Preparing for law school can be an exciting time. However, the reality of what that means soon sets in as you begin studying for the LSAT, drafting personal statements, and exploring your interests. Part of this process involves identifying the most suitable law school for you. Often, people simply try to get into the best law school they can, although this is not always the best approach. Every schools has a different focus and culture. You need to figure out what you want from a school, which will depend on both your own career goals and the type of learning environment that will provide you with the best support. You should spend some time thinking about what exactly you will need from a law program and then ask the right questions as you begin to consider different schools. Since applications are expensive, you will need to be strategic in how you apply. The following are some questions to ask when selecting a law school:
1. Where do the school’s graduates work?
While the physical location of a law school is important, it is even more critical to understand how this will impact graduates. If the majority of the graduates practice in the same city, but do not want to stay in that location, then perhaps a different school is a better option. On the other hand, you may choose to attend a school due to its location in a city where you would like to work. If the school has a strong local alumni network and it is easy to get a job there, then that is a good thing. However, if most of the students go on to do things elsewhere, that is also important to know. While law school only lasts for three years, it is important to be happy during that time. Think about where you would be most satisfied studying intensely for that amount of time, as well as the opportunities available to graduates from schools in that area.
2. What kinds of jobs do the school’s graduates have?
When looking at different law schools, it is important to consider what kinds of jobs that the graduates secure. While most students do not start law school knowing exactly what they want to do, you will likely have some idea about what your practice would look like. When deciding on a school, you should check whether the graduates enter fields in which you are interested. Enrolling in a program that emphasizes your area of interest can open up new opportunities.
3. How do students obtain academic support?
No one enters law school thinking that they will need additional academic support, but the reality is that you may find yourself needing help, even if it’s only for a class or two. For this reason, it’s important to understand the type of academic support available as you sort through different schools. Law school can prove to be a competitive environment, and you will want to put your best foot forward, so an understanding of the available opportunities will help you to stand out. Law schools can vary quite a bit in terms of the type of support that they offer their students, so you should think about how you would be best supported before asking this question. Ultimately, the program is your lifeline, so it’s important to feel comfortable that you will have adequate support should you ever need it, whether that involves studying for a particular class or preparing for the bar exam.
4. What is the overall culture of the school?
Culture is an extremely important factor when it comes to identifying a program that will suit your needs. Ideally, you should visit the school in person, although opportunities for doing so will be limited during the pandemic. Culture is impacted by a number of different factors, ranging from what type of housing students generally live in to the extracurricular activities offered. You should also ask about the level of competitiveness between students and the involvement of the alumni. The friends you make in law school will become your future colleagues. Therefore, you should make sure to understand what types of students each program attracts and the mission of the program itself.
5. How much does the program cost?
Ideally, cost should not be a primary factor as you consider which law school to attend, but that is not realistic. Some of the most competitive programs will have a significant price tag, and you may spend decades paying off the loans to cover it. On the other hand, you could have an opportunity to obtain a scholarship through some smaller programs. You can consider asking the school if they know the average debt of their students and if there are any opportunities for grants or scholarships. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that you can sometimes secure additional scholarship money. If you would prefer to attend a more expensive school, but get accepted into another program with a scholarship, you should find out if the other program will match the financial aid. While the answer may be no, it is worthwhile to try to reduce the financial burden that you will face after graduation.