What You Need to Know About the Writing Sample Section of the LSAT

When you apply to law school, the LSAT is one of the most important components of the application. While it is possible to balance out a lower score with other activities, many top schools put a lot of emphasis on raw numbers. As you prepare for the LSAT, you may start to wonder how much time you need to devote to the writing sample. The final component of the LSAT is an unscored writing section that takes 35 minutes to complete. Even though the section is not scored, it will be included in the report that is sent to law school admissions officers, so it is not something that you can completely ignore.

How Schools Factor the LSAT Writing Sample into Admissions

Schools treat the writing sample differently from the LSAT. Many admissions officers say that the writing sample does not make much of a difference in the decision about whether to admit a student. People in this camp point out that the personal statement is also a writing sample that ultimately matters much more. For the most part, admissions officers will skim the writing sample to make sure there are no red flags, which means you still need to take it seriously. Generally, the writing sample is used to corroborate the rest of the application and to demonstrate how you work under time constraints.

At the same time, some admission officers have indicated that the writing sample is actually very important when making admissions decisions. People in this camp say that the writing sample is the best example of how a student would most likely perform in law school, which frequently forces students to write cogently under time constraints. Also, the personal statement is typically crafted over the course of weeks or even months, so it speaks to your abilities as an editor more so than as a writer. The admissions officers on either side make good points. And, at the end of the day, the conclusion is that you need to do your best on the writing sample to keep yourself in the running as a good candidate.

The writing sample provides you with a prompt, and the format is always the same. Thus, it is fairly easy to prepare for the section quickly, as the response typically becomes quite formulaic. The prompt will present a person or group with a decision to make and two factors that need to be taken into consideration. One decision will relate best to one factor while the other will relate to the second one. Your job will be to write a cogent argument for one decision or the other. The entire argument needs to be presented in writing within a 35-minute window.

How You Should Approach Structuring the LSAT Writing Sample

You should approach the writing sample in a logical manner to make sure you do not miss any of the important points. Your first job is to create a hierarchy of goals. One of the two factors that need to be taken into consideration has to be declared more important than the other. You will need to make this judgment and present a meaningful argument for why you are prioritizing one goal over the other. In the end, it makes the most sense to choose the one that you can make the more convincing argument for, even if it is not the one you would choose in real life. Once you have established a hierarchy of goals, you can argue that the person or group in the prompt should choose the option that best fulfills that most important goal.

Once you have established the best decision to make, you still have more work to do. Next, you need to determine that the other option fulfills the lesser goal more effectively. To do this, you should reiterate the hierarchy you made and provide a rationale for why the lesser goal does not matter in the situation at hand. While the argument will not be perfect, it needs to be clear about why you think it is not a big deal to fulfill the other goal, especially if the first one is being met. At this point, you should introduce some considerations that were not given to you in the prompt. Think outside of the box and provide a few points about why your option is the best or why the other one is not quite as important. Be succinct with the additional points you provide, but also make sure you fully explain your position.

Once you have accomplished this, you can conclude the sample. In a sentence or two, simply reiterate your position. You may want to include a new nuance or introduce some important questions to consider just so it doesn’t feel too formulaic or repetitive. The writing sample itself is intended to test whether you have the ability to make a cohesive and persuasive argument under time pressure.

Ask Yourself These 5 Questions to See if You Are Ready for Law School

Law school is competitive, and successful candidates need to demonstrate not just the qualities that make them uniquely prepared for a legal career but also why they want to enter the profession. Because law school is a long and difficult road, you should be absolutely sure you want to go before you apply.

Asking yourself a few key questions can help you make sure law school is the right decision for you. Answering them can help you make a more persuasive argument in your application and identify the schools that can best prepare you for what you want to do. The questions you should ask yourself include the following:

1. What do you want to do with a law degree?

While you can do almost anything with a law degree, that does not mean you need a law degree to do everything. You may want to talk to people in the fields you are interested in to get their input. Just because many people in your field of interest have a law degree does not necessarily mean they need one. Once you talk to people, you may find that a different degree will serve you better, such as a master of laws, a master of public policy, or something similar. Naturally, if you want to work in the courtroom, you will need a juris doctor. In this case, think about the area of law you would like to practice in and even the geographic location, as this will have a bearing on where you end up going to school. Law degrees do not always transfer across state lines.

