RESEARCHING LAW SCHOOLS, DECIDING WHERE TO APPLY, AND DECIDING WHERE TO ATTEND
How can I find information about various law schools?
• The best way to find out detailed information about the various law schools is to visit their individual websites and just spend some time exploring. The LSAC.org site is a great portal through which to access the various schools’ websites. Click here to access the “Law School Search” tab on the LSAC website.
• LSAC compiles data about all ABA-approved law schools, and its database is a wealth of information. When you go to the “Law School Search” tab, you can easily compare schools’ data in many areas—admissions criteria, enrollment statistics, curriculum, employment, tuition, and many more.
• Each law school must post on its website the Required ABA Disclosures for each year. These Disclosures are useful because they are in a standardized format that makes it easy for you to compare information from one law school to the next. These Disclosures include information about admissions statistics, financial information, bar passage rates, employment statistics, and many other areas of interest. The Disclosures appear in different spots on the different websites, so you sometimes must hunt for them, but if you keep looking long enough, you’ll find them!
• There is a new website called Lawdragon Campus that allows you to customize your law school search and do side-by-side comparisons of multiple law schools in multiple categories! As long as you remember that the information is compiled by a for-profit company (and don’t mind having to see some ads along the way), you should find the resource helpful. Here’s the link to the site: http://campus.lawdragon.com.
• There are a number of books that compile information about U.S. law schools. The books below are available through Amazon.com and other commercial sites, and examination copies are located in the OPCD.
– The Best 168 Law Schools, 2016 Edition (published by the Princeton Review)
– Best Grad Schools, 2016 Edition (published by U.S. News & World Report)
• The website Top-Law-Schools.com contains a wealth of information about the various law schools, as well as general advice about a number of subjects related to law school admission.
• A new resource, How I Compare, purports to give you a realistic assessment of your chances of admission at the law schools you’re interested in. I include it here as one more resource for you to check out. As with any online resource, you should take it for what it is worth!
• Often a simple Google search can yield good results. For example, if you think you are interested in international law, you might search “best law schools for international law.” The results from this kind of search will often include the websites of particular law schools that emphasize international law in their course offerings and programs as well as lists compiled by outside groups like U.S. News.
How do I decide which law schools to apply to?
• There are many factors that go into deciding where to apply. Of course, your GPA and your LSAT score are two of the key factors. Before you know what your LSAT score is, you can research various law schools and make a list of schools you’re interested in, but it is difficult to know which of the schools on your list are realistic options for you until you have your LSAT score.
• There are a couple of online resources to assist you in identifying schools that might be good “matches” for you in terms of your GPA and LSAT score:
o The LSAC site, under “Law School Search,” has a search box into which you can enter your GPA and LSAT score. Based on the most recent data available (currently 2011), LSAC will then predict your likelihood of being admitted to each individual law school. There are many variables in the LSAC calculation and in the various law schools’ admissions decisions, so you should not use this tool as an absolute indicator of your chances of admission to any particular school. It is simply one resource as you work through the process.
o The Boston College Law School Rangefinder () is a huge grid placing individual law schools according to the average GPA (horizontal) and LSAT (vertical) scores of their first-year classes. Using your GPA and LSAT score, you can find the law schools that “match” your numbers. A companion site is the Boston College On-Line Law School Locator, which presents the same information in a different format. Again, there are many variables in Boston College’s calculations and in the various law schools’ admissions decisions, so you should not use these tools as absolute indicators of your chances of admission to any particular school.
Should I only apply to schools where my numbers “fit?”
• No. While it is wise to apply to some “safety schools”—schools where you are confident
that your numbers will get you admitted—you should think big. If there is a school that really interests you (because of its location, for example, or its programs), you should apply there, even if you think your chances of being admitted aren’t high. You have nothing to lose, and there may be other reasons why the school would love to have you in its class.
How many schools should I apply to?
• There is no “right” answer to this question. Some students apply to many schools, while other students are more selective. The centralized application process offered by LSAC makes it easy to apply to a large number of schools, but remember that each school has its own application fee.
• One strategy that often works well is to select 5-10 schools to apply to in your “first round” of applications. In this group you should include your top choices, and you should be sure to include a couple of “safety schools.” When you have received responses from these schools (or most of them), you can decide whether you need to apply to additional schools.
How do I decide which law school to enroll in?
• Again, there are many factors that go into this important decision, and as you make it, you will want to consult the people who are closest to you and who know you best. Some of the key factors you should balance include:
o Location. Is this a place where I would be happy living for three years? Is it close to where I want to live when I get out of law school? Is it close enough to my family that I can still see them occasionally?
o Cost. What is the tuition at this school? What other costs would I have (living expenses, etc.)? What financial aid is the school offering me (if any)? How much debt will I come out with?
o Size. What is the size of this school’s student body? What is the average size of the first-year classes? What is the faculty-student ratio?
o Curriculum. Does this school have a strong academic reputation? Does it have substantial course offerings in the areas of law that I’m interested in? Does it offer opportunities for “experiential learning”?
o Atmosphere. Does this school seem like a “friendly” place to be? Are the students highly competitive? If so, am I okay with that? Are the faculty members accessible? Are there extracurricular activities that interest me?
o Diversity. Does this school have a diverse population? Does it have diverse course offerings?
• There is no substitute for a personal visit to each law school you’re seriously considering. You can’t get a true feel for a school from information and statistics on a website. Visit the school, attend some classes, talk to some students, talk to an admissions rep, explore the campus, explore the city or town, and really experience the school.