Brigitte Suhr, an Accepted law school admissions consultant and a former application reader for UVA Law, shares insights and advice on the law school admissions process in a podcast interview with Linda Abraham. They discuss topics such as changes in law school admissions, the importance of work experience before law school, the personal statement and diversity statement, common mistakes to avoid, and the character and fitness section of the application. Brigitte emphasizes the importance of starting early in the application process and being genuine in one’s essays. She also provides guidance on addressing academic weaknesses and navigating the interview process.
If you’re applying to law school now or in the near future, you’re going to love today’s show. Brigitte Suhr, Accepted Law School admissions consultant and former application reader for UVA Law, is going to help you get accepted to your dream law school.
Welcome to the 550th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for joining me. Are you ready to apply to your dream law school? Are you competitive at your targeted programs? Accepted’s law school admissions quiz can give you a quick reality check.Take the quiz and you’ll not only get an assessment, but tips on how to improve your qualifications. Plus, it’s all free.
Our guest today, Brigitte Suhr, earned her bachelor’s from UT Austin and her JD from UVA. She then went on to travel the world as an international lawyer, working for Human Rights Watch, The International Criminal Court and other foundations and NGOs. For approximately two years, prior to joining accepted in 2019, Brigitte worked as an application reader for her alma mater, UVA School of Law, and in that capacity reviewed over 2,500 applications. She was the one recommending admit, or deny. Let’s find out when she made those recommendations and how she helps accept its clients.
Brigitte, welcome to Admissions Straight talk. [1:52]
Thanks, Linda. I’m happy to be here.
Pleasure to have you. Now let’s just start with something fairly basic, actually not so basic. What’s new in law school admissions this year? [1:56]
There’s a lot new, Linda, maybe too much new. So from year-to-year it seems like essays don’t change that much. Applications don’t change that much, but with the Supreme Court decision this past summer, law schools took that opportunity to review what they were doing. They want to be compliant with the decision, but in so doing, they added quite a few changes and in my opinion, maybe overloaded a bit on essays and supplementals and things like that.
So it’s been a big transition for those of us working in admissions and certainly for students who have even more work to do than ever. And frankly from, I wonder if some admissions committees aren’t going to be regretting some of their extra essays at some point, because it’s going to be longer and longer to read and I think maybe-
Could be maybe more work for them. [2:47]
Exactly. We might see some cutting back. I don’t have inside information on that, but if I were them I’d be doing some cutting back by next summer.
I know business schools used to have many more essays and over the years they’ve cut back quite a bit. [2:56]
This is not a change that occurred this year. I think it’s a change that’s occurred over the last 10, 20 years, and that is that more and more law school applicants or more and more law school students do not go directly from college to law school. They take a year off, I think it’s frequently to work for a year. Do you advise applicants to, “take a year off,” – take a gap year or work before going to law school? [3:03]
I mean, I think that law schools have always cared about employability, and they care about it all the more now because the US News and World Report is factoring that into the rankings, and so it becomes an important issue. But frankly, I think it’s always been important.
I think that if you are what they call K through JD, kindergarten through JD, it’s a very popular term on Reddit and on the social. If you are K through JD and are otherwise a really strong candidate, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. It’s not like business school or some other graduate schools where it really is more of a requirement. So I think you can get in if you have strong numbers and everything else is lining up well, your essays, your letters, everything else. So there’s no reason to take one if you don’t want one.
However, if there’s something wobbly about your application or your GPA is particularly poor or you just don’t have the LSAT score you want, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong and could even be really good to take not just one year off, but three or four years off, two years off, three or four, whatever you want. Because it factors into the idea that, let’s say you really do have a poor GPA, I’ve seen law schools overcome that and ignore that almost as long as there’s been a solid career with some progression and some passion behind it, some interest behind it, some skills behind it, and a strong LSAT, I think you can overcome that particular weakness. So that might be one reason to do it.