2. Why do you want to be a lawyer?

Many people end up going to law school for the wrong reasons. If you think that being a lawyer looks fun on television or in the movies, you need to spend some time shadowing or at least talking to attorneys. The daily life of a lawyer is often very far off from what it looks like in entertainment. Moreover, lawyers frequently work for years before they get to set foot in a courtroom or get a job that pays a comfortable amount of money. Too often, people think that becoming a lawyer is a path to getting rich. In reality, there are a lot of legal jobs that do not make a lot of money, especially if you want to work in the public sector. Even in the public sector, it can be a long path to making money in the six figures.

3. How competitive are you as a candidate?

Before you apply to law school, you need to be realistic about the type of school you could likely get into with your current stats. Unfortunately, law schools care a lot about GPA and will also put a lot of weight on LSAT scores. The other unfortunate truth is that even a school ranked at 15 does not carry nearly the same weight as a top-tier institution. For some people, this point will not matter. However, if your answers to the first couple of questions put you in a competitive position, you will likely need to get admitted to a top school. You can make up for shortcomings in your application, but this will take even more time and effort.

4. Is law school an affordable option?

You also need to think about money before you apply to law school. Getting a juris doctor takes three years, and the tuition and fees at top schools can be more than $60,000 per year. Scholarships are notoriously difficult to secure for law school, so you may end up owing a lot of money when all is said and done. Account for living expenses as well as moving expenses if you end up going to another state to study. Get a solid understanding of the amount of money you are likely to owe and weigh that against your likely salary. Do some online research to figure out opportunities for work and likely starting salary to make sure you won’t end up with a student loan burden you are unable to handle.

5. Do you know what law school classes are like?

Before applying to law school, you should know what you are getting into in terms of classes. If possible, visit a class at a nearby university. Often, these classes are very different from what you are likely used to. Frequently, teachers use the Socratic method and challenge your thinking in front of everyone else. Students are often called on at random to discuss a case, which means you need to be on top of your coursework at all times and comfortable with public speaking. On top of that, law schools put a lot of weight on class rank, and grades are typically determined on a curve, which means your performance depends on that of your classmates. As a result, law school is often not a collaborative learning environment.

What You Need to Know about Contacting Congressional Representatives

You can get involved with government at many levels, from attending city council meetings to contacting your congressional representatives. While the latter may sound intimidating, these individuals are paid to represent you and welcome your feedback, as well as input about your concerns. Congressional representatives, which include members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, are happy to touch base with constituents, as it helps them get a better sense of what the people they represent want. Once you have decided that you want to initiate contact, you may not be sure what your next steps are. This guide is meant to help you have meaningful contact with your congressional representatives.

The Steps to Take Before Calling a Representative

The very first thing you need to do is figure out who your representative is if you do not already know. You can use various online tools that let you put in your zip code to figure out exactly who you need to be contacting. Once you know the representative’s name, you can look up their relevant contact information online. Each representative should have a clear way of contacting them, such as a direct number to the office. However, you can also call 202-224-3121, which connects you to the Capitol switchboard. From this point, you can ask for your senator or representative by name and the operator will put your call through to their office. Before you do this, you should be prepared with what you want to say and know what to expect when someone answers.

A legislative assistant will answer the phone. This person will ask if you need a response to your call. This decision is up to you. Either way, they will tally the call as part of the report to the congressperson. If you ask for a response, you will be added to a database, which will take extra time. Only ask for a response if you truly want one. Also, realize that many people likely call the office, so it is important to be concise. You can explain why you are for or against a certain issue, but know that the legislative assistant may not write the details down and only record what you are for or against. If you are concise, you make the process easier for the assistant and for other people who are waiting to speak to the congressperson.

Making the Call to Your Representative in Congress

Once you know what to expect and have figured out how to say everything concisely, it is time to make the call. Depending on how busy the office is, you may be put on hold. After someone answers, you should identify yourself by your full name and give your zip code, which verifies that you are calling the right person. You can also say right off the bat whether you want a response, which will further streamline the entire process. Next, identify the issue you are concerned about. If you are referring to legislation, you should know the exact name and perhaps even the number of the bill. Give your opinion, meaning whether you are for or against it, and then thank the legislative assistant for their help.

