You’ve decided that you want to pursue a career in law and that you’re going to apply to law school— now what? An important step in the application process is determining the law school features that best fit your needs. While law schools will be evaluating your academic fit and candidacy, you should do the same in researching specific features of each school on your list, and determine whether they match your future career goals. Rank and reputation are not the only aspects that matter! Here are several law school factors that any candidate should research.
Curriculum and Electives
The first year of classes is similar at all law schools. According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), schools typically offer “a core curriculum of civil procedure, criminal law, contracts, legal research and writing, legal methods, torts, constitutional law, and property, though not necessarily all during the first year.” During the second and third years, students usually have the opportunity to take a variety of electives. If you have a particular area of law that you’re interested in, research each school’s website to make sure they offer it and look into faculty backgrounds and expertise. Explore whether the school offers any joint degrees of interest, such as JD-MBA or JD-MA programs.
Consider access to law clinics, student law journals, clerkships, moot court competitions, and honor societies. Assess the number and types of law clinics offered and how competitive they are. These types of prestigious opportunities will allow you to get first-hand experience in a specific field of law and build your networking connections.
Selection for student-run law journals is often one of the most prestigious honors for law school students. Explore the different journals offered at each law school to determine if your particular interest is represented. For example, in addition to the Harvard Law Review, Harvard Law School offers 16 other student-run journals, such as the Harvard Business Law Review, Human Rights Journal, and Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law.
Among law schools, there are differences in terms of size, diversity, and culture. How competitive versus collaborative is the school? What is the size of the student body? Small schools often have a closer community feel than large schools, but large schools may be able to offer more resources. Try to speak with current students to learn more about the culture at each law school in which you are interested.
Career Placement & Networking
Plan for your future law career by speaking with the career placement office at each school to which you are applying. Ask questions about graduate employment outcomes, average salary, and how the school assists in job recruitment. What kinds of positions do graduates get? What is the bar exam pass rate for most recent grads? Is there a strong network of alumni? Does the school provide exclusive on-campus interviews and employer recruitment events? Another resource, the American Bar Association (ABA), requires law schools to publish most recent graduate jobs and bar exam outcomes.
Location is another important feature of a law school. Where do you want to practice law? What kind of environment do you want to live in for three years? Do you prefer work in a city, town, or rural area? Your internships and connections will be developed primarily in the nearby area of your law school. Many law students end up practicing where they studied, so make sure that you are considering the surrounding area in terms of industry, job opportunities, and lifestyle.
Law school tuition can vary widely and potentially amount to over $50,000 a year, not including room and board. According to LSAC, the total cost of law school can be more than $150,000. Many law schools offer scholarship opportunities if you are a competitive candidate. Also, plan for expected income in your desired field of law versus the amount of loans you will have to repay to cover law school. If money is a concern, keep in mind that public law schools in your state of residency tend to cost less than private law schools.
How to Research Law Schools
- Look into each law school’s website. Take notes about faculty background and expertise, types of electives offered, and alumni careers.
- Attend a digital law school forum hosted by LSAC in the fall. These free online events allow prospective students to meet and question law school reps.
- If possible, visit the law school and attend a class. During the pandemic, this option will be limited or unavailable. However, as schools open up and life gets back to normal, a school visit is very informative in assessing fit and law school features. At the very least, walk around campus and walk the neighboring areas around the school. Learn about options for on-and-off campus living accommodations.
- Participate in admitted students’ events. Whether admitted students’ days are online or in-person, taking part in these events will tell you a lot about the law school and help guide your ultimate decision of where to attend.
- Connect with alumni. Alumni can give you a broad perspective of their law school experience and potentially be contacts for future career networking.
There are many factors to be weighed in the process of finding your best-fit law school. If you would like assistance in identifying the best institution for you, to find out more about recent law school trends, or in guiding you with any other aspect of your pre-law preparation, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!
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