As part of a new feature on Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we are releasing something a little different. While we will be maintaining our regular practice of providing you high-quality commentary on the biggest subjects in the law today, every other episode for the next few months, we’ll be running a series we call “The Life of a Lawyer, Start to Finish”. This series will explore the experience of becoming and being an attorney, from applying to law schools through retirement and everything in between. We’re excited to use this series to offer some great advice for lawyers at all stages of their careers.
In our first episode, we will start, logically enough, with “How to Get into Law School.” Host Craig Williams is joined by Miriam Ingber, Associate Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid at Yale Law School, and Kristi Jobson, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Chief Admissions Officer at Harvard Law School, to cover their popular podcast for future law students, Navigating Law School Admissions, the admissions process, standing out in the crowd, and preparing for your first year.
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J. Craig Williams: Before we begin, today, we’re thrilled to welcome our new sponsor Posh Virtual Receptionists.
Miriam Ingber: I really think it’s important for people to feel that they belong at institutions like ours. People from every background belong at institutions like Harvard, institutions like Yale, and we really want them to feel empowered with information to apply if they think this is a place that they want to be.
Kristi Jobson: And they can make a big difference to meet someone whether it’s over Zoom or in-person or even them listening to a podcast, to encourage them to put their hat in the ring. I think both of our institutions have a lot of really, really amazing students who might not have even considered Yale or Harvard when they were at the early applicant stage.
Intro: Welcome to the award-winning podcast Lawyer2Lawyer with J. Craig Williams bringing you the latest legal news and observations with the leading experts in the legal profession. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
J. Craig Williams: Welcome to Lawyer2Lawyer on the legal Talk network. I’m Craig Williams coming to you from Southern California. I write a legal blog named May It Please The Court. I have two books out titled, ‘How To Get Sued’ and ‘The Sled.’
Today, we’re releasing something a little bit different on Lawyer2Lawyer while we continue our regular practice of providing high quality commentary on the biggest subjects in the law today, every other episode for the next few months, we’ll be running a series we call the life of a lawyer start to finish. The series will explore the experience of becoming and being an attorney from applying to law schools to retirement and pretty much everything in between. We are excited to use the series to offer some great advice for lawyers at all stages of their careers.
Let’s get to it. In our first episode of this new series, we’ll start logically enough with how to get into law school. We’ll specifically cover the admissions process, standing out in the crowd, and preparing for your first year. And to do that, we are joined by Miriam Ingber. She is the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Yale Law School, and Kristi Jobson. She is also a Dean of Admissions, but she’s also the Chief Admissions Officer at Harvard Law School. Miriam and Kristi also hosts the highly acclaimed and highly recommended Navigating Law School Admissions podcast where they share candid, accurate and straightforward advice about law school admissions. Welcome to our show, Miriam and Kristi.
Kristi Jobson: Thanks for having us.
Miriam Ingber: Yeah, we’re both so excited to be here.
J. Craig Williams: Well, I’m really excited to be here and I’ve listened to a number of your podcasts, and I’m going to play a game like you do in the beginning of your podcasts with you. Kind of warned you a little bit ahead of time. Here it is. From the US News and World Report, difficulty of 2022 loss admissions cycle. They said last year, certain number of people applied to law school for the 2021 enrollment year, which was 13% higher than the year before. How many people do you think that is? How many applicant’s overall for law school in 2021?
Miriam Ingber: I’m going to let Kristi go first.
Kristi Jobson: Sure.
Miriam Ingber: To kind of anchor me and I still think she’s going to win.
Kristi Jobson: I’m going to guess 67,000.
J. Craig Williams: We should play a game like The Price is Right and who gets the closest. Miriam?
Miriam Ingber: Who gets the closest. I’m going to go higher. I’m actually going to go way higher. I’m going to go 93,000.
J. Craig Williams: Well, according to US News & World Report, it was 71,000.
Miriam Ingber: Oh, I knew she’d beat me. The price is right.
J. Craig Williams: Here’s the second question. According to the American Bar Association in the last 22 years, the peak was 100,000 applicants. When did that happen? What year?
Miriam Ingber: Since 2000, I am going to say to 2010.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi?
Kristi Jobson: My guess is 2011.
