Converting Your Job Resume Into Your Law School Resume In Five (Relatively) Easy Steps

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.

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It’s Time To Get Your Ducks In A Row

by Todd Rothman

Well, it is that time of year again – the start of the law school application season – and so I thought my blog post from last year around this time would serve as a helpful reminder of what you need (and do not need) to be thinking about and doing at this stage of the process.  Although undoubtedly stressful, please also remember that this is also a very exciting time and we look forward to working with you to make applying to law school as smooth and enjoyable as possible in the year ahead.

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The USNWR Rankings Are Out Tomorrow – The Top 14 List

Except it’s not what you think.  🙂

So, it is indeed that time of year again – when pre-law students, law school applicants, current law students, and law school admissions officers and administrators anxiously await the new U.S. News & World Report law school rankings.  As many of you know, there are rarely any seismic shifts in the results as evidenced by the ever-unchanging, more-certain-than-death-and-taxes Top 14 (“T-14” for those who speak the Law School Admissions dialect) list of fourteen schools always landing in the top, year after year.  While subtle movements occur within the Top 14 and elsewhere throughout the rankings list every year – after all, you have to give the readers (and online posters) something to worry/debate/obsess about – I am amazed at how thoroughly predictable the rankings are, by and large.  Well, at least I used to be.  So in honor of the 2012 rankings being published tomorrow – for more precise timing, the USNWR staff has graciously provided a clock, ticking down the days, hours, minutes, (and yes) seconds until their online publication – here is Top 14 List of what you should keep in mind when the clock strikes zero.


1. In response to a great deal of outside pressures, compelling appeals, and legitimate questions about reliability from myriad constituencies, the 2012 USNWR rankings have apparently been modified in how employment rates are calculated.  The details about the specific changes remain nebulous prior to publication, but the issues of transparency and accuracy and the desire to collectively “eliminate some of the gaming that seems to be taking place” all seem to have gained traction.  USNWR even wrote a letter to all law school deans, insisting on more honest reporting:

2. In addition to these improvements in the computations, it seems like USNWR will also make more robust and more detailed career data available than they ever have before to paint a broader, but also more nuanced picture of the current state of the legal market for prospective students.  Stay tuned!

3. USNWR recently surveyed law firm recruiters and hiring partners at the top US law firms and created an alternate “Top 25” list, which adds a slightly different perspective to the rankings game:  However, caveat emptor – according to USNWR, the survey “was sent last fall to 750 hiring partners and recruiters at law firms who made the 2010 Best Law Firms rankings produced jointly by U.S. News and the publication Best Lawyers.”  And also, “the response rate was 14 percent.”

4. In addition to the overall rankings, don’t forget to review the Law School Specialty rankings as well, particularly if you are interested in attending law school with a specific field/area of interest in mind.  Though based solely on votes by legal educators, these are still interesting lists to consider.  The specialties listed are: Clinical Training, Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, Healthcare Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, Legal Writing, Part-Time Law, Tax Law, and Trial Advocacy.  And guess what schools in the 2010 Specialty Rankings weren’t #1 on any of those lists?  I’ll give you a hint, they rhyme with Yale, Harvard, and Stanford.

5. Did you know that 40% of what determines the rankings each year is what USNWR refers to as “Quality Assessment?”  Quality Assessment is determined by sending a survey to a variety of constituencies: Peer Assessment (representing 25% of the total rankings) is comprised of law school deans, law school faculty, and deans of academic affairs, while Assessment by Lawyers/Judges (representing 15% of the total ranking) is comprised by law firm hiring partners, selected judges, and other legal professionals.  And what does the survey ask?  One thing: Please “rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5).” After that, “a school’s score is the average of all the respondents who rated it,” with “responses of ‘don’t know’ count[ing] neither for nor against a school.”   That’s it.  That’s 40% of the overall rankings.  Even scarier?  Last year, for Peer Assessment, only 65% of those surveyed responded… while only 21% of those surveyed for the Assessment by Lawyers/Judges responded.

6. Bar passage rate only accounts for 2% of the total rankings.  The main (and only) indicator as to whether or not you will be able to practice law in a given state after graduating from law school accounts for 2% of the law school rankings.  And just to reiterate, the one-question survey asking for Peer Assessment accounts for 25%.  Just saying.

7. Even the USNWR editors themselves declare that “many other factors that cannot be measured also should figure in your decision, including the course offerings and culture of departments that interest you, the advising or mentoring you can expect to receive, and the location and campus life.”  They even explicitly say this: “the rankings can inform your thinking—but they won’t hand you an easy answer. We urge you to use them wisely.”  Something to think about, huh?

8. There are many, many other resources for you to consider when researching law schools, even though none of them might have the ticking-down clock (See #9-12).

9. The Law School Admission Council –

10. The websites (and printed materials) of the individual law schools themselves

11. Our very own Career Services Pre-Law Website –

12. Our very own Career Services pre-law advisors – Anne Reedstom and Yours Truly – available for individual appointments and weekly pre-law walk-in hours

13. Notice that the litany of law school online forums and “boards” is not mentioned here.  With very good reason.  Please try to refrain for spending time on these websites.  They are unregulated, mostly mean-spirited, and often wildly inaccurate and exaggerated.  Again, please refer to #9-12 before you ruin your day.

