If you’re applying to law school this year, I feel terribly sorry for you. Not only will the application process become the bane of your existence until late spring, but you’re thinking of entering a profession in which it is increasingly difficult to find employment. Since 2008, many law firms have been in the process of laying off attorneys — not hiring them (though this situation seems to improving). However, if pursuing a career in the legal sector has been your dream since childhood, don’t let these dismal numbers deter you — but be sure to double-check all the updates and content you have posted on your social networks. According to Kaplan, 37 percent of admissions officers at the top law schools across the United States have examined the Facebook pages or other social media pages of applicants.
This number is significantly higher than the admissions officers in graduate and undergraduate institutions who also scour social networks prior to admitting a student (24 percent of college admissions officers and 22 percent of business school admissions officers have looked at applicants’ Facebook profiles). This difference is likely because of the process by how law students must apply, which includes submitting personal statements. When GPA and LSAT scores are not especially competitive — or even on the low end — these personal statements can make or break admission to the school. As a result, law school applicants often find (or unfortunately, make up) the most extreme, touching story as possible to coerce admissions staff to admit them, either because of their past experiences or the sheer hardship they demonstrated to overcome. Law school applicants must also admit to any cheating or criminal history on their application — information that is rarely validated until it’s time to apply to the state bar. Any lies on an application can destroy the potential for a legal career.
To help check the validity of personal statements and information on an application, as well as look at the overall integrity and ethics of an applicant, law school admissions offers are turning to Facebook, which can be an easy way to catch an applicant in a lie or reveal undesired behavior or thought patterns. According to Kaplan Director of Pre-Law Programs Jeff Thomas:
“These findings make sense in context with what we consistently hear from law school admissions officers, which is that while admissions are based on high LSAT scores, strong GPAs, and compelling personal statements, an overarching theme to the entire application is whether an applicant is able to exercise good judgment. Clearly, an applicant’s digital trail can be an indicator of whether or not he or she possesses this quality.
“Despite jokes and negative stereotyping of lawyers, the reality is that the legal community takes ethics among its members very seriously. You not only have to be accepted to a state bar to practice law, but once you are admitted, unethical behavior can lead to your disbarment, stripping you of your ability to practice. Not many other professions have that kind of enforceable code of conduct, so it’s natural that law schools screen more stringently and more often.”
If you’re applying to law school this year — or even an undergraduate institution or graduate school — be sure that your Facebook and other social network profiles are spotless. This may mean devoting hours to deleting embarrassing or even incriminating content, but it could make the difference in securing the career of your dreams.
Are you worried an admissions officer may be lurking on your social networks? Let us know what steps you’ve taken to protect your privacy — and your future — in the comments.