June 07, 2008 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Getting into a good law school isn’t easy. Competition for a limited number of places, in our current bad economy, means that at the top schools it’s harder than ever to be admitted.
This increased competition for admission has given rise to a field that did not exist just a few years ago: The Law School Admissions Consultant. I should add, the often frighteningly expensive “Admissions Coach/Consultant.”
It cost me over $5,000 and I’m still not accepted!
This column has received a number of complaints from readers who have used these services and felt seriously misled. In researching this article, I posed as a recent college graduate with mediocre grades and phoned several of the companies who have a large Internet presence.
Contrary to the statements in many of their ads, I learned that few of the “consultants” had attended law school or had real admissions experience. The fee quoted was typically well over $3,000 — in some cases more than $5,000 — and often suggestions were made that their services would greatly increase my LSAT scores, and therefore I would be admitted. A reader from Merced, Becky, e-mailed her complaint which was almost a mirror image of what I was told.
“Mr. Beaver, in a very real way, reading your column since I was in high school is what interested me in attending law school. Last year I graduated from college and applied to a couple of law schools, but was rejected. A friend suggested that I hire a law school consulting service. They had a “special” for $5,000 and told me on the phone I would certainly be admitted to a good school because of their help. I put it on my credit card, took their classes, applied to a number of schools, and nothing changed. I really feel ripped off and hope that you would write about this.”
Not ethically correct
Ann Levine, who lives in Santa Barbara with her attorney husband, runs her own consulting service www.lawschoolexpert.com) and writes a popular pre-law blog (lawschoolexpert.blogspot.com). She offers her clients something that I have not been able to find anywhere else. Ann is a lawyer and was Director of Admissions at Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles, as well as California Western School of Law in San Diego. That is an enormous benefit to anyone wanting help getting into law school.
Ann has heard complaints about law school admission consultants. “It is absolutely improper for any graduate school consultant to imply or state they have the ability of getting you into a particular school. This is ethically wrong. You need to know who you are hiring and to be sure they have relevant law school (or other professional school) experience,” she strongly believes.
“Before hiring a consultant you’ve just found online, ask for references and check them out. Legitimate consulting services will provide e-mail contacts of their clients who have agreed to serve as references. Also, is the consultant a licensed attorney? This gives you some assurance that in the event of questionable practices, their State Bar would take action. Finally, pay with a credit card, as this gives you added insurance, fraud protection.”
Do you need a consultant?
“A good consultant gives you an added layer of guidance and confidence. However, if you are only applying to one or two schools, and your LSAT and undergraduate GPA is in line with what they are looking for, and there are no problem areas in you application, you probably do not need a consultant,” she was quick to point out. I respect that kind of honesty.
“Law School applicants who benefit the most have a weakness in their application, such as a low grade point average, poor LSAT score, an arrest, or have been out of school for a great deal of time. In today’s reality of getting into school, they truly need the help of a good consultant,” she adds.
What does a consultant do?
The process of getting into law school has four separate elements: college grades, letters of reference, a personal statement, and the all-important LSAT score. Ann feels that too little attention is paid by applicants to their personal statement.
“A good personal statement creates a picture of your unique perspective and experiences — something which goes beyond what’s evident from the transcript and resume. Show them you are a real individual, mature, have a solid work ethic, direction in life, and demonstrate qualities as opposed to just repeating credentials. These are the things that make up for weak points in an application,” she stressed.
I told Ann that one of my readers submitted a lengthy biographical statement to the consulting service she hired, and they wrote her personal statement. Ann believes this is highly unethical.
“A legitimate consultant will never write the essay for you, but will coach you as to the best content and strategy given your experiences. An admission consultant will help you with organization, tone, and editing, but the substance of the work must be your own and absolutely must sound like you.”
Does a consultant make a real difference?
“A strong application helps you stand out from other applicants with similar grades and undergraduate majors. But if a school would not take someone with your numbers, no consultant can help. Therefore, be very careful of selling points which promise things that simply cannot be delivered,” she cautions.
How much does it cost?
Prices charged by consultants vary widely, some charging per application, per hour or on a flat rate, which has advantages, Ann believes.
“The advantage of a flat rate is that the consultant can help with every question and issue which comes up. The range of what consultants charge is from $1,000 to $4,000.” When you look at what it means to be admitted, to pass the bar, and enter the legal profession, truly it is a small price to pay to increase your chances of getting in.
Ann Levine may be contacted at: (805)683-2837 or her e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.