J. Craig Williams: It’s 2004.
Kristi Jobson: Woah!
Miriam Ingber: We were babies then.
J. Craig Williams: Now, the lowest in the last 22 years was 55,000 applicants. In what year did that happen?
Kristi Jobson: I’ve got this one. 2015.
Miriam Ingber: I’m going to 2014.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi goes two for two.
Miriam Ingber: Because I know. I know she’s so good at games. I just want to say I know applied to law school 2001. I graduated in ‘04. I wanted to give myself props for getting in in a competitive year and I can’t even do that.
J. Craig Williams: It was a competitive year, 2004, 100,000 people.
Kristi Jobson: Wow.
Miriam Ingber: That’s a lot. That’s a lot of essays.
J. Craig Williams: Miriam, I thought you were going to call a friend.
Miriam Ingber: I know. I did say beforehand the person who would be best at this game is my Assistant Dean, Craig Janecek so shout out to Craig. He would know all this off the top of his head.
J. Craig Williams: Let’s start at the beginning in this interview. How did the two of you meet? How did you get into podcasting?
Kristi Jobson: We both started in our roles that exact same summer. It was summer 2018 and we met in New York City at the New York Bar Association at an event for prospective students. We were each at our respective tables handing out brochures and I was aware that Miriam was the new dean. We were the two new Kids on the block. A lot of people in our industry have been doing this for many, many years, including a lot of people that the two of us go to for advice and counsel and we were the new kids. We introduced ourselves, we got talking and then we’ve been friendly ever since.
Miriam Ingber: I remember a dinner in New Haven at BAR too actually. That was like maybe our second hang out.
Kristi Jobson: That’s right. A couple of folks on my team went to New Haven for a software training, for a software group that’s based in New Haven. And so, we invited the Yale team out to dinner. We had some pizza with mashed potatoes on top.
Miriam Ingber: Yes, mashed potatoes and bacon. It was delicious.
J. Craig Williams: That’s an odd pizza.
Miriam Ingber: It’s a delicious odd pizza.
Kristi Jobson: It’s really good.
Miriam Ingber: It’s really good. If you’re ever in New Haven.
J. Craig Williams: What was it that got the two of you into podcasting? How did you get together and get this amazing podcast to guide students on how to get into law school?
Miriam Ingber: I guess I can take that one. I remember that too. We were on the phone complaining, that’s one of our favorite things to do together is fetch. We’re good fetching buddies. And it was the summer of 2020 so it was right after the pandemic hit and we were bemoaning like what’s going to happen with recruiting. Are we going to be able to go on the road this fall? How are we going to talk to applicants? Are we going to do a million webinars? What is that going to look like?
And one of us, I don’t remember who said, “Maybe we could just do a podcast this summer.” And that was kind of it and then we started desperately scrambling and Kristi researched microphones. And I reached out to the Yale broadcast studio and we kind of just did it from there and we got some really nice feedback from our applicants and our admits that it was helpful to them and that was sort of our whole purpose was to really make that information accessible to everyone.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi, what’s your thought? What drew you into podcasting?
Kristi Jobson: I love the —
Miriam Ingber: She wanted the fame. That was it. Kristi just wants to be famous.
Kristi Jobson: I’m in it for the fame.
J. Craig Williams: Celebrity podcasters, here they are.
Miriam Ingber: She (00:07:12).
J. Craig Williams: Hollywood Walk of Fame is next.
Kristi Jobson: What really appealed to me about the idea of a podcast is that the fact that the advice could live on and that the applicant could access it at the time that it was convenient for them, at the time they were thinking about it because Miriam and I both do I’m sure well over 100 presentations every year. Sometimes a webinar is recorded, but usually pre-pandemic, you’re in a room, you’re getting to connect with all these folks and then the event kind of ends and hopefully, the advice lives beyond you for the individuals that were there, but you’re not necessarily reaching everyone long-term.
I love the idea of creating some static content and we both, even in Spring 2020, I think all of us were feeling like we’d had enough Zoom by then, and now we’ve been Zooming for years. And so, I liked the idea of creating something that people could listen to, whether they could think about law school admissions, while they were going for a walk or while they were washing the dishes or relaxing in some other way, but not having to be on yet another Zoom webinar.
