Law School Discussion

Personal Statement

Personal Statement
« on: December 07, 2016, 02:27:01 PM »
Hi all,

Just background so I can hopefully get solid answers.  3.63 LSAC gpa and I just took the LSAT a couple of days ago. Not a URM.  I was practicing in the 155-162 range and my goal was 155+.  I am a military veteran and was a police officer for around ten years (patrol and detective), which piqued my interest in practicing criminal law.  I was fortunate to obtain an offer for employment at both a private firm and a DA's office in my area (assuming all goes well and I make it through ok). 

After sitting for the LSAT a couple of days ago, I am near certain that I will be lucky to have scored a couple of points below my target school's 25th%, and my GPA is above their 75th%.  Without discussing the contents directly the last two games killed me.  What has been everybody's experience with reverse splitters?

Is the low'ish LSAT worth an addendum?  I do not have a good excuse, I simply had to pee like crazy during RC and bombed the last two games.  I already signed up to retake in Feb however, I know from studying since August and taking a prep course that my absolute maximum potential right now is a 162 on a great day.

I have an insecurity about the process, but I am wondering if many schools will even care.  I completed my first two years of undergrad at a community college because it was the cheapest option.  I then did a semester in person at a large state school while employed as a police officer, and quickly figured out that finishing online was the way to go due to me having on-call requirements as a detective.  I finished online at a large state school's online arm.  Will they care?  Should I explain in my ps or an addendum why it was necessary to finish online instead of in-person?       

loki13

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Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2016, 02:54:53 PM »
Hi all,

Just background so I can hopefully get solid answers.  3.63 LSAC gpa and I just took the LSAT a couple of days ago. Not a URM.  I was practicing in the 155-162 range and my goal was 155+.  I am a military veteran and was a police officer for around ten years (patrol and detective), which piqued my interest in practicing criminal law.  I was fortunate to obtain an offer for employment at both a private firm and a DA's office in my area (assuming all goes well and I make it through ok). 

After sitting for the LSAT a couple of days ago, I am near certain that I will be lucky to have scored a couple of points below my target school's 25th%, and my GPA is above their 75th%.  Without discussing the contents directly the last two games killed me.  What has been everybody's experience with reverse splitters?

Is the low'ish LSAT worth an addendum?  I do not have a good excuse, I simply had to pee like crazy during RC and bombed the last two games.  I already signed up to retake in Feb however, I know from studying since August and taking a prep course that my absolute maximum potential right now is a 162 on a great day.

I have an insecurity about the process, but I am wondering if many schools will even care.  I completed my first two years of undergrad at a community college because it was the cheapest option.  I then did a semester in person at a large state school while employed as a police officer, and quickly figured out that finishing online was the way to go due to me having on-call requirements as a detective.  I finished online at a large state school's online arm.  Will they care?  Should I explain in my ps or an addendum why it was necessary to finish online instead of in-person?     

So, some basic facts.

Being a reverse splitter is worse than being a splitter. Let me explain why-
As a general rule, the law schools are fully aware of the amount of grade inflation that goes on in UG. So it's (harder) to impress them with a great UG score. On the other hand, they can understand that someone had (insert excuse here) a bad uGPA, but the "objective and national" LSAT score shows that they will succeed in law school. More importantly (and to the point!) good uGPAs are a dime a dozen, good LSAT scores aren't. When it comes to the USNWR rankings, they are willing to accept that "hit" (really, it's not a hit, but a certain amount of low scores that don't count because they are below the threshold) in the uGPAs to get some sweet, sweet high LSATs. You don't get that same phenomenon in reverse.

That's the bad news. The good news is as follows:
1. You're non-traditional, so your life experience will count a (very) little. So there's that!
2. You already have soft offers of jobs ... and really, that's awesome! Seriously. Unlike 95%+ of applicants, you already have a light at the end of the tunnel that isn't just the train of student debt coming to hit you.

