If you’re like most applicants, you are unaware that LSAC recommends law schools adhere to certain “best practices” in the admissions process. Even though they’re not binding, the guidelines set out what you should generally expect from admissions officials as you navigate this process. At this time of year, perhaps the most important of these guidelines regards commitments—when the law schools can and cannot require some kind of commitment from you. Here’s the entirety of the Good Admission Practices section on commitments:
A commitment is defined as an affirmative step taken by an applicant (e.g., submitting a seat deposit or an enrollment form) to indicate their intention to matriculate at an institution.
Member law schools should:
- state clearly the policies and processes for submitting a commitment and holding a commitment and, if applicable, their policies regarding admitted students who may violate a commitment agreement, including any possible consequences that may result from holding multiple commitments simultaneously;
- request commitments of any kind only from admitted applicants no earlier than April 1, except under binding early decision plans or for academic terms beginning in the spring or summer;
- allow applicants to freely accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a commitment has been made to another school;
- provide financial aid awards to admitted students who have submitted a timely financial aid application, before requesting any commitment; and
- report and update a student’s commitment accurately and in a timely manner.
Note in particular the second and fourth bullet points, which together provide that you should not be asked for any kind of commitment before April 1st, and that you should know your financial aid package before you’re asked for a commitment. (This does not apply to early decision plans.)
There’s a good chance you won’t hear from some schools prior to April 1st, and you may face a situation in April or May in which you have heard from most but not at all schools, and nonetheless need to commit to one of those you’ve heard from—look for a future blog post regarding this dilemma. But before that time, no school should be pressuring you to commit in any form.
This is a big decision you’re about to make. You should take your time and have all the information you need in order to make it. Questions? Concerns? Don’t hesitate to contact me.