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Master’s Degrees and Law School Admissions: Do They Help?

The path to a law degree doesn’t always follow a straight line. Years of work experience in another career, or studies in another specialty, may intervene. But how much weight does educational achievement in the form of advanced degrees like a Master’s carry when it comes to your law school application? And how does that stack up against other factors like employment experience or even life experience?

Obviously the standards vary according to the institution, but in considering applicants to law school the breakdown in hard factors like academic performance allots about 40 percent to the score on the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) and about 35 percent to the undergraduate grade point average. The rest are the so-called “soft factors,” which necessarily include other educational attainment and work experience.

In an admissions decision, the value of a Master’s degree may therefore be considered in light of the harder factors, but also always separate from them. Your grades in graduate school will not be averaged in with your undergrad GPA for the purpose of law school admission. The fact that your transcript shows a Master’s degree may add up to a cumulative plus in soft factors. And, of course, the research, writing and critical thinking skills gained in obtaining a Master’s may aid you if/when you are admitted to law school. However, while a Master’s may carry weight that enhances an already favorable undergraduate GPA, it’s not going to compensate for an underperforming grade average or LSAT score that’s in the tank.  

One problem is the simple logistics of evaluating the worth of a Master’s degree in a given subject from a particular school. Law school admissions boards don’t have the resources to research every institution that offers a Master’s program in order to arrive at some evaluation of what that degree actually represents. The fact is, some advanced degree programs have very lenient grading standards and the requirements for a Master’s are not especially rigorous. 

The amount of sway a Master’s degree holds in a law school admission decision may be compared to a few years of work experience, particularly in a position of responsibility. One way a Master’s degree and post-grad work experience may combine as a synergistic soft factor is if they are both in closely related areas — so much the better if they both also have some relevance to a particular area of specialty in a legal field. 

About the Author
Sumita Dalal is the Founder and CEO of FindMyLawTutor, the largest and most trusted website and online portal that connects law students with law tutors for success in law school. Whether preparing for the LSAT, are currently a law student or are studying for the bar exam, FindMyLawTutor makes finding a law tutor fast and easy.


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