How to Choose the Right Law School for YOU
Choosing the right law school can be a very difficult decision. When it comes to how to choose the right law school, there are many factors that come into play. Today, we’re going to make the process of choosing the right law school much more simple with some guidance and proper focus.
In order to choose the right law school to attend (and even just apply), it comes down to 3 basic principles.
- Analyzing yourself and deciding what type of law program you are interested in.
- Analyzing the schools and determining whether it will meet your needs (2 parts)
- Choosing the highest quality school with the best reputation for your specific program.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at all 3 of these principles, and how to confidently choose the right law school for both applications and your law school of choice for your future as JD.
How to Choose the Right Law School:
First Get to Know Yourself
The law school you attend will play a critical role in your entire future in the field of law. Knowing yourself and what you hope to achieve through attending law school is the first and most important factor when deciding how to choose the right law school for you.
The first thing to ask yourself is WHY are you getting a JD?
This is the first and most important question to ask yourself before even beginning the process of selecting law schools.
Are you interested in a specific field of law? Do you want to work in the government? Are you interested in teaching a specific type of law? Working at a major law firm in a big city? Work internationally? Or are you interested in teaching law at a top law school?
Take time to really figure this out.
If you’re unsure, that is ok. Many people attend law school without knowing the specific field they want to practice, but do know they have a passion and desire to be in the field.
If your answer is currently: “I want to earn a good salary.”, law school may not be the best choice. There are many students who chose law school for this reason only to regret it. If you’re only motivation is money, there are plenty of alternative career’s that require far less schooling and less investment in terms of tuition. Also keep in mind, law school is not a guarantee to a great salary. Like all professions, there are many lawyers earning a very high income, but also many earning more modest incomes.
Research The Law School
The process of choosing the right law schools to apply too will be a time-consuming process. As we wrote about in how to use the law school ranking’s, do not apply to a school just because of its ranking.
Take the time to research the school’s and find out what they have to offer. Take the time to learn about programs. Research to learn about the professor’s, the variety of courses, campus life, as well as the surrounding area.
During this process, it may even help you better understand what you want out of law school.
1. Law School Assessment- Develop General Knowledge About Law Schools
When it comes to choosing the right law school, the first thing to do is gain a basic understanding of each of the schools. While only you can decide how to truly assess a law schools value, we have listed a number of criteria many student’s use to assess and choose the right law school. Keep in mind the most important criteria used for assessment will be based on your specific needs.
Is the school a top ranked school? Well known and respected? Is it highly regarded in your specific field of interest?
Keep in mind a law school that is not ranked highly nationwide may still have a very respected reputation in the surrounding area of the school.
Also, do not feel if you do not attend a top law school you will not lead a successful career in law. While attending a top law school is incredibly beneficial, many current attorneys have gone on to have very successful career’s from more modest school’s through achieving great grades and experience.
Find out what is the school’s mission and makes it most well-known. Some law schools are more focused on creating specialist’s in the legal field while others are focused on a more general approach, some are more focused on those who want to work at a major law firm compared to a public sector.
Also keep in mind your interest may change after the first year of school. If you are not completely sure what field of law you are interested in, it may also be wise to choose a school that provides the best general legal education.
The size of the school largely will determine the general atmosphere of classes and the environment. As a general rule with all schools, a larger school will offer more courses, activities, and flexibility with class selection, but will be less personal.
A smaller school will often include more contact with students and professors, but less class selection. Which would you prefer?
Graduating from law school takes about 3 years. It would be advised to make sure you’ll be in a location you will enjoy. Also keep location in mind for what you specifically hope yo achieve from law school.
If your plan is to work for a major firm in a major city, it could be beneficial to attend a school in New York City, obtain an internship while in school, and gain employment at that law firm upon graduation.
This includes both classroom environment and outside environment.
Are you interested in mostly keeping to yourself or developing a close group of friends for studying and going out when you have free time? Are you interested in a fast paced environment or a more relaxed pace? Are you interested in a school that is highly competitive or would a more supportive environment be better?
Take some time to answer these questions and develop a clearer picture of what you want out of law school.
Perhaps you are only concerned with reputation and mission. Perhaps you want a school in a great environment with a good reputation. Perhaps you aren’t concerned with reputation as much as you are attending smaller school with more focus from the professor’s.
Only you can decide.
2. Research & Learn About The Specific Law Schools That Meet Your Criteria
Once you have an idea of what criteria are most important to you, it will simplify the process of choosing law schools.
Keep this criteria in mind when looking at schools.
1. Take a look at each law schools website.
Read into the law schools mission. See what you can find out about the faculty, programs of study, extra curricular’s, library and resources, school calendar, specific school, scholarships and grants, tuition, etc. Any information that can give you an idea of what the school is like and what it has to offer.
2. Find any news stories about the school
With a quick search via search engine, it can be fairly easy to find any news stories or journal publications about a school. Google offers a “news” selection on its search engine choices. Simply type in the name of the law school’s you are interested in and you can read recent news about the school.
3. Check discussion boards and forums
You can learn about different law school’s through online discussion boards and forums. They also provide a great deal of information from other law students, as well as those going through the application process. Law School Discussion tends to have a very active discussion board. However, keep in mind to take certain things you read with a grain of salt. While some posts and comments will be incredibly helpful, others may be written out of ignorance. Make sure to do your own research.
4. Learn about the location
Find out what the surrounding area is like, how many practicing lawyer’s are in the area, and if the area is a good place fit for you.
5. Find out when you can meet a school representative’s
If you currently are attending a leading undergraduate, many law school representative’s will attend the school to inform students about the program. These session’s provide great information and allow the opportunity for questions.
Another option is to attend what’s known as a law school recruitment forum. These are events in which law school representative’s set up booths and inform those interested about their program. A list of locations and dates for law school recruitment forums can be found here.
3. Narrow Down The Choices
Once you have taken a look at the law school’s that meet your criteria, the next step is to narrow down those choices based on what you learned about those specific schools.
1. Find students who currently attend the school and alumni. They will be your best resource.
With social media outlets such as Facebook, it can be fairly easy to find a few students who attend the school, and send a quick message letting them know you are interested in learning some information about the school. Keep in mind, every student at one point was going through the same thing you are, and most will have no problem sharing their current and/or past experience with the school.
Learn out about the atmosphere, what the courses and professors are like, what they felt the strengths and weaknesses of the school were, gaining employment upon graduation, and any other specific information you are interested in. Forums and discussion boards are also a great way to connect with current and former students.
What’s most important about talking to other students is they have no ulterior motive. While the law schools will generally show you everything that is great about their school, most student’s will tell you both what they feel were the strength’s and weakness’ of the school.
This also does not mean if one student completely bashes the school to look elsewhere. Talk to a few student’s to get a general idea of what the school, environment, and academics’ are really like.
2. Visit the school
The best way to learn about a school is to visit. Schedule a visit with the admission office. They will arrange for you to sit in on classes and meet students. It is highly recommended to visit each school you are seriously interested in.
Take the time to visit the facilities and speak with the students. Do not limit yourself only to speaking with students arranged by the admission office. Find a few student’s on campus to discuss the school with. This will give you more unbiased information, as well as give a better idea of what the student’s at the school are like.
4. Final Selection: Choose The Law School With The Best Reputation
While reputation may not the most important aspect of how to choose the right law school, when making the final choice, do remember to keep reputation in mind.
For example, if you were interested in studying criminal law, and were accepted into both University of Virginia and Ohio State. Assuming location is not a factor, while Ohio State is still a highly regarded law school, it would be wise to choose the University of Virginia, which is a higher regarded law school both overall and for criminal law.
How to Choose the Right Law School
Thing to Keep In Mind When Choosing A Law School
- As we state so many times, do not base everything on law school rankings. They are a general guideline, not laws of physics. What’s most important are your specific needs based on your criteria for selection.
- Choose a law school with an environment that will support you. 3 years of hell in an environment you hate will not be beneficial toward your future as JD. A poor environment can greatly affect your ability to study and perform. There are many law schools out there, find one that both meets your criteria academically and environmentally.
- Do not base your decision on whether to apply or attend based on the admission’s office, whether they be warm and friendly, or indifferent and cold. The admission’s office only job is admission’s. They are not the one’s who will teach you, working with you to get a job, or spending long nights studying. Focus on the classes, professors, and fellow students.
- Narrow down your lists. Eliminate schools that do not meet your needs.
- The school is what you make of it. Don’t think attending a top law school is a guarantee of a great future, or that attending a lower tier school means there will not be success. It is up to you to make the most of your legal education, and take advantage of all the opportunities available.
Only you can decide what is most important when choosing the right law school. Perhaps you are cost constraint and can only attend a school with a more affordable tuition. Perhaps you feel you could thrive in a very fast paced, competitive environment, and would do poorly in a more slow-paced environment.
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