Frequently Asked Questions J.D. Program
- Who is eligible to apply for admission to the J.D. program?
- What degree is required for admission to the J.D. program?
- What courses should I take in preparation for law school?
Applying to Law School
- When should I apply for admission to the J.D. program?
- I am taking a later LSAT administration. How should I handle the submission of my application?
- What do I need to do to apply?
- Can I apply to W&L Law online?
- Does W&L Law have an Early Decision Program?
- How are applicants selected for admission?
- What size is the first year class?
- What are the median GPA and LSAT score at Washington and Lee?
- How do you interpret multiple LSAT scores?
- How many letters of recommendation should I submit?
- How should I submit my letters of recommendation?
- Any advice about the personal statement?
- Who should I get to write my letters of recommendation?
- Can I provide a supplemental statement explaining my GPA, LSAT, etc.?
- When should I expect a decision?
- How do I update my application? I would like to update my transcript, submit a new resume, amend a prior response, etc.
Financing Your Legal Education
- How much is tuition?
- If I am admitted, what are my chances of being awarded a scholarship?
- How does the scholarship process work?
- Where can I find more information about financial aid?
- I'm interested in public interest work. Does W&L Law have a Loan Repayment Assistance Program?
Your Law School Experience
- Does Washington and Lee enroll part-time or evening law students?
- Can W&L law students begin the J.D. program in the spring or summer?
- Does W&L Law offer any tracks or specializations?
- I'm interested in International Law. What opportunities are there for me to pursue this interest at W&L Law?
- What classes will I take during my first year?
- What classes will I take during my second and third year?
- What clinical and externship offerings are there at W&L Law?
- What journal opportunities are there at W&L Law?
- How does the Moot Court program work at W&L Law?
Life in Lexington
- Where's Lexington?
- What is there do in Lexington?
- Can you explain the Honor System?
- Are law students typically involved in many extracurricular activities?
- What recreational opportunities are there on campus?
- What is the relationship between the two campuses?
- Where can I find additional information for applicants with families/significant others?
- Where can I find Career Planning information?
- What do W&L students typically do after graduation?
- Where do your graduates typically practice?
- How many of your graduates clerk for judges after graduation?
- How strong is your alumni network?
Who is eligible to apply for admission to the J.D. program?
Graduates of accredited colleges and universities are eligible to be considered for admission to the Law School.(Back to Top)
While a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university is a prerequisite for enrollment in the J.D. program, no specific major is required.(Back to Top)
There is no required list of subjects to take in preparation for admission to W&L Law. The law covers all facets of human activity, and a lawyer should be a person with a wide range of interests and a broad base of knowledge. A reasonable exposure to such subjects as history, literature, English composition, political science, economics, and philosophy will provide a good background for a full appreciation of the law. The prelaw student should, in any event, be involved in an undergraduate program which is intellectually challenging, demanding, and requires rigorous academic discipline.(Back to Top)
You should submit your application as soon as possible. Our application will be available around August 20. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so we recommend that students submit their applications prior to March 1. Those applications submitted on or before March 1 are guaranteed a decision no later than March 31. For those applications submitted after March 1, we cannot guarantee a decision by a particular date, but we will make every effort to render a decision in a timely manner.(Back to Top)
Our general recommendation is to apply as soon as possible in the admissions cycle. If you are taking a later LSAT, you are welcome to submit an application now, and provide the various constituent parts of your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) report to LSAC. By doing this, your file will be complete and eligible for review.
If you have previously taken the LSAT, do not worry that we might somehow review your (technically complete) file before we receive your new LSAT score. Simply provide us, in Section 6 of our application, the date of your future LSAT administration, and we willl hold your file for review until we receive scores from that test. If you change your mind, (and decide not to sit for the test after all, or decide to sit for a later test administration), please contact us so that we can either remove the "hold" on your file or change the date on which we will check for a new score.