14. And now with my caveats in tow, here you go and happy (judicious, well-reasoned, and non-obsessive… promise?) clicking (since we’re rapidly approaching the zero hour):

It’s Only One Number… I Promise (And I Know That You Don’t Believe Me)

by Todd Rothman

Since the results from the October 2010 LSAT exam were released this past weekend – just in time for celebrating and/or self-medicating through Halloween candy – I thought this would be a good time to put this into some perspective.  The LSAT exam is one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the law school admissions process, sending even the most calm and reasonable applicants into a tailspin of self-doubt and irrationality.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the following statements uttered in my office – “I know that the LSAT is the only thing Admissions Committees care about” or “If I don’t get a [insert absurdly high LSAT score here], I know I don’t have a chance at being admitted to any “good” law schools” – well, let’s just say that I could be writing this blog entry from a café in Paris.

(c) King Features Syndicate

As a former law school admissions officer, and one of Penn’s pre-law advisors, I have more than six years of experience witnessing the range of reactions associated with “getting back the score.”  Usually though, these reactions fall into three distinct categories: (1) unqualified joy and relief, (2) utter devastation and panic, or (3) frustration and bewilderment.  Let me try to explain why all of these reactions are at least somewhat (to very) misguided.

1. Unqualified joy and relief…. or the “Now I Have Nothing To Worry About” Misconception. While nobody, myself included, is going to tell you that your LSAT score is unimportant or a non-issue, it is almost never the deal-breaker… or, in this case, deal-maker… that applicants believe it to be.  The fact is, an LSAT score is the single-best predictor of first-year law school performance.  Let me repeat that: An LSAT score is the single-best predictor of first-year law school performance, according to annual LSAC correlation studies on first-year grades in ABA-accredited law schools.  However, it is widely known (and widely accepted) that LSAT scores have little definable correlation with second-year or third-year law school performance, selection to Law Review, bar passage rates, post-graduation job offers… and the list goes on.  With that in mind, law school admissions officers view LSAT scores as a useful, but limited tool in evaluating their candidates for admission.  Sure, if you have a strong LSAT score, coupled with an otherwise strong and attractive application – a rigorous academic curriculum, consistently strong academic performance, a well-crafted and effective personal statement, compelling and detailed letters of recommendation, a history of unfailing extracurricular involvement and leadership, not to mention a host of other factors – then that LSAT score will speak to a candidate with a great deal of potential.  If some or most of those other factors are not present though, a high LSAT score in a vacuum will not move mountains.  Even worse, Admissions Committees might wonder (and rightly so) why a student with clear intellectual potential based on that high LSAT score was so underwhelming in other areas of life.

2.       Utter devastation and panic… or the “Now I Need To Find Another Career” Misconception. If your results of this exam for which you (hopefully) spent a lot of time preparing did not pan out as you had hoped, there is certainly cause for some degree of disappointment.  However, in light of what was just discussed, you need to have faith in the fact that law school admissions officers will still read and carefully evaluate your application with equal attention.  The truth is, the LSAT is a snapshot of who you are as an applicant – on one day (maybe two days… hopefully, not three days) – and Admissions Committees always review applications in their relative context and in light of every other aspect of your application.  I know of no law schools who employ cut-off scores for LSAT performance and, while 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile information is readily available for any ABA-accredited law school, they are not indicative of the full range of scores of successfully matriculated students.  In fact, those numbers speak to the middle 50% of a law school’s incoming class – nothing more, nothing less.  Though a lower-than-expected score might result in refining your current list of schools, you do not need to find another career.

3.       Frustration and bewilderment… or the “But I Scored A 172 On One Practice Exam Back In August” Misconception. As I have previously stated, taking the LSAT is an anxiety-producing experience.  With that in mind, very few students have their best day, score-wise, on the day of the actual exam.  The truth is, most students score between 1-3 points lower when they take the LSAT than on their earlier practice tests.  While sitting for full practice LSAT exams under “simulated test conditions” is strongly advisable in your preparation, it would be impossible to simulate the actual real-world stress of that particular day.  Whether it’s the heightened communal angst of your fellow test-takers… or getting finger-printed for identification… or experiencing a last-minute room change… the pressure of that particular experience is unique and almost always affects your score.  And more than likely, it affects your score negatively… usually to the tune of 1-3 points lower than your typical practice exams.  The good news?  This is a shared experience of anxiety for the majority of test-takers on a curved exam, which in some way actually corrects for this.

To reiterate, it’s only one number… I promise.  And yes, I know that you still don’t believe me.

What’s in a Number?

by Todd Rothman

While the annual law school rankings featured in U.S. News & World Report can certainly serve as a resource in the admissions process, as a pre-law advisor, I have found that their popularity, ubiquity, and influence among law school applicants continues to be undeniably significant, if not all-together overshadowing.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a law school applicant who couldn’t enumerate “the Top Ten law schools” in chronological order, or recite the rank number of their first-choice law school, with ease.  It is important to recognize, though, that this particular ranking system has some inherent flaws and inconsistencies in its construction and, as a result, some genuine limitations in its scope and usefulness.  To that end, I encourage applicants to maintain a healthy skepticism about how meaningful and objective these rankings actually are; and, more importantly, that they not be used as the primary or sole resource as they develop lists of schools and, ultimately, as they make their decisions about where to matriculate.


Law schools themselves, though, are far from immune from the aforementioned popularity, ubiquity, and influence of the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.  This recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, however, sheds some light on how the competition that these rankings provoke among law schools can have serious, and sometimes detrimental, implications, for law students and law schools alike – specifically, considerable tuition increases and noteworthy declines in minority enrollments.