The LSAT Enters the Digital Age

Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

After 71 years, LSAT-takers will put down their #2 pencils for good. Starting this summer, the Law School Admission Test will transition from a paper-and-pencil test to a digital exam administered on the Microsoft Surface Go tablet. To familiarize applicants with the digital format, the Law School Admission Council has created a Digital LSAT Tutorial. In addition, there is an extensive list of FAQs about the digital LSAT on LSAC’s website.

When is this High-Tech Change Happening?

The first digital exam will be administered at the July 2019 test when approximately half of test-takers will be assigned the tablet test and half will be assigned the traditional pencil-and-paper test. After July, all exams will be digital.

To accommodate this transition with the July 2019 LSAT, those who take the July test will be given the opportunity to cancel the test after viewing their score. (Normally, you can only cancel a test before receiving a score.) If a July test-taker decides to cancel their score, they may take one additional LSAT through April 2020. Note that as with all cancellations, a July 2019 cancelled score will be reported to the law schools as a cancelled test.

Beginning in September 2019, all LSAT exams administered in North America will be digital.

What About the Writing Sample?

You might be wondering how the writing sample – the unscored, written section of the LSAT – will be affected by this transition to digital format. This section is changing in two ways starting with the June 3, 2019 test – so even before the digital LSAT is introduced. First, as you probably already guessed, the writing section will no longer be hand-written. Test-takers will now type their essays in a secure, online platform. Second, the writing sample will no longer be administered on test day. Instead, test-takers will complete the writing sample on a computer or laptop on their own, up to one year after their LSAT test date. For more information on the writing sample, check out these FAQs.

If you want advice about when to take the LSAT, we’re here to help! Schedule a pre-law advising appointment through Handshake or by calling our office at 215-898-1789.

Crafting an Effective Law School Resume

Mia Carpiniello, J.D., Associate Director

With the law school application season upon us, I thought our prior blog post on crafting an effective law school resume would prove helpful to our current applicants. So, read on below! And don’t forget to also check out the two sample law school resumes provided on our pre-law website (, which will serve as helpful guides to you as you prepare your own law school resume.

Your resume is one the several components that ultimately comprise your applications to law school.  Many students (and alumni) at Penn usually have some kind of resume in their possession – some are very up-to-date (for those actively applying for internships, jobs, or fellowships) and others have not seen a substantive update since high school graduation.  While some applications will ask you to list your most significant experiences directly on the application, there are often only a few lines to do so and the expectation is that you keep that brief and prioritized.  With that in mind, your resume is actually a very important aspect of your law school applications since, for many schools, it is the only opportunity to list and describe all of your activities, achievements, and involvements in full detail.  Law school admissions committees are very interested in how you spend your time and energy outside of class, so it is essential that you create a strong, accurate, and flattering portrayal of yourself on your resume.

There are several ways, however, that distinguish a law school resume from the aforementioned resume you might use in job or internship applications.  In addition to the two sample law school resumes I have provided for your reference on our pre-law website (under Law School Application Components), here are five (relatively) easy steps in converting the latter into the former.

  1. Stop cramming everything in.  Since law school admissions committees want you to use your resume to represent a full picture of your involvements, the days of eight-point fonts and 0.2-inch margins are gone.  In fact, most law schools will happily accept resumes that are 1-2 pages in length.  That’s right, your resume can finally be longer than one page for these purposes.  With that in mind, clarity and readability is critical.  So, widen those margins (to 1-inch) and increase that font size (to at least 11-point font… 12-point font is great, too) and feel free to increase the spacing between entries as well.  All of your terrific achievements and activities will be much easier to read and admissions officers will thank you for that.

  3. Stop leaving things out.  Now that you have 1-2 pages, you can (and should) feel free to revisit older drafts of your one-page resume and include the less significant, but certainly important experiences that didn’t make the final one-page-resume cut.  In fact, it’s important for law school admissions committees that you account for your time – both during the academic year and over the summers – so, again, they can see the full picture of who you are and what you have done as a candidate.  So, that summer that you worked as a lifeguard or a waitress or a camp counselor – that can now reside on your law school resume as well.
  4. Toot your (academic) horn.  After all, this is an academic program to which you’re applying.  Your Education section should be complete and detailed and, without exception, the first section that appears on your law school resume.  This is also the space to provide any academic highlights that might not appear directly on your transcript, like the title of your Senior Honors Thesis or detail about your study abroad program, to draw the admissions committee’s attention to your scholarly accomplishments.  On the same note, if you have accumulated any academic honors – Dean’s List, Honor Society inductions, Departmental Prizes – it is recommended that you create a separate section on your law school resume that enumerates and, if necessary, explains them.  You can title this section heading something like Honors and Awards, for example, and this section should also directly follow your Education section for consistency.

