Law School Addendum: Do’s and Don’ts

All law schools accept addenda, even when they are not an official part of the application. A well-written addendum supports your case for admission by providing missing context to answer questions that your application might raise. A poorly written addendum, however, can do more harm than good.

What Is a Law School Application Addendum?

An addendum is a short, objective explanation for any potential discrepancy or complication in your law school application. It should be under one page, typically one to three paragraphs long. Sometimes an addendum just provides needed context, while other times it might proactively address a potential red flag in your application.

When Should an Applicant Write an Addendum?

Law school addenda are used in a range of cases to explain an issue arising from another part of your application. Common situations include:

A complicated transcript. For example, you might include an addendum to your transcript if you attended multiple institutions as an undergraduate or institutions with nonstandard grading systems.

Anomalously low grades. If you had a bad semester or a course that went poorly that lowered your GPA, you might write an addendum to explain what happened.

Withdrawal from classes or leave of absence. If your transcript shows a course withdrawal or leave of absence, use an addendum to share the circumstances of your departure.

Substantial increase in LSAT scores. Law schools generally take your highest LSAT score, and you do not need to justify retaking the test. However, if your scores differ by 10 points or more, write an addendum to explain the jump. Some law schools ask for an addendum for any score increase of five points or more.

Disciplinary issue or academic misconduct in college. Use an addendum to elaborate on disciplinary issues disclosed in answering the character and fitness questions of the application.

Legal violations. Law schools vary in how much information they ask about past legal violations. Some include anything beyond a parking citation, including speeding tickets or other traffic violations. Provide an addendum to clear up what happened.

[Read: How Law School Applicants Can Address Criminal, Disciplinary Incidents]

Resume gaps. If you have a space of more than a few months that your resume doesn’t cover, consider an addendum to explain why.

When Not to Write an Addendum

An addendum should concern something noteworthy. For example, most college students do worse early on, so an addendum is rarely necessary for poor performance in the first year of college. Law school admissions officers will consider an applicant’s whole transcript, not just his or her grade point average.

Likewise, don’t write an addendum if it conveys information made obvious by other application materials like your transcripts, resume and essays.

For example, if you took time off from college due to a family situation that you discuss in your personal statement, there is no need for a separate addendum. However, if this family situation is not clarified elsewhere, then an addendum is appropriate.

Don’t write an addendum without a reasonable explanation for what happened. If you got poor grades because you spent too much time goofing off or procrastinating, it would be better to say nothing.

[Read: How High Is the Typical College GPA Among Accepted Law School Applicants?]

In contrast, if the story behind your addendum is so complicated and important that you cannot reduce it to a few paragraphs, write about it in your personal statement or a diversity statement instead.

If you are writing about a serious disciplinary or legal issue related to personal integrity, like an abuse of trust or financial crime, consider speaking with a legal expert on disciplinary issues to first determine whether it would disqualify you from passing the character and fitness requirements of the bar exam. It would be heartbreaking to apply to law school if you are ineligible to become a lawyer.

How to Write an Addendum

An addendum is a statement of relevant facts, not an essay. Simply write what happened, including contributing factors and consequences.

If the addendum is about something positive, like an increased LSAT score, there is no need to sound guilty or self-justifying. Present the facts in a straightforward and upbeat way.

[READ: Reasons Law Schools Can Revoke Admission Offers.]

If the addendum is about something negative, like a family tragedy, try to let the facts speak for themselves. Self-pity or anger can sound unprofessional or one-sided.

If the addendum is about something you regret, accept responsibility for your role in the situation and explain why it won’t happen again. Avoid blaming others, making excuses or overdramatizing the situation.

It is important to make clear the situation is resolved and will not affect your studies or legal career. Try to end with a silver lining to the situation, like a key lesson or positive personal change.

Approach the addendum as an opportunity to provide missing context and showcase your professionalism. It is not a place for lengthy justifications. Time that an admissions officer spends reviewing your addendum may be taken away from reading your personal statement, resume or letters of recommendation. Ultimately, those materials make a better case for your admission.

More from U.S. News

How to Talk About Yourself Modestly on a Law School Application

Law School Admissions Process: A Month-By-Month Guide

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Law School Addendum: Do’s and Don’ts originally appeared on usnews.com

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