J. Craig Williams: You’ve together a really amazing podcast, but one of the things that surprises me is that you say that you have to go out and recruit. Now, when I applied to law school, Harvard and Yale, number one, number two, seems to me that most people are coming to you as opposed to you having to go to them. What’s that about?
Miriam Ingber: I’m going to push back on that quite a lot. I think we find certainly at Yale that the big thing we struggled with is people self-selecting out. They think that you have to be a nominee is one of the phrases for which I’m known among our colleagues. They think you have to be a glitter-pooping unicorn to be admitted to a school like Yale or Harvard. And you do not have to be glitter-pooping anything to be admitted to one of our schools. You just have to be a really smart, kind community contributor. That’s what we’re looking for at the core, really nice people who we think are going to come to our school, contribute here and go off and have interesting, fun careers afterwards.
And people get really freaked out I think almost by the rankings which are, as a Canadian, I have very mixed feelings about and I really think it’s important for people to feel that they belong at institutions like ours. People from every background belong at institutions like Harvard, institutions like Yale, and we really want them to feel empowered with information to apply if they think this is a place that they want to be.
Kristi Jobson: And it can make a big difference to meet someone, whether it’s over Zoom or in-person or even them listening to a podcast, to encourage them to put their hat in the ring. I think both of our both of our institutions have a lot of really, really amazing students who might not have even considered Yale or Harvard when they were at the early applicant stage.
Miriam Ingber: Every year, we admit people who say, “If I hadn’t been at that event, if I hadn’t listened to the podcast, if I hadn’t talked to one of your current students, I would not have applied.” And every year, I’m scared because they’re so amazing and it shocks me that they didn’t realize how amazing they are.
J. Craig Williams: One of the podcasts that I listen to, I think it was you Miriam that said that contributions to the profession is one of the considerations that you make in admitting a student, what you anticipate that that students contribution to potentially be. How does that fit into the overall analysis that you make? I mean, it’s not just grades and LSAT scores.
Kristi Jobson: Correct.
Miriam Ingber: No, it is definitely not just grades and LSAT scores. My colleague, Craig, who I’ve mentioned said if that was the case, we would all be out of a job and they would replace us all with computers. I mean, that’s complicated. I always say to applicants that it’s really good to show not tell. The best way to see future contribution is to look at what people have done so far. Were they involved in their college community, their home community? Were they contributing to their family?
A lot of students who are low income, they’re really working to support their own family and themselves through college and that’s something that I think both of us find really impressive. What kind of work had they been doing since they graduated? How did they think about it and talk about it in their application? How do they explain to us what their plans are for a law school and for afterwards?
And I also just want to shout out that there’s lots of ways to contribute with a law degree. I have people from my class who founded nonprofits, who are journalists, who are doing all sorts of things where their law degree really helps them but we’re not just looking for people who are going to be traditional lawyers. Lots of people are traditional lawyers and that’s amazing too but it’s not the only way to contribute to the world with a law degree.
J. Craig Williams: No, it’s not. As a matter of fact, oddly enough, my roommate in law school merely came to law school to get the ticket and then moved back to Washington, DC and has remained a political consultant. He came because he needed to have the ticket to be able to relate to people that are running for office.
My other roommate in law school was a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps. The JAC Corps in the Army for many, many years. The paths are varied and myriad. One of the things that — you make, I guess to some degree, objective decisions about subjective data or subjective decisions about objective data. I mean, the piles that you get and that you talked about have numbers in them and they also have feelings in them. How do you marry the numbers side of what you’re looking at to the personal side? Kristi?
Kristi Jobson: It starts by really grounding yourself in what you’re looking for and what your goals are in not only reading the file, but crafting a class overall. The numbers are helpful to admissions officers and thinking about a candidate’s academic potential, but they certainly don’t tell the full story. And I think anyone on either of our admissions teams or any admissions office in the country would tell you that there’s a lot of high GPAs out there that look amazing on the cover sheet maybe and then as you start digging into the coursework, it all starts to look a little less impressive.
