Frequently Asked Questions about Law School

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Law School

From: Dr. Sean J. Savage, Professor of Political Science

If you have any other questions, please feel free to make an appointment with me by email at ssavage@saintmarys.edu or by phone at (574) 284-4471.  My office is 247 Spes Unica.

Should I major in political science if I want to go to law school?

Students can major in anything and go to law school.  Today, it is not unusual for students who majored in chemistry or engineering to enter law school.  Regardless of their majors, students should choose challenging courses which enable them to further develop their reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, writing, and research skills.  Also, students may want to take courses in advanced writing, logic from the philosophy department, and economics and finance.  Law schools do not assume that college graduates already have basic knowledge about the U.S. Constitution, federal and state courts, etc.  However, the development of these learning skills and such courses as logic and finance enable students to more readily adapt to the study of such required law school courses as constitutional law, criminal law, estates and trusts, contracts, and legal research and writing.

The political science department of Saint Mary’s College currently offers three public law courses: Introduction to American Law, American Civil Liberties, and the U.S. Constitution.  Law schools do not assume the students have any prior knowledge derived from these courses.  However, by taking one or more of these courses, a student may be better able to decide if she wants to study this subject matter at a higher level in law school.  The business, psychology, and communications departments also offer law courses.

What is the LSAT?

The LSAT is an academic aptitude test for law school admissions similar to the use of the SAT and ACT for college admissions.  The LSAT consists of both multiple choice and essay questions.  It evaluates a student’s reading, writing, and analytical reasoning skills.  LSAT scores range from a low of 120 to a high of 180. The LSAT is offered four times a year at Notre Dame and other locations.  For more information and to register to take it, students can access www.lsac.org. Students may also contact the local Kaplan office at (574) 272-4135.

How important is the LSAT score?

Generally, the more selective and higher ranking a law school is, the more important the LSAT score is.  Faculty and administrators at the top25 law schools often say that a student’s LSAT score is the most reliable indicator and predictor of her academic performance during her first year in law school.  In order to better understand the relative value of the LSAT score for admissions at different law schools, students may want to examine the most recent law school rankings in U.S. News and World Report. 

When Should I Take the LSAT?

If a student is certain that she wants to attend law school immediately after college, then taking the exam in June after her junior year may be the best time.  She has no classes at the college at this time, and she can take a test preparation course, such as the Kaplan course, during the spring semester.  She will receive her score during the summer and can then decide:


1) if she still wants to apply to law school  2) if she wants to take the LSAT again  3) to choose five to ten law schools based on where her LSAT score and GPA make her competitive.

How Should I Prepare for the LSAT?

If a student performed well on the SAT and similar standardized tests, then she may choose to simply buy a test preparation book, such as the Barron’s LSAT book, and drill herself.  Otherwise, she may wish to take an in-class, rather than an on-line, LSAT preparation course, such those offered by Kaplan and Princeton Review.  The phone number for the South Bend office of Kaplan educational services is (574) 272-4135.  A student may also want to be notified of mock LSAT exams and other opportunities of the Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s Pre-Law Society at www.nd.edu/~prelaw.  To access the Pre-Law Handbook: www.prelawhandbook.com.

Will an internship or summer job in a legal environment help me get into law school?

Law schools, especially the higher ranked ones, are primarily interested in a student’s academic ability as measured by her LSAT score, GPA, rigor and challenge of her courses, and letters of recommendation from professors who can specifically and extensively evaluate her ability.  Thus, a law-related internship or job may help her to decide if she wants to work in law, but it often has little influence in admissions’ decisions.  Interning or volunteering at a law-related public service organization such as Indiana Legal Services or Sex Offense Services may be regarded as evidence of ethics and public service. 

Which law schools have accepted Saint Mary’s College students and graduates?

A wide range and variety of law schools, including those of Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern University, the University of California-Hastings, University of Michigan, Notre Dame, IU-Bloomington, Ohio State, University of Chicago, Valparaiso University, University of Dayton, Loyola University, IIT-Kent, Drake University, Villanova University, Seton Hall University, Wake Forest University, University of Toledo, SUNY-Buffalo, University of San Diego, Case Western Reserve, DePaul, and Marquette University have accepted this college’s alumnae.

How do I pay for law school?

Most students rely on loans to pay for most of their law school costs.  However, some alumnae have received academic merit scholarships ranging from a few thousand dollars to free tuition.  Some of the higher ranking law schools have loan forgiveness programs in which a student has all or most of her loans paid by the law schools if she agrees to practice public interest law for the first few years after law school.  The “in state” tuition for residents at state law schools is often less than that of private law schools.  More specific, additional information can be obtained from the admissions and financial aid office of each law school.