Okay, so with that in mind, keep plugging. Don't be insecure. Re-take the test. And whatever you do, don't make excuses for your performance. It is what it is, and whatever awesome life experience and maturity you bring to the table and will be shown in your application will vanish if you are saying that your LSAT score was a few points lower than you had hoped because you didn't time your bathroom breaks correctly. Seriously.

You should be fine. You might want to apply to more than one school (if possible). Other than that- good luck!


Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2016, 06:27:18 PM »
LOL with the addendum I was thinking of articulating that I know I can score higher and am retaking, but your explanation does point out how absurd trying to explain that is.  Thanks for pointing that out and for the information on the admissions process!  Looking back on that I cannot even believe it entered my head, post-LSAT crazy speculation I guess. 

I am applying to three schools (geographic restrictions and all), with their med LSATS at 157, 150, and 161.  I have no illusions or desire to chase top 10% or biglaw.  The first listed is my first choice.   

I am glad to hear that the pre-school job offers are a plus in the application.  I also managed to snag an LOR from a State Attorney General I got to know with a case I worked, so I am really hoping my softs are solid. 

Thank you again!  I am sending off my apps tomorrow and started studying again today.         



 

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2016, 09:02:34 PM »
I agree with everything Loki said, it's good advice.

And yes, a high LSAT score is worth more than a high GPA. I'll take a 170 over a 4.0 any day. Of course, if I could have both...

Just a few things to add:

Most people score lower than they expect on the LSAT. Until you get an actual score, don't fret too much. See how you did and if you really, truly have a good reason to believe that you will do better on a retake go ahead and do it. A higher LSAT score can help with scholarships.

Which brings me to my next point. Do everything possible to avoid racking up a huge debt. It looks like the jobs you're shooting for are great, but won't start you off at six figures. You don't want a $150k debt in that situation. Let's say you score 157, and have an offer of admission from your top choice with a 25% scholarship, and from the 150 school with a 75% scholarship. In your situation I would seriously consider the 150 school.

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2016, 02:35:15 AM »
Hi Maintain,

It is objectively difficult to get over the "holy *&^% I may get into law school" excitement and take a pragmatic view regarding debt.  I am familiar with the loan forgiveness that some public service jobs offer, but paying down that much debt making 60k a year as a new prosecutor would be an absolute bear.  The loan is essentially a mortgage.

Strangely I am taking around an initial 23k pay cut if I went the DA route or an initial 15k pay cut for the opportunity at the small firm.  The ultimate economics work out though assuming I am at least decent at it and have a normal career progression.   

My UG was paid for by the GI Bill, so I am ignorant to student loans.  This may seem like a silly question, but what exactly do student loans cover?  Does interest accumulate while you're in school?  I would rather not dip into my 401 or 457.  My 150 school is outside of the state but we do have alot of family in the area, the logistics just may get weird with an apartment rental, flights back and forth for long weekends etc...

Thank you for the info and feedback!  I will definitely be pursuing the most cost effective option, which may mean taking a final LSAT in June and applying early for 2018 start.   

 

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2016, 10:03:03 AM »
Hi Maddawg, a few thoughts:

Student Loans
Your law school will have a Financial Aid center that can answer specific questions, but here is the thumbnail sketch. There are subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The govt pays the interest on the subsidized loans while you're in school, interest accrues on the unsub loans. There are also private loans.

Off the top of my head I don't know what the total amount you can borrow is now, but you can pretty easily borrow enough to cover tuition and living expenses. Many people also take out a bar study loan after graduating.

This is where you need to be careful. It is very easy to accept 20k per year for living expenses when it's being offered, but much tougher to pay back.

Loan Forgiveness
You may or may not be able to take advantage of such programs. My wife, for example, is a govt attorney and was told no, while other govt lawyers have qualified. But it usually works like this: you pay your loans for a number of years (10-25) and as long as you are a qualifying govt/public interest lawyer for that period, the remaining balance is forgiven. There are MANY variations on this, so don't take what I say as gospel.

