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Rejections

The worst kind of correspondence, of course, is the rejection letter: "We are so sorry, but we had many more qualified applicants than we could possibly accommodate."  This letter has disposed of your file, at least for the current year.  The only kind thing that can be said about rejection letters is that they usually are unequivocal.

As disagreeable as these letters are, you must reconcile yourself to receiving at least a few of them. If you've chosen your law schools wisely, you will be favored with a few acceptances to offset the disappointment. And remember that you need only one acceptance; you can't attend two law schools, after all.

Can I ask why?

If you have been rejected, you may want to inquire as to the reason. On rare occasions you will be rejected because a request for additional information was not answered. You may not have received the request, or the recommender or registrar may have failed to send out the requested information. In this case, you might request that the law school reconsider your file after you have personally delivered the missing information.

It is more common for late applicants to be rejected because there were no seats left by the time the application was complete. Some admissions officers will inform you of this in the letter of rejection. If you know you applied in the last month before the school's deadline or that your file was not complete until after the application deadline, you should contact the admissions officer and ask whether you might receive a favorable decision if you apply earlier next year.

In some instances, the law school will reply that you would do well to re-apply early, and perhaps with a slightly higher LSAT score. If you wish to re-apply, make sure you take the LSAT in June. Schools have been known to look askance at applicants who were told to apply early but waited until the next December to retake the LSAT.

If you know your application was complete, and at a reasonably early date, there is no reason to request reconsideration of your file this year.

Can I Transfer In Next Year?

In response to the volume of questions about transferring after your first year, I made that my only interview question at the 1997 DC Law Forum.  Here's what I learned:

  • In general, you can transfer only at the end of one year of full time study at an ABA-approved law school.  
  • You will require a Dean's certification that you are a student in good standing (so you can't hide your intent to leave).
  • The more difficult it was to get into a school, the more difficult it will be to transfer in.  

As with all other aspects of law school admissions, the generalizations end quickly, and the individual answers take over.  The following table shows the results of my interviews with 47 schools. (We have answers for another 80 schools in our files, but this should give you an idea of the range of answers.)

A final word of advice:  don't count on transferring; it isn't easy. If you won't be happy at this year's law school, you'll be better off fixing your file and re-applying than counting on transferring out.  

Can I reapply?

If you already applied and were rejected, you won't be accepted next year unless you strengthen your file. That almost certainly means a better LSAT score. Did you adequately prepare for the LSAT? If you know you didn't spend enough time preparing, find a way to make the time. If you didn't take a prep course, take one. If you took one, shop around for a better program. A higher LSAT score is the strongest persuasion you can offer to the law school.

The second best change you can make is to write a better personal statement. Did you honestly deal with those aspects of your file that need addressing? Was the statement well-written and edited? Did it tell an interesting story? Did you take risks, show some vulnerability? Perhaps more important, did it answer the questions the law school posed? In writing a new personal statement, you need to be sure not to contradict anything you said previously; however, you can give fuller explanations of problems, or address a wholly different topic.

In 2011, Dean of Admissions Frank Motley, of Indiana Bloomington Law School, sent me a link to an article in the Sunday's N.Y. Times online, which is quite long, but identified a group of character traits that contribute to success, both in school and in life, whether rich or poor. If you're not succeeding at something you really want, give this list some serious thought. The authors broke the qualities into eight broad categories, and I've more or less followed their outline here.