Each year, we wait until we have a critical mass of applications to begin our review and while each year is just a little different than its predecessors, we don't typically achieve this volume until mid-to late October.(Back to Top)
For your file to be consider complete, J.D. applicants must submit the following:
- Completed J.D. application
- Personal Statement
- Two Letters of Recommendation
- Transcripts reflecting all completed academic work at the college or university level
- LSAT Score
- Ethical Dilemma Essay (Optional)
- Resume (Optional)
W&L has an honor system that has been in place for over 100 years, and in keeping with the pervasive emphasis upon character and integrity on our campus, we offer applicants an opportunity to discuss an ethical dilemma they dealt with in an optional essay. While not submitting this optional essay will have no negative effect on a candidate's application, this essay is often extremely illuminating, informative, and helpful as we assess a candidate's qualifications (the same can be said for the optional resume).
With respect to transcripts, letters of recommendation, and LSAT score submission, applicants must register for the Law School Admissions Council's (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service (CAS). For a nominal fee, this service will process and bundle your transcript, letters of recommendation, and LSAT results for submission to the law schools to which you apply. We encourage you to refer to the LSAC website for additional information regarding the application process and the services they provide.
We encourage all applicants to closely review our application instructions before applying. For more information regarding the application process at W&L Law, please see our Application webpage.(Back to Top)
We accept electronic applications. We assess no application fee for those applications submitted online via LSAC. For more information about applying to W&L Law online, as well as a link to our online application, please see our application webpage. Please contact the Office of Admissions at 540.458.8503 or email@example.com if you have any questions.(Back to Top)
W&L Law has a Binding Early Decision Program. Candidates may choose to apply for the Binding Early Decision Program if W&L Law is their top choice, they are not seeking merit scholarship aid, and they are willing to make an early enrollment commitment. Click here for more information.
All applications are reviewed by members of the Admissions Committee which selects applicants for admission to W&L Law on the basis of a comparative evaluation of the credentials submitted by the applicants. We do not use an admissions formula, and applicants are not ranked by any numerical index. We consider undergraduate grades and transcripts, LSAT scores, recommendations, significant employment or post-graduate educational experience, extracurricular activities, special skills and talents, community service involvement, and the personal statement. There is no preference for residents of Virginia.(Back to Top)
In accordance with our policy of reviewing all the materials submitted with an application, we look at each of your LSAT scores as we consider your candidacy. We place the greatest weight on your highest score because statistical analysis indicates that a student's highest score is the best predictor of his/her success at W&L Law. In accordance with American Bar Association guidelines, the median LSAT score for an entering class is calculated using a student's highest LSAT score.(Back to Top)
We require two letters of recommendation. As a cautionary note, we encourage all applicants to identify two recommenders who really know them well, and any more than three letters of recommendation often proves too much. While we appreciate the additional perspectives additional letters often provide, we only have a limited time to spend with each file, and too many letters can potentially do your file a disservice.(Back to Top)
For the submission of these documents, we strongly encourage you to use the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This service is included in your law school report, and LSAC's Letter of Recommendation Service and Evaluation Service are offered as a convenience to CAS registrants, recommendation-letter writers, evaluators, and law schools. This service allows you to use your LSAC.org account to have your letters of recommendation or evaluations sent to law schools based on each school's requirements or preferences. To have your letters or evaluations sent in this fashion, you should identify your recommenders, print out your pre-filled letter of recommendation or evaluation forms, and give the forms to the appropriate recommenders. Your recommender must sign the letter or evaluation, insert it in his or her own envelope along with their letter of recommendation or form or evaluation, and send it directly to LSAC. LSAC will send your letters to law schools as assigned by you. You must assign each letter to each school to which you want it sent.
Alternatively, letters of recommendation may be submitted directly to the W&L Law if your recommender mails their letter himself/herself. We will accept additional letters of recommendation, but will consider your file complete when two have been received.(Back to Top)
At Washington and Lee, our mission is to craft as lively a classroom conversation as we possibly can. The personal statement is your opportunity to give us a sense of who you are beyond what we can glean from the other paperwork we have required of you. The best use of that opportunity? Tell us something about yourself that we would not discover otherwise. As a starting point, we recommend you imagine that our admissions committee has one seat available, and is considering your file and one other, both with the same numerical qualifications. Your personal statement will be read aloud. What do you want us to know about you before we make a choice? What makes you who you are?
