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Things to Consider

Admissions Standards

There are a number of online “calculators” that can be helpful in seeking to identify the admissions standards of law schools in broad strokes. These calculators typically are based on the UGPA (undergraduate GPA) and LSAT scores of admitted students. In looking into the admissions standards of the schools you are considering, an excellent resource is the LSAC’s UGPA and LSAT Score Search. Another useful tool is the NAPLA Law School Locator.

As explained in the introduction to the NAPLA Law School Locator, a commonly advised strategy is to apply to a number of schools falling within each of three categories: (1) “safety schools,” or schools for which your scores suggest a high probability of admission; (2) “target schools,” or schools for which your scores suggest a solid chance of admission; and (3) “reaches” or “dream schools,” i.e., schools for which your scores suggest a relatively low probability of admission.

There is no magic “correct” number of schools for each category. While many people apply only to four or five schools in total, many consider it advisable to apply to quite a few more than that. Of course, it does not make sense to apply to a school that you know you would not attend under any circumstances. The number that makes sense for you will depend on your particular circumstances.

Geography

Location matters both coming and going. Some schools take in-state residence into account among other factors in making their decisions standards. Location also matters in the employment market after graduation. Law degrees tend to carry more prestige and weight in the school’s geographical region. (There is a small number of schools that are so prestigious nationally that location is much less of a consideration.)

Another advantage of attending a law school close to where you would like to work is that you may have more opportunities to establish local contacts during your time in law school.

Size of School

There are advantages that commonly are associated with smaller and larger schools. The advantages of smaller schools often include a collegial environment, better opportunities to develop professional relationships with faculty and peers, and an easier time assuming leadership roles in extracurricular activities. The advantages of larger schools may include a wider selection of courses and a larger pool of potential professional contacts.

Rankings

On the one hand, many decry what they see as an excessive emphasis that currently is placed on well-known rankings of law schools. On the other hand, it is an undeniable reality that the perceived rankings of law schools makes a difference in the employment market. No one can tell you how much of a priority you should place on rankings. It is important to note that there is a difference between aiming to get into the best schools that you can and choosing schools on the sole basis of where they fall on a list. The difference of a couple slots on the latest rankings alone is unlikely to be decisive in terms of your chances on the employment market. Other factors matter, too, including, as noted, geographical location.

Placement Record

For obvious reasons, the placement record of law schools is an important consideration. Helpful information along these lines includes by-school statistical reports issued by the American Bar Association. You also may request such information directly from schools that you are considering.

Financial Considerations

The cost of an education at different law schools can vary significantly, as can the financial aid packages that they are able to offer you. For some candidates, these considerations play a major role in the selection process.

Areas of Specialization

Like so many other questions about law school, the relevance of a school’s areas of specialization is something on which reasonable people can disagree.

Some people will emphasize that law schools do not require majors and that many students do not know what area of the law they will pursue until late in their studies or even after they graduate. 

Nevertheless, if there is a particular area of the law that is of special interest to you, it is reasonable to have that in mind as you consider how good of a fit various law schools are for you. If you have a strong interest in, say, environmental law or public interest law clinics, you may well want to look closely at the relevant opportunities that are available at specific schools.