Deciding whether to go to law school can be tough enough, but once you’ve settled on that path, how should you figure out which law school is the right match for you? It might be tempting to just flip a coin, but the variety of schools out there is actually to your advantage, overwhelming as that might seem.
As you’re making your way through the piles of options and applications, keep these key points in mind.
This part is going to involve a lot of paperwork and school fees, but don’t let that scare you off from sending out applications to plenty of reach schools. In fact, due partly to the poor economy, law school applications have fallen sharply recently, heading toward a 30-year low, reports The New York Times. While the reasons for this sudden plummet aren’t encouraging (high tuition, huge student debt, mixed prospects for premium employment post-graduation), it does mean that programs you might previously have not had a shot at are now within reach.
Nonetheless, don’t reach for the moon exclusively. Make sure you have plenty of safety schools among your applications to lend you a net, just in case.
The prospect of law school can be so overwhelming that at times it’s easy to forget that attending any of these programs could usher you all the way across the country! While some schools are certainly worth moving for, don’t neglect to consider how large a role location will play in the coming years. For instance, attending The University of Texas at Austin will place you in an invigorating environment and at one of the best law schools in the country, but your contacts and local experience may be more limited than a student at Columbia – unless you’re interested in technology, in which case Austin is the ideal locale. And of course, if extreme dry heat isn’t your thing, then you’ll really want to think twice about the Austin campus.
Relocation costs can also be extreme. You might not want to put yourself in further debt by moving your life across the country when a state or two over offers you a comparable opportunity at a different school.
Reputation is a tricky thing, as prestige is relative. There are schools recognized around the world for their names, and then law schools known throughout the profession for their standards and staff. Your best bet is to leave the Top 10 lists behind and gauge what a school has to offer on your own.
The Law School Admission Council suggests that applicants do some real work and dig around. There’s a wealth of information out that that’ll help guide you in the right direction toward whatever school fits your interests and pursuits best. Hit Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, university websites and any other source you can find. LSAC’s website even has a handy search engine.
A school’s reputation may in part be formed by its networks. Before selecting a school, look into where the alumni currently work, says The Princeton Review. See what these alumni have to say about their education experiences, even if you have to reach out to them to do so. One of the benefits of social media and technology is that contacting these law graduates is easier than ever. Ask for insight into particular programs, and find out which professors to seek out and who to avoid. In fact, as you’re learning more you’ll also be making a post-grad contact worth holding onto. And the skill of being able to reach out and chat with people is one lawyers exercise regularly.
Since different universities offer different networks, it’s important that you make a pragmatic choice about which school can best supplement your education with contacts, says US News and World Report. Look into both the academic and professional opportunities that students can pursue outside the classroom, from clinics to journals or short internships.
You’ve still got decisions ahead of you, especially if you haven’t yet decided what kind of law you want to practice. Law schools are all going to have their own specialties, ranging from environmental law to corporate law, says The Princeton Review. If you have made up your mind, this is going to have a major impact on where you want to go. Otherwise, you may end up pursuing a law field that your chosen university specializes in.
Debt tends to be an outstanding issue for most students. Remember not to get yourself in over your head, but don’t be afraid to take out loans and pursue the education that will give you the job you want most.