When Do I...?
Imagine you're graduating college, or your kids have started school, and you'd like a job. Do you announce that you're going to work for Microsoft and plan to begin September 1, then run around trying to figure out how to make that fiction become fact? I hope not! I'd like to believe you look at job listings, review your skills, spruce up your wardrobe, practice interviewing, then apply and say your prayers.
Yet most applicants to law school approach the process in exactly the absurd way I describe above. They choose either an LSAT date or a list of law schools and insist they're going to abide by that plan. When they don't get the LSAT score they expected, their entire plan falls apart: they must either start over with a new list of schools or rearrange their entire schedule to allow for retaking the LSAT.
The second-best plan begins early in the summer. You work on essays and other documents while studying for the September or October LSAT (the month varies from year to year). If you're diligent, you'll still have plenty of time to complete applications with February 1 deadlines -- as long as you don't need to retake the LSAT in December. If you want a second score, you'll sacrifice social life, sleep, or quality of work. Look here for schedules centered on the October LSAT.
Returning students and applicants with difficulties to manage -- job concerns for a spouse, child care, or an uncertain graduation date -- often wait until all their questions are answered before taking the February LSAT. If you're applying to schools with late deadlines no matter where they are, this plan can work; if you're limited to a few schools in a narrow geographic range, you may find you goal blocked by application deadlines or flooded markets.
Despite the difficulties of undertaking the application process late, many people do so. Rather than simply telling them they're wrong and ignoring their problems, I've included a section on how to minimize the effects of last-minute decisions.
And in 2012, with applications at a level rivaling pre-Vietnam War levels (meaning "really, really, low"), I've added a "for emergency use only" plan for applyingfor the current year with a June LSAT score.