Conversely, there’s individuals to attend institutions, the military academies come to mind, Craig, but many others or who are majoring in subjects that are known for really, really strict course who might have a lower cumulative GPA in terms of an LSAT calculation or sort of where they would fall on a US news quartile, but the body of their coursework is so impressive that their academic potential is really clear.
J. Craig Williams: You mean those physics and organic chemistry classes I took mattered?
Kristi Jobson: Absolutely, sir.
Miriam Ingber: We validate that for you.
Kristi Jobson: Absolutely. And again, this is what also plays into the idea of crafting a class, thinking about contribution to the profession. It’s really important that the profession has individuals with a science background. When I was clerking in the district of Massachusetts, we have a ton of science-based cases just because there’s a lot of biotech companies in Massachusetts. My co-clerk was a chemistry major in undergrad and boy was that helpful when some of those patent cases came in and the like.
J. Craig Williams: Well, you get admitted to the patent office without having a scientific or engineering style background.
Kristi Jobson: Yes, and Miriam is a fellow scientist.
Miriam Ingber: Yes. Biochemistry major.
Kristi Jobson: You’re thinking about the individual, you’re thinking about the academic potential when you’re seeing all those rigorous STEM courses. You’re also thinking, where does this fit in with the class that I’m crafting and how might this person use their academic background in their career moving forward. Kind of all goes into the mix in other words.
J. Craig Williams: Miriam, how much does the class you’re crafting play into this? I mean, you have the standard bell curve. You’ve always got your outliers on the outside and the standards in the middle. But how do you fit people into a class? Does weather person gets in and not get in matter in the sense of where they fit into a class?
Miriam Ingber: I think that it sort of always works out in the end in a weird sort of way. I mean, we try very much to review every application on a standalone basis. The way we do it at Yale is it’s a two-phase review process. The admissions office reads the files first and we try to keep a very steady bar of what we view as moving forward to the next stage throughout the application. It feels only equitable to do it that way.
And then they go off for a second stage of faculty review and the faculty are only seeing a small slice of the applicant pool. And so, they’re not really thinking about class crafting in a way that that we would. And then they come back from the faculty and we’re sort of like, oh, there they are. Look what the faculty did. And we kind of take them.
I think the only point at which we’re really thinking about class crafting and that kind of very nitty-gritty way is really from the waitlist. At that point, you kind of know where your class stands, you know who have accepted your offer, who have not, who have chosen to defer, who are starting in the fall, and then maybe a year where you’re like, oh gosh, we had one year where all the Vets, where all the current active duty military service members, a lot of them were told you have to stay in. The military was keeping them all in for another year. And so, we had very, very few Vets in the class. And so, when I was pulling from the waitlist, that was something we were prioritizing. Sometimes you get a little out of balance and you kind of rebalance off the wait list.
Kristi Jobson: And there’s certainly some voices and backgrounds that you just don’t see that often. Individuals who grew up in foster care, that is a really important voice to have in a legal community and in the profession. That’s not something, I at least see very often in my applicant pool. You think about that, crafting of the class and sort of not just in that individual class that’s matriculating that fall, but ensuring that there’s a whole variety of perspectives represented in the school.
Miriam Ingber: And I’ll just throw out too, one thing that maybe think of was people who are system-impacted or formerly incarcerated, that again, is a very unusual applicant profile for us and something that I and my team and Yale are very, very mindful of, of that’s such an incredibly important voice to have within the legal profession, because of the deep impact that the legal system has had on them.
And so, we’ve had some very prominent alums who are themselves system-impacted. We have a current student who’s system-impacted and that voice, even if it’s a singular voice in a single class, it can have an oversized impact on the way people think about it.
J. Craig Williams: I’m going to validate that because we had a, in my law school class at Iowa, we had a prison guard who was admitted and her perspective is a female on top of it, really opened a lot of eyes and I remember some seminar classes where she spoke about her experience and how the criminal system is from that, and it was a voice that was very, very important to our criminal law classes.
Miriam Ingber: Law enforcement to is an unusual background for us. Those are things that you’re always when you see applicants with very important, but unusual profiles, you would like to keep an eye on them.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi, I want to talk a little bit more about the self-selection that Harvard and Yale sees because even for me, I had an opportunity for a recommendation from United States Senator from Massachusetts where I resided at the time to go to Harvard, but I didn’t because I didn’t think I could get in and I didn’t think I could afford it. Didn’t even apply.