As long as you have that strong LSAT to go along with a nice career submersion. [4:58]
Let’s say you have good grades and you have the LSAT and you want to go K through JD. Are internships important? [5:02]
Yeah, I think that’s part of the soft elements of your application. What kind of summer experiences did you have? Do you show a well-thought-out reason for even going to law school? I think some folks might wonder if there’s nothing there or if it was all in unrelated matter. Sometimes you can fill that gap in, in your essay, too, to highlight something that may not be obvious on your resume, but this is why I am going to law school. I had X, Y, Z experience and I came to law school maybe late in college. That does happen, or I came to law school in my gap year. That’s all fine.
When you were reviewing applications for UVA Law, what made an application tell you that its author deserved your vote for admission? [5:44]
Every element is important to some degree. So what I would always do is I would look at the numbers. I would look at where they went to college, when they graduated, their LSAT, their GPA, and then kind of what they’ve done since they graduated, so to speak, if that were relevant. And that whole package starts helping me figure out is this a viable candidate?
And then you start reading their essays. Is it well-written, charming in some way? I mean, it doesn’t have to be charming, but it could be helpful to be charming. It could be funny, it can be in whatever way. It could be super serious and intentional. It can be lots of different things. There’s no one magic way, but it does have to be interesting to read and impressive in some way, right? It’s making a good impression in that sense. Impressive, like it’s making an impression on me and there’s really no way to say.
Sometimes people like to say, “Oh god, that essay was successful, so I’m going to copy that, but adapt it to my story.” Not a good way to go about it because there’s just so many, and I want to understand why they’re going to law school by the end of the personal statement. Not everybody necessarily needs to know that, but I would say most former admissions officers I know, they want to know that by the time they get to the end of the statement, “Oh, I see. This is how this all comes together. This is why you’re applying to law school versus medical school or an MA in history,” for example. So I think that’s your opportunity to kind tie some things together.
You mentioned the personal statement several times and its importance. What’s your best advice to clients just approaching the personal statement? I don’t mean, obviously it’s not to copy or model. If I’m thinking about my life at age 21, 22, 25, 28, or whenever they’re applying and I’m thinking, “How should I structure this? What should I focus on?” What would your advice be? [7:21]
Some students come to us with an idea already for the personal statement, and it’s often a good idea. Sometimes folks come to us and don’t have one. As you know, we have prompts that we send them, questions. And if you really just give that process an opportunity to work, you just start drafting. You don’t think about, am I structuring something? You’re simply putting down ideas, stories from your past, from your life, motivations that you’ve had, things that have changed your thinking. If you do that, then we sit down together. I sit with my students and we go over it, and we are usually able to identify some good anecdotes from their life that lead us somewhere. And from there we start hashing out an outline and then they go off and draft.
But that free writing process, some people resist it, it’s true, but the students who react well to it end up coming up with some really good fodder in that process.
When I was working individually with clients, and I was doing either show me free writing or personal statements that they drafted or their resume, remember, one of the things that I was particularly good at was finding a thread that sometimes tied disparate experiences together. I remember one guy in particular, he couldn’t wait to leave to start writing the essay because it was like now he knew what he wanted, the point he wanted to make. [8:43]
Yeah, that’s right. That’s good. And that’s our job in some ways, to help them find that or point out that they have it. It’s right there. And sometimes they don’t see it until it’s on the page. So that’s a fun moment.
Do you recommend that applicants customize their statements for different law schools, for the different law schools that they’re applying to? In other words, if they’re applying to Penn, it should be one essay. If applying to NYU law should be another essay, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, or at least have a why this school section? [9:20]
Well, I definitely don’t think you should have different personal statements for different schools. The prompts are almost always broad enough that one personal statement with some modifications is sufficient. And you do want to double check the prompt and make sure it falls under, but even vastly differently drafted prompts, ultimately they’re kind of getting at the same thing very often.
So I would say I like to start with one, two pager, two or two and a little depending on much of how much this person writes, in a lengthy way or not. And then you adapt it, you adapt it up or down. And then yes, if you want to add some “why X” lines at the end, that’s great. You don’t have to, some schools specifically want a why X or allow a why X, others don’t really, but they don’t really want to hear it anyway. So you shouldn’t feel compelled to put why X at the end of the personal statement. But you can if you want to.
