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Pre-Law Advising

The Pre-Law Advising Office within Letters & Sciences supports the overall mission and objectives of the University of Maryland.

The Pre-Law Professions Advising Office serves all current and former students at the University of Maryland interested in law school and legal careers. We offer a wide variety of advising services to guide students through the academic and administrative processes necessary to achieve their goals.

Our Pre-Law Advisors encourage students to learn through community service, pre-professional experience, and campus organizations. We help students to become self-directed learners and to assume a significant role in their pre-professional education. We encourage pre-law students to become broadly educated and to take advantage of personal growth opportunities while exploring their interest in a prospective career in law. 

The Pre-Law Advising Office, located in 0110 Hornbake Library South, is open Monday-Friday, 8:30AM-4:30PM. Drop-in hours are available for all students, though juniors and seniors are encouraged to set up a specific appointment time.

Drop-in hours are as follows:

  • Tuesdays 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Wednesdays 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
  • Advising during the Summer is by appointment only. All are welcome.

Please call (301)405-2793 or email prelawadvisor@umd.edu to arrange a time for pre-law advising.

Hornbake Plaza viewed through columns of Hornbake Library

For information on our law school placement

Students from University of Maryland, College Park have excellent acceptance rates into law schools. Maryland’s average acceptance rate is consistently higher than the national average. In 2017, 94% of seniors were accepted into one or more law schools—one of the highest rates in the country and nearly 20% greater than the national acceptance rate for all law school applicants.

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Gregory J. Shaffer, Esq.
Associate Director, Pre-Law Advising
gshaffer@umd.edu

Gregory Shaffer, Esq. currently serves as Associate Director of the Pre-Law Advising in the Office of Letters & Sciences at the University of Maryland. Greg is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Maryland with degrees in Government & Politics and Economics. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame Law School, he completed a judicial clerkship in Baltimore and spent 4 years practicing corporate law in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Greg returned to the University in 2003, where he has since served as the Pre-Law Advisor.

 

Nicki Kern
Pre-Law Advisor, Letters & Sciences
nkern@umd.edu

Nicki Kern serves as a Pre-Law Advisor in the Office of Letters & Sciences at the University of Maryland. Nicki earned a Master’s degree in English from University of Maryland, College Park. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the Honors College at Pace University. She also teaches composition at Montgomery College.

Most law schools do not prescribe specific majors nor courses which must be presented for admissions, but do require that one of the standard programs offered by the undergraduate institution be followed. Students are advised to select a major that strongly complements their interests and will allow them to do their best work.

Students should attempt courses that will require substantial writing under close scrutiny, and also courses that will assist them in developing their basic skills in reading comprehension and oral and written expression. Students' undergraduate curriculum should be designed to enhance the essential skills needed for both the study and practice of law, namely, reading, writing, critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Below is a list of suggested courses to assist students in their efforts to develop these essential skills. Classes in bold-print are strongly recommended. This list is not meant to be exhaustive nor should it be regarded as a list of required courses for law school admission.

The following resources and opportunities are available to students interested in becoming involved in pre-law activities on campus.

MLaw Programs

MLaw is a collaboration between the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. MLaw oversees two academic pre-law programs for undergraduates: the Law and Society Minor and the College Park Scholars Program in Justice and Legal Thought.

Mock Trial
The University of Maryland Mock Trial program offers students a hands-on introduction to trial advocacy. The program is both a competitive team and a three-credit GVPT class. Coached by law professors and practicing attorneys, Maryland’s Mock Trial team has won more National Championships than any other school.

University Student Judiciary
As a part of the Office of Student Conduct, the University Student Judiciary resolves disciplinary and academic dishonesty referrals filed against students at the University of Maryland. Students can serve as members of the University Student Judiciary by representing students in disciplinary hearings, sitting on judicial boards and committees, and educating students about the University’s academic and ethical policies.

Undergraduate and Graduate Student Legal Aid Office Internships
The Undergraduate and Graduate Student Legal Aid Offices provide free legal information, consultations, referrals, and assistance to students at the University of Maryland. Undergraduate internships are available in both offices for academic credit.

Phi Alpha Delta, Professional Pre-Law Fraternity
Phi Alpha Delta is a professional law fraternity for pre-law students. The University of Maryland’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta offers students opportunities for professional and academic development, community service, and social interaction with pre-law peers.

University Career Center & The President’s Promise
Students seeking pre-law related internships in local law firms, government offices, and the judiciary should visit the Careers4Terps website or make an appointment with the Career Center at 3100 Hornbake Library.

The University of Maryland has cooperative agreements with the University of Baltimore School of Law and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law that allows students in any recognized major and who meet certain qualifications to apply to law school BEFORE OBTAINING A BACCALAUREATE DEGREE.

