Decide when to apply
Because so many law schools are on rolling admissions, it will behoove you to apply as early as possible in the application cycle (ideally, September through November) even if schools have application deadlines in February and beyond. You may also find beneficial to investigate whether the schools that you are targeting offer an early decision or early assurance program. Be aware, however, of any legally binding commitments that may be associated with such programs. Common wisdom suggests applying to law school when one is ready to attend. Some applicants, however, may wish to apply to law school but then postpone enrollment until the next year. Most schools will grant requests for deferred admissions to strongly qualified applicants; but the timing, process, and qualifying reasons for deferred admission vary greatly from school to school so be sure to do your homework in advance. Do not apply to law school counting on the fact that you will be able to defer.
Look into fee waivers if applicable
Application fees can be waived for individuals with demonstrated financial need.
Register for and take the LSAT
The vast majority of law school applicants register for and take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) although an increasing number of schools have started accepting the GRE and a few even the GMAT. Strive to take the LSAT by December of the year preceding your planned matriculation into law school if at all possible. The summer/early fall test administrations are best to be at forefront of the application process, especially at schools that operate on rolling admissions or to qualify for some of the early decision/early assurance programs. Fewer law schools will accept scores from the LSAT's February/March administration for matriculation in the same calendar year.
Register with the Law School Admission Council's Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
Beyond the LSAT, all law school applicants must register with the Law School Admission Council's Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which provides a means of centralizing and standardizing the undergraduate academic records of all applicants. Since the registration will last for five years, you can start registering as soon as you commit to apply. CAS will prepare and provide a report for each law school to which you apply, which includes: your undergraduate academic summary, copies of all undergraduate and graduate/professional school transcripts, LSAT scores and writing sample copies, and copies of your letters of reference.
Send your transcripts to CAS
It is your responsibility to request an official copy of all required transcripts to be sent to CAS directly from the registrar's office of each institution you attended. You must use the appropriate Transcript Request Forms for this purpose, which will be available only after you sign up for CAS and enter your institution(s) information. Each form will be prepopulated with your and the institution's information.
For UM transcripts: While it is possible to submit electronic requests for transcripts through Wolverine Access, it is not possible to submit the CAS Transcript Request Form electronically; hence the need for you to submit your request to the UM Registrar either in person, via fax or mail. Download the appropriate UM transcript order form. For specific questions concerning UM transcripts, call 734-764-8280. See more information on submitting official transcripts in general to CAS.
Make arrangements for your letters of reference
Beyond biographical, academic, extracurricular and professional records, applications will require you to submit letters of reference. The importance of getting strong letters of reference may not be underscored enough. You can build a file with letters of recommendation with the LSAC LOR service over time for later use.
Investigate schools and decide where to apply
Thoroughly investigate schools before applying. Be sure to use personal criteria to target your schools in addition to--and instead of--relying exclusively on national rankings. For information on law schools, you may find helpful to start with the Searchable ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools and the ABA Standard 509 Information Reports.
Mark your calendar now for the next UM Law Day!
Law Day is a great opportunity to connect with a large number of law schools right here on campus! Learn about specific programs from law school representatives; collect application and financial aid information; get tips on personal statement writing, application process and letters of reference. Alternately, plan to attend the closest Law School Forum.
Obtain law school applications
School-specific applications usually become available in print or downloadable from the schools' websites in late summer or early fall. However, CAS registrants can access electronic applications for all ABA-approved law schools at no additional charge beyond their CAS registration fee (and individual law school application fees) through their account. CAS Electronic Applications offer a convenient common-information form, allowing you to answer common questions once and placing the answers in the appropriate spot in the individual law school applications selected. Many law schools prefer to receive their applications through this service. You will be able to electronically attach personal statements, résumés, and other documents to each application when tapping into this convenient service.
Start working on your main application essay
Although different schools have different guidelines, they will all require one or more application essays. Start jotting down ideas of topics, stories and examples that could shed some light on who you are, where you come from, what kind of life experiences you have had, and what kind of perspectives you would bring to a classroom discussion. Remember that if you already have a draft, you can have it critiqued in the LSA Newnan Advising Center (call 734/764-0332 for an appointment), or in the Sweetland Center for Writing.
Submit your applications and monitor them throughout the process
Submit your applications to your chosen schools and pay the appropriate fees in late summer and fall. Monitor your online account. It is your responsibility to verify that all the various pieces of your application indeed make it to CAS and eventually to the individual law schools. Remember to submit your FAFSA as well in early fall.
Keep your fingers crossed and be patient!
Students who apply in early Fall will start hearing admission decisions by the end of Fall semester and throughout Winter semester. Students who are waitlisted may be up for several months of uncertainty since some offers will be extended as late as during the summer. So, arm yourself with lots of patience!
You may also find helpful to peruse this LSAC resource: Admission Made Simple: Your Journey to Law School, which is available as a downloadable pdf.