Law School Discussion

soft factors

soft factors
« on: June 19, 2013, 09:59:58 AM »
What are soft factors that law schools REALLY look at and how does one effectively bring attention to those in the admissions process?  Do some soft factors make a difference more than other?  Also, if i dont get into where i want to, if i go back and get an MA with good GPA will that raise my chances the next time around?
Also, any help on some good LSAT prep courses?  Any recommendations?

Re: soft factors
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2013, 11:12:41 AM »
To be frank law schools care very little about soft factors unless you have done something newsworthy i.e. been an NFL football player, Navy Seal, Astronaut, or something that the school could brag about.

Getting a higher GPA in a master's program is not newsworthy and more importantly would likely be a waste of time and money if your ultimate goal is to attend law school. Furthermore, your numbers in master's programs do not matter as far as I know, but check with any schools you are interested in. The reality is most graduate programs give very high grades and law schools know this.

I am a lawyer and I have friends who sit on admissions committees and they just look at undergrad GPA & LSAT since that is what they have to report to the ABA.

I would recommend taking the LSAT and doing as well as you can. If your still in undergrad then do everything you can to boost it, but if you graduated your UGPA is your UGPA.

Remember not everyone gets into Harvard, but you can still have a successful legal career no matter what school you attend. I would advice you to prepare for the LSAT get as a high a score as possible and go in with your UGPA.

I would highly advice you not to waste tuition money and a year of your life in a master's program in hopes that you will get into a better law school.

Re: soft factors
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2013, 01:26:06 PM »
What are soft factors that law schools REALLY look at and how does one effectively bring attention to those in the admissions process?  Do some soft factors make a difference more than other?

The biggest ones are probably URM status, followed by truly impressive public service/non-profit work. When I say "truly impressive" I mean something substantially more than donating a few hours at a soup kitchen or doing a little tutoring for underprivileged kids. The fact is, lots of people have some minimal public service experience and everyone tries to play it up on their applications. The law schools know this, and weight it accordingly.

On the other hand, genuine and unique experiences can make a difference. For example, I know someone who was not URM but came from very humble origins. She was the first in her family to go to college and spent ten years working in non-profit/public interest jobs. Without going into details, let me just say that her resume/life story were remarkable and probably blew away 99.9% of the other applicants by a mile. In addition she had a high GPA/high LSAT. I think the admissions committees saw that she was the real deal, and she was accepted to law schools that would have been out of reach based on her numbers alone.

My point is that her soft factors were not just good, they were great. I think you almost have to be at that level in order for it to make any real difference. The routine soft factors that most people try to play up (club membership, study abroad, generic proclamations about being "dedicated to justice", etc.) won't make much difference. 

Also, if i dont get into where i want to, if i go back and get an MA with good GPA will that raise my chances the next time around?

Not really. You'd actually be better off retaking the LSAT and shooting for a higher score rather than spending money on an M.A. Graduate GPA is not factored into your LSAC GPA, and the degree itself will likely not carry much weight. Lots of people apply to law school with grad degrees, it's just not that unique.

In summation, in order for soft factors to play any significant role in admission they need to be very impressive. Otherwise, your GPA/LSAT will dominate the process.

Re: soft factors
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2013, 02:15:02 PM »
When you mean public service and soft factors, will touting any of the following be beneficial to me?

Numerous years of service projects as Eagle Scout
8 years of employment in public sector for local county working at child support office and welfare office and county hospital
Working 40 hrs per week while attending school full time and being married with two kids

Will any of these items help me at all?

Also for URM status, what would be more beneficial as i am both: Hispanic or Native Hawaiian.  I know alot of people disregard Native Hawaiian as essentially "American" but i feel they are just as URM or more than Native Americans.  Any help please.

Re: soft factors
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2013, 03:43:05 PM »
Eagle Scout and 8 years of employment etc is not going to help much it won't hurt, but everyone in law school has done similar or more impressive things. Remember these admission committees are looking at 4,000-5,000 applications all from college graduates who performed quite well and are now motivated enough to attend law school. Being an Eagle Scout won't hurt you and may be of minor help, but that will just be seen as normal. 8 years working in a child-support office again it will not hurt, but it sounds you were employed for the last 8 years, which is great, but if the applicants are not coming straight from law school they are typically employed doing something.

Your URM status might help that is something an admissions committee can really look at just like GPA/LSAT. I know African America URM's get big jumps and I imagine Native American's would as well since they are so underrepresented in the legal profession, which is unfortunate and something schools are trying to remedy. If they see your GPA/LSAT and URM status that could help.

Just really put yourselves in the shoes of a member of the admissions committee who are looking at thousands of applications all with good grades, good stories, etc all of them tend to blend in unless it is a truly inspirational story or some huge accomplishment. Otherwise they just look to the numbers 161 LSAT is better than 156 a 3.4 GPA is better than a 3.1 they don't bother to look at majors, colleges, etc typically there is just an overload of information so they go straight to the numbers and they may look at URM Status as well, but working at a hospital for a few years, being an eagle scout, or getting a master's degree will not make you stick out from the crowd it will help you keep up with the crowd, but not catch anyone's attention.

Re: soft factors
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2013, 03:55:11 PM »
No, law schools won't really care that you work for the county or were an Eagle Scout. It won't hurt you, but it probably won't help you either. (Please keep in mind I'm not disparaging your accomplishments in any way, I'm just trying to answer your question honestly).

They will care if you were the executive director of a human rights organization, or if you spent years feeding starving kids and providing medical care in sub-Saharan Africa, you ran a legal aid clinic, or work full time at a homeless shelter. Most people have at least some public interest volunteer work under their belts, and will try to make it sound as glorious as possible on law school apps. The ones who have dedicated their lives to public interest work, however, will stand out.

Remember though, even outstanding soft factors are viewed as complimentary to GPA/LSAT, not in lieu of GPA/LSAT. If you have low numbers all the soft factors in the world aren't going to help. Once you get an LSAT score and LSAC GPA you will be able to get a very good idea as to your chances at any given school. Law school admissions is a numbers game, first and foremost. Everything else will be considered secondarily.