This process may seem artificial and contrived, but it is important for getting data to decision-makers. If you are not sure exactly what you should say, you can use a tool like 5 Calls. This online tool lets you select a particular issue and then gives you a script to read. The calls that you make do have an impact on how these representatives vote on particular issues. However, it is important to keep in mind that you can only contact your specific congressional representatives, and if you do not have a valid zip code to back it up, then your call will likely go ignored rather than recorded. Furthermore, doing this creates a backlog of calls so that other people cannot get through to express their own concerns.

Why Calling on the Phone Is Usually the Best Option

People today can contact their representatives in more ways than just the phone. However, direct messages on social media, e-mails, and even letters often go ignored when the office gets busy. Phone calls cannot be ignored in the same way since they need to be addressed in real-time.

If you are having trouble getting through on the phone, that is a good sign—such a backlog will not go unnoticed and the senator or representative will certainly hear about the impact. Another option you have is to call the representative’s local office rather than their DC office. While this is not the best choice when talking about a national issue or a specific piece of legislation, if you are addressing a more local concern, then the office in your state is the best way of getting that problem recorded.

Use These 7 Tips to Impress Law Schools with Your Extracurriculars

The law school application process can be extremely stressful because you have limited space to show that you are the ideal candidate for a program. For this reason, it’s important to be strategic in how you represent yourself. Every detail you include has a significant impact on how the admissions committee will view you.

Your extracurriculars can be a tricky part of the application. You need to think about which extracurriculars to include and what each says about you as a potential legal professional and as a person. Sometimes, the best way to represent yourself through extracurriculars is not entirely intuitive. Some important tips to keep in mind include:

1. Shorten the list.

While it can be tempting to include every organization you have ever been involved with, this won’t attract much attention—application readers will likely give a long list of organizations only a cursory glance. Instead, focus on the activities that demonstrate characteristics you would like to highlight and provide some details about these experiences. You may want to prioritize the activities that have been the most meaningful or that have resulted in the most personal growth.

Ultimately, describing a handful of extracurriculars is much more impactful than a laundry list of 15 different positions and minimal other information.

2. Include non-law activities.

Many people feel like they should only include extracurriculars directly related to the legal field. This is a mistake—don’t limit yourself in this way. Law schools do not expect you to come in knowing about the legal system already.

While it’s fine to include these activities, prioritize extracurriculars that were particularly meaningful, or that allowed you to engage in the community and make a real impact, regardless of whether they were related to the legal field. Prioritize the experiences that helped you learn about leadership and responsibility. Ultimately, being president of a social justice organization is likely to look more impressive than shadowing an attorney.

3. Emphasize your skills.

Admissions officers often want to know more about what you learned through a particular extracurricular activity. Did you learn how to manage teams, write clearly, or engage crowds through public speaking? Point to specific things you accomplished through each extracurricular, especially if these skills are directly relevant to law school. Organizational skills are very important, as is public speaking, writing, and leadership. Prioritize activities that can demonstrate your achievements in these realms.

4. Be completely honest.

Avoid the temptation to exaggerate your commitment to extracurriculars. In some respects, the time you spent on an extracurricular is less important than what you learned or the impact you made. For example, even if you only spent an hour tutoring each month, you may still have learned valuable teaching skills.

Of course, in all likelihood, no one will follow up with organizations to verify the information you provide. However, an offer of admission can be revoked if a school finds out you lied, and this violation of ethics could close other doors for you. It’s not worth the risk, and it’s just plain wrong. If you feel like you didn’t spend enough time with a particular extracurricular, take that as a sign to omit it and focus on a different activity.

5. Think outside the resume.

For the most part, applicants only get the chance to explore their extracurriculars on their resume. However, that does not mean you cannot delve deeper into a particular experience or include it as an addendum. Usually, application addenda are meant to explain discrepancies between LSAT scores and GPAs, but you can use an extracurricular experience to address how you made up for the issue. Importantly, your personal statement or addendum should not rehash what is already in your resume but rather add to it by providing additional details about a position and what you got out of it.

6. Use your time wisely.

Undergraduate students sometimes spread themselves thin by getting involved with many different clubs, volunteer groups, and other extracurriculars. However, when you’re doing too much, you’re less able to contribute meaningfully to any activity. As a result, you won’t learn as much, and law schools will see through long lists of extracurriculars. This is why it’s better to focus on a few experiences that mean something to you, rather than get involved in every single group on campus just to add to your resume. You don’t need a dozen extracurriculars to get into a good law school. Instead, focus on doing more with only a couple of organizations.

7. Start an organization.

You certainly don’t have to start an organization to get into law school, but doing this demonstrates drive, leadership skills, and social abilities. If you feel like nothing at your undergraduate school or in your community speaks to you interests, do some soul searching and figure out how you can change that. Most likely, someone else feels the same way and would jump at the opportunity to meet like-minded people and make a difference. Note that this isn’t a last-minute fix for a lackluster resume. However, it can help you earlier in your college career, as you begin to think ahead to law school.

Use These 6 Tips to Make the Most of Your First Legal Internship

Once you have successfully gained admission to law school, you will need to find opportunities to put your new knowledge to use in the real world. The best way to get some focused legal experience is through a legal internship. However, it is not always obvious how to make the most of this experience. As the adage goes, you will only get out of the experience what you put into it.

Since a legal internship is often the first full-time job for many law students, they may not understand the best moves to make. The following are six tips for not just making a great impression but also making the entire experience worth your while.

1.  Learn how to manage up.

The term “manage up” can be confusing, but it simply means that you will need to learn how to manage the attorneys you work with to get work. Even if you are the most brilliant legal mind of your class, you are likely to sit at your desk with little to do if you do not learn how to manage up effectively. Ask attorneys what you can do to make their lives easier, and then do it. Be sure to pay close attention to directions and follow them exactly so that you build trust. Once you have done this a few times, attorneys will likely seek you out for assistance, which is the exact place you want to be during the internship.

2. Excel at research projects.

The unfortunate truth about legal internships is that you will likely be asked to do a lot of tasks that are new to you. The good news is that attorneys understand this pressure and will give you help and support as you need it. However, you will also assuredly be asked to research a legal issue and then present what you find either orally or in writing. Since this task is so close to what you do in law school, it is your chance to knock the assignment out of the park and make a lasting impression. Do your research and ensure that your presentation is thorough yet concise. Be prepared to answer a wide variety of questions so you can demonstrate your knowledge.

3. Manage your stress proactively.

A legal internship is likely to be very stressful, but if you let this stress get to you, your performance at the office will surely suffer. That’s why stress management is key to success during a legal internship. Figure out how you can unwind and destress each night so that you come back to the office with an eagerness to perform at your peak. The people you work with will notice this enthusiasm and it will reflect well on your performance. On the other hand, if you let yourself get run down, you may end up snapping at the office or phoning it in on an assignment, which will leave a negative impression. Make sure you stay on top of your game for the whole internship.

4. Pay close attention to the details.

In the legal world, details are extremely important. While typos on a memo may not sound like a big deal, they will raise red flags in a law office, where accuracy is paramount. Unfortunately, no one at the office is going to tell you “good job” for proofreading your copy before sending it out, but you can be sure that people will notice when you do not. Unfortunately, this lack of attention to detail can mean that more important projects do not get assigned to you, as the team may not trust you to execute them to the office’s standards. However, with some care and focus, you can build trust by presenting work that is meticulously edited.

5. Show your enthusiasm for the job.

Interns do not always have the easiest role at a company. You will be on the very bottom of the totem pole, which means you may be supervised by challenging people, have phones or computers that do not work, or get stuck in a dingy office (if you even get your own space).

Despite all this, it is important to show enthusiasm and express gratitude for the opportunity you have been given. Show that you are eager to help the team, and the attorneys you work with will start to take you more seriously. If you act like you are above the position or let the downsides of the job steal away your motivation, then you could end up having nothing to show for your time there.

6. Have serious exit interviews.

While some internships will likely have formal exit interviews, you should also take some time to conduct your own. Sit down with the attorneys you helped during your time there and ask for feedback on your performance, as well as advice for the next steps in your career. Accept any criticism with grace and offer insight on how you will use that feedback constructively in the future. Always say goodbye in a professional manner as you may end up working with these professionals again down the road. Also, it is a courtesy to the next intern to organize files in a way that makes the information easy to access. Your supervisors are likely to notice that you did this.

What Happens during a Runoff Election? What American Voters Need to Know

The prior election season challenged many people’s understanding of the American democratic process with issues ranging from impeachment to claims of tampering and the voting complications associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Another complicating factor was the runoff in Georgia, which left many people around the nation confused about this particular process and what it meant for the outcome of the election.

