All extracurricular activities are important because they show a commitment to a community or discipline beyond yourself, whether that means volunteering for a political campaign, joining an intramural ultimate Frisbee team or practicing a demanding art.
However, some extracurricular activities stand out more than others on a law school application:
— Activities that develop legal skills
— Service activities
— Substantial time commitments
— Activities that show leadership and teamwork
Activities That Develop Legal Skills
Mock trial, public speaking, political activism or assisting with research for a professor working in a law-related field are examples of extracurricular activities that law school applicants should highlight. Such activities are not prerequisites for law school, and plenty of successful lawyers did not show a legal interest until after college. Still, students whose resumes and personal statements demonstrate interests related to law have an easier time making the case for their commitment to the legal field.
Ultimately, demonstrating legal skills is even more important than legal interest. Don’t expect your membership in a prelaw society to wow application readers unless you can show how you put that interest into action.
Law is a service profession. Increasingly, law schools require students to complete a set minimum number of pro bono hours, and some state bars and major law firms have pro bono requirements as well. Many lawyers are proud of the pro bono work they do and almost every lawyer needs the people skills to serve a wide range of clients with respect and personal attention.
Community service, from volunteering in a religious institution to tutoring underserved students to volunteer health care work, is a great way to show that serving others comes naturally to you. It may also help lead you to causes you feel strongly about, which you may find a way to serve in law school and beyond.
Substantial Time Commitments
Law school and legal practice both require discipline, time management and the grit to pursue long-term goals. One way to demonstrate these qualities is through personal practices, even if they seem wholly unrelated to law. Admissions officers often mention reading fascinating personal statements from skiers, martial artists and performing artists who make the case that their pursuit of excellence at a difficult practice shaped their character in ways that prepared them for law school.
Even if you don’t write about such an activity in your personal statement or an optional statement permitted by the school, be clear on your resume about the time you invested in activities important to you. Some law schools ask specifically for how many hours you dedicate to an activity in a typical week. If the answer varies, provide a range.
But a well-crafted resume should provide enough context for readers to understand how much work went into an activity. For example, consider the difference between someone who lists an interest in running versus being in a weekly trail running club or training to qualify for the Chicago Marathon.
Activities That Show Leadership and Teamwork
Lawyers, even those who collaborate with many colleagues, must be self-directed and take on serious responsibilities. Leadership positions are great ways to show you can handle those roles.
However, law schools might also be wary of applicants who only participate in activities if they get to be in charge. Personal statements, resumes and recommendation letters are great ways to show you can take direction, support teammates, work with mentors and help others.
Even lawyers in solo practices need to get along with colleagues to get things done. Even star athletes and campus leaders who aspire to law school should make time to pitch in on group activities and challenge themselves in supporting roles.
Ultimately, extracurricular activities are a plus factor. Law schools weigh grades and LSAT scores most heavily. But law school is more than a simple numbers game. If you want to show law schools what you are made of, nothing reveals your character more than how you spend your free time.
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How Extracurricular Activities Affect Law School Admissions originally appeared on usnews.com