by Kim Clark

What can you do to set yourself apart in your law school application? Admissions officials have the answers

We posed questions to admissions officials at the Gonzaga University School of Law regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:

1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?

Every applicant has a story to tell--a story that is uniquely theirs. Not everyone has a list of major accomplishments to his or her name and not everyone has overcome major obstacles, but everyone can present a compelling story about who they are and why they should receive maximum consideration in the decision process.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

Our admissions committee likes to read personal statements that are "personal", rather than generic. Often essays that reveal a sense of self knowledge and maturity are the most effective.

3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?

We don't make any admissions decisions strictly by the numbers. We use a holistic approach to evaluating each candidate. The LSAT score is important because it is a common factor for all applicants. The GPA and the academic record it represents are important because they reflect the candidate's past academic achievement. The LSAT and GPA taken together are somewhat predictive of first-year law school performance. Work and internship experience help to round out the applicant and give an idea of the additional types of experience the candidate would be bringing to the classroom. No one element is always more important that the others.

4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?

About one-third of our applicants apply immediately following undergraduate school. Few of these candidates have any significant work experience. While work experience and internship experience can be very beneficial to the candidate, they have little bearing in the decision process except when the experience is significant or in some other way helps us to understand the applicant as a person. For instance, we would expect an applicant who writes about their commitment to community service to be able demonstrate their past involvement. Our expectations for part-time applicants can be quite different for applicants. A number of these applicants have significant career accomplishments that can be weighed heavily in the decision process.

5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?

Our location is one of our most important advantages. Santa Clara Law is in the heart of Silicon Valley, a dynamic region that is often characterized by its entrepreneurial spirit and myriad opportunities. It is also a spectacular place to live, with a mild Mediterranean climate and many recreational and cultural opportunities. Applicants interested in a career in Intellectual Property, one of three specialties we offer, will have unique opportunities to network with our alumni in the field;do internships with high tech leaders such as Facebook, Google, Electronic Arts, and Intel; experience a very broad curriculum; and take cutting-edge courses from experts in the field. Most Silicon Valley firms and companies have a global presence, which also benefits our students who are interested in International Law, another area of specialization. A third area of specialization we offer is Public Interest and Social Justice Law. Students interested in serving the public interest find a comprehensive array of courses, mentors, fellowships, and career options available to them.

6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting?

Letters of recommendation can be very helpful in rounding out the application. The recommender may be able to share insights about the applicant's performance in the classroom or in the workplace that could reinforce their potential as a law student. The most effective letters are those written by people who know the applicant well or have had direct observation of their performance.

7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?

Santa Clara Law has an Early Action Program. Applicants who choose this option must apply by November 1 and have their application complete by November 30. They will receive a nonbinding decision by mid-December. Applicants not admitted at this time will be reconsidered during the regular decision process beginning in January. We begin accepting applications September 1 and we recommend early application. Since decisions are made on a rolling basis, applications that are not received until near the February 1 deadline may be competing for a small number of remaining seats. The majority of admissions decisions are made in March and April. In most years a wait list is established in May. Waitlisted applicants may be admitted up until the start of classes in August.

8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?

Santa Clara Law graduates can be found practicing throughout the United States. However, due to the dynamic international and technological business environment in Silicon Valley, the largest percentage of our graduates choose to remain in the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley region after graduation. Santa Clara Law graduates are leaders within many of the technology companies located in Silicon Valley, law firms that support the legal interests of our local businesses and population, and state and municipal government offices. The following is a list of firms and corporations that recruit consistently from our law school. This list is only a partial list of the organizations that hire Santa Clara Law students.

Representative Organizations:

Bay Area Legal Aid

Baker Botts LLP

Bingham McCutchen LLP

Blakely Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman LLP


Cooley Godward Kronish LLP

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP



Fenwick & West LLP

Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP

Fish & Richardson P.C.

Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto

Goodwin Procter LLP

Haynes and Boone LLP

Howrey LLP


Jones Day LLP

Kenyon & Kenyon LLP

King & Spalding LLP

Lonich & Patton LLP

McCormick Barstow LLP

McDermott Will & Emery LLP

Morrison & Foerster LLP


Perkins Coie LLP


Reed Smith LLP

Ropes & Gray LLP

Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office

Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, P.A

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Towsend and Townsend and Crew LLP

Weaver Austin Villeneuve & Sampson LLP

Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP

White & Case LLP

WilmerHale LLP

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati LLP


With regard to fall on-campus interviewing, some of the law firms which hire the highest percentage of Santa Clara students include Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP.

9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?

The most common mistakes applicants make are:

-- Applying too late

-- Taking the LSAT in February instead of sooner

-- Failing to carefully proofread their application including the personal statement

-- Writing a generic personal statement that doesn't tell anything about who they are as a person

10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?

Santa Clara Law is defined by its diversity. Typically more than 40 percent of our new students are members of ethnic minority groups and 40 percent are from out of state. From surveys of enrolled students, we know that most students chose Santa Clara Law because of our Silicon Valley location, our strong reputation, our supportive, student-centered atmosphere, and the pervasive sense of community.

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Getting into Law School: Gonzaga University School of Law