financial times for a great many people, and we do not want an application fee to deter you from applying to our law school. Click here to access our application as well as read  more about our application process.

If you have any questions or we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us. We know you have a great to consider in the coming months (and obviously a very important decision ahead of you), and we are happy to help in any way we can. We can be reached by email at LawAdm@wlu.edu, by phone, you can schedule a campus visit, and even meet us on the road. In other words, you have options.

Best of luck, and we look forward to your application!

Brett Twitty, ’06L
Director of Admissions

Advice for Re-Applicants

October 7, 2011

So, you’re re-applying to law school. Don’t worry. You are certainly not alone. Every year, we receive a number of emails from inquisitive re-applicants asking to know how they might sharpen their applications/improve their chances of admission, and this year is certainly no exception. Consequently, I thought I might provide a few thoughts for those of you re-applying to W&L Law (and other law schools) to consider as you plan and prepare for this year’s admissions cycle.

Apply Earlier

Often when talking with re-applicants who were dissatisfied with the outcome of their previous admissions cycle, I am struck by one common fact: Most of these applicants applied too late. As I previously detailed, it matters when you apply. It matters a lot. As I mentioned in my earlier post, last year, we made 82.5% of our total offers of admission prior to February 1 and 94.2% of our offers prior to March 1. Between February 1 and May 1, we extended only 13.4% of our total offers (roughly 129 offers). After May 1, we extended only 3.1% of our total offers (roughly 40 offers), and all of these offers went to candidates initially placed on our waiting list.

As these numbers indicate, if you wait until February to submit your application, your chances of being admitted are significantly less than if you apply in November. As one of my colleagues at another law school used to say, think of admissions as a funnel – wider at the beginning and narrower towards the end, and (obviously) you want to apply when the funnel is at its widest. In other words, sooner is better than later, and, if you need a target date, try to submit your application by no later than December 31.

Be Objective…

You need to honestly review your application (not to mention application process). What do you think it was that resulted in your receiving a less than favorable decision from whatever school you really wanted to attend? For some applicants it can be one thing or many things, but either way, you absolutely must evaluate the constituent parts of your file before beginning the application process.

As a general policy, we will not discuss your file with you, but, in my experience, I’ve found most applicants have a reasonable idea as to why their admissions cycle played out in a particular way. Did you apply too late? Is your LSAT score not quite as competitive as it could be? Was your personal statement truly your best example of your writing ability? Were your recommenders people who actually knew you well?

Once again, imagine you are an admissions officer. What are the strengths of your file? What are its weaknesses? How might you overcome any such deficiencies? Sometimes such issues are easily resolved. Other times they require more work. Either way, this is the sort of unflinching and objective assessment you must perform before you apply. While admissions cycles do vary from year to year, they can also be remarkably similar. Sure, last year was extremely competitive (we received 32.8 applications for every seat in our incoming class). However, each and every one of our matriculants would have been a viable candidate in any year they applied. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of, well, let’s just say a less than rewarding admissions cycle.

And, as you assemble your application, be sure to check out our blog posts on the personal statement, letters of recommendation and our optional essay. These will give you a sense of what we think makes for a compelling application.

Is Your Application Still You?

Admittedly, this is a bit of a strange question. It’s not every day I get to pose such an existential, application-inspired query. Of course, your application is still all about you. However, if you were to submit the exact same application this year as last year, would it truly reflect who you are or rather who you were?

First and foremost, we will know you are a re-applicant. And this is not a bad thing. Every now and then, an applicant will ask me if we view an applicant’s decision to re-apply to our law school negatively, particularly if that applicant was denied previously (or sometimes, even if that applicant was admitted previously)? As far as admissions questions go, this one is easy – No. We feel fortunate to have applicants who remain interested in our law school across admissions cycles.

Applicants also often ask if they should write a new personal statement, find new recommenders, pen a new optional essay, in other words, re-do their entire application, simply because they are re-applying to our law school. Let me begin by saying, this is entirely up to you. Some re-applicants choose to submit the exact same documentation from one year to the next, and that is fine (after all, is your choice). However, is that the best choice? Only you can really answer this question.

We do assume a certain amount of growth over the course of an admissions cycle or a few years, and submitting old letters of recommendation, an aged personal statement or (perhaps even stranger) a dated resume, sometimes belies this assumption. However, this does not mean you absolutely have to find two new recommenders, draft a new personal statement or dramatically recast your law school application simply because you are re-applying to our law school. It does mean you should review your application materials to make sure they fully capture just who you are at this particular juncture in your life. If any part of your application fails to achieve this end, it should be revised.

However, if you really like the personal statement you used last year or you feel your letters of recommendation still speak to who you are (even if they are a year old), don’t simply discard these materials  because you’re re-applying. Take a hard look at all of the materials you submitted during your prior admissions cycle. If after this evaluation, you still feel these materials are current and put you in the most competitive position possible for admission, then it may very well make sense to use them again.

However, let me also say in such matters there is often a big difference between one year and two or three years. A letter of recommendation that is a year old? Probably still usable. Two years old? You may want to find a new recommender. The same holds true for a personal statement. For a personal statement to be truly personal it needs to be recent, and while we are certainly interested in who you were, we are much more interested in who you are.

As much as I enjoy discussing the application process, I know applying to law school is not exactly fun. However, I encourage you to ignore the temptations of the path of least resistance and really take a hard look at your application. While it is always dangerous to generalize in admissions matters, nevertheless, every year, we accept re-applicants who were previously waitlisted or denied. What accounts for this difference in outcomes? These applicants performed the very sort of rigorous analysis I am recommending here and set about improving those aspects of their file in need of work. I’m certain they would say it wasn’t easy or convenient, but I feel almost equally confident they would also say it was (eventually) extremely rewarding.

Keep in Touch…

Don’t be a stranger. We enjoy getting to know our applicants, and if you remain extremely interested in attending W&L Law, please let us know. We may not necessarily be able to do anything with this information, but we are always trying to identify those people (even very early in the admissions process) for whom our law school is truly and sincerely their number one choice. Once you’ve applied, send our office an email (lawadm@wlu.edu).  Come to campus. Get to know us. These sorts of personal connections (within reason – restraint is often the better part of valor when conducting such outreach) can sometimes help. They may not always prove transformative, but they are certainly more helpful than complete anonymity.

And lastly, remember: Your application is our one opportunity to get to know you. Make each and every part of it count.