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How I Got Into A Top Law School

– One of the questions I get all the time is how do you get into law school. Everyone has a different route, but today I thought I’d tell the story of how I got into one of the best law school’s in the country. (bright music) Hey legal eagles, D. James Stone here, teaching you how to think like a lawyer so you can crush law school. Now before you can crush law school, you have to get into law school. Now I have been a practicing litigator for over 10 years now, but before that I had to go to law school just like everybody else. And so here is my story. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a lawyer. There was a brief period of time when I thought I wanted to be a policeman, but when I learned that police officers are not allowed to carry machine guns, I didn’t really want to become a policeman after all. There was a short period of time when I wanted to be an architect, but that didn’t last too long, mainly because I started
to see lawyers on TV. I was really into the
TV show, Law and Order. Now this is back in the day with the original Law and Order series, not the SVU or any of the off-shoots, when they would split up the episode into half that was for police and then half for lawyers. And I always thought the latter half of the episode, that focused only on the lawyers, was always the best part, and I knew I wanted to be a lawyer like I saw on TV. There was only one problem. My parents put a hard limit on how much TV I could watch. I think I was only able
to watch 30 minutes of recreational TV, but I was able to watch
an unlimited amount of educational TV. So in one of my first acts of pure legal argument,
I convinced my parents that because I wanted to be a lawyer, really Law and Order was educational TV and I should be allowed to watch as much Law and Order as I wanted. For some reason, this
argument carried the day, and my parents agreed. And this is back in the
day when TBS or TNT, one of those cable channels, would just show Law and Order, basically non-stop. I mean, these were almost
during the daytime, the Law and Order channel. And so I had a chance to watch quite a bit of Law and Order and that provided the goal for what I wanted to do with my career. I think my parents assumed two things based on my arguments. Number one, I think they assumed that if I was willing to make these kind of arguments that I was really interested in the law, and so what harm could it do? And number two, that they figured I was pretty good at arguing. So that led into high school, where I did mock trial in high school. I was really mad because my freshmen year, they would not let freshmen compete on the mock trial team. So I had to wait until my sophomore year. I graduated from high
school, went to college. And I chose the college that I went to because they had one
of the best collegiate mock trial teams in the entire country. And ,in fact, while I
was on the college team, we won the national
championship twice in a row. In college, I majored in poli-sci mainly because I was interested, but it really seemed like so many lawyers had also majored in political science. So I figured if other lawyers majored in poli-sci, it
probably couldn’t hurt. A lot of people ask what majors they should take in college. They see the same thing, that lots of lawyers take poli-sci. I would say that the poli-sci degree was really interesting for me. Because it was interesting, I put a lot of effort into it, and so I got good grades. But it definitely didn’t really help in terms of preparing
for law school itself. Just because you know about government doesn’t mean that you
know what the laws are, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re able to think like a lawyer just because you know some of the history of governance and maybe even some political theory. So while I really enjoyed
my poli-sci degree, I don’t really think it
helped me all that much in law school. But frankly, no major really helps you that much in law school. Really what you should
do is just the major that you are most interested in, so that you can get good grades because law schools look at your grades, and that helps decide what law school you can go to. Now that being said, I did take a number of electives that did end up being
helpful for law school, one of which was a business class that was taught by my mock trial coach. My mock trial coach was
not only a professor at the undergraduate level, but he was also a professor at the business school. And he happened to teach
business law classes. These were mainly for business students, but undergrads could take it. And while it wasn’t a great survey of all the different
types of subsets of law that are out there that
you learn in law school, it did provide a framework for what we call civil
procedure in law school. In law school, you have six core classes, one of which is called Civ-Pro, and that’s the process of filing a lawsuit and how to file motions and basically everything that leads up to going to trial in a lawsuit. And so that gave me a framework for that specific class
in Civil Procedure. So I’m really happy that I took that Business Law class. I did pretty well, in
general, in undergrad. I graduated Summa Cum
Laude, Phi Beta Kappa. And I was able to graduate with honors from UCLA undergrad. Now I knew that when I graduated, I immediately wanted to go to law school. I couldn’t afford to do a gap year and to travel the world, and I knew that I didn’t wanna enter the workforce because that would just be a waste of time because I really wanted to be an attorney. So I didn’t wanna mess around, I wanted to go straight into law school. So basically, from the entire time that I graduated from college, for the entire summer and a good portion of the fall, I studied for the LSAT. And I think I might have started studying for the LSAT
