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Messages - Lawgineer

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Non-Traditional Students / LoR advice greatly needed, please.
« on: April 15, 2008, 10:31:49 AM »
Lately I have been trying to figure out how to get four letters of recommendation and it is starting to worry me a bit.  My basic situation can be found here:,103511.0/topicseen.html

Essentially, I'm an engineer in my late 20's looking to start a new profession in law.  I took an off year last year -- for a variety of reasons -- and have decided that law school is definitely the direction I want to take.  However, given my situation, I'm not sure who to ask to write me some strong letters of recommendation.  So far, the only obvious candidate has been my boss from my previous engineering position in Chicago.  I really did not make a strong effort at keeping in touch with him but we left on very good terms and I would think that he would be a strong LoR candidate.  Outside of that, I'm not sure who else to ask though.  I'm five years out of college so should I ask some of my old engineering professors?  I'm not even sure if they would remember me so would they be good LoR candidates?

Who are you asking to write your LoRs?  Did you suggest that they write specific things about you?  How would you suggest I approach this subject with my previous engineering manager, or professors, that might view law school as a 'weird' direction in which to head after having spent the considerable time and effort, and money, that I did to build my engineering career?

Any comments and suggestions are appreciated as I am stressing over this quite a bit.

I would also consider Northwestern if I were you.  They like older applicants who have had significant work experience, and you may find that this will mitigate your fairly low GPA in their eyes.  They would probably be your best bet in the T14 unless you get a 175+ on the LSAT.

Thanks!  I'll look into Northwestern as well.  Am I considered an older applicant!?  At 28?  I'll try my hardest at 175+ but I'm also hoping that my undergrad/masters degree programs carry some weight when admissions is reviewing my GPA.  Thanks again!

It's not that you are considered older so much as your extensive work experience and grad degree makes you, at least, a non traditional applicant, and Northwestern LOVES Non-Trads (as does Penn actually - I'm proof!).

And the 175+ thing was a bit hyperbolic.  It's just that your GPA is a little low for most T14s and while your master's and work exp will count more at some places than at others it may not be enough to get you into a school unless your LSAT is high enough for them to sacrifice a high GPA (they care a bit too much about their rankings, IMHO).

Good luck!!!

Point taken.  Northwestern will probably be on my list of schools as well if they love Non-Trads so much, I'll have to look into Penn a bit more.  Thanks for the luck, I'll need it!

Your GPA is impressive for an engineering major. Unfortunately, the schools submitting their incoming class stats to USNews can't point out lower GPAs and say, "This was a hard sciences major." Due to USNews whoring, all degree programs are thus created equal. It is unfair b/c there is a vast difference between a 3.4 in engineering and a 3.4 in early childhood education.

Them's the breaks, I suppose.  Had I known, 10 years ago, that I was going to law school in my late 20's I probably would have picked my UG program a bit differently.  Oh well!  All the more reason to do well on the LSAT, I say.  Speaking of, I'm a bit curious about how long you studied for this thing because I scheduled myself to take it in mid-June '08.  Thanks for your reply, by the way:  Impressive!  Well, I wouldn't go that far... but I'll let you, thanks again!


The demand for civil engineers in patent law may not be that great.  Most patent applications are electrical and pharmaceutical.  If this is the case going to the higher ranked school may serve you better.  From what I understand, you may find career prospects from a T2 less "fulfilling" than structural engineering (assuming the patent related work is not viable). 

I have actually heard the same thing about civil engineers and patent law.  I'm not sure why you think I would find career prospects from a T2 school less fulfilling but, regardless, I thank you for your input.

Yeah, I would second the above response. For better or worse, the LSAT is really the key to the whole process. I would suggest doing independent study and figuring out what sort of LSAT score you need to get to attend the schools that you would like to. Understand that most people do poorly on the test at first, and that you can improve your score. Rather than taking the test as a part of your application cycle, I would recommend getting your score where you'd like it first and then beginning the process.

There are a number of decent books on the application process, including "Law School Confidential" and "How to Get Into Law School" by Susan Estrich. They explain a lot of the basic information, including ideal times to take the LSAT and apply to schools.

I will definitely check out those books.  Thanks for the suggestions on the LSAT.

The current (Fall 2008) cycle is basically done, so your target enrollment would be sometime in 2009 -- probably fall, though spring or summer entry is an option at some places (but not UVa, probably not UC).