Yeah, but what I definitely don’t recommend doing is peppering the personal statement with references to a particular school throughout. You don’t want to do that because it’s more work for you. And several times when I was at UVA, I would read a personal statement that mentioned Penn or Columbia or whatever because it’s too hard to keep it all separate and it’s not a great look for that school. And yet, of course, we’re human. You’re human. We get that people make mistakes, but for that reason, you shouldn’t do it really. If you’re going to do it, do it at the end. So you’re really swapping it out, but you’re not peppering it throughout the whole document.
I can’t tell you how many admissions people I’ve interviewed for the podcast where, that’s like you, say, “What’s the common mistake?” That’s the common mistake they get. They’re at Harvard, they get Stanford. They’re at Penn, they get UVA’s, whatever. [11:12]
And similarly for LOR writers, you don’t really want them to write more than one version either because you can’t keep them straight. The one exception is if someone has a really close relationship with the law school, they went there, they taught their, whatever, okay, then that person can write you one version for that school and then one version for all the other schools. But you really wouldn’t want them writing more than two because one, it’s too much to ask for a LOR writer, but it’s also too much for you to keep them handy.
And I did get a couple of those where it was clear that the letter was written for a different school, and I even had one student come back to me later and say, “I just found out that my LOR writer wrote it for his alma mater and didn’t tell me. And so now every school got that letter.”
Oh, gosh. [12:11]
And that was really painful, and that LOR writer should have known better because, or maybe the student miscommunicated, I don’t know. But yeah, that was unfortunate. You don’t want to do that.:
No. Ouch. No. [12:23]
But again, those kinds of mistakes are a little more understandable because it’s more the LOR writers. We’re not going to –
The schools know the applicants are applying to more than one school. [12:32]
Yeah, yeah. It’s still, it’s not a great look, but don’t absolutely panic if it happens to you.
Good point. Now, you mentioned that schools are adding addenda and diversity statements, et cetera. Who should and who shouldn’t write an addendum to address an academic weakness? [12:44]
Well, I mean that’s a lot of questions in one, Linda, but one thing is the diversity statement and how that’s developed. Let’s do that separately. The other is, so if you talk about the addendum, there’s the outside addendum, the GPA addendum, the gap in employment addendum, the gap in education, the character and fitness addendum. Those are five that you should consider whether you need, hopefully you don’t need all five.
So in terms of the GPA, who needs one? If your GPA went down one semester for a reason. You were sick during finals or there was a death in the family or something like that, and it’s going to be visible to the law school already in the cast report. They’re going to see, oh, 3.9, 3.9, 3.9, 2.8, 3.9. So they’ll want to know, what happened that semester? It behooves you to answer because it’s helpful. When it’s a little more wobbly the whole time, it’s just a little less effective. It doesn’t mean the context might not be as helpful because you just didn’t do that well.
If it was just your first semester, I would say I could go either way because it’s very, very common when you read, because the CAS report does split out each semester for the readers, and it’s very common that your worst semester is your first one, and then from there you see a strong upward turn. That’s what they’re looking for. Don’t really need to explain that. They’ll understand, freshman year, drinking too much beer, whatever it was. You learned your lesson, you moved on. So yeah, that would be GPA. If there’s something specific to say or if just the numbers really need something.
And you have context that is more than, “I just did poorly. I mean, I don’t know why I did poorly. I did poorly.” That doesn’t do any good. [14:34]
Not really, not really, but what we referenced before, let’s say you did poorly, but you’ve been working five years, then you point out-
That’s what I mean. [14:51]
That was then this is now, this is not who I am. We’ve had great success with that kind of a thing.