The Three Year Arts/Law Degree Program is for students with exceptional records who are accepted to the aforementioned law school following their third year of baccalaureate level course work. Upon satisfactory completion of the first year in law school, students will be awarded their baccalaureate degree in "Arts/Law" from the University of Maryland.

Students applying to the Arts/Law Program will remain in a regular College Park major until formal notification from a law school is received that the student has been accepted. Upon submission of a copy of the student's letter of acceptance from the law school to the Pre-Law Advisor, the student's records will be transferred to the Division of Letters of Sciences, thereby allowing the student to participate in the program.

Students must inform the Pre-Law Advisor and their major department in writing of their intention to participate in this program prior to applying to either the University of Baltimore School of Law or the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Receipt of notification from their major department must be sent to the Pre-Law Advisor.

QUALIFICATIONS

Qualifications which must be completed BEFORE the beginning of the first semester of law school are:

  1. At least 90 credits (30 of which must be earned at College Park).
  2. All university general education requirements.
  3. 18 credits in one department applicable to a recognized major with at least 6 of those credits at the 300/400 level.
  4. A minimum grade of "C" achieved in major courses.

Students who fulfill the above requirements may apply directly to either the University of Baltimore School of Law or the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. The optimal time for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is either June following the students' sophomore year or October during the students' junior year. Application to the respective law school is then made in fall of the junior year.

If accepted by the law school, the student begins law school without an undergraduate degree. Upon successful completion of the first year of law school, the student must provide an official transcript of the first year of law school. Official transcripts should be sent both to the Registrar's Office and the Pre-Law Advisor. Students should contact the Diploma office in early spring semester of the first year of law school to apply for their undergraduate degree. The credits earned during the first year of law school are treated as if they had been earned at the University of Maryland. Only grades of "C" or better will be transferred from the law school as credit towards the baccalaureate degree. Grades of C- or below will not count as credit towards the baccalaureate degree. When the total number of credits reaches at least 120, the student will be issued a baccalaureate degree certifying completion of the "Arts/Law" program. Admission to the program is not guaranteed, as the admission decision is within the discretion of the law schools. Students considering this program should contact the Law and Health Professions Advising Office for more information.

WHEN CONSIDERING THE ARTS/LAW PROGRAM, REMEMBER:

  1. Students who are admitted to the Arts/Law program, upon successful completion of the first year of law school, will receive their baccalaureate degree in "Arts/Law" and not in any particular major. Accordingly, students should consider the program in light of their academic and professional interests.
  2. The Arts/Law program offered at the University of Maryland is only available to students enrolled at the College Park campus. Students enrolled at all other campuses, including the University of Maryland, University College, are not eligible to apply or participate in the Arts/Law program at the College Park campus.
  3. The decision regarding eligibility to apply to the Arts/Law program is within the discretion of the Pre-Law Advisor. The decision regarding admission to the law school is within the discretion of the individual law school and is contingent upon several factors, including a strong LSAT performance, a competitive cumulative undergraduate grade point average, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and co-curricular activities.
  4. Students who are denied admission to the Arts/Law program are still eligible to apply as traditional law school applicants the following year.
  5. While not completing a major under the Arts/Law program, students must make progress towards a degree-granting major in order to participate in the program. Therefore, it is important that students identify a major early in the course of study at Maryland, especially if they to do not ultimately enroll in law school under the Arts/Law program.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

There are no required courses for admission to law school. You are encouraged to select courses that will develop your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills. Most undergraduate courses will develop one or more of these skills.

There are no preferred majors for law school. You are encouraged to pursue a major that best suits your academic interests. Admittedly, there are some majors that are traditionally recognized as being "pre-law," including Government and Politics, History, Criminology and Criminal Justice, English, Sociology, and Communications. However, students who pursue such majors as Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Art History and others also have decided to go to law school. The key is to select a curriculum in which you are interested. Typically, when a student majors in a subject that reflects his/her interests, that student will perform well in that subject, which in turn, will give the student a competitive grade point average for purposes of law school admission.

There is no undergraduate degree program in "pre-law." You must select a program from the list of majors offered at the University of Maryland. Because the field of law is vast, most colleges and universities no longer offer an undergraduate degree in "pre-law," as such a degree has been found to give the student little advantage when entering law school. Once again, you are encouraged to choose a major that reflects your interests, while taking care that you are developing your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills.

There is no minimum GPA required for law school admission. The accepted GPA is dependent upon the academic performances of the incoming first-year class at specific law schools. Generally, GPAs of 3.4 and above are considered competitive for admission to law school. Please note that the admissions decision is based on a wide variety of factors, with the GPA and LSAT generally considered the two most important.

