There are two basic questions about which law school to apply to: 1) where can I get in? and 2) which of those schools should I then choose?
Where can you get in? This is largely (but by no means completely) a function of your GPA and your LSAT score. lsac.org actually has a program that allows you to type in your ADJUSTED GPA and your LSAT score, and it will give you a sense of what your chances are of getting into certain schools. The Official Guide can also give you a sense of this.
Just because the odds based on the GPA and LSAT suggests you will or will not get into a school, getting accepted by a specific law school is still never a sure thing. It is recommended that you apply to eight law schools with a mix of sure things, possibilities and long shots. But you may want to apply to fewer because of financial circumstances.
Which schools should you choose? Ultimately, you need to find the law school that is right for you. There are many things to consider when selecting a law school. Ultimately, you should probably visit the schools you are accepted to, to get a sense of what feels right. But, here are a couple of things that could help you.
Important Criteria for Choosing a Law School
- LOCATION. This is actually the most important criterion. Most law students end up working close to their law school, partly because the bar exams are state-specific. You are, of course, not committed to staying in that location. Yet, if you know you want to stay in Nebraska or Colorado or leave Nebraska or Colorado, the choice of law school is a good time to do it.
- CAREER SERVICES: You probably should find out where the law school is able to place its graduates and what the success rate of passing the bar is. If students who graduate are doing the things you want to do, then that law school may be a good choice. Further, you should get a sense of what services their career services department provides.
- THE FACULTY: There are two key questions here. 1) What relationship do students have with their faculty? More law schools are emphasizing developing working relationships with the faculty and students. Other schools are more traditional and keep a sharp divide. If you came to HC because you wanted to work with faculty, you may prefer the one to the other. 2) What background do the faculty members have? Some law schools are emphasizing professors with a great deal of work experience while others emphasize more scholarly faculty with numerous publications. You should look at the faculty and see if they have the background that will help you get the position you are interested in.
- WORK EXPERIENCE IN THE CURRICULUM: Most law schools have internship programs and opportunities to work in the field. Some law schools are emphasizing this much more than others. This could be an important criterion depending on what sort of education you want.
Possibly Important Criteria
- Dual Degree Programs. These are becoming much more common. If you are interested in a field and would like to go on and get a masters degree in it, getting a dual degree may be a good way to go. However, it is unclear that this will help your career chances. I would only recommend it if you are legitimately interested in both degrees.
- Loan Forgiveness for Service Work. There is a trend in law schools providing relief for students who want to do service work right after law school. If you may be interested in working in the public sector, you may want to see if they have such a program.
- Extra-curricular activities. You may want to find out what the school?s law review is like. But you may also want to see what sort of student organizations the law school has.
- Study Abroad. Studying abroad is possible in law school and many schools have well developed study abroad programs. If you did not study abroad as an undergraduate, you may want to try this.
Criteria You Should Not Worry About
- Specialization of the school. All law students take the same curriculum in their first year. Then students may start specializing. But after that first year, you might be opening up to such new possibilities that you may want to do something radically different from what you thought you were going to do. And even then, most law students do not specialize so that they can keep job options open. If you have a particular interest and see a law school that covers that interest, then it is not a bad idea to apply. But when you look at the curriculum, it may be better to look at the variety of courses rather than just the specializations.
- Law School Ranking. A variety of organizations try to rank the more than 170 ABA-approved law schools. All of these rankings are nonsense. It is important to think about the quality of students at a law school because the better the students, the more you will be challenged. HOWEVER, a specific ranking should not matter. If you want to live in Vermont (for example), apply to the University of Vermont and do not worry about how it is ranked. If you want to go to a law school that has close faculty/student relations, choose one that does, and forget about the ranking.