Jobs/Starting Salary
It is awesome that you have contacts and a soft job offer, but I can tell you as someone who worked in govt that there is no way they can definitively tell you that they will be able to hire you in three or four years. If the economy dumps, they won't be hiring anyone. Govt hiring is very different from private firms, who can pretty much hire and fire at will. For govt jobs, the funding has to be in place, the job has to be posted, and lots of people get a say in the decision.

I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying keep an open mind because you may need to look elsewhere for employment depending on circumstances.

Which brings me to my next point: don't go to law with unless you are willing to practice whatever kind of law you can get a job in. If the DA isn't hiring, be prepared to defend DUIs, or write wills or petition for child custody modifications. I would say that 75% of the people in my graduating class started off wanting to be local prosecutors/US Attorneys/Biglaw, whatever. Maybe 10% got those jobs. The rest took whatever they could get.

Geography

You mentioned that one of the schools you are looking at is out of state. In my opinion, when you are looking at non-elite schools geography is everything. I would definitely look first at schools located in the state/city in which you want to live. You will find it much easier to get internships, to make connections to the local bar, and set yourself up for employment if you are physically there. In addition (and I have no idea what state you are in), there is the issue of the bar exam. It is generally better to go to school in the state in which you plan to take the bar.

Part Time Programs
I am a fan of part time programs for non-trad students. I know a lot of people aren't fans because it takes four years instead of three, but I am. First, you can work (even if only part time) and avoid racking up debt. Second, the students tend to be a little more mature. I think it's an easier transition than being plopped into a class full of 22 year olds. Just a thought.

Hope that helps!

Hope that helps!

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2016, 01:44:08 AM »

Jobs/Starting Salary
It is awesome that you have contacts and a soft job offer, but I can tell you as someone who worked in govt that there is no way they can definitively tell you that they will be able to hire you in three or four years. If the economy dumps, they won't be hiring anyone. Govt hiring is very different from private firms, who can pretty much hire and fire at will. For govt jobs, the funding has to be in place, the job has to be posted, and lots of people get a say in the decision.

I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying keep an open mind because you may need to look elsewhere for employment depending on circumstances.

Which brings me to my next point: don't go to law with unless you are willing to practice whatever kind of law you can get a job in. If the DA isn't hiring, be prepared to defend DUIs, or write wills or petition for child custody modifications. I would say that 75% of the people in my graduating class started off wanting to be local prosecutors/US Attorneys/Biglaw, whatever. Maybe 10% got those jobs. The rest took whatever they could get.

Part Time Programs
I am a fan of part time programs for non-trad students. I know a lot of people aren't fans because it takes four years instead of three, but I am. First, you can work (even if only part time) and avoid racking up debt. Second, the students tend to be a little more mature. I think it's an easier transition than being plopped into a class full of 22 year olds. Just a thought.

Hope that helps!

Hope that helps!

It is very helpful!  Thank you and Loki too for taking time to fill me in on the realities surrounding the admissions practice and law in general.  These forums are great resources for wannabe attorneys. 

I have networked like crazy in making this mid-career move, but I would be flexible to working in other arenas if none of these worked out. 

The more research and advice I seek out seems to reveal that law school is a bad idea for a lot (maybe most) people.  If my Feb and June LSAT scores are not significantly improved I may throw a grenade on this and pursue other grad school opportunities.

Thanks again!

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2016, 06:11:22 PM »
Police do the WORST at conlaw and crimlaw and crimpro of any student group. I have my theories as to why that is. But just be prepared.

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2016, 11:44:42 AM »
Police do the WORST at conlaw and crimlaw and crimpro of any student group. I have my theories as to why that is. But just be prepared.

My guess would be they underestimate the subject matter thinking they know it all?  Or they think and write like cops on the exams?

 

Re: Personal Statement
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2016, 11:50:34 AM »
We had a couple of law enforcement folks in my section, and they were frustrated with the crimpro/conlaw rules. They felt that the rules impeded their ability to make arrests/gather evidence (which is true), but they didn't seem willing to entertain the notion that a greater good is being served by limiting police power. They come at it from a different perspective.