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How Extracurriculars, Hobbies Affect Law School Admissions



Extracurricular activities are a valuable part of college life. They reflect your interests and show a commitment to a community or discipline beyond yourself. That’s true whether you volunteer for a political campaign, join a sports team or practice a demanding art.

However, some extracurricular activities stand out more than others on a law school application:

  • Activities that cultivate legal skills.
  • Service activities.
  • Substantial time commitments.
  • Leadership and teamwork.
  • New or lifelong hobbies.

Activities That Cultivate Legal Skills

Law school applicants should highlight law-related activities like mock trial, public speaking, political activism or assisting with research for a professor working in law or policy.

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.

Active roles are the best way to convey 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.

Service Activities

Law is a service profession. Increasingly, law schools require students to complete a 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 providing free tax advice – 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 and 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. Personal practices can reveal such qualities, even those wholly unrelated to law. Admissions officers fondly recall reading fascinating personal statements from performing artists or athletes who make the case that their pursuit of excellence shaped their character in positive ways.

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, if you enjoy running, you might mention that you are in a weekly trail running club or training to qualify for the Chicago Marathon.

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 participate in activities only 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.

Lawyers need to get along with colleagues and counterparts to get things done, whether they are solo practitioners, in-house counsel or members of a firm. Even star athletes and campus leaders who aspire to law school should make time to pitch in on group activities and take on challenging supporting roles.

Besides, a dose of modesty can help ground a personal statement that might otherwise sound arrogant.

New or Lifelong Hobbies

Since both law school and legal practice can be demanding, it’s great to show you have other personal interests, even those that don’t lead to tangible results. Whether they are quirky or more traditional, solo or collaborative, hobbies show an appreciation for the lighter side of life.

It’s common to include a hobby or two in an “interests” section at the end of your resume. To pique a reader’s interest, aim for something more specific than “cooking” or “travel.” For example, instead of “reading,” you might write “reading detective fiction, especially by Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon.”

Hobbies also make great fodder for law school interviews. Some applications even include an optional short answer question about hobbies and interests.

Newfound hobbies can be just as interesting and revealing as longer-term pursuits. Picking up a hobby late in life can show you are a lifelong learner, unafraid to be a beginner.

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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