Deadlines are absolute in both law school and legal practice. Legal cases have turned on documents filed mere minutes late. Bar exams and bar admission rules are strictly regimented and inflexible in timing.
One might assume that law school application deadlines are equally stringent. However, law school application deadlines can be misleading. Law admissions is a subjective, humanistic process with more wiggle room than commonly assumed. If you’re laser-focused on formal deadlines, you may miss the larger picture.
Don’t fall for these three myths about law school admission deadlines:
- It’s OK to apply at the last minute.
- If you miss the application deadline, tough luck.
- Application deadlines are the only deadlines that matter.
It’s OK to Apply at the Last Minute
It is imperative for applicants to understand the rolling nature of the law school admissions process. Applications open in early fall and are considered as they come in. Wise applicants submit their materials by early November for their best odds.
If you apply at the last minute, law schools will happily take your money and review your application, but there may not be many spots left. This means you are more likely to be waitlisted or rejected than if you had applied early on.
As a law admissions consultant, every year I hear from applicants who plan to apply just under the wire, and I have to break the hard news to them. Yes, you can apply at the last minute. But your odds are long. And you will need a significant change in your candidacy in order to reapply successfully.
Note that this advice applies most to competitive law schools. Less-selective law schools may have space available late in the process. This leads to the next myth.
If You Miss the Application Deadline, Tough Luck
Since law is a detail-oriented profession, admissions officers expect applicants to follow rules to the letter. Missing a deadline is not an ideal start to your legal career.
That said, admissions officers are human, and they may be willing to bend the rules if approached politely.
If you miss an application deadline, call the admissions office. Ask if there is still space available. Explain that you would still like to apply, and ask nicely if they are willing to accept your application.
You might briefly explain what prevented you from applying earlier, but focus more on your strong interest in applying based on your specific research about the school.
Application Deadlines Are the Only Deadlines That Matter
In recent years, law school application deadlines have proliferated. Not only do many schools have early decision options, but some offer multiple rounds of early decision. Other schools may have deadlines for special programs, scholarships and interview requests.
To stay on top of all these deadlines, read law school admissions websites carefully, along with any communications received from admissions offices, and put all deadlines in your calendar. Make a note in your calendar a few days before each deadline to give yourself some lead time before each important decision.
To avoid any trouble, take the time early to understand admissions deadlines and carefully plan out your law school admissions process. But if you miss a deadline, don’t despair. Pick up the phone, call the admissions office and plead your case.