Ten Considerations When Choosing A Law School
The decision to attend law school might just be the easier part of the process. Once you decide to go to law school, your next steps will include preparing for and taking the LSAT, endless hours filling out law school applications, and visiting different campuses. As you take these initial steps, it is important to think about where you want to attend law school. Each law school has unique programming and admission requirements. Here are ten important things to consider when choosing a law school!
Ten Considerations When Choosing A Law School
First of all, think about where you want to live while you attend law school. You will be spending the next three years of your life in this area. Do you want to be close to family, or do you want to venture out on your own? Also, do you want to live in a small, quiet town or reside in a big, exciting city? Weather is another important thing to consider. Maybe you grew up in a freezing cold environment and have always wanted to live in a warm place. This is your chance to live somewhere for a temporary period to see if you are interested in making a permanent move after law school!
Students often end up practicing in the state in where they attended law school. Make sure to consider where you want to practice law once you graduate. For example, if you plan on staying in your home state to practice law, you might want to consider choosing an in-state law school. Often in-state law schools will offer state-specific classes in areas such as real property or insurance law. On the other hand, you may want to consider practicing law in a big city. If that is the case, you might want to attend law school in that city in order to get a head start on networking. This will create post-graduate opportunities for your future career as an attorney. Location is important to think about when choosing a law school, not only for personal reasons but for your future career as well.
Law schools develop reputations for different reasons. There are some law schools that if mentioned, people are immediately impressed and can open doors to amazing career opportunities. There are others that are not as well well-regarded in the legal community for reasons such as having a low bar passage rate or accepting students with lower LSAT scores. Like it or not, reputation does play a part in the selection process and the jobs you will be considered for in the future.
When choosing a law school, a good place to start is the internet. There are numerous websites available that present law school statistics and rankings. While some schools are moving away from the ranking system, most are still beholden to it. You may also want to talk to people who are attorneys or who work in the legal field. Someone may have had an excellent law school experience to tell you about. The reputation of your law school is important when seeking employment, so you will want to consider this factor when choosing a law school.
3. Bar Exam Passage Rate and Job Placement
As mentioned above, law schools are in the business of preparing students to pass state bar examinations. You will spend three years preparing for this exam, and the summer after you graduate using a bar prep program (obviously, we recommend JD Advising!). State bar associations maintain statistics on law school passage rates. Look at a few years of recent statistics on the law schools you are interested in attending. You will notice that some school passage rates fluctuate from year to year. That is normal. Law schools that consistently pass a percentage of students above the state average are your best bet when choosing a law school. This indicates that the school and the professors were able to effectively prepare law students to pass the bar exam.
Job placement statistics are another factor that indicates whether the law school acts as a conduit to place students in good post-graduate jobs. Law schools have career service departments that assist students in finding summer legal work and post-graduate jobs. The career service department will often provide future law students with information about law firms, government agencies, and courts that employ their alumni. Career services may even be able to connect you to alumni who can provide mentorship and employment connections.
4. Class Sizes and Offerings
Most law schools will indicate average class sizes on the website. It is necessary to consider law school class sizes, especially during 1L year. 1L classes such as contracts, civil procedure, and property law are usually larger in size. These classes are often held in bigger classrooms with an amphitheater set-up and high-capacity seating. Professors in these classes often “cold call” students rather than having students volunteer to participate. In larger law schools, it may be more challenging to get personalized attention from your professor. Definitely consider whether this the type of learning environment that is right for you before committing to a law school.
When reviewing law school course offerings, make sure to look beyond 1L year. Most law schools offer the same first-year classes but offer more specialized courses for 2L and 3L students. If you know the type of law you are interested in practicing, look for courses that will help you prepare for your future career. Some law schools also have specialized student clinics where you can work with actual clients under supervision. For example, if you are interested in tax law, you might want to find a law school that offers a tax law clinic. Additionally, law schools offer a variety of specialized programming that could make a difference in your law school selection process.