It’s a good point. In terms of, we discussed maybe who should, who shouldn’t write it, what makes for an effective addendum in connection with a low GPA, an academic weakness? [14:58]
I think the scenario that I mentioned at the beginning, if it’s one semester and you’re explaining what happened that semester, I think that makes a really good GPA addendum. That makes a much stronger GPA addendum than, “I just graduated in May, but suddenly the light went on that academics is important and so forgive my 2.8 overall.” Not the best one. Not the best one.
I mean, I’ve seen people do that because people do come to their maturity and their ambition in different moments of their life, and people know that. Again, if that’s paired with the high LSAT, you could still be in business, but you have more to overcome when the GPA is really low and there’s not a big gap in time that you haven’t proven yourself otherwise.
The LSAT addendum is something else. Do you want to talk about that?
Is it possible to have an LSAT addendum? [15:58]
That’s a tricky one too, because again, you have to have something to say. That’s so complicated, Linda, we could talk an hour about the LSAT addendum because there’s so many different ways and reasons, but if it’s just one LSAT that was particularly poor and then you did much better, you might just want to give context around why you have that variance, especially if it’s big variance, like more than four or five points. Something like that might be important. If it’s just overall a low LSAT score, it’s a little harder to write one that’s good. Except let’s say you are someone who did poorly on the SAT, ACT, went to college, got a 3.95. You tell them that you say, “Just like I entered my undergrad with a below median standardized test score, I excelled. I’m going to do the same thing in law school.” That I think gets some traction.
I also had a client years ago, a fantastic applicant, and she had a really good GPA. I think her mother started chemo a week before her LSAT, and the day before her LSAT, her mom had a bad reaction to the chemo and she had to take her into the hospital, and the client was just a wreck. Her mother was hospitalized on the day the LSAT, and she got the lowest score she ever got on practice exams. She draftedan addendum at that point, and she got in because it was so clear. She just said what happened and at that time, you couldn’t take, this was again, it was a long time ago, you couldn’t take quickly multiple LSATs. I think you had a six-month period. It was a long time ago. [16:49]
Yeah, because my first question to that would be why not just take it again? But there were different rules then.
This was in the 1990s, but I remember it. So she was a fantastic applicant. [17:41]
Can take up to five times in five years, and it’s not necessarily recommended to take it five times, but three is totally fine, and whether it’s bang, bang, bang or over a year and a half, three is totally fine. And then sometimes you do want to explain the variance. But yeah, I think there are many ways in which you can put your weaknesses in context that are actually helpful and that’s one of them.
You mentioned a few minutes ago the diversity statement. How can somebody from a well-represented group respond to diversity questions? [18:11]
I don’t know the whole history, but it has already expanded in terms of what they’re looking for. It’s not just about race or gender or class, orientation or anything. It’s about many different factors, many different things that might’ve shaped you, to the point that in some ways it’s a little bit duplicative of a personal statement in some ways.
So it was already changing for most schools. There were a couple of schools that wanted a challenge with addendum, like only submitted if they’re true challenges, adversity, then you simply don’t do it. If you don’t have it, don’t do it. Nobody’s going to penalize you for not having adversity, or diversity for that matter.
And then after the Supreme Court decision, most of them have changed the name and it’s a statement of perspective or life experiences statement, and it’s maybe looking a little more personal, a little less professional, a little more history, but everyone’s got something that shaped them and they can talk about.
Most schools still make it optional. There are a couple of schools like Vanderbilt and Harvard that make it obligatory, so you have to write something. That’s one of the changes that I’m not so sure are a great thing in terms of making it obligatory because it is almost like having two full-fledged personal statements. So that’s a lot of extra work, but it’s broad enough that everyone can write something.
So that would be my next question, was how can the applicant make the best use of both these opportunities, both these tasks, if you will, since they could be duplicative? [19:34]
Well, they are different enough that you can come up with two different stories. So it’s not that the subject matter’s duplicative necessarily. It’s just a lot of work.
I think Harvard actually did a really lovely job in terms of the prompt. The prompt makes clear what they’re looking for, and I think that was nice to clarify that. I just think it’s one to two pages for each. It’s just four pages and nobody could do a one-page personal statement. So you’ve got two pages there, a pager, two pages for per-. It’s just a lot. It’s a lot to write, it’s a lot to read.
