Choosing A Law School

If you’re applying to law school, choosing where to apply to can be a difficult process. With over a hundred schools across the country, how do you know which ones are the best for you?

Our guide takes you through a number of factors to consider that will help you narrow down your options.

1. Location

Unless you have plans to apply to specific schools (e.g. only those in the top 10, or within your neighbouring states), then location is a good way to start whittling down your list.

Research the area of each school carefully, and think about whether it’s the type of community where you can see yourself practicing law.

Part of your studies will involve building relationships with fellow students, alumni and faculty members, as well as the professors that will be teaching you.

This can help you with employment opportunities once you graduate, so cross off any states where you feel you would not be happy living and practicing law in.

2. Career path

Think about what you would like to do exactly once you have completed your course. Law schools generally have their own specialties, as do current practicing lawyers.

Look at the faculty members for each school - are there experts in areas you’re particularly keen on?

Decide what you are interested in most, and opt for schools that focus on these in particular. This will put you in a better position for following your career ambitions later on.

3. Fitting in

Ultimately, you want to be spending the next three years of your life at a college where you are comfortable, and is the right fit for you. Dropping out of law school is costly in both time and money, so it’s important to spend time now finding the best schools for you.

Write down your interests in the field and your career plans afterwards, then match these to schools to find those that would be good choices for you.

If some of these happen to be prestigious schools, don’t be put off from applying.

Even though they might seem impossible to be accepted on to, put as much effort into your application as possible, and just see what happens.

Try to keep your expectations realistic and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get in.

4. School alumni

Reach out to the school’s alumni network, and ask for their feedback on the program. You may hear some surprising responses, but you will be getting an honest view of the school from people who have firsthand experience of the program.

Ask them whether they enjoyed their time at the school, were the facilities and resources adequate, did they get enough support during their studies, and if they felt there any negative aspects.

Jot down any other questions you would like to ask, as the more information you can gather, the more informed decisions you can make about which law schools to apply to.

5. Graduate employment

Contact the careers office at each school you are interested in, and find out how many recent graduates went straight into employment, as well as the average starting salary and what their recruitment is like.

After all, when you’ve spent thousands of dollars and three years of your life to become a qualified lawyer, you want to reap the benefits afterwards.

Practical experience may help put you ahead in the job market, so if you’re keen to get some under your belt while studying, ask if they provide externships, clinical opportunities, field studies, etc.

6. Funding

There’s no hiding from the fact that law school comes with a hefty price tag. Therefore, financial considerations should be taken into account for each school you’re interested in applying to.

You will need money to cover tuition fees, accommodation costs, food, books, travel, and any other expenses.

Since it’s likely you’ll need to take out loans, you may want to look into public law schools nearby as an alternative, as these are usually less expensive than private ones.

However, if you have your heart set on certain schools, check what financial aid is available to make sure you can afford to attend them.

7. Admission requirements

Law schools look at a number of factors on their applications, including community service, work experience, challenges overcome, the personal statement and letters of recommendation.

In general though, your academic success so far and your LSAT score are two of the most important.

Be realistic about your school choices here, and choose ones that you are likely to be accepted to. While it doesn’t hurt to be adventurous and apply to one or two schools you think are out of reach, e.g. Yale or Columbia, you ultimately want to actually be offered at least one place to study at.

Many law schools publish statistics on recently admitted students, including LSAT and GPA scores. See if your own performance falls into these ranges, which will give an idea of whether you are likely to be accepted on to the program or not.

Boston College have produced a handy Law School Locator to help with this process, by entering your GPA and LSAT scores.

8. Campus facilities

Look carefully at each university’s website to find out what facilities and other resources they have on campus to support you through your law school studies. Make sure they are comfortable and up-to-date. Think about the following as you do your research:

  • Libraries - how many do they have? Are they large or small? What about online materials?
  • Computer labs - how many computers are available to students, and can you access them 24/7?
  • Sports - do they have a decent sports ground? What gym facilities are there? Do they have a swimming pool (this factor may not be so important to those who are not interested in sports/keeping fit, etc.)
  • Food - although you should be more concerned about the academic resources, it’s worth looking at the canteen facilities and what food is usually available. You’ll need to be fed well over the next few years to get you through your program!
  • Accommodation - does it look decent and comfortable? How much does it cost per semester?

9. Extracurricular activities

Hopefully you can find a list of student organizations on each law school’s website. If not, contact the school and see if they can provide this information.

Look at the societies and clubs available to join - are there lots that appeal to you? And do they cover all of your interests?

While much of law school is about studying, it’s not everything - socialising is important for achieving a good work/life balance, so make sure there are plenty of exciting things to get involved in to give you a break from the books.

Find out more about the Top Law Schools for a Social Life as voted by students from tippingthescales.com.

10. Preview days

Don’t forget you will be on campus every day for the next few years, so it’s vital to try and visit the schools you are interested in applying to if you can.

Many law schools hold visit days specifically for prospective graduate students, and it’s a great way of finding out more about the school first-hand.

You will often be given a guided tour, allowing you to check out the quality of important facilities such as the canteen, computer labs, libraries, accommodation halls, gyms and sports grounds.

You should also get the chance to speak to faculty, allowing you to find out more about the program and how the department functions. Introducing yourself and building a rapport with professors at this stage will only help your application.

Make time to talk to current students on the program and find out what their experience has been like so far.

There’s nothing like visiting a school in person to help you decide if it’s right for you, so check the university websites for upcoming preview days, make enquiries and try to go along.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying to law school, please see: