To those that struggle with low LSAT scores and feel the rejection of law schools, and maybe self-regard, I think you need not unnecessarily despair. There is hope for you toward the end of the acceptance process if you plan accordingly and take perspective.
My youngest daughter who recently suffered through the problem of a low LSAT score, has now been accepted by a South Texas College of Law, and I wanted to relate what we learned over this two year process.
Obviously, the first year we did everything wrong by holding out for an acceptance to a Houston-based law school, not effectively attempting to up the LSAT score even a little bit, and probably applying to the wrong schools overall. Also, we waited patiently, did not call, try to make contact and fully push the law schools as proactively as we might have. Believe me, the willingness or unwillingness of law school administrators to talk to their applicants about the process and how they may be able to secure a seat, and on what terms, tells a lot about a law school.
First, you need to understand that, contrary to what some law school advocates say, there is no real correlation between the LSAT and how you will perform in law school, on the bar exam, or in the practice of law. It is simply a right of passage to give law schools some way to determine who gets a limited number of seats. It is a made up exercise that in no way determines your ultimate success. Further, this made up excercise does not determine the ultimate success of those that score high on the LSAT. In short, you should always strive to do better on the LSAT because it does make the acceptance process easier, but if you do not achieve a high LSAT score it should not devalue your self-worth. Just remember that nobody but nobody every inquires as to what you scored on the LSAT, except for (1) admission personnel for law schools to which you are applying, (2) first year law students who are just curious to compare themselves to everyone else (it okay to lie to them), and (3) your children when they are applying to law school (they know when you are lying to them). The LSAT is not important to anyone but for U.S. News and the twisted minds of law school administrators who live and die for rankings.
Second, you need to understand that unlike when I went to law school in the early 1980s, when the LSAT was a factor but was not conclusive of anything, the system has now been adulterated by the U.S. News law school ranking system that places supreme importance on LSAT scores over most other factors. What is interesting in this regard is that almost all law schools report higher and higher LSAT scores among its entering glasses even though the spread has stayed about the same. With the decrease in law school applications this is simply impossible. One has to believe that law schools are leaving their ethics at the door in pursuit of rankings, but I will have to leave this up to you to prove.
If the process is, in my estimation, broken or at least a gimmick, and to a degree the disclosed upper and lower percentile scores of a law schools are not to be believed, you need to make some judgments as to how to proceed with a score that falls below the lower percentile of most schools.
So, my position has always been to ask yourself if you want to be a lawyer. If the answer is yes then avoid the rankings, and be willing to make compromises.
Third, law school applications have been on the downswing for some time. More seats have also been created. This makes it easier to get into law school even with a lower LSAT score.
Fourth, obviously a low LSAT will not get you into some law school, but then a moderately high LSAT will not get you into some law schools, and a high LSAT score does not guarantee you a spot in the best known law schools. I would not play close attention to the upper and lower percentiles in relation to LSAT scores when determining where to apply to law school. However, even assuming the law school has found creative ways to fib for purposes of rankings, you need to make a judgment call as to whether there is any chance for getting into a particular school before you apply.
Fifth, do not forsake the LSAT for a non-ABA approved law school unless you just have no other option. If you do, make certain you intend to practice law in the state in which the law school is approved to take the bar exam. If the law school is ABA approved, you might have to take multiple bar exams but your choices can be endless. Not so with non-ABA approved law schools. And, be leary of law schools applying for, but not yet approved, ABA accrediation. You do not want to suffer the fate of many who have attended a new law school, which then is not approved by the ABA on the first try. You might have as well gone to a law school that was not seeking ABA approval and which was cheaper. If you take a gamble on a new law school not yet approved by the ABA, I would say do not attend the first year it is open, allowing the approval process to get underway, and make your bet with public law schools or law schools associated with major universities. Law schools like Duncan might well be right, as stated in its lawsuit against the ABA on denying it accreditation, but why do you as a student want to be in the middle of such a fight.
Sixth, find a safety school to which you might apply if your other choices do not work out. After all, remember that your first goal is to be a lawyer and not to necessarily attend ABC or XYZ law school. Thomas M. Cooley Law School is always on my list. Cooley has multiple locations and options for attending. The school is ABA approved. They have a good amount of success on their graduates passing the bar exam. The law school is not cheap, but they also do not try to gouge their students. Further, Cooley, unlike any other law school, makes it simple and easy for you to calculate your free tuition aid online, not after you have been accepted, but when applying. It might not be your first choice, but it needs to be at least your last good option. And, for that matter, it could be a better option for you regardless. There are other law schools like Cooley. Some are in better locations. Most are for-profit and their goal is to put you as far into debt as possible for the privilege of not having a better aptitude for the LSAT.
Seventh, remember to apply to multiple law schools. The more the better. I always say you do not have options until you have multiple acceptances from which to chose. You need to come up with a list of reasonable possibilities, whether they be geographic or represent other preferences. If you have a low LSAT, and you want options other than Cooley, then applying to just one law school is disappointment waiting to happen. Choice is so important because you really do not know if you can afford the cost of a legal education until after you are accepted. With the exception of Cooley, you will not know the full cost you will actually have to pay to attend the law school until you are accepted and reserve a seat. You will not know the true cost of living that has to be covered. There are a lot of factors that only become known at the end of the acceptance process. Options allow you to choose, and choice gives you options. You do not need to discount the possibility of choice simply because you have a low LSAT.
Then, after you have submitted your applications, you have to be prepared to wait it out. Let us face facts. Because of rankings, law schools are going to swoon over and treat you like the wicked step child until they know that the higher LSAT people have turned them down. This takes awhile. Most law schools go through multiple rounds of acceptances. Most of them are not responded to by those they initially accept. The reason is simple enough. These candidates have choices because of the ground war by law schools to capture those with higher LSAT scores. Some of these applicants put down multiple deposits to see if something comes along better, and it does.
But, low and behold, come about Memorial Day most of this works itself out and law schools find that they still have seats available. Although they might want someone with a higher LSAT, they more want someone to fill the seat. Further, most of their applicant pool with higher LSAT scores has moved on and are no longer available. So then a bidding war begins on the what I like the call the cream of the bottom crop -- those with lower LSAT scores.
My daughter was ignored by all of her choices but Cooley for a year. They would not give her the time of day. But, around Memorial Day the calls and acceptance letters started coming. She went from being ignored to actually having choices. It was a much better feeling.
One suggestion I have for you is that as you wait out this strategy, make sure that you have filled out your FAFSA and have had it sent to all of the law schools to which you have applied. So, when you start getting real offers and phone calls begging you to attend, the school can make a quick decision on what money to give to you.