But I do, I always love the diversity statement. I’ve always did love it. Even now, I think it’s a beautiful personal statement. It does show you something about how the applicant processes issues or problems or perspectives or experiences. So it’s lovely, but no one needs to fear. If it’s a broad statement, they’re definitely going to find something to write about if they want to.
Let’s move on in the application process. A few law schools like Georgetown, for example, have interviews. What’s distinctive about a law school interview? [20:39]
Well, Georgetown’s interview is distinctive from all other interviews because it’s a group interview, and it’s not so much an interview as it is a round table, let’s say, where they hash out ideas. So as far as I understand it, of course I haven’t done one. The dean presents these case studies or these examples of applications, like this person had a character and fitness issue, X, Y, Z, and they talk about it and people say, “Oh, I would admit that person anyway because of A, B, C.” Or, “I would not admit that person because X, Y, Z.” So everyone kind of shares it. So it’s an exercise in group dynamics and maybe advocacy. It’s not right or wrong. You can legitimately make your point, but how do you make your point? So that’s very, very different, but lots of people do it. It’s very common to have that one.
Then there’s the second category, which are the online ones where basically you’re talking into the machine. There’s no human, and I think those are hard for students, but once they practice them it’s okay. Northwestern does that. I think UT’s doing it this year for the first time, or at least more broadly. I think they might be doing it for everyone. I haven’t figured that out, but lots of people have it this year where they haven’t last year, and Northwestern does that. And then they’re the, oh, Vandy does alumni interview, and then the other version is the occasional interview with an actual admissions officer.
No school to my knowledge does it for everyone, but they do it selectively. It’s never a bad thing to be selected for an interview, but it also, I would say, probably most people get in without an interview. So don’t panic if you don’t get an interview. And in terms of what they ask, “Why are you applying to law school? Why are you applying to this law school?” Something from your resume, maybe, some behavioral type questions or situational questions.
What’s an example? [22:31]
What’s an example? When you’ve had conflict in the workplace and how did you handle it? Or some kind of communication-based questions. The whole failure question, when did you learn from a failure? Things like that.
What do applicants frequently just not understand about the law school admissions process that they really need to grasp before they start applying? Every so often, I know I would come across an applicant and I wish I could just shake them by the shoulder and say, “Look, you just don’t get this.” [22:46]
I’m always surprised by the range of applicants in terms of what they know or don’t know. They’re the applicants who have read every Reddit post on earth and come to me with all of these questions like, “Oh, I read this and that.” Or survey all their friends and come at me with all these. And then they’re the ones who basically don’t know anything about the process, and it’s like they just decided yesterday that they’re law school. And T14, don’t know what that is. LOR, don’t know what that is, so I find it very interesting that there’s such a range.
One of my sort of pet peeves is the one where they think they just have to unlock the one magic thing to say or the one magic thing to have on their resume, and that’s going to unlock everything. That kind of bothers me, because just so not the way the process is, right? Or like you say that the person who’s panicked because they don’t have a diversity factor, and does that mean they’re not getting into law school? No, that’s not how that works either.
So just to try to be a little genuine about the process, like, this is who I am, this is my thinking, these are my experiences. And just to come at it just with some genuine interest and focus on the process. I will say one thing, sometimes they underestimate how long the process is. It’s like, you have your personal statement. That’s the hardest. Resume, let’s say a diversity statement, my perspective, whatever you want to call it. There’s still a lot to do after you have that one main package. There’s a lot of supplementals, ever more, and it takes a long time. People also underestimate, I know you asked me for one, I’m telling you lots.
But they also underestimate the form.
The application boxes. [24:46]
They underestimate how long that takes and how easy it’s to muck that up with typos or not answering something you should have answered or answering something that doesn’t apply to you. So people are just maybe at that point they’re tired, but I really encourage them at that point to slow down and really focus on that because after all that work, you don’t want to mess it up with a shoddy form. It would be a real bummer.