What you can do now: First, I would suggest getting the LSAT info book put out by the Law School Admissions Council ( You can get this from a college pre-law office, a law school, or probably from LSAC itself. There is a full-length practice test in there. I suggest timing yourself and taking this test under actual conditions, to give you a benchmark of where you stand. Basically, if you kick ass (like 170+), you can relax and just do a little prep work. If you do well (I dunno, maybe 160+), then try to prep on your own or maybe take a class to make up any shortcomings; you'll likely need a middle-170s score to get into Chicago or UVa with your GPA. If you make below 160, then definitely take a class, or possibly re-evaluate your options; if you're scoring in the low 150s or lower, you may be able to improve your score, but it will not be easy to make up enough points to get into the top tier that you're targeting.

Depending on if/when you do a prep course, you can take the LSAT either in June or October (dates: You probably will be applying during this fall, but you could also take the December test if you didn't do as well as you hoped in June/Oct. I would advise the June LSAT (if you're not doing a course) since it gives you a) a good idea of where you stand BEFORE you even start applying; and b) two chances to re-take if you mess up.

You'll also need to sign up for LSDAS, which is a service of LSAC that compiles transcripts (from every college you ever attended) and recommendations (you'll need two, preferably from professors you had in school, but an employer would probably be OK given your personal situation) to send to schools. (You have to send everything to LSDAS, which then puts them in a format the law schools understand.) You can fill out your applications on their site, also, starting around September.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Wow, a lot of good suggestions.  Thank you.  Especially with the scheduling of applying and taking the LSAT; that helps a lot.

I would also consider Northwestern if I were you.  They like older applicants who have had significant work experience, and you may find that this will mitigate your fairly low GPA in their eyes.  They would probably be your best bet in the T14 unless you get a 175+ on the LSAT.

Thanks!  I'll look into Northwestern as well.  Am I considered an older applicant!?  At 28?  I'll try my hardest at 175+ but I'm also hoping that my undergrad/masters degree programs carry some weight when admissions is reviewing my GPA.  Thanks again!

Absolutely, without a doubt, take an LSAT class (Powerscore seems to be pretty good). I did not, and boy do I regret it. With your UGPA, you will need to crush the LSAT for Chicago and Virginia.  You can also register on LSAC. There is lots of info there about the process as well.

Good luck, and congratulations on having the courage to re-evaluate your career path!

I briefly considered taking an LSAT class but have decided to study on my own after taking a sample exam.  At least for the first go-round then, if my score is a bit low, I'll probably take a class.  I was hoping that the GPA would be less of an issue considering the degree program and the school I attended.  Not that I expected it to be disregarded, just hoping that the law school admissions requirements would be a little less stringent.  A 3.4 in history or poli-sci, not to knock the LA&S as I find the subjects fascinating, but it is just not the same as a 3.4 in engineering.  I guess I just thought that some consideration would go towards the type of bachelors/masters degrees of candidates, not just the GPA.  Was I wrong in thinking this to be true?

Thanks for your comments!  I'll definitely check out Powerscore.

I just joined the site and already I have found a lot of useful information!  This place is great! 

Let me introduce myself:

I am a structural engineer and about 28 years of age.  I have a bachelors and masters degree in civil engineering from a top school in that field and carried about a 3.4ish average.  For the past five years was a bridge design engineer for a firm in Chicago.

Recently I decided to take an off year and evaluate my life and career.  Engineering was not as fulfilling or as challenging as I had hoped and I wasn't happy with the direction my life was headed.  During this time off I moved out of northern Illinois and started researching what I would like to do next.  I decided I would still like to be involved in structural engineering on some level, contractual or volunteer, but that the law is where my true interest lies.

What I'm hoping I can get from you guys, and gals, who are further along in this process is any general advice on things you would have done differently or obstacles you had to navigate during the LSAT or when applying to law school?  Any advice from practicing lawyers would be helpful as well.  Any specific advice from Engineers/Lawyers would be doubly-helpful!

Also, does anyone know of a good source of information on how to best go about applying for law schools?  Do you take the LSAT first?  Or do you sort of take the LSAT and apply at the same time?  When, if I were starting my preparations today, could I expect to be starting law school?

I have a ton more questions but I'm sure there are some posts that already answer them so I'll search around a bit more first.

In case you're interested, my short term goals are to get accepted to University of Chicago and University of Virginia.  I have one more tier one school in mind that is listed in the USN top 30.  Does anyone have any advice on T2 etc. schools?  Long term, I would like to practice patent or environmental law but several other areas interest me as well and so this is in no way written in stone; though I have read that engineers tend to get pushed into patent law.

Anyway, nice to meet you all and thanks in advance for any advice you may have for me!

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