Finding Your Perfect Match: How to Choose the Right Law Schools to Apply to

how to choose a law school

Applying to law school is a significant investment of time, money, and effort. Choosing the right law school to apply to is crucial for your future career as a lawyer. It can be overwhelming to navigate the 200+ law schools and their unique offerings. With so many factors to consider, such as location, cost, and reputation, it’s essential to approach the decision-making process thoughtfully and strategically. In this guide, we’ll provide you with helpful tips on how to choose the right law schools to apply to.

What to Consider When Choosing a Law School

When deciding on a law school to apply to, several factors should be taken into account. Here are some critical considerations to keep in mind:

1. Location

Think carefully about the geographic area you’d like to live in, not just during the three years of law school but also after school. Many schools are regional, sending their graduates to jobs in the same metropolitan area or state. If you have family ties and a strong desire to live and work on the East Coast after law school, you may want to apply to schools in New York, Boston, or Washington, DC, rather than those in California. All law schools will provide data about where their graduates work on their website so you can check that out. Consider the location of the law school and the opportunities it provides, such as internships, externships, and clerkships.

2. Cost

The cost of law school is significant, and it’s essential to consider this when researching schools. Law school tuition and fees can range from $20,000 to over $70,000 per year, depending on the school. Additionally, you should consider the cost of living in the area and the potential debt you may incur after graduation. Consider scholarship and financial aid options and weigh them against the overall cost of attendance.

In the current job market, many students choose to go to schools with the best financial deal, rather than graduate with a large amount of debt. Remember that your debt load will have an impact on your career options, just as the school name on the degree will.

3. Specialization

Consider the specialization options that each law school offers. Does the law school have a specific program or concentration that interests you? Will the law school provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve your career goals? 

Take the time to study the websites of law schools you are interested in to learn more about the specific programs they offer and how they align with your interests and goals. If you are interested in a particular area of law, such as International Human Rights Law, look for schools that offer courses and clinical opportunities in that field. You should also consider schools with a reputation for sending graduates into academia or the judiciary if those are your career goals.

4. Reputation

Can’t get around this: the reputation of a law school can play a significant role in your future career as a lawyer. Law firms often hire graduates from top-ranked law schools, and a law school’s reputation can impact your job prospects and earning potential. 

5. Culture

The culture of a law school can have a significant impact on your experience as a student. Consider the student body’s diversity, the extracurricular activities offered, and the social opportunities available. Look into the school’s student organizations, events, and clubs to get a sense of the community and the type of people you’ll be studying with. After all, you are investing three years of your life and a lot of money – might as well enjoy the journey as much as you can. Your classmates will likely play an important role in your career development and progression, so don’t forget to network!

6. Size

You should also think about the class size and what sort of classroom environment works best for you. A law school with a larger 1L class may have many big lecture classes. If you prefer greater contact with your professors, you may want to consider schools with a smaller class size. Visiting campuses of law schools you’re considering can be helpful to get a sense of the school environment and campus culture.

application signboard
application signboard

How to Research Law Schools

Once you’ve identified the factors that are important to you, it’s time to start researching law schools. Here are some tips to help you research law schools effectively:

  1. Use Online Resources: There are numerous online resources available to help you research law schools. Some of the most popular resources include the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings, Law School Transparency, and the American Bar Association.
  2. Attend Law School Fairs and Information Sessions: Law school fairs and information sessions can give you a firsthand look at the law schools you’re interested in. You can meet with admissions officers, current students, and alumni to learn more about the law school and its programs.
  3. Reach Out to Current Students and Alumni: Connecting with current students and alumni can give you valuable insights into the law school experience, as well as the curriculum, faculty, networking opportunities, and job prospects.
  4. Visit Law Schools: If you can, get a feel for the campus, culture, and community IRL. You can sit in on classes, tour the facilities, and talk to current students and faculty.

Diversify Your School List

Once you’ve put together a list of all the law schools you’re interested in, it’s important to diversify your applications. You should apply to schools in three categories:

  • Reach schools (schools that you have a chance of getting into, but not a likelihood)
  • Strike zone schools (schools that you will likely be admitted to)
  • Safety schools (schools that you should definitely be admitted to)

The LSAC website has a tool that predicts the probability of admission to any given law school based on your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA. While this is a starting point, remember that the LSAT and GPA are not the only factors considered in admissions decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many law schools should I apply to?

A: There is no set number of law schools to apply to, as it depends on your individual circumstances. However, we recommend applying to at least five to seven law schools to maximize your chances of acceptance.

Q: Should I only apply to top-ranked law schools?

A: While top-ranked law schools may provide more significant job opportunities and a higher earning potential, they may not be the right fit for every student. Consider your individual goals and preferences when choosing where to apply.

Q: Can I still have a successful legal career if I don’t attend a top-ranked law school?

A: Yes, attending a top-ranked law school is not the only path to a successful legal career. While top-ranked law schools may provide more significant job opportunities and a higher earning potential, factors such as work experience, networking, and specialized skills can all contribute to a successful legal career. Many successful lawyers have graduated from lesser-known law schools and have built their careers through hard work, dedication, and persistence. Ultimately, the key to a successful legal career is to gain the necessary skills, experience, and knowledge to excel in your field and to continuously strive for professional growth and development.

There are other frequently asked questions for students considering law school that you’ll want to read through before applying. 

Choosing which law schools to apply to is a critical decision that will have a lasting impact on your career. While there is no mathematical formula to determine the best schools for you, taking the time to consider the factors mentioned above will help you make a well-informed decision. Remember to think critically about the rankings and how they relate to your experiences and goals. Good luck with your applications!