So as a pre-law student, I was always asked, "Where are you planning on going to law school?" And the truth is, for the majority of my undergraduate experience - I had absolutely no idea. For me, this was absolutely terrifying. I like to carefully plan each and every aspect of my life, so I know not only what I'm doing today and tomorrow, but also a year from now. Unfortunately, knowing my future was not that simple when it came to law school decisions.
When I started thinking about law school and comparing and contrasting different schools, I didn't know very much about how to pick a school. As far as law schools went, it seems like my knowledge was as good as everyone else's. For example, I knew Harvard is good, I heard good things about the law school in same city as my university, and that was about it. Really, though. That was the scope of my knowledge.
So starting second semester of my junior year, I began to take this decision a bit more seriously, and decided to learn what makes a law school good, as well as decide what exactly I was looking for in a law school personally. Here are some of the things you should consider when deciding which schools to apply to, as well as how important each of these aspects are to you:
- Location: Do you want to stay close to home? Move far away? Have you always dreamed of moving to the big city of New York, or would you prefer a smaller university town in Texas? How far are you willing to move? Could you see yourself living there for 3+ years?
- Cost: Fun fact - all law schools are expensive. But some are cheaper than others, and some offer better scholarships. Does this matter to you? Or are you willing to bury yourself in massive debt?
- Rank/School Prestige: Are you looking to brag about graduating from an Ivy League school? Do you want to go to a school with a massive alumni association? Is there a school that is highly respected in your hometown? Or do you not care, because everyone graduates with the same degree?
- Availability of a certain academic program: Are you passionate about tax law? Have you always dreamed about being a criminal defense lawyer? Do you want to go into space law? (BTW - yes, that's a thing) Or, again, do you not care because everyone graduates with the same degree?
These are just some of the aspects to consider, but it's a good way to get yourself thinking about schools and what you want in a law school. Then, it's time to discover what law schools you actually want to apply to.
One great thing about searching for law schools, is that there are only 200 law schools in the United States that are accredited by the American Bar Association. This makes it pretty easy to search through all of them. If location is your thing, the link above lists the law schools by state. If you care about cost, go to the individual law school's website, and find the "tuition and fees" link somewhere there. Law school websites are also a great place to find out about which academic programs each school has.
And of course, there's ranking. Some people will argue that this is the most important thing to consider. While I do think rank carries some weight, I don't necessarily think rank is the most important. After all, in real life, do you think that your future employer has the entire U.S. News and World Report Law School rankings memorized? The answer is no - they know that Yale is good, small, no-name law schools are probably not as good, and everything else is in between. It matters what you get out of your law school, not how they rank among the other 200.
However, if rank is your thing, here is the official list everyone goes by. I would say look at it, know where the schools you're considering rank, but don't make too big of a deal about it.
One thing that is super important when applying to law schools is your academic ability. Your grade point average and score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) will determine your ability to get into any given school. From what I've been told, your LSAT score determines your fate by about 70%, and the other 20% is a combination of GPA, personal statement, resume, etc. So knowing your LSAT score and GPA is a good way to try and figure out which schools to apply to. The two things can balance each other out as well. For instance, if you have a GPA below a school's 25th percentile, but an LSAT above the median, you may still have a chance of getting in.
One tool that I used that combined all of these different factors when searching for law schools is this website. It lets you sort by GPA, LSAT, rank, location, program availability, etc. I spent hours on this site, as well as websites for each individual law school.
Overall, it's an overwhelming decision. For me, I ended up applying to 6 law schools in 5 states, with their rankings ranging about 50 spots on the USNWR rankings, all with fluctuating price tags and different program strengths. But there were things about each individual school that appealed to me. One had one of the top programs in tax law and was ranked pretty high, another was ranked lower but it was in an awesome city. Another school is newer and lower ranked, but very highly respected throughout the nation. And so on and so forth.
My best advice - DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know everything about the schools you do apply to, or the ones you even consider. Know a bunch about schools you don't apply to. Knowledge is power. But also, trust yourself that you will make the right decision for you, and you will be good to go.
Until tomorrow, bye, friends!