How important are LSAT score and GPA for Law School?

How important is your LSAT score? Your GPA? Law school is an academic program. The most important determination admissions committees will make about you is whether you have the necessary intellectual firepower to succeed in such an environment. This is why law schools rely so heavily on your GPA and LSAT score. These are perhaps the two most important pieces of information about you that admissions committees will consider.
[ RELATED: LSAT Score Predictor – How would you score on the LSAT? ]

Why the LSAT is Important

Your undergraduate GPA is probably set in stone, or is nearly so. Therefore, your last best chance to improve your odds of admission is to improve your LSAT score. And your LSAT score is important regardless of your GPA. If you have an impressive GPA, the test can be a liability; a poor performance can call your academic record into question. If you have a poor GPA, the test is an opportunity; it can overcome doubts raised by your transcript.
GPA and LSAT aren’t everything, but most schools will begin their evaluation process by some-how sorting their applicant pools by academic profiles. It’s fairly easy to plot your academic chances of getting into most schools, although this becomes increasingly difficult with the more selective schools, a few of which don’t even publish the numerical statistics (LSAT and GPA) of their entering class.
[ MORE INFO: How important are GPA and LSAT Score for Law School? ]

What the LSAT Does

The LSAT tests skills relevant to law school and to the practice of law: reading strategically, analyzing arguments, understanding formal logic, and making deductions. Moreover, the LSAT is the one factor common to all applications. It levels the playing field for candidates regardless of background. The LSAT doesn’t care what you majored in or where you went to school.
The LSAT is probably unlike any other test you’ve taken in your academic career. Most tests you’ve encountered in high school and college have been content-based—that is, they required you to recall a certain body of facts, formulas, theorems, or other acquired knowledge. But the LSAT is a skills-based test. It doesn’t ask you to repeat memorized facts or to apply learned formulas to specific problems. You will be rewarded for familiarity with patterns that make the LSAT predictable, and ultimately all you’ll be asked to do on the LSAT is think—thoroughly, quickly, and strategically. There’s no required content to study! Sound too good to be true? Well, before you get the idea that you can skate into the most important test of your life without preparing, let’s clarify the skills that you’ll need to build. Admissions officers care about your score because the LSAT tests the skills you’ll use on a daily basis in law school. It’s the best predictor law schools have of the likelihood of your success at their institution.
[ GOOD TO KNOW: What’s a good LSAT score? ]

Applying to the Right Law Schools

Note your highest LSAT score, along with your cumulative GPA. Keep these numbers in mind as you peruse school listings, for it makes no sense to compose a list of schools that match your other characteristics when your chances of admission are highly unlikely based on these “performance” factors.
Beyond the numbers, you should know also that schools will scrutinize your transcript for academic rigor and course content. Admissions committee members will be interested in your academic trend. Did your GPA rise or fall over the four years of college? If you had a rocky start, did you recover, and if so, how long did this recovery take you? All of these considerations combine to form your academic profile. Use your profile to help you sort through the great number of schools that will otherwise look like a good fit for you.

The Top Ten Law Schools

While many factors should impact your decision of which law schools to apply to, there’s no denying that reputation often exerts a major influence on applicants’ views of various law programs.  Despite the fact that the various annually published ratings of law schools are intrinsically flawed in their very assumption that there would be one ranking valid for everyone, the general location of the school in the top 50 or bottom 50 can be moderately useful information for you as you compile your list of chosen schools. Here’s the most recent list of the “top 10”:
1. Yale Law School170-1753.79-3.97
2. Stanford Law School168-1733.75-3..95
3. Harvard Law School170-1753.76-3.94
4. University of Chicago Law School166-1723.73-3.95
5. Columbia Law School168-1743.56-3.81
6. New York University Law school166-1713.65-3.89
7. University of Pennsylvania Law School163-1703.57-3.95
8. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Law School164-1693.56-3.87
9. University of Virginia Law School164-1703.48-3.94
10. Duke Law School167-1703.59-3.84

Broadly applied, reputation may translate into more or less successful placement rates, professional contacts, or even personal recognition. Beyond referencing the various annual rankings of law schools, perhaps the best way to research the best law schools is to ask lawyers or law students. And you should decide if local, national, or international reputation is most important to you.

Other factors to consider when choosing a law school may include:

  • Part time v. full time
  • Geographic preferences
  • Placement
  • Financial aid
  • School size
  • Joint degree programs
  • Student body demographics

[ PREVIOUS: Managing LSAT Stress ]
[ NEXT: Choosing a Law School ]