We know this is still a daunting prospect, so here are a few concrete guidelines:
As our application indicates, personal statements should be no more than three pages (doubled spaced and Times New Roman 12-point font).
We read thousands of files, so you should strive for your personal statement to be memorable... within limits. Accordingly, if you summarize your resume, you are wasting this opportunity. On the other hand, iambic pentameter, baked goods, photo albums or the necessity of a decoder ring are not the sorts of "memorable" we are after. While the topic of your statement should actually be personal, it should stop short of triggering a "TMI" response. If you'd feel queasy asking an acquaintance or potential employer to review your statement, we suggest you redraft.
Every year we receive numerous well-written personal statements that highlight the aspects of W&L Law the writer finds attractive. This sort of statement almost never hurts an applicant, but hardly ever helps as much as a personal statement can. Your discussion of an aspect of the educational experience available here, no matter how eloquent, is not likely to stick with us very long. We know about us; tell us about you.
Do not discuss your LSAT score or your grades in your personal statement. We accept any number of explanatory attachments to your application, and recommend you deal with these issues in a separate submission. After all, there is more to you than numbers.
Write it yourself-we know there are writing services and even fill-in-the-blank forms available. Each year applicants taking advantage of these tools find themselves defending allegations of misconduct before LSAC. We can assure you: it is not worth it. We also know there are plenty of people whose thoughts you value, and we are occasionally treated to the details of an applicant's editing process in a "show changes" version of their personal statement. By all means, consult with people you think are knowledgeable, consider their comments as you draft and redraft, but before you submit your essay, pause for a day or two. Read it again. If it is not your voice you hear when you read it, start over. You are embarking on a career where your ability to write persuasively will be your stock in trade. Consider this your first assignment.
Proofread. You will have read this thing innumerable times, so get someone you trust to read it too - preferably someone who knows the difference between "its and it's," and other common errors that spellcheck will not cure. We are also amused by the many errors and absurdities that mail merge can yield. These sorts of mistakes are unlikely to be serious enough to get you rejected out of hand (we are human too!), but they alter the impact of your personal statement.
Follow the rules. We provide guidelines on length and font size on our application. Ignore them and you run the risk of offending tired eyes, and worse, setting the bar for your statement higher than that applied to those who abide by the rules. It is never in your best interest for your actions to imply that your file is worth twice the review time as every other.
We are willing to take your application as sufficient evidence of your interest in studying law, so you do not need to convince us of the sincerity of your ambition. Remember, we are trying to get an idea of the voice you might bring to campus. While you will do a lot of talking about law at W&L, we are after a sense of what might inform your contribution will be to the conversation. So tell us about your losing season, your musical aspirations, that pivotal vacation experience, the single most important piece of advice you have ever received, your troubled (or wonderful) relationship with your sibling, why you volunteered... you get the idea. Those are the things that bring manila folders to life.(Back to Top)
The selection of recommenders is entirely up to the applicant. Our only advice is that you identify two people who really know you well and can provide us with a rich and detailed sense of just who you are. We also recommend that one of your letters is written by a professor or someone who knows your academic abilities. As previously noted, we will review all aspects of your file as we make our admissions decision, and these letters, along with the more personal and qualitative aspects of your application, are our only meaningful opportunity to get a feel for you as a person.(Back to Top)
We have a fairly liberal supplemental statement policy, and we will gladly review any such statements, addressing any aspects of your file you believe necessitate further explication, along with your application.(Back to Top)
As previously noted, admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. To ensure we have sufficient perspective on the applications we receive during a given admissions cycle, we often wait until we have a "critical mass" of submissions to begin our review process. We anticipate beginning file review in mid-October, with the first decisions made by early November. For all applications received by our priority deadline (March 1), we guarantee a decision by no later than March 31.
