5 Tips for a Non-Traditional Law School Applicant

Let’s say you’ve spent the last 15 years running a dog shelter, or the last 10 working as a taste tester for Ben & Jerry’s, and now you’ve discovered that law is the right career path for you. (Why you’d want to leave your awesome taste testing job at Ben & Jerry’s, though, is anyone’s guess.) As a non-traditional law school applicant, you might be entering law school in your thirties or later.
You’ll have a few more hurdles in your way than students applying as college seniors or applying a few years out of college have. Namely, you’re most likely so far removed from academics that you have few, if any, remaining connections with professors, and your career probably has very little to do with law. All said and done, a career transition to the legal field can be very rewarding, but getting into law school is the first step. Check out the following tips for the non-traditional law school applicant, and feel free to share your own tips with your fellow Magoosh readers in the comments section!

1. Focus on the LSAT

This goes for all law school applicants, but even more so for the non-traditional law school applicant. Admissions officers will still factor your undergraduate GPA into their review just the same as they will for younger students. However, even a transcript with sparkling grades on it will have lost some of its shine after 15 years. If that (somewhat dusty) transcript is combined with a mediocre LSAT score, the person reading your application may question whether you can still perform at the academic level you’ll need to in order to succeed in law school. You’ll need to prove that you’re still just as academically capable now as you were years ago.
Check out this post for our guide to studying for the LSAT.

2. Take an online LSAT prep course

Non-traditional applicants often have more diverse obligations than younger students, such as spouses or partners, kids, and full-time employment. Enrolling in an online prep course (like Magoosh’s online LSAT prep!) can give your schedule more flexibility and allow you to study for the LSAT at your own pace. Commit to studying before or after work, during lunch breaks, and/or on weekends.

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3. Ask a supervisor for a letter of recommendation

While it’s best to seek out letter writers who can provide an assessment of your academic abilities, you shouldn’t hesitate to find a supervisor who can speak to your willingness and ability to learn new skills and concepts, your leadership potential, and your career goals. Remember, admissions officers place more importance on the content of your letters than who’s actually writing them. An outstanding letter vouching for your performance at work is better than a bland letter from a professor you had ten years ago who can’t remember your name.

4. Highlight your professional experience

Use your personal statement and/or diversity statement to show all of the great life experiences that you’ve had during your time in the workplace. This is one key advantage that you have over someone who’s going to law school right out of college. Let admissions officers know that your work has given you greater maturity, insight, and dependability.

5. Articulate why law and why now

Admissions officers will be interested to hear why you want to make a career switch from rescuing dogs or sampling ice cream, so be prepared to give answers. Make sure your application materials clearly demonstrate why law is the next best step in your career, and why now is the best time for you to take that step. Giving your candidacy this kind of context can be crucial to convincing admissions panels that you’re committed to attending law school.

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