Skip to main content

Success Story

Academics Success Story

AU Student and Alumnus Admitted to Top Law Schools

By Liisa Rajala

Portraits of Raphael Janove, left, and Karun Tilak, right

Raphael Janove, left, and Karun Tilak, right, have both been accepted into some of the nation's top-ranked law schools.

For Raphael Janove, SIS/BA ‘09, receiving a letter of acceptance from the University of Chicago Law School was the “fulfillment of a lifelong dream.”

AU senior Karun Tilak, SIS/CAS/BA ‘11, also has something to celebrate. He has been accepted to law programs at Yale, Harvard, and Columbia, and is now weighing his options for next fall.

Both Janove and Tilak put forth enormous effort to build the GPAs and strong resumes that made them stand out to these premier schools. They also tested the waters beforehand to make sure that law school is right for them by taking relevant courses and holding pertinent internships.

For decades, law school was considered a safe investment. Sure, the tuition was costly, but a profitable career afterward was virtually guaranteed. But as The New York Times recently reported, the current economy has dealt a blow to law’s elite status in the United States. For many, law school has only resulted in massive debt.

This new reality means that law school applicants simply after a six-figure salary are unlikely to thrive in the cut-throat industry. A sincere passion for the field and a willingness to take career risks to secure that dream job are prerequisites for success.

Given the risk, how do AU students know whether or not law school is the right choice for them? The Career Center spoke with Tilak and Janove to learn what motivated their career choices.

Look before you leap

Tilak felt distressed while reading the Times article, which describes the mountains of debt and grim employment prospects many new lawyers are facing.

“[The article] adds a little bit of pressure,” says Tilak.

But Tilak is not dissuaded.

By taking courses that introduced him to issues and themes he’ll address in law school, such as “Legal Issues in Globalization,” Tilak feels confident that he’s pursuing the right career for him.

“I really enjoyed the subject matter,” he says. “Even the really technical stuff, like international commercial contracts.”

Tilak has no way of knowing what the future job market holds for him. But by taking relevant courses to confirm his passion for the subject matter, he feels prepared to face any challenges.

Pursue your dream, but with a strategy

By the time he graduated from AU, Raphael Janove, SIS/BA ‘09, was well aware of the declining employment rate among lawyers.

But he’d dreamed of pursuing law ever since his days on the high school debate team, and his desire deepened at AU while taking “Justice, Law, and the Constitution” with Dr. Lynn Addington. Janove’s class held mock Supreme Court hearings, in which he served as a lawyer and then a judge.

“By the time I finished writing my opinion of the case, I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to go to law school,” Janove says.

So, despite the dismal predictions for the legal profession, Janove opted to go forward with his longstanding career plans.

However, he knew that in a tough job market a law degree from a top-ranked school could give him an advantage over other degree-holders. To boost his chances of getting into a premier law school, Janove spent a few years strengthening his resume with professional experience at a D.C. law firm and then teaching English abroad in South Korea.

Next fall, Janove will commence studies at the University of Chicago Law School, currently ranked fifth in the nation.

Still determined to pursue law school? Janove and Tilak discuss ways to both survive the application process and stand out from the pack:

Find a pressure-release valve

The LSATs are tough. Law school hopefuls typically study for several months prior to taking the required test. Tilak had been doing well with his preparation until he suddenly hit a road block. Three weeks before the LSAT his scores began to drop.

“If you become so focused on one thing, you’ll burn out,” says Tilak.

In an effort to relieve the mounting stress, Tilak spent time training for a half-marathon. Sure enough, running was the remedy. Tilak calmed down and scored highly on the test.

Gain real-world experience

Admissions offices want to see that you have valuable life experiences. Internships enable you to gain professional skills and build background knowledge in the field. Time spent studying or working abroad shows admissions personnel that you have a more nuanced view of the world.

Janove completed numerous marketing internships and worked in a law firm after graduation. Teaching English in South Korea shows his ability to work within diverse cultural settings.

Tilak interned at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, which bolstered his understanding of law and economics. He also feels his childhood in India, semester in London, and schooling in the U.S. brought a unique perspective to his law school application.

Be passionate

Janove and Tilak stress that applicants must be sincerely passionate about law. Pursuing a degree is a big commitment, with potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and years of rigorous study.

Also, aspiring lawyers must show an enthusiasm for law in their applications in order to sway the reader.

“Admissions offices are reading thousands of applications and can easily decipher students’ desire for the career,” says Tilak. “Find a way to balance your passion with professionalism to really stand out.”