Klarissa Jeiel: Where Law Meets Design

What I Wish I Knew in Grade 12 Wanting to Study Law

A law student's advice on what you can do as a senior in high school to plan your university years and help you get into law school.

After completing my undergraduate degree in April of 2019, I took a gap year that allowed me to reflect on my experiences as a university student. This fall, I am starting law school. And although I don’t regret the choices I’ve made to get here, I’ve realized that there are some words of advice I was never given in Grade 12 as a senior in high school that I could have found useful in mapping out the next four years of my life. So here’s a few things I wish I knew in Grade 12 wanting to study law.

Choose an undergrad you’re passionate about.

A lot of Grade 12’s who dream of becoming a lawyer think they should choose a law-related or somewhat law-related major in University like political science or the increasingly popular “pre-law” in order to succeed in law school.

As someone who suffered because of the same way of thinking (Politics-History-Economics graduate here!), let me tell you…that’s not true at all.

Law schools don’t actually care about how relevant to law your area of focus is for your undergraduate degree. In fact, they value diversity.

You could apply to law school with a completely unrelated major (I’m talking music, biology, etc.) and not only get in but, from what I’ve heard from others, do incredibly well! So don’t get too hung up on choosing a major that’s “fitting” for law school.

Instead, choose an undergrad that you are passionate about. That way, you’re more likely to do well academically and you might actually still be alive inside by the time you finish your degree and start law school.

Also, pro tip: yes, major in what you’re passionate about but also in what will serve you outside of law so if you ever change your mind and decide that the legal profession isn’t for you, you’d still have a degree that you can use to secure work in a different field.

Finish your degree.

To be admitted into law school, you only technically need to have completed a certain number of years or credits. This could mean completing the first three years or at least 60 credits of your studies.

But most undergraduate degrees are designed to be completed in four years (if you’re studying full time) and it’s best to finish your degree.

According to UofT Law, having an undergraduate degree makes your law school application more competitive. Plus, most successful law school applicants have at least one undergraduate degree so I recommend completing your four years of study even if the law school you’re applying to doesn’t require it of you.

Maintain a good GPA.

Your GPA is one of the two hard factors that truly matters in law school applications (the other being your LSAT score).

Having a good GPA puts you a cut above the rest and gives you some room to be flexible with the LSAT. Most law schools have a minimum GPA of 3.5 but their competitive GPAs are usually higher; so in reality, unless you get a really solid LSAT score, you would need at least a 3.7 or 3.8 GPA to have a good chance at being admitted.

It’s important to start strong early. Try seriously aiming for a high GPA in your first year of university but if that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world because it’s perhaps even more important to have a higher GPA the further along you are in your degree.

Although some law schools consider your cGPA (cumulative GPA) for admission, many others only look at your GPA in the last two years (or last 60 credits) of your undergraduate study.

Do Extracurriculars.

If you don’t have a solid GPA, you make sure you have a high LSAT score that’ll compensate for it and vice versa.

But if both your GPA and LSAT aren’t the greatest, extracurriculars will be your saving grace.

With a little luck, you could end up being considered for holistic admission which looks past the numbers and admits you based on broader factors like employment history and extracurricular activities. And the more involved you are throughout your undergraduate degree, the more appealing you become to the admissions committee.

It’s not necessary to join a dozen clubs but find one or two that you think you’ll enjoy that you can participate and maybe even secure a leadership position in!

Take the LSAT early.

The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a standardized test that’s required to be admitted into most law schools.

It’s long (3 and a half hours), difficult, and takes months to prepare for. So it pays to start thinking about it quite early.

If you’re looking to start law school the September of the same year you finish your undergraduate degree, you’d ideally want to take the LSAT the summer after your third year of university or in the first half of your fourth year. And start studying for it way before.

Why? Because law schools have a last acceptable written LSAT deadline. For most of them, that’s no later than January of the year you’re seeking admission (but double-check with your desired law school for theirs).

If you don’t write it by that time in your fourth year or don’t receive a score high enough to get you admitted and need a rewrite after that time, you’ll have to take an unexpected gap year after undergrad…like me (oops!).

Learn from my mistake. Take the LSAT early and kill it.

Related: 10 Tips for LSAT Success

Gain some experience in the legal field.

I didn’t get a chance to personally do this. But I did get an internship at a labour union (shh..close enough!) in my third year of university where I got to sit in on arbitration meetings. It’s not the same but it did give me a chance to experience a “court-like” environment and I even got to meet a lawyer. It only made me more excited to pursue a legal career.

It can be invaluable to gain some legal experience even before starting law school. It’ll give you a glimpse of what it’s really like to be a lawyer and help you figure out whether law really is for you. Look into the law firms or law clinics close to where you live. You might be surprised how willing some of them are in taking interns who are simply looking for experience rather than monetary compensation.

Most importantly, I wish I knew not to be so hard on myself. Transitioning from high school to university is already a challenge in its own right.

If you’re in Grade 12 or even in your first year of undergraduate studies, treat what you read here as a guide and not a rule. If I managed to get into law school without knowing any of these things, you will be just fine. Have fun, make mistakes, learn, and take your time. So long as you try your best, everything will work out in the end.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this blog on What I Wish I Knew in Grade 12 Wanting to Study Law!