  • Zest, or in my vocabulary, eagerness, passion, zeal. Do you show enthusiasm, actively participate in a way that encourages others?
    • I tend to do well in this category, inspiring applicants to try. I notice that students who do poorly on their LSATs, essays or applications do not engage with the work. I can name this, but I usually can't fix it. I'm working on it, though. "Read more carefully" isn't a good enough instruction; that's why I've added sections to my web page like this one, helping you to know what those words mean.
  • Grit, or determination, or working through frustration. How do you get past "I got it wrong and I don't know how to fix it?"
    • I do this in several ways. If I lack a cognitive skill — the definition of a word or a rule of grammar — I go look it up. If I know the words and rules and don't know why I'm getting something wrong, I ask somebody else. In my youth, I would call a friend or study partner; now I just google it.
    • If something seems unfixable, like my total lack of any sense of direction, I print maps with highlighter lines on them and keep them in the car. I don't like GPS systems, because they often distract me from my driving and they're often wrong. If I feel lost, I pull over into a parking lot or other safe and legal place and study my map. In short, I find a system that works for me and I use it.
    • Working through frustration is easier by myself than with another person. If I can't get the cell phone to send a photo, I just set it aside until I can ask someone with more skill. But if I'm frustrated with the person I'm talking to, a whole new set of skills applies:
  • Self-Control — Interpersonal Communication.
    • That's a hard one for me. I'm not allowed to say, "I know how to take the picture, you idiot! I'm looking at the picture I took! Now how do I get YOU to see the picture?
    • It's also especially hard when the person you're talking to doesn't want to hear the answer you're giving, like this (which will probably make said person angry and frustrated again):
      • "What's the status on my file?"
      • "I don't know; I'm working on my web page."
      • "Well, did you get my résumé?"
      • "I don't know; I'm working on my web page."
      • "Well I sent it three days ago."
      • "But I'm working on my web page."
    • Clearly my client and I are BOTH flunking interpersonal communication. I think I'm saying, "I don't want to deal with you and your file right now." Client is trying to say, "I need to know what you think of my résumé. Stop working on your web page and go look." To which I want to answer, "NO."
    • When interpersonal communication becomes a battle of wills, no one wins. I know that, but I don't know how to fix it.
  • Other aspects of Self-Control — Interpersonal Communication include politeness, anger management, and careful listening.
    • These can be very good skills to have. They can also be virtually impossible when twenty or thirty anxious clients want to know about their file, and I want to update my web page.
      • This is a particular problem of small businesses. Larger companies pay someone to say, "I'm sorry, but she's not available just now."
    • I can tell you for myself that if I'm having anger issues, I'm feeling unheard. But if we're talking about anger issues keeping you out of law school, my best guess is that you and your LSAT instructor or prelaw advisor are stuck in a loop like the one above.
      • Now sometimes, you will not be heard. If you're saying, "Why does this stupid rotten test control my life?" you will not be heard. The "why" of it is irrelevant in that moment. What you really mean is, "I can't do this and don't know how to fix it, but I want to go to your law school anyway."
      • At other times, you may have reached your frustration point. Try looking at "Grit" and cognitive skills above.
  • The other definition of self-control in this article is about focus, staying on task.
    • This can be very difficult to do if you have to deal with the outside world. That's why I'm typing this at 5:00 a.m. — so no one will call to ask me about a résumé.
    • The real world, in the form of family, work, bills, illnesses, car problems, can all make "finishing what you started" difficult. No one can stop the world to finish an assignment. But there are things you can work on:
      • Emotional vs. objective problems. If you need to go to work, that's an objective problem; you have to deal with it. If your cousin had a fight with her mother, maybe it can wait.
      • Static vs. escalating. Will it make any difference whether I post this on October 1 or 2? Probably not. But I have to post it before the 3rd or 4th — how else will my east coast clients know the schedule? Since I know that too long a delay will escalate the problem, I try not to procrastinate.
      • Prioritizing Tasks. I do that almost every day. A task can change priority because of personal problems — a five hour flight delay caused me to arrive home too late to finish the tasks I had planned — or external factors: not a single one of my clients felt ready for the October LSAT, so the schedule will change due to conditions beyond my control. When you get off-schedule, do you stop to re-prioritize the tasks?
  • I think of the next two categories — gratitude and optimism — as one.
    • That's because I see them both as the opposite of "entitlement." If no one owes you a job, you should be grateful to have one and be optimisitic about your ability to pay bills.
    • Pessimism and entitlement often go together: "I should have a six figure salary, and I'll never get one with this mediocre score on this rotten test that I don't want to take anyway." I don't get moralistic over this kind of attititude in my clients; I merely point out that it serves no purpose whatsoever. Complaining about the LSAT, or the essays, or having to learn grammar, won't make the problem go away, and problem-solving is our need. How can we fix the LSAT score? What other law school can you go to?
  • The last two categories, Social Intelligence and Curiosity, are also linked in my mind. It's much easier to respect the feelings and customs of others if you're curious enough to ask what they are.
    • The three items on the "social intelligence" list — able to find solutions during conflicts with others; demonstrates respect for the feelings of others; and knows when and how to include others — all require knowing that you're a tiny little fish in a great big pond.
    • The three items under "curiosity" — eager to explore new things; asks and answers questions; and actively listens to others — automatically increase your social intelligence. E.g.:
      • Asking "are you a vegetarian?" will increase your social intelligence in choosing dinner.
      • Saying, "I've never seen that before; what is it?" both includes the other person and shows repect for their food, hat, or whatever it is that you've never seen before.
  • Most importantly, I have repeatedly seen social intelligence land a person a job, and the lack of it cost a person a job.
    • Most hiring interviews include a lunch or dinner, so that your table manners and ability to make polite conversation can be judged. I'm thrilled when a client calls me to say, "Remember that YouTube clip you made me watch? Well, I was having dinner with..." I'm devasatated when a client says, "She asked me about Rembrandt and I thought it was Renoir."
  • NOTICE that this definition of Social Intelligence overlaps with the concept of Cultural Capital,which I've already discussed. Knowing the right fork and knowing the right painter can be equally important.

Are these the only ways to improve your LSAT score, write better essays, and get a job? Of course not. But they are definitely a help.

Finally, you must decide whether law school is really the path for you. If you've done everything possible to strengthen your file, applied to the most lenient schools, and still been rejected, you may have to face the fact that law school isn't in your immediate future. Perhaps a few years of work experience or an advanced degree will make a difference, but for now you may have to set this idea aside.

If you're not willing to give up this goal, but can't find any other options by yourself, contact us; we'll give you an honest assessment of whether you can get into any schools, and what you might need to do so.

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