Law schools are most interested in students who are well-balanced academically, professionally, and socially. Although internships and co-curricular activities are not mandatory, they are highly encouraged. When participating in an internship or co-curricular activities, you should select opportunities that suit your interests and allow you to develop essential skills - i.e. time management, creativity, initiative, working with people. These opportunities do not necessarily have to be law-related. Students who participate in law-related internship benefit, in that such activities give them the chance to confirm whether or not they are truly interested in law. Moreover, students who are involved in law-related organizations benefit from being apart of a community of people with interests similar to your own. However, you should take advantage of any available opportunities to get involved. The key is quality and not quantity. You should participate only in those activities in which they are actively interested. You should not join organizations for the purpose of "looking good" for law schools.

Most students apply to 5 to 10 law schools. Keep in mind, the average application fee is $60. Hence, applying to a lot of schools can be quite expensive.

In researching law schools, it is very important to look beyond a school's reputation. Just because a school is ranked highly, does not necessarily mean that it will be the right school for you. A good reputation is important, but it is not the most important factor for consideration.

The first step in researching law schools is to develop your criteria list - what you are looking for the law schools to offer you. You should consider factors such as cost, location, class size, diversity, career placement, clinical programs, concentrations, study abroad, and bar passage rates. You should use your list as the basis for your evaluation of the law schools. Remember, selecting a law school is a subjective experience. What will be important to you will not necessarily be what is important to other applicants.

Next, you should attend any local or regional law school fairs. Fairs give you the opportunity to meet with law school representatives and to ask any questions you specifically have about their programs. LSAC sponsors fairs several times throughout the year. To find out the dates and location, go to LSAC's website at http://ww.lsac.org.

Finally, you should visit the schools in which you are most interested. You should request to sit in on a first-year class, speak with current students, and tour the campus. You want to make sure that, if accepted, that you can see yourself at that school for three years.

There are no specific pre-law classes that are required for law school admission. Nor, are there any pre-law classes that will give you a competitive edge for purposes of applying to law school. Hence, if you already have an undergraduate degree, it is not necessary for you to take additional undergraduate classes.

Application Information

The law school application consists of the application form (available through LSAC or the school directly); personal statement; resume; school-specific letters of recommendation, and any addendums of explanation.

You first should read the law schools' instructions for writing the personal statement. You must follow these instructions carefully. Typically, the instructions for the personal statement are very general and do not require any specific topic of discussion.

Generally, in writing the personal statement, students should be answering the following question: Why law? What is motivating my interest to pursue a career in law? Often times, students address the wrong question in their personal statement - i.e. Why I am qualified to pursue a career in law? The purpose of the personal statement is to give the law school admissions committee information that they cannot find anywhere else in your application. The committee can look at your transcripts and resume to determine your qualifications. Hence, use the personal statement as an opportunity to give the committee insight into who you are and why you are applying. In answering the "Why law?" question, you can refer to a specific event or person who influenced your decision to pursue law. Also, the personal statement can be written in the narrative form.

Note: The personal statement should be a positive testament of your commitment to the study of law. It is not the opportunity to discuss low GPAs, LSAT scores, academic misconduct, or any other disciplinary issues. These issues should be discussed in an addendum to the law school application.

Typically, personal statements are two-pages, double-spaced. Students must read the application instructions for the personal statement, as there may be a specified page limit. The personal statement should be as concise as possible.

The strongest letters of recommendation are from those individuals who have had the opportunity to monitor your academic progression over a period of time. Typically, these individuals are professors, academic advisors, department chairpersons, and deans. What is important is not who the person is - i.e. whether or not he/she is an attorney - but how well the person knows you.

Most law schools require a minimum of two letters of recommendation. At least one recommendation should be an academic reference. The other letter should be another academic reference, but it could also be a professional reference, or a community/volunteer reference. Generally, personal references –i.e. from a relative or close friend - are not strong references, unless the person has some connection to the schools to which you are applying. Non-academic letters of recommendation should discuss such topics as your ability to work with others, your ability to work with little or no supervision, your ability to take constructive criticism, your initiative and creativity, and your ability to work under pressure.

In order to help your recommenders write the letters, you should prepare a packet of information which includes your transcript, your resume, and any work you have submitted to them. You should also submit to them a draft of your personal statement if possible.

It is recommended that you give your recommenders at least a month to complete the letters. You should ask your recommenders to write you a letter during the summer of your junior year. Doing so will allow them enough time to prepare the letter. If sending the letter directly to the law school, remember to give the recommender the recommendation form provided in the law school application. If using the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to process the recommendation, you must give the recommender the form provided in the registration book or online. If this form does not accompany the letter, CAS will not process the letter.

