Varsity Tutors brings you insider tips and advice straight from nationally recognized admissions experts. Hamada Z. is the co-founder of Write Track Admissions, a global admissions consulting service. He has counseled hundreds and hundreds of students all over the world and is currently leading the international expansion of Write Track Admissions. Hamada received his law degree from The University of California-Berkeley and his Master’s in International Relations from The University of Cambridge. Being highly knowledgeable in all areas of admissions, Hamada has advice to offer for students going down any path – see his Law School insights below.
VT: How much time should be set aside to adequately prepare for and complete a Law School application?
Hamada: The law school application process is quite onerous, requiring preparation in terms of school selection, letters of recommendation, outlining and drafting the personal statement and diversity statement, revising the law school CV, and possibly drafting a compelling addendum. Undertaking all these materials requires a minimum of 2-3 months of preparation - ideally starting in August and completing the process in late October/early November.
VT: What is the single most important thing applicants should focus on with this application?
Hamada: By far, the personal statement is the lynchpin to an applicant’s candidacy. It will dictate their profile and can literally ‘make or break’ their candidacy. I, for example, spent from June to October drafting and re-drafting my personal statement till I knew it was perfect. How now know it was perfect? Because years later reading it still gives me chills in terms of how personal and critical it was in illustrating who I was and who I hoped to be.
VT: What are the biggest mistakes one can make on a Law School application?
Hamada: One of the most fundamental mistakes is not adequately explaining any extenuating circumstance in an applicant’s academic record. An addendum is probably the most often overlooked aspect of the application and yet this single document can truly serve to mitigate a poor LSAT, explain a misguided semester, and/or shed light on how a personal affliction had an sizable impact on the applicant’s life and scholastic results.
VT: What do Law School admissions officers look for most in an applicant’s essays/personal statements?
Hamada: Based on insider feedback from various Admissions Committees (adcoms), I have taken note that they are most interested in accepting students who demonstrate (in no particular order): 1) a strong sensitivity and appreciation for diversity, 2) determination and desire to effectuate change at any level in any space, 3) critical and analytical thinking, and 4) an unyielding sense of determination to be zealous advocate for their future clients, whether it be in the courtroom, boardroom, or in the field.
VT: Is there anything on a student’s application that would automatically disqualify them from being considered for the program?
Hamada: When you are applying to a given state’s bar, you are asked to file a moral character application. One of the main purposes of the application is to ensure the applicant does not engage in activities that would undermine their moral fabric. This same ethical standard is also applied in law school where an applicant who demonstrates questionable moral character and turpitude is simply not tolerated.
VT: What about the Law School admissions process differs the most from undergraduate admissions?
Hamada: The quality of writing in your application must display much more analytical and persuasive scholarship. You are about to embark on a degree that requires excellent writing skills so there is no room for error here, unlike in your college applications. Moreover, you now need to demonstrate why you are choosing this degree, unlike college where you could have entered ‘undeclared’. After all, we are talking about a 3-year and $100K+ commitment.
VT: What kinds of things (experience, grades, etc.) might a student lack that would lead you to advise them not to apply?
Hamada: While the LSAT is critical, I believe that a 4-hour exam should not derail your life-long dream. Having said that, I think a poor GPA reflects badly in terms of a sense of maturity and the ability to handle the rigor of a law degree. While immaturity in your first or second your of college is understandable, a horrific GPA throughout college without sufficient cause is, frankly, inexcusable in the eyes of top programs. Also, if in response to ‘why law school?’ the candidate states: “I have no other option,” “I want to make money,” “I want to save humanity,” I automatically flag this as a case that needs further thought.
VT: Is there anything you might see on a student’s application that would quickly put them ahead in the running?
Hamada: Other than submitting your application early or having an above 170 LSAT, 3.9+ GPA and/or stellar Letter(s) of Recommendation, I would say the number one thing would be creating a logical flow between who you were as a child, what you studied in college, what activities you undertook and why (scholastic, personal, volunteer, professional), and how this shapes what you want to do in the future vis-à-vis law. That element of continuity provides added credibility in your candidacy in that you will see law school all the way through en route to a successful career. This is because you have demonstrated maturity, responsibility, and the notion that your actions have a common line of logic and clear thinking.
VT: What advice do you have regarding LSAT test prep?
Hamada: Practice, practice, practice past test questions under actual timed conditions! Also take a big picture approach to see what the administrators are trying to test. If you can find that pattern, the underlining purpose of the question, you will crack the test and never look back. Also keep in mind if you are scoring in the 150’s or less on your first diagnostic exam, then I highly advise you take a test prep course. If you are still struggling, then get a tutor to find the issues you are personally facing. Remember, test prep is a one size fits all teaching method, so one-on-one instruction can be very helpful. It is unfortunate that the LSAT can still dictate your prospects of admissions, but there is hope – I am a living testament of that belief, as are numerous candidates we have worked with over the years.
VT: What do law school admissions officers look for in recommendation letters?
Hamada: One word: Specificity. Adcom loves to see a recommender go into great detail about why you are articulate, interpersonal, analytical, and simply brilliant. Like a legal opinion, the more detail and facts offered, the more likely the letter of recommendation is genuine and coming from someone who is willing to go to bat for your candidacy.
Visit WriteTrackAdmissions.com for more information on Hamada’s admissions services.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.