The U.S. celebrates Veterans Day each November, and it’s a good time to reflect on how l aw schools serve those who serve the country.
Law schools greatly value applicants who are veterans. Many of the skills honed by military service contribute to success in both law school and legal practice, like self-discipline, teamwork, working under pressure and time management.
Applicants who are veterans, as well as those in active military service, should take note of the following tips:
— Show how your service strengthens your candidacy.
— Seek out veterans’ benefits.
— Look for schools where veterans are active and supported.
— Express your experience in plain English.
Show How Your Service Strengthens Your Candidacy
Many forms of diversity matter to law schools, beyond conventional factors like race, ethnicity, religion and sexual identity. Law schools seek a balance of students who range in age, expertise, geography and socioeconomic background. Candidates with military service also contribute valued perspectives to campus.
Veterans can use their personal or diversity statement to highlight how their service has prepared them for law school, including the skills and experiences they bring to the table.
Without self-aggrandizement, emphasize how you are equipped to handle the rigors of a legal education and pursue long-term goals in your legal career. Show how you plan to continue to serve others with your law degree, even if you do not plan to work in the public interest. Lawyers protect their clients’ interests, assess risks and navigate uncertainty –roles familiar to most veterans.
Seek Out Veterans’ Benefits
Law schools like those at Georgetown University, the University of Chicago the University of California–Berkeley and the University of Hawaii–Manoa offer fee waivers for military service members and veterans. Many law schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides funding for veterans from the school matched one-to-one by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
If the rules for financing legal education under veterans’ benefits like the G.I. Bill seem complicated, seek advice from the Department of Veterans Affairs or law school financial aid offices. Some universities have dedicated veterans’ benefits coordinators.
Look for Schools Where Veterans Are Active and Supported
Many law schools have student organizations for veterans for socializing, support, information-sharing, professional networking and continued service. Some also have strong programs, clinics and clubs in military or national security law. Some even have dedicated faculty or staff to advise veterans in transitioning to campus life and preparing for a legal career.
The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium hosts events and information about opportunities to gain practical legal experience while serving veterans. The organization’s website lists more than 30 law schools with legal clinics for veterans, including the University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School, the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Veterans with disabilities or health challenges should also ensure that the law schools they apply to can adequately accommodate their needs. Ask admissions officers to put you in touch with disability resources offices, career services offices and relevant student, faculty or alumni, if possible. The National Disabled Law Students Association also offers a range of resources and advice.
[Read: How to Pick the Right Law School]
Veterans might also consider access to care at nearby Veterans Health Administration facilities as a factor in choosing target schools, as well.
Express Your Experience in Plain English
Applicants with significant work experience often fall into the trap of assuming that the specialized language and knowledge used within their workplace are widely shared. This is particularly true for the military. From job titles to responsibilities to success metrics, the national security world has its own dialect and communication style. Those who gain the fluency needed to establish credibility can start sounding like Martians to civilians.
What’s the use of hard-earned experience if you can’t convey it to the readers who will evaluate your candidacy?
If you already have a resume you use for defense roles, you can use that as a starting point, but often it is better to write a law school resume from scratch. Rather than simply detail your technical tasks and roles, put salient information into plain English, as if describing them to a bright teenager.
Of course, these tips don’t apply only to veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Many applicants have successfully leveraged their service in military and civilian organizations in the U.S. or overseas. Law is a service-oriented profession, and there are many ways to show your commitment to the legal field.
More from U.S. News