  6. Give extracurricular activities equal real estate.  Law schools are filled with innumerable student groups and organizations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, law school admissions committees are very interested in filling their incoming classes with active and engaged students who will contribute to their vibrant student life.  So, your participation in extracurricular involvements in college – especially those activities in which you ascended to leadership roles – is highly relevant and interesting to admissions committees, as are your more professional experiences.  You should treat your extracurricular and leadership activities with the same level of detail and depth on your law school resume as you would, say, your summer internships.  Provide the dates that you were involved, descriptions of your activities and responsibilities, the positions/titles you held and, of course, make sure that these campus activities have their own appropriate section heading.

  8. Say good-bye (for the most part) to high school.  Law schools are interested in the adult version of you and, as a senior or an alumnus/a, that will largely not include activities and honors from high school.  That’s not to say that, if you had a few significant experiences and/or prestigious accomplishments before coming to Penn, that you couldn’t still list them on your law school resume.  But those should not be more than a few (1-2) and should be chosen thoughtfully.  If you had a significant leadership in a high school club (President, Founder, etc.), achieved a distinctive honor (Valedictorian, Class Speaker, National Merit Finalist, etc.), or substantively participated in a significant activity outside of high school (lab research, summer internship, etc.), then you still might consider including them on a law school resume.  But, it’s time to delete that you were the Secretary of the French Club in your sophomore year of high school.  And please delete your high school GPA, however impressive it is (and was, at the time, to the Penn Undergraduate Admissions Office).


Practical Learning At Its Best

Josh Oppenheimer – COL’13, MPA ’13, L’16

It’s usually hard waking up at 4:30 in the morning. But, not when you have to catch a train from Philly for a meeting in Washington . . . at The White House.

During the fall semester of my 3L year at Penn Law, I enrolled in an administrative law class that examined how the various federal agencies in our government operate, and what – if anything – could be done to make them more efficient. My class had previously spent a day in Philadelphia, meeting with Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the Social Security Administration and counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3. Now, we were off to meet with policy leaders in our nation’s capital.

While I knew that the administrative state was large and bureaucratic – cue the presidential candidates listing which agencies they would eliminate if they were elected President – I never knew how large it really was. Our first stop was on Capitol Hill, where we met with staffers working on administrative reform bills. Sometimes, sweeping change needs to come from the top, which is why Congress is currently debating how best to reign-in what some call “rouge” agencies.

Sometimes, though, effective change must arise from within.

After our meetings on Capitol Hill, we traversed Pennsylvania Avenue and – once passing through the black gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – met with an official in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OIRA – as it’s more commonly known in the “alphabet soup” that makes up the D.C. lingo – is itself an agency that oversees and keeps in line the countless other federal agencies. That’s right, there’s an agency for the agencies! Like a coxswain on a crew boat, OIRA is tasked with making sure agencies’ policies line-up with one another and that the federal bureaucracy stays in-sync with itself.

As we finished up our day and headed back to Union Station to catch our train, I (almost literally) ran into a man whose old office we had just left. Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), used to supervise OIRA’s day-to-day activities. An agency overseeing an agency overseeing lots of agencies…Oh, Washington.

Though it looks like it will take more than a simple nudge to reform our administrative state, I am so fortunate that Penn Law appreciates not only the need for theoretical-based classes where we learn through textbooks, but also practical, hands-on experiences that come when we get outside the classroom, whether that be through scheduled meetings or serendipitous occurrences waiting for our train.

Josh and Orszag

Justice for Women

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Sarah Elnahal, COL ’16

When I accepted the internship with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, I was not sure what I want to do as a career. As a feminist, I knew I wanted to help women in some capacity, and I had been interested in law ever since I joined the mock trial team in high school. After spending three months working in the Juvenile Department and the Sexual Assault and Family Violence Department, I found my calling; I want to help women find justice for the wrongs they have faced.