The rules about runoffs differ between states, so it can be quite confusing to determine what exactly is happening and why, especially when the stakes are as high as congressional control for a party as they were during the 2020 election. Many people felt that the future of the country hinged on this election.

How Runoffs Work during a General Election

The term runoff election refers to a secondary process that determines a winner if no person emerges victorious in the first round. For example, Georgia and Louisiana both do runoffs for general elections, which is not true of any other state. This is because every state besides these two declares a winner based on a plurality of the vote. In other words, whoever receives the most votes will win the election.

In Georgia and Louisiana, general elections are only won if a candidate receives a majority of the vote. This means that one candidate must receive more than half the vote to be declared the victor. In Georgia, neither candidate was able to secure more than half of the vote, which is why a runoff was declared. Since people can only choose between two candidates, someone will almost always get the majority of the vote as an exact tie is extremely unlikely.

If a candidate doesn’t win with a majority in the general election, Georgia requires runoff elections for congressional, state executive, and state legislative positions. These is why a runoff was necessary this past November. The top two finishers in the general election advance to the runoff and voters can only choose between these two candidates (i.e, no third-party votes are permitted). This law dates back to the 1960s.

In Louisiana, all candidates for office, whether at the local, state or federal level, will appear on the same ballot. Elections happen in October in odd-numbered years and November in even-number years. Party affiliations are note taken into account. Should a candidate win a simple majority, that person is declared the victor.

However, if no candidate crosses this threshold, the top two compete in a runoff election in December. Again, this happens regardless of party affiliation. In the second election, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner. This system was created in 1975.

The Older Tradition of Runoffs for Primary Elections

Perhaps surprisingly, several other states have runoff election policies in relation to the primary elections. Altogether, 10 states have runoff elections built into party nomination processes and most of them require a majority rather than a plurality. The threshold in North Carolina is 30 percent of the vote plus one for victory. Vermont only allows a runoff in the event of a tie and South Dakota only for congressional and gubernatorial elections.

The other states with runoff elections for primaries include Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Louisiana is not one of the states with runoff elections for primaries, but Georgia is. You may note that all of these states with the exception of South Dakota are location in the southern part of the United States.

Election runoffs for primary races have a much longer history than for general elections. The roots trace back to the beginning of the 20th century in the southern parts of the United States. Prior to the runoff system, Democrats would actually use conventions to nominate their candidates. Over time, factions formed within the Democratic Party. These splits made it difficult for them to compete with Republicans.

Eventually, Democrats introduced the primary system with runoff provisions as a way to unite these factions and approach general elections against Republicans with greater unity. In Arkansas, historians have traced this new system to elections involving members of the Klu Klux Klan. By creating runoffs, Democrats were able to prevent Klan members from winning primaries with only a small plurality of the vote.

The runoff system also made politicians approach their work in a fundamentally different way. With many candidates competing, it was previously possible to build a small but loyal following to win a primary. With the introduction of the runoff system, candidates were forced to broaden their appeal to a much wider range of voters and thus better represent the full spectrum of party ideologies. Runoffs made it impossible for people at ideological extremes to make it to the general election.

The result is that the Democratic party ultimately produced candidates who would perform better in the general elections because of their broader appeal. What is interesting is that the system serves a similar purpose today. The states that have runoffs are primarily southern and Republicans have an incredibly strong hold in those states. The runoff policies help create candidates that are more broadly appealing and not tied to ideological extremes.

Follow These 5 Tips to Perform Your Best in Legal Internship Interviews

Making a great impression at a legal internship can open doors for you professionally. However, you will need to land that internship first. One of the most stressful parts of securing a great legal internship is the interview. Law firms will want to meet with you to know that you have the interpersonal skills necessary for success.

To nail these interviews, you will need to do a significant amount of due diligence beforehand. In some ways, these interviews are similar to those you would have for any job or internship. However, the legal profession does generally present a few additional hurdles for you to overcome. Some key tips to keep in mind when it comes to acing these interviews include the following:

1. Learn about the organization ahead of time.

Before interviewing for an internship, you should have a strong understanding of the firm. Learn about the practice areas they focus on and look up some of their recent cases to get a sense of what your work would look like. Understand their mission and their former accomplishments, as well as their strategic plan for the future. Come with some insights about how you can fit into the unique environment and address some of the problems that legal professionals there face.

