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LAW SCHOOL APPLICANTS: JUST DO IT! OR FORENSICS: THE OTHER EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY; IT’S WHAT’S FOR COLLEGE.

Look at that.  I managed to steal from not one, not two, but three great ad campaigns for that title.

 

Anyway, having spent the last three or four months focused exclusively on current applicants to law school, I’m finally turning to clients who approach me earlier in their careers for advice on such things as majors and softs.  By way of apology for my neglect, I am devoting a blog post to them alone.

 

Now, what you need to get into law school is a good LSAT score and a good GPA, but what you need to get into a top law school, which is defined here as a law school to which your LSAT score and GPA – your vital signs – alone should not entitle you to be admitted, is a good LSAT score, a good GPA, a good application, and SOMETHING.  You need to add to the mix something special that defines you.  When you were in high school that was just “active,” as represented by the eighty-two activities in which you were allegedly involved.  But just as you major in college, you must major in an extracurricular activity in college to impress law schools.  That means picking something to which you can devote yourself.  Pick one thing and become very good at it.  I often, half in jest, select as examples a varsity hockey player and a world-class ballerina, and they’re good examples, but we can’t all be varsity athletes, and I, for one, can’t even watch ballet.  Fortunately, there are innumerable other things that can be done to be SOMETHING.  Join the school newspaper, join the theatre troupe, join the glee club. Heck, one of my classmates at the University of Chicago was Miss Hawaii.  Throughout a youth where she developed a brain capable of ringing the bell on the LSAT and graduating magna from Stanford she was Little Miss Sunshine. (Go see the movie.  Now.) Law schools don’t care what you are as “something,” just be something.  She was a wonderful addition to our class, and not just because she was pleasant to look at.

 

Those things might not be for everyone, but there is one thing we can all do: speak.  And yes, even in front of other people. Which brings me, at looong last (get used to it future lawyers), to the subject of this blog post:  the extracurricular activity of forensics.  I don’t mean doing autopsies (although that would be a great soft), and I don’t  mean rewatching the entire corpus of “Law and Order” (although that would be just plain great). I mean engaging, on a continuous basis, in one of the activities that fall under the rubric “forensic events.”  In short, speaking in front of judges in some format and being evaluated as a consequence.  Sounds like being a lawyer (OK, not like the ones who sit in a room and eat danish all day, but like the lawyers with whom I worked as a litigator).

 

The nearest and dearest to my heart among forensic activities is intercollegiate debate. You and a partner alternate through the course of a tournament between defending and attacking a proposition in front of several judges.  You vigorously argue with your adversaries over policy.  Believe me, as an 18 or 19 year-old it takes you WAY out of your comfort zone and teaches you a new way of life.  I can tell you as someone who has spent the last 25 years arguing before judges and juries and adversaries and a wife and children, that there is no better training for such fools’ errands than participation in intercollegiate debate.

 

If yelling at people isn’t your thing, then there’s always after-dinner speaking.  I’m not kidding.  There are people who get up after dinner, at age 18 or 19, and speak for 4 or 5 minutes about something … entertaining.  I used to watch them in awe after the banquets that usually concluded forensics tournaments, as they competed in the finals of their event.  Jay Leno would have felt inadequate in their company, they were so impressive.  Get ready to meet these people in law school.

 

There’s also something known as impromptu speaking.  You enter a classroom and face three judges and an overturned piece of paper.  You will be directed to read what is written on the paper.  It will say something like “As with fish, guests start to stink after three days.  Discuss.”   You will then have five minutes to expound on the subject.  As with other forensic activities, in addition to being “something,” this trains you in profound ways.  You are looking to spend three years in a classroom where at any given moment Professor Kingsfield (go see the movie The Paper Chase. Now.) will bark out your name and bellow “AS WITH FISH, GUESTS START TO STINK AFTER THREE DAYS.  EXPLAIN FOR US ALL THE COURT’S REASONING IN THIS REGARD,” and if not for your training in impromptu speaking, you would spend the next minute or so doing little more than languishing under the mistaken but not at all unreasonable belief that you are babbling in front of 100 people who are smarter than you are. Law school admissions committees know this.

 

Whatever you decide to be, be something.  Be a varsity hockey player, be a world-class ballerina, be a newspaper editor, be an actor, be a debater, be an after-dinner speaker, be an autopsy doctor, be Miss Hawaii, be Jay Leno, but BE SOMETHING. If you can’t be any of those things, consider forensics.  A law school admissions committee somewhere will reward you for it.

 

Dan Sullivan

Sullivan Law School Admissions Consulting LLC

dan@lawschooladmissionsconsulting

781-862-0701