Illustration by Shenuka Corea

Post-Grad Series: Law School

What are the options for NYUAD graduates wanting a law degree?

“I don’t need backups, I’m going to Harvard,” is one of the most memorable lines from Legally Blonde. Elle Woods, after a heart-wrenching breakup, decides to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she is good enough for him and that she too can attend Harvard Law School. With her 4.00 GPA in Fashion Merchandising and presidency of her sorority, she gets in. Reality, however, is a bit different.
Lisa Mayorga, Professional and Graduate School Advisor at the Career Development Center, advises students to come into the process early, with preliminary research conducted during sophomore year. The ideal timeline, she explained, is the one in which a student gathers their thoughts during sophomore year, applies for funding as a junior and narrows down the list of schools before applying in their senior year.
“That timeline isn’t really ideal; it is the broadest base understanding of how you could approach applying to law school. Students come in late too, if they changed their majors, for example. I’ve seen successful applicants that entered the process late, but it was much more stressful for them given capstone requirements,” said Mayorga.
The primary concern, Mayorga said, should be the location of study.
“When students first come in, I try to debunk different types of law because they might not be familiar with anything that wasn’t practiced in their [home] country,” explained Mayorga.
Options for NYU Abu Dhabi graduates are vast and include pursuing a J.D. in U.S. American schools, an L.L.B. in the U.K. or a similar degree back home. Many U.K.-based firms also offer training contracts that pay for the so-called conversion to law. Non-law graduates need to complete a conversion course before becoming trainee solicitors in the U.K.
Given the nature of a U.S. undergraduate degree, almost all NYUAD alumni currently pursuing law degrees are J.D candidates. It is perfectly viable, however, to take another route. Osama Salman, Class of 2016, is currently a Senior Status student at the University of Cambridge.
“The main reason why I chose the U.K. over the U.S. system is because many U.K. law schools offer an accelerated two-year course for students who already have a university degree. I applied specifically to Cambridge because of their supervision system, where you are taught directly by world-leading academics, in a three-on-one setting,” wrote Salman.
Graph by Joaquin Kunkel
Regarding the U.K. applications, Salman reminds students that the personal statement is expected to be much more academically focused than a typical U.S. one. To those who are applying to the U.S., he recommends that they start their LSAT preparation early.
“My advice for anybody considering applying to study law in the U.S. is to begin with LSAT preparation very early. It takes on average about a year of solid preparation to reach the standard required to get a scholarship at a top U.S. institution,” wrote Salman.
His words are echoed by Mayorga, who notes that it is possible to apply for test preparation funding as a sophomore. Those who are worried about their test-taking abilities are highly advised to start this process early, according to her.
The LSAT is, in fact, just a test. However, it is a test that means a lot to U.S. law schools.
Corey Meyer, Class of 2015, is a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. He sat the LSAT in the summer prior to his senior year. That time slot, he explained, was ideal as it alleviated the stress of worrying about applications while studying for the LSAT. Meyer also talked about taking time off before enrolling into a law program.
“I highly recommend taking a gap year. Most of my peers at Yale, I think 80 percent, did not come straight to law school after undergrad,” wrote Meyer.
Salman agreed, but only to a certain extent.
“Sometimes taking too much time off between degrees takes one out of the swing of academia. Some of my peers have found it slightly difficult to adjust back to the academic environment, after having worked in a professional setting for some time,” explained Salman.
Mayorga said that taking time off is a personal decision — for some people, working first is better. Some are ready to continue studying right after graduation.
“My take on it is the following: more experience doesn't hurt anybody. It is never detrimental to your path. If someone is unsure, or started the process late, I would recommend it. If they are confident in their decision, I don’t see why they shouldn't go directly,” elaborated Mayorga.
Certain classes and experiences help with law school preparation. Meyer recommended What is Law? with Professor John Coughlin, head of the NYUAD Legal Studies program.
“The course focused on jurisprudence, which is actually something not prevalent in American law schools these days. It provides a platform for thinking about law in abstract ways that informs many of the discussions I have at law school. I would also recommend courses that focus on statistics and economics, as both of these fields appear in interesting ways throughout law,” advised Meyer.
Salman was inspired by Twenty-first Century International Human Rights with Harold Koh. He said that the professor’s teaching inspired him to pursue a law degree, as the class opened his eyes to the complexities and multi-faceted nature of the legal discipline, specifically with regards to human rights.
When it comes to majoring in legal studies, Dana Downey, Associate Director at the CDC, says that the majority of law schools would consider it an advantage. Top schools, however, prefer applicants majoring in non-law-related fields, like Economics, Philosophy or Literature.
Both Meyer and Salman intend to work at a law firm upon completing their degrees. However, they stressed the versatility of a law degree.
“The main skills that you gain from a law degree are critical thinking and logical reasoning. It also improves one's ability to analyse vast amounts of information, and forces out of you a work ethic that you never thought you had. I believe these attributes are useful and transferable to any profession, which is why there is such a mix of career aspirations among my peers — from public service to consulting and banking to corporate law,” wrote Salman.
One of the crucial considerations is financing the degree. Mayorga says that U.S. law education is a special field, as the cost of education is extremely high.
“The attitude that is recommended is: go for a higher tier school so you could pay back the loans. That attitude ignores the fact that people might not end up working in the U.S., however,” explained Mayorga.
One of the most prevalent myths is that NYUAD students are given special treatment at NYU Law School.
“In their admissions process, NYU Law recognizes our students as strong candidates. NYUAD students are considered for all NYU Law scholarships, but they are not given any special treatment,” said Downey.
Finally, Meyer recommends reaching out to the CDC.
“Undoubtedly, the best resource for me was the CDC. The team there helped me with preparing for the LSAT, approaching my recommenders, and developing my personal statements,” wrote Meyer.
If you are not as comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life as Elle Woods was, prepare for a long yet rewarding process. You do need backups, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get into your dream school.
Kristina Stanković is Editor-in-chief. Email her at
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