While no one will expect you to know everything, demonstrating that you have thought critically about what the firm does and how you could contribute to the environment shows that you have a genuine interest in working there.

2. Ask questions during the interview process.

As with any interview, you will have a chance to ask your own questions. Many candidates will come with a list of standard questions they can ask virtually any firm, but these will not make a significant impression on the interviewer.

Asking questions is another chance for you to show the legwork you have done. Think about questions relevant to that particular firm or even that interviewer if you know ahead of time who you will be speaking with. During the interview, you may also think of some new questions. Working these new questions into the conversation shows that you are paying attention and thinking critically about your potential role. These questions open up an exciting dialogue that can help build a productive relationship.

3. Practice some of the basic interview questions.

Many interviewers will ask some stock questions to get to know you better. If you work through the most common interview questions, you should have the material you need to piece together a great, compelling response. Virtually any firm will ask why you want to work there or about a challenge you have overcome in your career so far. Go over these questions with a friend, colleague, or family member.

Your law school likely has a list of questions you should be prepared to answer, but a quick Google search will give you many more. Practice these questions before each interview to refresh yourself and give yourself more time to recall any stories. Importantly, do not give completely rehearsed answers, as that sounds robotic. Instead, pull on these stories and phrases to give a genuine response.

4. Be yourself but be kind and courteous.

Ultimately, interviews are meant for organizations to get to know you better. If you try to present a fake persona, the interviewer may feel like you were misleading them once you show up with a different personality. Furthermore, if you try to fake it, you may end up slipping and making a bad impression as a result. Of course, you can still be yourself while being professional, kind, and courteous.

During your interview, you will likely interact with many people in administrative positions, and these individuals should only have great things to say about you. Professional courtesy is an important skill that interviewers look for. After all, if you cannot play nice with people before you are a part of the company, how will you interact with colleagues or clients when you are?

5. Show your gratitude with thank-you notes.

Some people may think that thank-you notes are a thing of the past, but this is not true. How you say thanks is up to you. Writing a note by hand can make a great impression, but it often takes a few days to arrive at the office. Often, an e-mailed thank-you note is just as meaningful.

In the note, reflect on some of the topics you spoke about during the interview to reiterate your interest and qualifications, but also keep it short. The note should not take more than a few seconds to read. If you write more, you should have a clear reason for doing so. Ultimately, the note shows that you were grateful for the opportunity (even if you do not get the internship), plus it can help forge strong professional connections. These notes may even distinguish you from other candidates.

Follow These Steps to Speak Your Concerns at a City Council Meeting

One of the best ways you can get involved in local government is by attending a city council meeting. These meetings are public forums for officials to discuss new policies or larger issues facing a city. During these meetings, there is always time for citizens to discuss their concerns about a specific bill or issue. You address the council members directly to let them know your feelings.

While this is a great opportunity, there are key guidelines to be aware of regarding how to make public comments. It is important to do your research and arrive at the meeting adequately prepared. If you make a persuasive argument or bring up a good point, you could actually change the course of politics in your city.

Preparing to Speak at a City Council Meeting

Before you can attend and speak at a city council meeting, you need to know when they are held. The city government’s website should have a schedule for city council meetings, which are typically held twice each month on a particular day of the week. Make note of the day and time of the meetings, as well as the issues that are on the agenda for that particular day.

About a week before the meeting, City Hall should announce the topics that will be covered. You will often not be able to talk about any issues that are not already on the agenda, although some cities permit you to bring up anything related to the town. Check the topics as soon as they get posted to see if you would want to say anything and to give yourself time to do any necessary research into topics with which you are less familiar.

If you cannot find the day and time of meetings online, feel free to call the city government and ask. Someone will be able to help you will all the relevant information, including how to get to the meetings. In addition, these individuals should know the topics that are set to be covered as soon as they get announced. If they are not yet sure, they may know when the agenda gets set.

Choosing a Topic to Address Publicly at the Meeting

While anyone can speak at a city council meeting, you will make the biggest impact when you choose a topic that touches your life in some way. If your city allows you to make comments about any relevant topics, choose something that you consider important and be prepared to demonstrate why it is such an impactful issue.

