After my first article on getting into law school I received some requests from readers to talk more about diversity (yes you can contact me about my articles!) in law school. I’m glad to talk about it, but before I go on let me give one disclaimer: unfortunately, GPA and your LSAT score are hands-down the most important part of any law school application, primarily though because they’re two of the most important variables the US News and World Report uses to calculate their infamous top law school rankings every year. And even between law schools, there’re differences in how much each one values diversity. Some are very numbers oriented and some actively try to build very diverse student bodies. So all you future law students out there, don’t start skipping your classes just yet!
That being said, diversity is valued and I am constantly impressed by the how diverse in both background and experience the law students not only at my law school, UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, but at every other school I’ve been to. There are CIA analysts, union organizers, rock stars and professional gamblers. There are students who worked in jungle research stations, founded start-up gaming companies, and fought in Iraq. There are former corporate consultants and Big Four auditors. There are those who’ve traveled the world, taught in Asia and and worked domestic abuse centers in Detroit. There’s the 17 year old genius, and the 39 year old biotech kickboxer and everything in between. The variety is endless but whatever it is that makes your life story and accomplishments that much more compelling or interesting, don’t be afraid to let it shine through because you’re the kind of people we want in law school!
And I do mean we, because a little known fact is that at many schools students form a a part of the admissions committee and do have some influence on admissions decisions, and if you don’t believe that professors and law school admissions officials care about diversity, you can sure bet the students do! The people the school admits are going to be our classmates for the next few years and the last thing we want are boring and uninteresting people droning through classes with us.
Now, it may seem that “getting” diversity requires you to take some time off in-between law school. And while I would personally recommend that as a great idea and tend to agree that a lot of the people with interesting experiences at my school took some or a lot of time off before coming to law school, it is by no means necessary. Diversity spans your whole life and starts from the moment you’re born. It includes the struggles you overcame, the unique cultural viewpoints you bring, and of course all the cool stuff you did in college like tutor high schoolers and study abroad (maybe not so much all those frat parties though). Yes, that can include race though it’ll probably require a lot more than saying I’m ethnicity X (which in California is also illegal after Prop 209’s ban on affirmative action).
Generally, you’ll need to at least try to tie whatever it is you want to emphasize back to the practice of law somehow. That can be an interest in a particular area of law (for example, jungle researcher wants to practice environmental law) or a motivation to practice law (working with refugees makes you want to want learn more about law). Whatever it is will vary and can be deeply personal, but don’t be afraid to let it out if it’s an important part of your desire to go to law school.
So whatever it is that makes you unique, whether you’re applying to law school straight out of college or venturing back into academia after years outside the ivory tower, let it shine through because we want to know about it, and more than likely we want you!