5. Cost and Scholarships
There is no way to get around the fact that law school is expensive. Future law students must consider the cost of a legal education and the availability of scholarships. While student loans are readily available, consider whether you want to start your career with a mountain of debt. Many law schools offer competitive scholarships to students with higher grade point averages and LSAT scores. Also, some law schools are more affordable than others. Make sure to research all costs associated with law school. It is likely that you won’t have time to work, especially during your 1L year.
6. Extracurriculars and Student Organizations
Most law schools offer a variety of extracurricular activities such as student bar associations, legal subject area groups, diversity groups, and political groups. There are even law schools that offer musical theater and intramurals. These organizations are a great way to get involved on your law school campus and make friends. They can also provide much-needed stress relief and even connect you with alumni and future employers.
Another way to get involved in your law school and prepare to be an advocate is to join a competition team such as moot court, arbitration, or negation. These teams are usually open to 2L and 3L students and give you an opportunity to compete on a national or even international level. You may want to consider writing for a law journal or law review. Some law schools offer not only law review, but other journals that focus on specific areas of the law. Being selected for a law school journal looks very impressive on a resume when looking for jobs and internships.
Law schools often publish diversity statistics on their website. This information typically includes both student and staff diversity. Attending a law school with a diverse student group and staff will help students learn from a wide range of backgrounds. It is important to understand and learn about different perspectives while in school in order to become a successful advocate in the legal community. As an attorney, you will advocate for people with different viewpoints and backgrounds, so it is important to consider attending a law school that provides a diverse student community.
Many law schools even require students to write diversity statements as part of the admissions process. Law schools want to know about your experiences and how you will contribute to campus diversity. This may include anything from your race and/ or ethnic background to your life experiences and difficulties you have overcome. Law schools want to attract students from a variety of races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds to contribute to the incoming class.
8. Traditional v Non-traditional Law School Programs
While some law schools only offer classes during the day Monday through Friday, there are law schools that offer non-traditional programming. They may offer nighttime and even weekend classes for students who work during the week. These non-traditional programs often take longer than traditional law school programs, but they also provide some flexibility for those who need it.
Traditional law schools usually provide students with a set 1L schedule rather than allowing for student input. However, 2L and 3L students have more leeway to design their schedules. Also, many traditional law schools do not permit 1L students to work outside of the law school campus in order to focus on the intense coursework. When selecting a law school, think about whether you can commit to a traditional program or would rather have flexible class scheduling so you can attend school part-time or even take online classes.
9. Campus Culture
When you attend law school, you are usually confined to the law school building for hours at a time. The surrounding university or college campus might provide more opportunities to be social. Some larger universities have health clinics, gyms, sporting events, and a variety of places to eat. You might want to experience campus life when your nose isn’t buried in a casebook.
A larger campus may also offer numerous places to study, specialized housing for law students, and even guest speakers who may contribute to your legal education. United States Supreme Court Justices often make campus appearances at larger universities. Additionally, maybe you are interested in attending the law school tailgate every Saturday during football game in order to unwind and make friends. On the other hand, an active campus life may provide too much of a distraction for students who want to focus on getting good grades. It might not be a necessary factor for those who commute to law school every day as opposed to living on campus. Smaller campuses may offer a more peaceful environment to study without the distractions to get you off track.
10. Law School Visits
An essential thing to do when choosing a law school is to visit the campus, take a tour, and talk to both students and professors. This will give you a true picture of what to expect. Student tour guides will usually tell you all of the amazing things about a law school. Also, take time to visit the student lounge on your campus visit. Law students are usually happy to answer your questions and provide important perspective about law school life. You may even pick up some valuable advice on which classes to avoid, or which law school professors do cold calls.
After your campus visits, you should have a feeling about where you think you will best fit in. Maybe a professor took some time to answer your questions and told you about special programming, or a student told you about a competition team you think you would like to join. These little things can add up to a positive law school experience. Visiting law schools will prepare you to select the best place for you.
When choosing a law school, there are so many factors to consider. Ultimately, you should attend the law school that best suits you. You will spend three (or more!) intense years studying and preparing to practice law, so it is crucial to choose an environment where you feel comfortable and supported. As you are going through the selection process, reach out to JD Advising for application assistance, LSAT tutoring, and more. We are here to help make your dream of attending law school come true!