Naturally, speaking from your own experience is the best approach, but think about how the issue you choose impacts the people around you. Avoid talking about historic topics and instead focus on current issues or legislation that is being discussed for the future.

Importantly, you need to focus on one topic and know exactly what you would like to say about it. Public comments usually have a time limit around the three-minute mark so that the council members can hear from multiple people. If you address more than one topic, you will not have enough time to delve deep into them.

Figure out the points you want to make and practice your comment so that you do not get distracted while you speak. Think about why the issue is so important and offer potential solutions for the problem. Always connect the issue back to quality of life for citizens.

Signing up to Speak at the City Council Meeting

The majority of city councils require people to sign up to speak and typically they must do so at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting. Research the rules in your city on the city’s government website or call for more information. Sometimes, you are able to sign up early through a digital format. If this is not possible, you should arrive to the meeting at least 30 minutes prior to its start to make sure you can get yourself on the list.

For the most part, city councils will defer your comment to the next meeting if you do not make the cutoff. Also, you will need to sign up yourself rather than having someone else do it. The city will likely verify your residence prior to accepting you as a speaker at the meeting.

When it is time for public comments, approach the microphone and speak when your name or number is called. If your city does not require you to sign up, you will likely need to stand in a line to get to the microphone. Wear a business casual outfit so that people take you seriously as you speak.

Also, you should know that city councils will sometimes cut off public comments before you have spoken, even if you have signed up beforehand, so be prepared for this possibility. As you begin, you will likely need to state your name and where you live prior to speaking. Sometimes, council members will address your comments immediately. However, the council may address everyone at once after everyone has spoken.

5 of the Qualities You Need to Demonstrate in a Law School Application

While your law school application will contain many objective data points, such as LSAT score and grades, it also includes several subjective ones. Everything from the résumé to the personal statement has a strong impact on how the admissions committee considers your preparedness for law school.

Thus, as you write these parts, you need to think critically about the particular qualities law schools look for in their candidates. By demonstrating and emphasizing these qualities, you can make a strong impression on the admission committee. As you review your final application, be sure that you speak to these qualities in one way or another.

Some of the qualities that law schools look for in their candidates include:

1. Great Communication Skills

Lawyers constantly communicate in both written and oral forums. Because of this, law schools want to make sure you have the ability to communicate clearly. Part of this quality gets demonstrated through the information you choose to include. Make sure your personal statement is grammatically correct, well organized, and focused on a central thesis.

Demonstrating the ability to communicate verbally can be more difficult since law schools do not interview their candidates. However, you can emphasize your public speaking experience in your résumé. Think hard about your public speaking experiences, whether they have been obtained through volunteer activities, extracurriculars, or in the classroom, and be sure they get discussed in a meaningful way.

2. Creativity

Most people would not initially associate being a lawyer with creativity. However, creativity is extremely important in legal professions. Much of begin a lawyer depends on coming up with unique solutions that meet the specific needs of the situation. This sort of problem-solving demands a deep creativity.

Law school itself is designed to make you think outside the box, but you can impress admissions officers by showing your creative side. Do not hesitate to talk about specific projects or initiatives that required you to think in a novel way to solve a problem. Even talking about more traditional creative pursuits can be impactful provided that you make a strong connection between those activities and your legal aspirations.

You can even demonstrate creativity in your approach to the personal statement if you give the school something slightly unexpected. However, be sure not to go so far outside the box that you miss the mark completely.

3. Analytical Nature

Law school requires its students to do an incredible amount of reading, and moreover think critically about the material they cover. You will need to be able to distill hundreds of pages down to a few manageable, salient points. To do this effectively, you need to think critically about the situation at hand and predicting the potential outcomes based on given facts.

Emphasize any analytical pursuits you have engaged in prior to law school. For example, you could talk about a problem that you solved as part of an extracurricular activity or even discuss why you chose to pursue law from an analytical point of view. Lawyers are always questioning and you should endeavor to show this side of yourself in the application.

4. People Skills

The majority of legal professions require working with people, whether clients, colleagues, or third-party individuals. Law is focused on collaboration. Working well with other people depends on much more than great communication skills. To work with people, you need to know how to discuss contentious points in a relaxed manner and keep lines of communication open when tensions run high.

People often think that being a lawyer is all about arguing, but in reality, the opposite is true. While lawyers to form arguments, they do not do so in a contentious way. Focus on experiences that involved collaboration and talk about your ability to be not just a leader, but also a follower when needed. If you have any experience in mediation, be sure that you highlight them in your resume or your personal statement.