Please note that this timeline is only intended as a general guide and can vary from year to year. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible. Files will not be reviewed until application materials have been received, and the file is complete.(Back to Top)
To update your transcript, please send an updated official transcript to LSAC and have them send our office an updated LSDAS report. Our office is entirely paperless, and this is the only way to ensure your cumulative GPA accurately reflects your most recent grades. Please do not send your transcript directly to our office. To update your resume, please send an updated copy of your resume as an attachment (PDF format is preferred) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will gladly add the new version to your application. To amend or update a prior response, please send an email containing the new or corrected information to email@example.com, and we will gladly add the email to your application.(Back to Top)
Please see our Tuition and Fees page for a more detailed breakdown of the cost of attendance. (Please note, one of the great aspects of life in Lexington is the low cost of living, and many students find they can live on much less than the cost of living allowance).(Back to Top)
The majority of our students receive some form of merit-based aid. These awards can range from $5,000 to close to full tuition. Most recipients' awards fall somewhere between these two values. Please note, we have no need-based scholarship aid as all our scholarships are merit-based. Loans are our only form of need-based aid.(Back to Top)
For first-year students, qualification for a merit scholarship is based on undergraduate academic records, LSAT scores, probability of superior scholarship at W&L Law, potential for leadership in the legal profession, and character. Scholarships are automatically renewed for the second and third year at W&L Law as long as a student maintains good academic standing and a standard of behavior representative of a prospective member of the legal profession. Scholarship award decisions are made in the beginning of November, and will accompany an applicant's admission letter. Thereafter, awards are given periodically throughout the remainder of the admissions cycle.
Applicants whose files are completed by February 1 will receive full consideration for merit-based scholarships. Application files completed after February 1 will be considered for merit-based scholarship assistance to the extent funds remain available.
About 90% of our students are on some form of Financial Aid. As previously noted, we have no need-based scholarships. Loans are our only form of need-based aid. Students who wish to finance their legal education with educational loans must complete the FAFSA and direct it to Washington and Lee; the University's Financial Aid Office will not begin work on your file until your FAFSA has been received. Loan packages are typically mailed in mid-March. Absent unique circumstances, admitted students are offered loans to meet the total cost of attendance at W&L Law (see our Tuition and Fees). Qualification for state and federal educational loans is determined by applicable regulations and by the availability of funds.
For more specific information regarding the multiple steps in the educational loan application process, please consult the Financial Aid Loan website. If you have additional questions not addressed by the web resources, please contact Cynthia Hintze, Senior Assistant Director of Financial Aid, at 540.458.8032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.(Back to Top)
Graduates of the School of Law working in the public interest may qualify for financial assistance from the Shepherd Loan Assistance Program. Please see the summary of our LRAP for additional information. The American Bar Association summarizes other sources of loan repayment assistance (states, the federal government, employers) here.(Back to Top)
Currently, W&L does not offer a part-time or evening program.(Back to Top)
No, all first-year law students begin classes together in the fall.(Back to Top)
As a liberal-arts approach to legal education, we do not offer any tracks or specializations. At no point during your three years on campus will you feel any institutional pressure to declare a focus on a particular area of the law. We find this generalist approach serves our students well. Students who are primarily interested in a single area of the law have the freedom to schedule a significant number of courses in that area, while students who are interested in taking a wider variety of classes during their second and third year of law school have the requisite latitude to do so.(Back to Top)
There are more opportunities than ever at W&L Law for those students interested in international legal topics. Transnational Law is a required component of our first year curriculum, and we have a number of faculty who teach subjects with a global orientation. We also have added a host of upper-level courses that touch upon international subjects ranging from International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration to Human Rights. A number of our practicum-styled, third year courses touch upon international legal areas and have allowed our students to travel to Cambodia, Liberia, and Serbia. Students are also able to pursue this interest during their summers and after graduation through internship placements facilitated by our Transnational Law Institute. Students interested in international areas should also view our International webpage detailing the many ways you can pursue this interest at W&L Law.(Back to Top)