Kristi Jobson: And that story, Craig, is a narrative that both of us hear far too often, far too often. Sometimes from our current students who eventually got to the point where they did apply sometimes from applicants, but it’s something we hear a lot also at the perspective student stage, so that’s when people are thinking about law school that maybe haven’t press submit or they just recently pressed submit, but they’re just in that early stage of the application process and that that is an important stage.
I know both of our schools and both of us also are thinking even earlier than that in terms of having individual think about law and the legal career and law school in high school and early college to have this on their radar screen. And there’s a lot of really amazing programs out there that provide exposure to law and to the legal profession very early in one’s career.
J. Craig Williams: Here’s a question that I’ve been kind of dying to ask. How do you ever get ready to go to law school? As a potential law student, I know I went into town and I talked to a couple of lawyers and I got their perspective but oh my God, here I am having been in practice and I’m still actively practicing for 30 some years and I see it completely different. If I had to, if I knew then what I know now kind of thing. How do you get students ready to go to law school?
Miriam Ingber: I’m going to say I think there’s not much that students should do. I think that’s probably a little bit of unpopular advice. I think no matter what you do to prepare, that first semester feels like drinking from a fire hose. It’s sort of like when you first learned calculus or a foreign language, it just feels really hard. It’s really, really, really hard at the beginning and then somehow you look back and you’re like, why was that so hard? Now, I get it. It clicks and all the lingo starts to make sense. The way you approach cases makes sense. The way people talk about things make sense.
And I think that spending that summer trying to get ahead and then coming in frazzled and stressed and already feeling uncertain can make it almost worse. I think talking to people if you happen to know them who are lawyers can be positive. Not everyone has that kind of access and it can widen the gap between people who are from more privileged backgrounds, more access, heavy backgrounds, and those without that.
But I think also just really accepting that it’s going to be hard and really sort of preparing yourself mentally that this is going to be tough and that’s okay. It’s tough for everybody is the best thing you can do.
Kristi Jobson: I usually give my incoming 1Ls three pieces of advice for their summer before 1L year. Number one–
Miriam Ingber: Drink lots of pina coladas?
Kristi Jobson: Number one, I do think it’s helpful to just get a lot of personal admin out of the way that summer before. Go to the dentist, go to the eye doctor, a couple of —
Miriam Ingber: Co-sign.
Kristi Jobson: So that when you’re in that 1L fall, you can kind of just focus and you don’t run out of contacts right before Thanksgiving break and the like, so I usually give that piece of advice. The second piece of advice I give is to spend lots of time with your friends and your family. Just really enjoy that time and stay rooted in those relationships.
And then the third piece of advice I give and it’s going to sound a little corny, Craig, but I advised them to take a Post-It note or a piece of paper or a journal and write down for themselves why they are going to law school and then put it somewhere in their new apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Somerville, Massachusetts and have it there so that’s a little bit of a north star so that when they have that moment that we all have, October of 1L fall where you’re up reading torts at 9 PM and you’re thinking, “Why am I doing this?” You go back —
Miriam Ingber: And what is a tort? What is a tort, I still don’t know.
J. Craig Williams: Still ask that question.
Miriam Ingber: Yeah, we all still ask that question.
Kristi Jobson: It’s not a delicious dessert. That’s one thing I learned.
But when you have that moment, you can bring yourself back to what drew you to law school in the first place. And I think if you do those three things during your summer, you’re in great shape.
Miriam Ingber: And the other thing I think I love the Post-It note idea, it is a little cheesy, but I love it anyways is that I think it’s very easy when you’re a law student to get sucked into other people’s dreams. That’s what I find with my students. They’re all so ambitious and so smart and so amazing. And then they see all these other amazing people with their amazing dreams and goals, and they start to get distracted by them.
And I always say to them, “But why did you want to be here? Did you want to go and be a partner at a big law firm? No, you didn’t. You wanted to be a public defender. Don’t get sucked into going to work for a law firm. That wasn’t your dream, that someone else’s dream.” And it’s okay for your dreams to change too. That’s very possible but to really constantly re-evaluate why am I here? Why did I come in the first place? Am I still on that path? If my path changes, it it because it changed or because I got distracted. And I think having that physical reminder of why you’re in the first place is so important, whether it’s mental or it’s a Post-It.
