Any thought of the legal profession may bring to our mind a picture of black coats doing the rounds in courts of law. But the profession is much more than what is offered by such simplistic images. It is the very foundation of social life ensuring fairness, equity, and justice. It establishes and enforces rules that define the rights and obligations of citizens and organisations.
The legal empire has grown so wide that numerous areas of specialisation have emerged - Administrative/Civil/Constitutional/Corporate/Criminal/Cyber Intellectual property/International/Labour/ Mercantile/ Taxation Law.
The profession has its own charms - handsome financial rewards for the right person with the essential attributes, a sense of fulfilment for the committed with innovative skills, and professional intellectual challenges from high end legal work. There are numerous career options within the large umbrella of law.
In these days of vanishing international boundaries leading to the emergence of a seamless globe, new opportunities come up for serving clients worldwide.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a Prestigious selection test conducted by the Law School Admission Council with its headquarters in Pennsylvania (US). A large number of law schools in the US, Canada; and Australia are members of the council. (Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, Newtown, Pennsylvania 18940, USA) The LSAT is held four times a year at various centres in the world. Bangalore, Hyderabad, and New Delhi are the centres in India. The scores in the test offer a common yardstick to law schools to ensure that the prospective students are endowed with necessary skills for taking up legal studies. The schools may consider other indicators also along with the LSAT scores for deciding on admission.
WHAT DOES THE LSAT MEASURE?
• Reading and comprehension of complex texts, with accuracy and insight
• Organisation and management of information and the ability to draw inferences
• Ability for critical thinking
• Analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others
The test comprises five 35-minute sections, each with multiple-choice questions. Out of these, the four sections used for evaluating the skills of the candidate are divided as follows:
• Reading comprehension — one
• Analytical reasoning — one
• Logical reasoning — two
The fifth section is used by the test administrators for pretesting new questions and improving the test structure for future use. The score in this section will not count for assessing the candidate's skills. This variable section may be placed anywhere in the structure of the test. The LSAT score is in the range 120 to 180.
There is a 35-minute 'writing sample' at the end of the test. This is not scored; but its copies are sent to the law schools to which we apply. Let us now look at the three sections with multiple-choice questions in some detail.
(a) Reading Comprehension : We have to read passages similar to those commonly found in law school studies. It is not plain reading that we should do; we should read with insight. The passages may be lengthy and the content and presentation complex. There would be four sets of 'reading questions', each set followed by five to eight questions. Our ability to read, assimilate, and reason would be put under the scanner.
(b) Analytical Reasoning We have to appreciate a structure of relationships, and draw logical inferences about the structure. Making deductions from a set of statements or rules involves the application of our reasoning power. The statements may touch different kinds of relationships. This exercise is a kind of rehearsal of the analysis that a law school student would be called upon for solving legal problems.
(c) Logical Reasoning Any student of law will have to make critical thinking and logical reasoning. How well we are likely to perform these would be tested through this section. Understanding, analysing, criticising, and bringing forward a variety of arguments in support of a proposition may often be challenging. For answering each question, we will have to read a short passage and then answer questions based on it.
Preparing for the LSAT
Systematic preparation using appropriate study material is essential for securing good scores in LSAT. You may feel that you are good enough in comprehension or reasoning for facing the test. But you should remember that bright candidates from any part of the globe with sound preparation may be your competitors; an empty-handed approach may not help you. Any competition demands appropriate preparation using the type of questions that are common in that particular competition. An overall competence will certainly help you in making the particular preparation easy. You should try to utilise your full potential.
A well-prepared candidate who is familiar with the possible types of questions would quickly grasp the spirit of the questions and would know what precisely the examiner expects. There will consequently be a quick flow of best answers. You can simulate the test atmosphere and do practice tests, using a watch for ensuring your speed in answering. This will not only enhance your confidence, but tell you how you should modify your preparation style and your pattern for timing and scheduling in the examination hall.
The objective of LSAT is to measure your competence to face the challenges in the law school study. You will have to read highly varied, dense, argumentative, complex, lengthy, and expository texts. Cases, codes, contracts, briefs, decisions, and evidence are examples of such material. The reading may prove to be exacting. You will have to show your discerning skill for analysis, synthesis, comparison, reasoning, and effective application of principles to new contexts. Your work may involve drawing inferences and picking holes in arguments. Grasping unfamiliar subject contents would demand concentration and knowledge of the nuances of language.
While reading, you will have to focus on the main information to be inferred, threads of arguments, idea, matter directly stated, fallacious logic, and overall structure of the text.
There are sites like www.lsac.org/JD/pdfs/LSATPreparationweb.pdf that give plenty of useful tips for preparation.
LAW SCHOOL ADMISSION
Set up your LSAC account on the site https://os.lsac.org. This will be your gateway to the entire law school admission process. The account will help you to
• Purchase test preparation material
• Register for Law School Forums Register for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
• Receive your LSAT score early by email
• Use LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (GAS)
• Apply online to law schools
Information on preparation material or financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans is available in the related links in the LSAC website.
The Credential Assembly Service (GAS) streamlines the admission process because you have to send your transcripts, recommendations, and evaluations only once to LSAC. The service will summarise them, combine them with your LSAT scores and writing samples into a report, and send it to your prospective law schools.
If you create an account with LSAC you get the opportunity to authorise the release of information about yourself to eligible law schools. The schools may use the Candidate Referral Service to identify prospective applicants, and they may contact the candidates. For information on legal studies or admission to law schools, you can contact LSACinfo@LSAC.org
The requirements and the time schedules may be different for different law schools. You have to prepare your own schedule to keep in line with the requirements.
Systematic practice using sample tests and previous test questions under simulated conditions will offer you guidance for test preparation. You may register for the LSDAS (Law School Data Assembly Service). Indeed most of the law schools approved by the American Bar Association require such registration. The LSDAS would prepare a report on you for each law school to which you apply. The report would provide information relating to your academic history, LSAT scores, and other relevant information required by the admitting authority. A significant advantage of the LSDAS registration is the access to electronic applications for all ABA-approved law schools. Students educated in countries other than the US may manage without LSDAS.
You should make a preliminary study of law schools and identify the ones to which you intend to apply for admission. A visit to the websites of the preferred law school will enlighten you appropriately before making a decision. You can make an easy start by studying the official guide on the site http://officialguidelsac.org. You should not limit your search to the most prestigious schools, which may not be easy to enter. Specialities that are to your liking, reputation of the school, standing of the faculty, possibility for financial assistance, and type of school (public or private) are some of the factors that come to your mind during the selection of schools. You may shortlist four or five schools in the beginning.
Canadian law schools do not participate in the Credential Assembly Service, but do require the LSAT score.
Maintain the LSAC files duly updated at all times. Use your name in the same style in all the documents. You may apply to law schools electronically from your LSAC account to any US member law schools. The schools will then request your Credential Assembly Service law school report from LSAC. You may put in your best efforts in the law school. A challenging yet attractive career in law awaits you.