At W&L, the required first-year courses are: Civil Procedure, Consititutional Law, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, Torts, Transnational Law, and Legal Writing and Research. These courses give a broad perspective of legal issues and create a shared, collaborative, and intellectual experience during this first year of law school. All first year students receive their schedules at the beginning of orientation (Note: You will not register for any of the courses you take during your first year of law school.(Back to Top)
There are just two required courses during your second year of study at W&L Law: Professional Responsibility and Evidence. The remainder of the second year is comprised of electives, at least one that requires research and writing and many of which set the foundation for the third year, and practicum course offerings. Beginning in the second year, and even more so in the third year, upper division course at W&L Law center on learning through engagement. The school offers upper division students the chance to choose from a variety of courses focused on practice simulations, client interactions, the formation of professional identity, and the cultivation of practice skills. In addition to elective and practicum courses, all students complete one "actual practice" experience, which consists of participation in either a clinic or an externship. For more information about our many clinical and externship opportunities, please see our Clinics and Externships webpage.(Back to Top)
We have a number of clinical and externship opportunities, spanning a variety of practice areas. Our Clinic and Externships are: Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse (VC3), Community Legal Practice Center (CLPC), Black Lung Clinic, Criminal Justice Clinic, Immigrant Rights Clinic, Tax Clinic, Public Prosecutors Program, Judicial Externship Program, Bankruptcy Externships, and our General Externship Program which includes our program in Washington, DC. For more information about our clinical and externship offerings see our Clinics and Externships webpage.(Back to Top)
W&L Law has three journals (Law Review, German Law Journal, and the Journal of Civil Rights and Justice) our students are invited and encourage to participate in. The journals have varying methods by which they select their staff writers, and the timing of these decisions can often vary between journals. For more information, visit our journal webpage.(Back to Top)
Our Moot Court program is a little different than programs found at other law schools. Rather than having a fixed Moot Court team of ten or twelve individuals who represent the law school at all external competitions, we have internal competitions to determine the individuals who will represent the school externally. These competitions are not mandatory, but they are open to all second and third year students. The competitions include Negotiations, Appellate Advocacy, Mock Trial, Client Counseling, and Mediation. First year students do not compete in these competitions, however, they can participate as clients, witnesses, and bailiffs.
All participating students have at least one round of experience at the school level. Those students who perform well, advance to subsequent rounds, and the students who win go on to represent W&L Law at regional competitions, and potentially, nationally.
The Moot Court program is run by the Moot Court Executive Board. This organization consists of third year students, and while there is some faculty involvement, the students are responsible for the administration of the competitions. Faculty, practitioners, and judges are brought in to judge the later and final rounds of the individual competitions. For more information about our Moot Court program, please see our Moot Court webpage.(Back to Top)
W&L Law is located in the beautiful, historic town of Lexington, Virginia. The school is a 3 hour interstate highway drive from Washington, DC and a 45 minute interstate highway drive from Roanoke, Virginia. Washington and Lee University is the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the nation, and the law school dates back to 1849. For more information about the history of the law school, please consult this brief history of W&L Law.(Back to Top)
What is there do in Lexington?
A town of roughly 7,000 residents, Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute. There are more than 100 culturally and historically significant sites in the Rockbridge County area, and the historic core of the City of Lexington is a Nationally Registered Historic District, as are the Washington and Lee Colonnade and the Virginia Military Institute Post. Washington and Lee law students attend a variety of events on and off campus. From flag football to casual and formal events sponsored by student organizations, students find opportunities to relax and enjoy their time in Lexington. After all, where else can you find America's only community owned drive-in movie theater, a 38,000 pound slab of pink granite dedicated to Lexington-born statesman, politician and soldier, Sam Houston, a Dairy Queen once frequented by Tom Cruise, and the best hamburger in Virginia?
For more information about Lexington, please feel free to consult our Life in Lexington webpage. Additional information is also available on the Lexington Visitor Center's website.(Back to Top)
W&L has an Honor System that has been in place for over 150 years. The system is based on the fundamental principle that a spirit of trust makes Washington and Lee a unique educational institution. As it is not codified, the Honor System applies to all aspects of campus life.