Addendums to the application are any material you submit for purposes of explanation, clarification, or support. You should use addendums to discuss such issues as a poor GPA/LSAT and any academic misconduct or disciplinary concern. Addendums should also be used to discuss any concerns regarding a police record, including past arrests, charges, indictments, suspensions, probations, and parole. Addendums, unlike the personal statement, should not be written in narrative form.

It is better to answer the question honestly, even if the charge or arrest has been expunged. You should explain the circumstances surrounding the incident and discuss what you have learned from the experience.

LSAT/CAS

The LSAT is the Law School Admission Test. It is a standardized test required by nearly all ABA-approved law schools. The test consists of four sections, three of which are scored. The sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and one logical reasoning sections. The unscored section is generally used to pretest new test questions. There is also a writing sample, which is not scored but is sent to all the law schools to which the student applies. Visit http://www.lsac.org for further information about both the LSAT and CAS.

The LSAT is offered multiple times a year; for testing dates, see http://www.lsac.org

 

You should take the LSAT at least one year before you intend to enter law school. Hence, for most students, the optimal time to take the LSAT is either the Spring or summer of junior year or fall of senior year. These testing dates will allow the student enough time to apply to law school in the fall semester of the senior year.

Preparing for the LSAT begins with selecting courses that develop your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills. The LSAT is designed to test your abilities in these areas. Many students decide to prepare with self study, by buying LSAT preparation material. In addition, commercial prep courses and private tutors are available to help students prepare for the LSAT. Information regarding these courses and tutors is available in the Law and Health Professions Advising Office. You should research these services to ensure that they will adequately meet your needs.

Preparation for the LSAT generally takes three to six months, depending upon the needs of the particular student. Some students require more time to prepare. You should take into account past preparation for and performance on standardized exams to determine the amount of time you will need to prepare for the LSAT.

The key to the LSAT is practice. In preparing for the LSAT, students should first take a sample LSAT exam, in order to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Equipped with this information, you then are in a better position to determine just how much and what type of preparation you will need. You also should take several practice exams throughout your preparation for the LSAT, so that you can measure your improvement over time. Knowing your range of performance on the practice LSAT is particularly helpful when analyzing your actual LSAT score and deciding whether or not you should take the LSAT again.

 

Most law schools will consider the highest LSAT score you have received. Due to the cost of the exam as well as the time needed to prepare, students should aim to take the LSAT only once. However, taking the LSAT more than once has become common and is certainly acceptable when retesting will likely result in an improved score.

When deciding whether or not to retake the LSAT, students should consider seriously whether or not their performance will improve. To help determine this, students should take into account several factors: the extent of their preparations for the first LSAT, how closely their official LSAT score matched practice scores and their cumulative GPA, and the prospects for further study and practice to lead to improvement on a subsequent LSAT.

 

The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) prepares and provides a report to all the law schools to which students apply. It provides a centralized means of compiling and assessing undergraduate academic records. Information contained in the report includes copies of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts, LSAT scores, writing sample copies, and copies of letters of recommendation processed by LSAC. Nearly all ABA-approved law schools require students to register for CAS. There is an additional fee for CAS registration and each CAS report that is sent to requesting law schools.

 

You must send a transcript of all undergraduate and graduate work to CAS. If students have attended colleges or universities other than UMCP (including summer classes), they will need to obtain transcripts directly from those institutions, even if the classes appear on the UMCP transcript.

CAS offers a recommendation service. Use of the service is optional unless a law school to which the student applies requires participation. You should check the letter of recommendation requirements for each law school to which you apply. Copies of these letters will be sent to CAS-participating law schools to which you apply.

A subscription to CAS is good for 5 years, from the date of subscription.

 

LSAC reports the 12 most recent LSAT scores from the past 5 testing years. Most law schools require that students have taken the LSAT within three years of their application. Some allow for the LSAT score to be at maximum five years old. You should contact the specific law schools to determine whether or not your LSAT score will be accepted.

 

Grades are converted to a 4.0 scale, in order to standardize the reviewing process for law schools. The Grade Conversion Table used by CAS is provided in the current LSAT/CAS Registration and Information Book.

Note: Repeated Courses
All grades earned for a repeated class will be included in the GPA calculation for CAS, even if the lower grade has not been calculated in your GPA at the University of Maryland. If both grades for the repeated course appear on your transcript, it will be calculated in your GPA for purposes of CAS.

Grades excluded from the GPA include Withdraws, Incompletes, Remedial Courses (if they are clearly designated as such on the transcript), Those awarded after the first undergraduate degree has been conferred, Pass/Fail, and No Credit. AP or CLEP courses will be included only if your transcript shows that you received a grade and credits for them. At Maryland, you will receive credit but no grades for AP and CLEP courses. In this instance, these classes will not be calculated in your GPA - they will appear as unconverted credit hours on the CAS Report.

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