As an undergraduate intern, my daily activities were pretty clerical. I would print out discovery (a collection of all the evidence in a case, interviews, police reports, and other relevant documents), approve charges, update statistics, and file. Although these tasks seem menial (and I have to admit, at times I did feel bored), they taught me so many important aspects of law. I learned about various charges and their definition, even correcting ADA charging mistakes. I saw the type of information needed to move forward with a case as well as the inner workings of the information collecting process.

Most importantly, however, I was able to read the cases and discuss them with the ADA. Most of the cases that came across my desk involved domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and child sexual assault. It was very difficult to read the cases and the testimonies, especially when it involved children. I was particularly passionate about working with ADA’s on sexual assault and child sexual abuse cases. Many of the children were so young that they did not have the vocabulary to be able to describe the sexual incidents properly during their interviews. I went with the ADAs to meet the victims, and it was so powerful to see these their strength to go through the laboring legal process.

After shadowing the lawyer’s and learning how they prepared for these cases, I would go to court with them. This was the hardest part of my summer experience. Defense attorneys often grilled adult women, and I could not imagine what it would be like to have someone invalidate a trauma you experienced. When children were questioned in court in sexual abuse cases, defense lawyers would often confuse the children, leading them to alter their testimony. Many of the children struggled to even tell their story, and the ADAs worked very hard to make the children feel comfortable in a courtroom setting.

Throughout this whole process, I saw how passionate the ADAs were. They worked long hours to make sure these women and children got the representation they deserved. In court, their passion came through in all their objections, cross examinations, and direct examinations. When I watched them, I realized I wanted to be them. I want to aid these women and children seek justice in a time when they may be feeling helpless or scared. My summer experience helped me form a specific goal, and I would like to thank Career Services for providing me with this life changing opportunity.

Negotiating Law School Scholarship Offers: Some Best (and Worst) Practices

Todd Rothman, Senior Associate Director

Merit scholarships to law school seem to be abounding these days and, as a result, more and more admitted students are negotiating the merit-based scholarship package they were initially awarded.  Although there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for how these negotiations ought to proceed, it is becoming an increasingly common practice among scholarship awardees.  And while some law schools make it abundantly clear that these negotiations are unwelcome, many law schools will indeed engage in these conversations to provide admitted students with the most attractive financial package.

Since many admitted students understandably find these conversations to be challenging – and a little awkward – I thought I would provide a few best (and worst) practices as you attempt to navigate the sometimes thorny process of scholarship negotiation.

Best Practices

1. Before you contact any law schools for additional merit-based funding, you should have a full understanding of what the real costs of attending each law school will be.  Rather than merely comparing merit awards, you need to consider the full financial picture of the next three years.  This includes, but is not limited to, analyzing differences in sticker-price tuition costs (public vs. private), overall cost of living (housing, whether or not you will need a car), and the fine print of renewing your merit scholarship each year of law school.  Some law schools will provide the merit-based scholarship without any stipulations, while others might require you to maintain a certain GPA each year or finish in a certain percentile of your law school class.  When you consider all of these factors more comprehensively, it isn’t always the law school with the highest award that will be the most affordable.

2. Since every law school will likely handle these negotiations differently, it is always best to inquire with the law school directly – either by email or phone – about if/how they are interested in proceeding with this process.  In order to make the biggest initial impact, many law schools will start with their best offer and, if that is not substantial enough, their hands are essentially tied at that point.  If that is the case, it is best to find that out before you assume that they are open to further negotiations.  Many law schools will prefer you to start this process in writing – either a hard copy letter or an email – and will often ask that you also send (or attach) copies of the award letters from the other law schools to which you have been admitted.

3. Your correspondence with law schools should be professional and polite, but must also be undemanding and grateful in tone. Remember that applying to law school is the first step in your career as a lawyer and that includes, of course, all of these types of negotiations.  After all, this law school has not only admitted you to their incoming class, but has further incentivized you through merit-based awards.  Clearly, this is a law school that thinks very highly of your talents and potential contributions to their law school, so you should approach this process with care, caution, and appreciation.  Make sure that you reiterate in all correspondence how much you like their law school (and why), so that there is a bigger picture to your financial negotiating.  Keep in mind that you are asking for additional funding and that, much like anything else, you will get more bees with honey.

4. Only engage in negotiations with law schools that you would realistically attend, so that your conversations can be based on honesty and a genuine desire to make your financial package at a given law school work so that you might be able to enroll.  Otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own.

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