Learn more about the Honor System, here.(Back to Top)
We have a variety of student organizations at the law school, ranging from the intellectual to the extremely extracurricular. A large number of our upper level students are involved in two or three different organizations during their second and third years of law school. For a complete listing of the many ways in which you can get involved during your time at W&L Law, please see our Student Organization Directory.(Back to Top)
There is a Fitness Center on-campus which law students have access, as well as regular Yoga, Hip-Hop, Spin, and other group exercise classes. For more information regarding group exercise courses, please see the University's webpage for group fitness. Next to the law school is the W&L Natatorium which offers excellent, year-round swimming. There is also a 24-hour fitness center located in the third year housing village, which is accessible with a student ID. For other Campus Recreation opportunities, including intramurals, please see the University's Campus Recreation webpage. Intramural sports are a big part of law school life. In fact, the law school has its own intramural league, run by law students affectionately known as the Sport Czars. Students play a variety of sports throughout the year - football in the fall, floor hockey and basketball in the winter, and soccer and softball (the annual Dean's Cup softball tournament is a popular campus event) in the spring. The individual law classes often field teams to compete in the campus-wide intramural competitions. For more information regarding intramurals, please the University intramurals webpage.(Back to Top)
W&L is a very friendly place, but the degree of interaction between law students and undergraduates really seems to vary from law student to law student. Some law students know quite a few undergrads, and others have minimal interaction. Those law students who seem to know the most undergrads are those involved in organizations with constituents from "both sides of the creek." (The university campus is bifurcated by Woods Creek, with the undergraduate campus on one side, and the law school on the other). While the law school is set apart from the undergraduate campus, law students have full access to and are within a five minute walk of all campus facilities and are encouraged to attend the many speakers, presentations, and panels regularly hosted on the undergraduate campus.(Back to Top)
Lexington's small town charm, low cost of living, good schools, and strong sense of community provide a high quality of life for those law students relocating to Lexington with spouses, significant others, fiancés, or families. W&L Law even offers a student organization, Law Families, which allows law students, as well as their spouses, significant others, or families, to connect with others who are similarly situated. Please visit our Students with Families page for information about this group, as well as resources for job seekers, and information regarding school and childcare for those students relocating to Lexington with children.(Back to Top)
Students interested in learning more about the various services provided by our Office of Career Strategy (OCS), as well as employment statistics, on-campus interviewing, job fairs, and the additional career resources available to our students, are encouraged to consult our Career Strategy webpage. For a comprehensive overview of our career placement data, please see our webpage for Career Strategy statistics.(Back to Top)
One of the greatest things about a law degree is that you can do many-and very different-things with it, and our students pursue a variety of careers upon graduation. Staffed by professionals with legal backgrounds, OCS assists students with the logistics of the job search, such as preparing resumes and cover letters, honing interview skills, and developing a search strategy. Since the program is not "one size fits all," the students set the agenda, and we provide the help. For more information on job placement, visit the Office of Career Strategy webpage.(Back to Top)
While we have alums in all fifty states, certain markets have traditionally been more popular with our students. While some students choose to remain in Virginia, about one-fifth of each graduating class chooses to practice in Washington, DC. In recent years, New York City has become an increasingly popular post-graduate destination with students each year electing to work in the Big Apple. The Southeast has traditionally been a strong area for our students when searching for our jobs, and many of our graduates choose to practice in places like Atlanta, Birmingham, and Charlotte. We believe that a degree from W&L Law opens many doors, and our career planning professionals are ready and willing to serve you as you pursue whatever career path you choose. For those students wishing to connect with employers, there are a variety of resources available to you. Our students regularly participate in on-campus interviewing, resume drops, as well as a number of job fairs located throughout the country. Please see our OCS' Index of Job Fairs and Interview Programs for additional information.(Back to Top)
Approximately 20% of our graduates clerk after graduation, and they do so at both the state and federal levels.(Back to Top)
Our alumni network is extremely strong and one of the biggest assets available to W&L Law students as they begin their employment searches. We have alumni in all 50 states and 29 foreign countries, and, given the redolence and fondness with which a great many of our alums recall their time in Lexington, they are often extremely eager and excited to connect with a current law student. Our Office of Career Strategy also maintains an Alumni Support Network which consists of alumni who have expressly offered to speak with students interested in working in their geographical and/or practice areas, that students are also encouraged to utilize as they begin their employment search. For more information on Alumni Affairs, please feel free to consult our Alumni Affairs webpage.