It would be, and it is when they do mess it up. Also, some of those boxes are really important, so they deserve a little bit of thought as opposed to just, “It’s midnight, I want to go to sleep. Let me get it done.” [25:14]
Right. You don’t want to press send at midnight, in my opinion.:
No, you don’t. You really don’t. [25:27]
Now we kind of already touched on this, but I like to ask, what are the most common mistakes to avoid in law school applications? I think we kind of discussed it with the last question, but do you have anything else that comes to mind? [25:31]
Yeah, you don’t want to tread the same ground in your personal statement as in your diversity statement or whatever statement we’re talking about, the supplementals. You also don’t want to absolutely maximize every supplemental on earth. Because law students typically are high achievers, they’re keen to make a good impression, so they think more is more and it’s just not. Or they think, if there’s an optional answer question, I’m going to answer it.
And typically we say, “Yes, of course, if a law school gives you the option of doing an essay on one of five topics, do one.” But if they say one or two, don’t necessarily do two. One one-pager is better than two two-pagers. That is going to exhaust the reader and make the reader irritated when they’re reviewing it. So I think that’s the mistake is sometimes just overdoing things.
And just having some fresh perspective. It’s good to be light and fun in a certain moment, and sometimes those optional essays are good for that because it’s a moment to talk about yourself in a different way. And I really like when they do that rather than try to over impress with their seriousness on every single essay.
Any last words of advice in a positive sense? We’ve talked about mistakes. What are things they should be doing? [26:54]
Genuinely, I think the personal statement and the statement of perspective /diversity statement are really fun to read. Most of the time I would say that’s your goal. I don’t mean fun, like ha-ha. I mean interesting. It’s engaging. Sometimes it’s breathtaking. I remember that from the UVA side, I learned so much about what young people are going through in our society, and I continue to learn that now. And a lot of it’s actually quite tragic. And when you write about it in a way that you’re opening up the world to people, like different perspectives, different religions, race, everything, or just even personal experiences, it’s engaging to the reader. And that’s a nice thing to see and lots of students get there, and I really like to see that.
I see how hard they work. I mean, all of these high GPAs, although there is a lot of grade inflation. I just realized the other day that UCLA, the cutoff for cum laude, which is usually, I don’t know, three, five or six. 3.95 is just plain old cum laude, at least for a couple semesters during Covid, because I think grade installation was a real thing.
But that creates its own problem because the GPA medians are so high. Who on earth, how can you have a 3.95 median for your law school class? It’s insane. There’s no distinguishing. And then God forbid you have a 3.7 and suddenly you’re like, “Oh my God, I did so terribly.” That’s so sad, that’s a little bit sad, but that’s a whole reform issue. But yeah.
It’s a different issue, but it is an issue. It is an issue. [28:31]
It is an issue. It is an issue.
Right, you have a 3.7, you think like you did poorly. That’s a problem. It’s also a problem before, if somebody ever got something other than an A, that’s a different problem in terms of- [28:35]
Yep. Well, and especially if part of that reason is because they selected their classes so they wouldn’t get below an A. That’s not a great look. And yet I don’t blame the student. That’s part of the system. It’s like if it matters that much, and of course they’re going to select on that basis.
I always think they should say anything over a certain amount, you’re in the yes category. I don’t mean automatic admit or anything. I just mean it doesn’t matter if it’s a 3.8 or 3.95. It’s that you’re already in the top category, and then you think of the folks who had the really challenging majors or something like that. It is a prejudice to them in some ways.
Any last words of advice for law school applicants? [29:23]
Start early. In my perfect world, someone would have the LSAT behind them in April or June, maybe August. Spend the summer writing essays, because typically they don’t change enough to not be doing that already and then try to apply early in the fall. And then, God forbid you do worse on the LSAT, you have several other options to still make it up. You don’t want to be doing your first essay and your first LSAT in November. You really don’t. So I would just say start early and just keep moving.:
But you are still happy to help applicants that come to you today, right? [30:01]
Of course, I am. We always talk about plan A, plan B. No, of course. And life happens. For a lot of people, it’s not because they planned it this way, just where we are and we do the best we can. And it’s still fine. I used to always be really panicked about, oh my gosh, someone’s taking the January LSAT, that’s not good, but it can work out just fine. It really depends on many other factors. So I’m learning to be more flexible about the January LSAT.