J. Craig Williams: Well, I hate to interrupt this discussion, but let’s take a moment and hear a quick word from our sponsor. We’ll be right back.
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J. Craig Williams: Welcome back to the Lawyer2Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network. I’m joined by Miriam Ingber, the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Yale Law School and Kristi Jobson, she’s the Dean of Admissions and Chief Financial Officer at, if I got that title right, at Harvard Law School. We’ve been —
Kristi Jobson: Chief Admissions Officer.
Miriam Ingber: Someone at Harvard is like, “Oh, Kristi, great.”
Kristi Jobson: I am the CFO.
Miriam Ingber: Really, she’s taking on more responsibilities.
J. Craig Williams: We got a promotion here on Lawyer2Lawyer. Look it up.
We’ve been talking about law school admissions and we kind of did a little bit of a, what do you do this summer beforehand. Back in my day, it was read 1L or watch the paper chase which are far and few between and I guess recently, what was that movie? Legally Blonde.
Miriam Ingber: Legally Blonde, classic. Watch that anyways just because it’s amazing. Just watch Legally Blonde today.
Kristi Jobson: Yeah, just watch that. Watch that every summer.
J. Craig Williams: Such a great movie indicative of life at Harvard.
Miriam Ingber: Yes.
Kristi Jobson: Not so much.
Miriam Ingber: No? Sad.
Kristi Jobson: I wish.
J. Craig Williams: When you do look at a law student’s file, what is it that jumps off the page for you? In fact, let’s play this game, we were going to do this right after the break. We played a little bit of a game beforehand. What are your favorite fun facts from this last year’s admissions class, Miriam?
Miriam Ingber: This is my favorite maybe of my three years so far is that I have a rabbi, a pastor, and a priest at Yale Law School, which should be a joke, but it’s not and I think that was super, super cool. And they’re all amazing, amazing individuals was super interesting backgrounds.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi, what’s your favorite fun fact from your admissions group?
Miriam Ingber: The current 2L class, the HLS, the class of 2023 had a relatively — we had about half a dozen students who grew up on ranches. They grew up in ranching families in Wyoming and Colorado and the Midwest and they all found each other. I played a little bit of part in kind of making sure they’re all connected to each other but they all found each other and it’s fascinating because some of them have more of an environmental law lens, some of them are interested in international trade, some of them are interested in labor law, but in very different ways, they’re different career paths all come back to that shared experience.
J. Craig Williams: To me, it’s always an amazing thing to listen to the variety of jobs that lawyers have over time and throughout their career. I know there’s a track to become a judge, there’s a track to become a professor. You’ve both been in some level of private practice. How do you educate students on if you want to become this, these are the things you have to do to do it? Miriam, you were on some of the law journals and some of the articles editors at school.
Miriam Ingber: Our current Dean Heather Gerken, I think she says it really nicely. She says it’s a thinking degree and so it can really train I think for an incredible variety of careers and we have a super cool new leadership program. I think law school, it’s both a professional degree in that I think it does train you really well for a specific profession, but it also is at its core training you on how to think and how to approach issues and how to break them down, and then how to think of answers and options. And I think there’s so many different careers. And one that popped to mind was journalism.
I had two quite prominent journalists from my law school class and I think it makes perfect sense as to why you would become a journalist with a law degree because so many of the skills are overlapping and I think that’s really lovely.
J. Craig Williams: We had an opportunity at Iowa while I was attending law school to attend the Iowa writing program.
Miriam Ingber: That’s amazing.
J. Craig Williams: To improve our writing skills and to work with journalists and that was an absolutely amazing experience. I’d learned how important writing is for anything you do in the law.
Miriam Ingber: And that’s a great point. I mean, writing too. You learn to be a great writer. You learn to be a good speaker and those are just such foundational skills for so many different careers.