5. Tenacity

Lawyers understand the value of tenacity. If you fail at first, you try again. Often, lawyers continually pursue cases on behalf of their clients even when the situation seems nearly impossible. To show tenacity, talk about moments when you have overcome major obstacles in your life.

If you talk about these experiences in a way that shows self-reflection, you will demonstrate to admissions committee that you have thought about what resiliency entails. Resiliency is one of the key parts of many professions, but especially law when you may lose several appeals before seeing success. Other times, you may never be successful, but you will still need to show up completely for another client despite the disappointment experience in another arena.

5 Tips to Start Building a Great Professional Network in Law School

Law students need to hone a number of different skills during their studies. In addition to getting a great base of legal knowledge, they need to focus on getting a comprehensive sense of the field of law they wish to practice. Another important thing to focus on is networking.

Many people do not like networking because it often feels disingenuous. However, within the context of law school, you should be able to find professors and professionals who have similar interests and goals as you. Networking with these individuals can help you get great advice as you launch your career, not to mention professional connections and potentially even a wonderful letter of recommendation.

For most people, networking does not come naturally, so it is important to think about the best strategies to employ. Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to networking during law school include:

1. Set goals for yourself.

Before you begin networking, you need to have a clear plan. Think about what you want to get out of networking, whether that is a potential job upon graduation, career development advice, or even just an exciting summer internship. Once you have these goals in mind, set benchmarks for yourself.

For example, you may want to attend one networking event each month and meet at least five new people at it. From there, you may want to connect virtually to three of those people and set up an in-person meeting with at least one of them.

Setting these sorts of specific goals will help make networking a habit. When first getting started, it can be helpful to have an accountability buddy, whether that is a classmate who attends the event with you or a mentor with whom you can discuss goals and expectations.

2. Have an elevator pitch.

The term elevator pitch is generally used for entrepreneurs trying to sell an idea, but you should also have one as a law student. In the course of about 30 seconds, you should be able to describe your goals and what you are looking for in a career. This short speech should leave space for questions to be asked while also speaking to your value as a legal professional.

With this pitch, you can quickly see if your goals and values align with the person you are meeting. Ideally, a person with a similar background will ask some questions to get more of a sense of who you are, but the elevator pitch is a great way to introduce yourself and give a general sense of your qualifications. As a student, your pitch will likely focus on your motivation for pursuing a particular field of law and the types of opportunities you would like to find based on your background and goals.

3. Do the necessary research.

Networking often involves a great deal of research. Prior to attending a networking event, try to get a list of the attendees and spend a few minutes googling each one. Doing this will give you a sense of the best people to seek out during the event based on where they work or the type of law they practice. With social media, it has become even easier to look up people and figure out who they are.

If you look up recent news related to the person or the area of law that they work in and incorporate it into the conversation, you will demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to the field. While you do not want to be overbearing or obsequious, having a few important cases or news events up your sleeve can help keep the conversation flowing and lead to genuine points of connection.

4. Network in unconventional ways.

While law schools and local organizations will hold a number of formal networking events, you should not limit yourself to these options. After all, learning how to network on your own will only help you throughout your career. Within the context of law school, you should feel free to reach out to professors, speakers, or other individuals to ask for a few minutes of time.

Having a coffee with someone is a great way to break the ice and discuss professional goals. You could even ask someone you only know from social media to meet in person if you find yourselves in the same area. Another way to network is over food. Especially while in school, avoid eating lunch alone. You also need to network with your classmates, as they are your future colleagues, so ask someone to join you and start forging a relationship.

5. Make use of social media.

Not long ago, networking took place completely in person. With social media tools like LinkedIn, it is easier than ever to find people with similar interests and get plugged into key professional circles. In the legal industry, LinkedIn remains the most commonly-used network, although more people are turning to Twitter and even Facebook. Creating a Twitter specifically to share professional information is a great way to get involved with the industry, as are posts on the LinkedIn platform.

Figure out the relevant hashtags on these sites to find information related to your interests and join in on the conversation. Doing this keeps you up to date on developments while also making it more likely that people recognize your name. Once you have started to engage, you can connect more directly to people via social media and then eventually meet in person with key individuals.