during the school year to get a head start. The LSAT is to law schools what the SAT is for college. It’s your law school entrance exam. It really is the single
most important thing that you can do to get
into a good law school, is to get a really high LSAT score. And the LSAT is scored from zero to 180. So if you get a perfect score on the LSAT, you get a 180. The LSAT is scored, I think, using a normal distribution. So really only the top .1 or .5% get a 180. If you get a 170, that means you’re in the 99th percentile. And if you get a 160 or so, you’re about in the 90th percentile, and 10’s of thousands of college students take the LSAT every year. So I had taken a couple of practice tests, practice LSAT’s just to see how I scored. And I scored really low just with no studying whatsoever. So I knew that I needed
to take a prep course in order to boost my score to get into a good law school. There are several good options out there right now. I highly recommend live courses. The ones that force you
to go into the class and force you to study as opposed to the ones
that are self-directed because it’s so important that you really have to squeeze out every point you can and I just didn’t trust myself to study on my own, at least to learn the strategies. I took a course with a
company called Test Master that was based out of California and I think they’ve
expanded nationally now. I took their live class and I was actually instructed by one of the instructors who would go on to form the competitor to Test Master’s called Blueprint. And I think those instructors were just phenomenal. The original Test Masters instructors and also the ones that defected and went off to Blueprint. I think they are really phenomenal. So I always recommend those two companies, and especially their live courses. They’re really pricey, I mean on the order of 1500 to $2000, but the instruction that you get is just really good and it’s an investment in your future. You can’t get into a good law school without a really stellar LSAT score. So I think it’s just a
worthwhile investment. It’s expensive, but I think you just have to do it. After I took the live
class with Test Masters, I then basically buckled down with my college roommate and we practiced taking LSATs every day for about two and a half months. I mean, we just we
studied all day, every day and by the end of the summer, we had taken every single publicly available LSAT that had been published. So that was on the order
of hundreds of LSATs. And both he and I were scoring in the 99th percentile. He averaged, I think, a 174, and I averaged a 172. So I went into the LSAT
feeling very confident. Unfortunately, the day I took the LSAT, still can’t really explain it, but I scored significantly lower than I had in practice. I scored in the mid-160s. So that still pisses me off to this day, but the score was high enough that I could apply to most of the schools that I wanted to apply to and have a reasonably good shot at getting into a few of them. So I applied to pretty much every school in the top 20 and some of the schools that were outside of the top 20, but were regionally very good. I knew, for personal reasons, that I wanted to stay in Los Angeles. So I was really, really
looking to get into UCLA. I was also looking as USC. I also looked at Loyola and Pepperdine. I considered some East Coast schools, some Northern California schools, and I basically just applied everywhere in the top 20’s, hoping that a few of them would stick against the wall. And that summer, I got into a few and I was wait-listed at a few. I got wait-listed at
Cornell, Duke, and UCLA. I got into Loyola and Pepperdine. So I knew I could stay in Los Angeles if I wanted to. My study partner, my
roommate, scored a 172 on his exam or it mighta been a 170, so he was safely within
the 99th percentile of the LSAT and he got into Stanford through early admission. So good for him. (laughs) But I played wait-list game for most of the Summer. And for personal reasons,
I wanted to stay in LA. So I was really hoping
to get into UCLA and USC. Now that being said, since I was an Undergrad UCLA Bruin, I was really, really reluctant about going to USC. Nothing against the
school, it’s a fine school. It’s just that UCLA
Bruins hate USC Trojans and vice versa. So I decided I would, even though I got into USC, I was still playing the wait-list game over the summer, hoping
that I could get in off of the wait-list into UCLA. So eventually a few weeks
before school started, I was looking for apartments close to the USC campus. I had resigned myself to going to USC in downtown LA. And I actually signed
a lease in Hollywood. I figured that was a reasonably close
neighborhood to downtown LA. And it was the day that I signed the lease for an apartment in Hollywood that I got the call from UCLA admissions letting me know that I got in off of the wait-list. I did a few tactics to get in off of the wait-list. So I was pestering the
UCLA admissions department probably more than I should have, but my efforts paid off. I got in to UCLA. And that’s where I decided to go. I graduated from UCLA Law, stayed in the LA area and became a practicing attorney in LA. Now the story of how I
did well in law school will have to wait for another day. But if you wanna hear more about my experience in law school and my experience as a
practicing litigator, check out this quick
playlist (funky music) I’ve put together. It includes a bunch legal war stories. And so just click on that playlist and I’ll see you in the next video.

About James Carlton

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