You mean the January LSAT for this fall’s applicant’s, not next year. January is fine for next year’s applicants, right? [30:33]
Yes. I mean if you absolutely have to take it and still apply this cycle, you can. We do have good examples of when that really did work out well, but it’s not my favorite one for sure.
What do you wish I would’ve asked you? [30:53]
I think you covered so many questions, Linda. I mean, I think it’s just fun to do this work because you get to advise students and you get to mentor them through the process. And I think that’s what motivates all of us who do this work. It certainly motivates me to build that relationship with a young person and provide them guidance as they embark on this big career change or career to begin with. But yeah, I think you asked all the right questions.
Thank you. And it’s also wonderful to just meet them and to know somebody, even from a completely different background. So it was- [31:23]
Now that you’ve mentioned that, the one thing we didn’t really talk about is character and fitness.
Go for it. [31:36]
Okay. So that’s one that I think they have that on other graduate school applications, but for law school it’s much more detailed because it’s the law, and generally the bar is going to ask certain questions. So law schools want to be aware of what someone’s coming in with. And I think that’s one where people who have more serious ones get really worked up. I really like to advise around that because there are ones that are maybe not as serious as they think it is, but then there are also other ones that are a little more serious than maybe they think it is.
Could you give examples of both? [32:05]
Yeah. So I mean obviously every school has different prompts, but they’re basically two main categories. Did you get in trouble at school? Did you get in trouble with the law? Those are kind of the big categories. Getting in trouble with the school, no one’s really going to care if you had a beer in the dorm, candle in the dorm, drunk on the quad. Any one time thing, I don’t think most schools care about that. When it’s a pattern that becomes a problem.
And I have worked with one guy who did have six write-ups for alcohol. At some point that becomes a problem. But the last one was when he was 22 years old and he’s now 26. Is that really going to- There’s always context, still not ideal. I don’t want my kids to have six write ups. So those are not as bad until there’s a pattern.
Violence, academic dishonesty, those kinds of things are more serious. And now we’ve kind of gone over into the law enforcement. Speeding ticket, no one cares. If you have 12, okay, again, the pattern is a little bit of a problem. I mean, you’re going to have to show some distance or some reform from the time, and it’s very important to read each one very distinctly because they do ask different questions. And you might have a character and fitness addendum that you don’t have to upload to school A, B, C, but you do have to upload it. And UVA is distinct because it asks, have you ever been let go from a job? Almost no other school does that, but they want to know that. So you do have to be really careful with that section. And sometimes people underestimate the nuances there.
And I think you’ve answered this question, but if you’ve been let go from a job, well, it’s different if you’re let go as a part of a layoff with 1000s or if you’re let go for a cause. [33:32]
Exactly. And that’s maybe what they’re getting at there. If it was for fraud or more significant, if it was like you say you’re in the tech field and 50% of your company’s gone, that’s fine. And it’s not so much that they’re going to judge you for it, but it’s a way to get at maybe more significant issues that are hiding underneath that haven’t been revealed yet. And really the main reason people want to do that or law schools ask that is because it’s important for the bar. You don’t want to have gone through the effort and expense of getting a law degree, and then you can’t ever.
I think there’s reforms coming, right? Because you have seen expungements now. More and more schools are saying if it’s expunged or then don’t reveal it. Some schools are still asking for you to reveal it. So again, that’s just another distinction you have to read really carefully.
This has been fantastic, very informative. Brigitte, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. [34:27]
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- Is the University of Texas School of Law For You?, podcast Episode 546
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- How a Non-Traditional Applicant Gets Into UCLA Law, podcast Episode 507
- How to Get Into UVA Law, podcast Episode 468