Pre-Law Advising

Early Decision and Early Action

Most law schools have some type of early application program designed for applicants with particular interest in and suitable background for a specific law school.

There are typically two types of programs (Early Decision Programs and Early Action Programs) and law school may have one of both of these. Early Decision Programs and Early Action Program vary significantly in how they impact your application process so you will need to be careful to distinguish between them. Individual law school programs vary in their regulations and requirements, and it is your responsibility to be aware of all details for the specific programs of interest to you. Law schools also have specific deadlines for these types of application processes.

These are non-binding programs which means that you can apply to these programs and also apply to other law schools. If you are accepted into an Early Action program, you are not bound by an obligation to accept an admission offer. The primary difference between an Early Action Program and a regular application is that you will be informed about the admission decision earlier than regular applicants. 

These are binding programs and are much more common than Early Action Programs. Early Decision Programs require you not to apply to other law schools or to quickly withdraw any other applications if admitted. Most such programs would require that you sign a contract at the beginning of the application process to matriculate if admitted. There may be further limitations, such as limited or no consideration for certain kinds of financial aid (merit-based, for example), which is fairly limited among law schools in the first place.

If you are not admitted, generally a school would place your application for review in their regular applicant pool and you could apply to other schools. If this happens late in the fall or in the winter, this may be quite late in the application process for you to add schools.

Thoroughly review all details of the individual schools’ programs if you are interested in such an arrangement. We recommend that you consider Early Decision Programs only if the strength of your application and your interests are a particularly good match for the school’s admission requirements. In most cases, applicants are better off applying to a balanced list of schools than to a single one.

Other Considerations

If you apply early decision, you lose the opportunity to bargain over your financial support.  A few law schools, recognizing this, offer automatic aid packages for students accepted early-decision, and several base those packages on the average aid packages offered to all incoming students.


Conventional wisdom suggests that the reverse is true – the early action or decision pool is smaller and therefore the competition is less fierce, and law schools improve their “yield” through these admissions paths and therefore admission may be slightly easier.  On the other hand, the schools know roughly how many early decision or early action applicants they want to admit, and there is more than ample competition for those slots at the most selective schools. 

Admissions officers tell us that there is a very slight advantage to applying early decision.

If you think you might change your mind, don’t apply early decision. Most law schools require you to sign an early decision contract under which you must withdraw all other applications and refrain from further applications if you are accepted. Financial hardship is the one reason that most schools will accept to let you out of the agreement and of course, you cannot be forced to attend a law school if you really don’t want to. But integrity and honor are the soul of the law and you are honor-bound to abide by your agreement. 

These programs are typically non-binding and you are not obligated to attend the program if accepted. However, each law school has individual policies around these programs and it is your responsibility to be aware of the details for each law school.