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).


Public Interest Law

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 their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Olivia Graham, COL ’17

This summer I interned at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, in the hopes that I would increase my understanding of both law and the nonprofit sector. The Public Interest Law Center is a nonprofit that uses high impact legal strategies to protect the rights of marginalized communities in the Philadelphia area.

A large part of my job consisted of policy and issue research, which was notably rewarding in that it allowed me to expand my understanding of the Law Center’s six major advocacy areas as well as the political processes of Philadelphia. This research also gave me the opportunity to work with large amounts of data and required me to find creative ways to answer questions unique to the Law Center’s endeavors. This was great practice for the senior research project that I’ll conduct this coming semester as an Urban Studies major.

Another set of my responsibilities consisted of processing consultation requests. These are the cases brought to the Law Center that they then refer out to other legal organizations, for various reasons. It allowed me to begin to understand which cases or issues may have legal solutions and which ones may not. It, and the meetings that I attended and the work I saw being done, allowed me to explore my idea of law as a unique theory of change.

During my time at the Law Center, I was exposed to many different aspects of the Law Center’s issue areas, and definitely have a better understanding of the legal practice, but would have loved the chance to see more of the nuts and bolts of the practicing component. Each legal intern was assigned a staff attorney to whom they reported for the duration of the summer. I worked for almost every staff member, at least once, and was exposed to many different issue areas, though I primarily worked under the Executive Director.

The highlight of my experience was definitely getting to work with accomplished and socially-minded staff here; I learned a lot just from starting conversations and asking questions. I also really enjoyed getting to attend board meetings and accompanying the Executive Director to various meetings – I’m very interested in pursuing law but I’m also interested in non-profit management, and the latter was much easier for me to explore here given my position as an undergraduate student.

The public interest law field is extremely varied and no two organizations in the same city do the same thing, much less approach issues in the same way. It was an invaluable experience to get to work around attorneys who have been advocating for civil rights since the seventies – who have seen landmark cases passed and kept working, both through litigation and through advocacy, because they know that changing the law is only the first step in changing any type of inequality.

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.