Kristi Jobson: Someone that is an applicant actually mentioned to me when she said she’s had an opportunity to observe some lawyers and she said they all asked such good questions and I thought that was a really nice way to put it from someone who’s very early in their career. I thought, wow, you really kind of hit the nail on the head Law school demands that you identify issues that you kind of get to the heart of them and that you ask the hard questions, ask the real questions and get to what you really want to know.
And one of the things I think is so amazing about the way law is often taught in law school is that inquiry basis and being unafraid to say that you don’t have all the answers. You’re asking the question because you’re curious.
J. Craig Williams: The Socratic method. Let’s talk on the opposite side of the scale. What are some red flags that you’ve seen in files that essentially are like, you’ve got to be kidding me. No, you’re not coming to this school.
Miriam Ingber: I love this question, Craig. It’s always a fun one to answer. I think that at its core, a lot of red flags come down to showing bad judgment. One of the key things we’re looking for is people with good judgment and things that display bad judgment are red flags.
An inordinate number of typos, bad judgment. Talking about a touchy subject. You can talk about lots of touchy subjects but it’s got to be done in a way that’s tasteful and professional. Going into super detail about something very personal, probably bad judgment a lot of the time. Yeah, little TMI.
Kristi Jobson: Another thing I’d flag is, and it sounds simple, but I know Miriam’s going to co-sign this, disregard for application instructions.
Miriam Ingber: Please read the instructions, people. Please.
Kristi Jobson: If we are asking for a personal statement that’s two pages double spaced with standard margins and 11-point font, this is what we’re asking for. And so, if you — I read a personal statement earlier today that was one page single-spaced. Now, it sounds like a really small thing. Obviously, it’s the same words. I could get the message, but it showed me that the candidate had either not bothered to read the instructions or had even worse, disregarded them.
J. Craig Williams: That is key for a lawyer.
Miriam Ingber: Yes, that’s right. And none of these things are disqualifying to be clear. A typo or two is okay, sometimes people miss an instruction, but they accumulate and they’re not a good look. It’s always better to be careful and thoughtful.
J. Craig Williams: Let’s talk about recommendations that you get this kind of a last subject before we wrap up because we’ve been going for a while. This has been a fantastic discussion. I cannot recommend your podcast enough. It’s been fun to listen to. When you talk about essays, what do you want to hear? What strikes a chord with you? Is it I struggled and life was tough for me and I’ve made it and succeeded or life came to me on a silver spoon and look what I did with it. I volunteered all of my time and done good things in the world.
Kristi Jobson: For me, what I am really hoping to hear in your personal statement is how you plan to use your law degree and what is motivating you to pursue law in the first place. And as Miriam said so while earlier, I think it’s most effectively done in a show not tell manner rather than I want to go to law school because. Just to be clear, that’s also fine too if that’s what feels right for you, but it’s even more effective to help us understand where you’ve been, where you are, and so we can better understand where you’re going.
Miriam Ingber: I totally agree with that, Kristi, and I often say that it’s nice to have some movement through the essay. So, rather than focusing on a single road to Damascus moment, the light bulb moment when I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, which I think is for most people not really the way real life works, talk to me a little bit about your past and some things that motivated and animated your desire to go to law school. What are you doing now and how does that connect to your past? And then, as Kristi said, sort of show me how that leads into the future and what you hope to accomplish.
There’s lots of other modalities you can write a personal statement in, but that’s sort of the most common is kind of where I was, where I am, and where I’m going.
Kristi Jobson: Two missed opportunities we usually highlight just for your listeners, one to avoid is spending your entire personal statement talking about other people. We read so many lovely essays about people’s grandparents and mentors and other inspirational figures in life and honestly, your grandparents sound amazing. I hope they apply to law school someday, but it’s a missed opportunity when we don’t actually learn anything about you as the applicant.
And then the second is spending your personal statement telling us information that’s already available to us on the other components. It’s really helpful if you take your essay and look at it against the other application materials and make sure that there’s something new we are learning about you in that personal statement that we couldn’t find anywhere else.
J. Craig Williams: Well, I think my last question is little bit about how to look at law school as an investment and what types of loans and programs might be available law students to be able to get through it. There’s been lot of concern voiced in the news about the cost of law school and for that matter, even joint programs that some lawyers do.
Miriam Ingber: I’ll take this as the financial aid person. This is something we think about a lot because you’re 100% right, Craig. Law school is extremely expensive and it should be viewed as an investment. The most important starting point is that every school does financial aid quite differently. It’s really, really important to look very carefully at any school you’re considering their individual policies.
There are a lot of different kinds of financial support that schools may or may not provide. There’s academic year aid which can come in the form of both loans and scholarship. Our schools are the only two schools in the country that do need based aid only so all of the money we give to students is based on their financial need rather than merit. Most schools do a combination of merit and need-based aid. That’s one component.
There’s funding during the summers to support unpaid internships that some schools provide, that both of our schools do provide. We have a safety net fund that other schools might have as well which is to support unanticipated financial emergencies, which can be really, really helpful for lower-income students who don’t have family support to fall back on.
And then there are loan repayment programs. There’s a federal government loan repayment program, PSLF, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It’s actually a forgiveness program, not a repayment program, and then some law schools including ours have their own repayment programs where we will pay back the loans that students take out for law school usually if they’re in lower-paying work. For us, it just has to be lower-paying work. For some schools, it has to be public service work and legal work as well.
There’s a whole package of financial aid that can be provided to students and it’s really important to view those things as a package. And so, look at all the components at any school you’re considering.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi, you’re everything she said, right?
Kristi Jobson: I think that’s the right — I would just double-click on the idea of really taking some time after you get those exciting admissions letters. I mean, that’s really exciting but really budget a good amount of time once you’re admitted to law school to understanding all of these different frameworks and platforms you can use to finance your education because one thing I think we both see is sometimes applicants get swept away in the excitement of getting admitted to law school and scramble at the end to put together the financing for it.
Miriam Ingber: And I would just say, ask questions. I always tell admitted students that financial aid is a conversation. We’re not dictating from on high this is what you’re getting. I really, really encourage students to ask questions to the financial aid office. If you’re getting a message from a school that they’re not open to those kinds of conversations at the stage when you are now the consumer, they want you to come, what’s going to happen once you’re a current student and you need extra support.
You want to make sure you’re at a school where they are really open to having that conversation with you to answering questions, to explaining things, and that you’re getting really a good vibe from the financial aid office that they’re going to be supporting of you throughout law school and as a graduate.
J. Craig Williams: Kristi and Miriam, it looks like we’ve reached the end of our program. I’d like to take this opportunity to invite both of you to share your final thoughts and how our listeners can reach out to you, but more importantly, where they can find you are Navigating Law School Admissions podcast.
Kristi Jobson: Thank you so much for having us. Our podcast is available on Apple, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spotify and really any platform that you can use. It’s called Navigating Law School Admissions with Miriam and Kristi and there’s two seasons out now. You can get in touch with us by emailing a [email protected]. And we also have a website for our podcast that’s easily accessible if you Google it and we can provide it to you, Craig, for the show notes.
J. Craig Williams: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Miriam, would you like to add anything?
Miriam Ingber: I say everything Kristi said, I agree with her, I would say 99.9% of the time, and I just wanted to say thank you so, so, much for reaching out to us. This has been an unbelievable pleasure and we feel very lucky to be here.
J. Craig Williams: I feel very honored to have both of you on the podcast. It’s been fantastic. Thank you, Miriam Ingber and Kristi Jobson, for joining us today. It’s a pleasure having you both on the show.
Kristi Jobson: Thank you.
Miriam Ingber: Thank you so much.
J. Craig Williams: As far as my thoughts on today’s podcast, this was pretty amazing to have the two deans of admissions for Harvard and Yale, probably the best law schools in the country. Their discussion has been fantastic. I can’t recommend their podcast enough, but, wow, how law school has changed from when I went there, when I started a long time ago, as you would expect. But it’s fun to think about all the possibilities that you can be when you go to law school I think as Miriam said, it’s a thinking degree and really, that’s the way to treat it.
Well, for our listeners, if you like what you heard today, please rate us on Apple Podcast or your favorite podcasting app. You can also visit us at legaltalknetwork.com where you can sign up for our newsletter. I’m Craig Williams. Thanks for listening. Please join us next time for another great legal topic. When you want legal, think Lawyer2Lawyer.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com