For a pre-law student, which law schools to apply to is a crucial decision and, if accepted at more than one law school, which law school to attend will be another crucial decision. A step toward making these decisions is narrowing down your law school choices. One way to do this is to first determine which factors are important to you and then determine which law schools satisfy most or all of these factors. Invest the necessary time and energy to select and reject law schools appropriately.
SOME LAW SCHOOL SELECTION FACTORS
DESCRIPTION OF SOME SELECTION FACTORS
SELECTION FACTORS USED BY LAW SCHOOLS
The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools gives descriptions of factors that may be needed in EVALUATING LAW SCHOOLS.
Santa Clara University Pre-Law Manual says that choosing the law schools to which you should apply ''usually involves three factors: economic, personal, and academic.'' In CHOOSING A LAW SCHOOL these three factors are discussed in some detail. .
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Career Office notes that "You must take into consideration many factors when selecting schools to apply to and attempt to target those programs that best match your needs and professional interests." Several factors to consider when APPLYING AND SELECTING A LAW SCHOOL are considered.
The New College Pre-Law Handbook SELECTING LAW SCHOOLS (Scroll down to Chapter 5) considers, in detail, the factors: geographic considerations, school reputation and ranking, size of school: student/faculty ratio, quality of the faculty, quality of the student body, curriculum, joint degrees, clinical programs, facilities, costs and financial aid, career services. . .
Rice University Prelaw Advising indicates THINGS TO CONSIDER when selecting a law school. Some of these factors are: location, size, character of the law school (national, state, or regional law school), student body, law school faculty, library, support for the law school, opinions of professionals, areas of strength in the law school, cost of legal education, placement.
LINKS THAT ARE ESSENTIAL
The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools is 854 pages of joy (or at least 854 pages of valuable information) and is absolutely essential to everyone gathering information about law schools. The 2006 edition came out on April 15, 2006 and, costs $24. Almost all of this book is available for free on the internet. To view or obtain a copy do one of the following:
INFORMATION AND DATA ABOUT LAW SCHOOLS From pages 78-831,The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools devotes four pages to each ABA-Approved law school. The first two pagesinvolve tables (e.g. Faculty and Administration, JD Enrollment and Ethnicity, Tuiton and Fees, Living Expenses, GPA and LSAT Scores, etc.)and SEARCH ALL LAW SCHOOLS makes this data available. The last two pages involve information about the law schools, including an Applicant Profile. and this information does not appear to be directly on the internet.
SOME LAW SCHOOL SELECTION FACTORS
The size of the first year class
The demographics of the student body
Your personal desires
Available financial aid
Loan repayment assistance for low-income lawyers
The particular strengths or interests of the faculty
The degree to which clinical experience or classroom learning is emphasized
The nature of any special programs offered
The number and type of student organizations
Which of public/private, the law school is
Is the law school religiously affiliated
Whether the law school is connected to a parent university or independent
If relevant, whether the law school is on the campus of the parent university
Quality of teaching
Areas of faculty expertise
Male/female ratio at the law school
Bar pass rate of graduates
The range of library holdings
Attrition rate of students
The existence of joint-degree programs
DESCRIPTION OF SOME LAW SCHOOL SELECTION FACTORS
ABA-APPROVED LAW SCHOOLS About 193 law schools are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). The University of Texas a El Paso Pre-law Information has some comments a propos to this: "Accreditation through this body [American Bar Association] is extremely demanding, and requires a [law] school to have minimum resources in areas such as faculty, materials, and classroom space. Additionally, the ABA maintains close supervision over the curriculum requirements of accredited schools. These requirements are most stringent for first year courses. Nowadays it is absolutely crucial that you attend an ABA accredited law school. In many jurisdictions a law graduate's ability to practice law is severely limited if she has not taken her law degree from an ABA accredited law school. And in today's employment climate it may be all but impossible for graduates of non-ABA accredited schools to find a job."
TOP LAW SCHOOLS If you are interested in attending a top ranked law school, see LAW SCHOOL RANKING.
TYPES OF LAW SCHOOLS: NATIONAL, REGIONAL, AND LOCAL The University of Illinois CATEGORIZING LAW SCHOOLS. . Calvin College Pre-Law Handbook Law says that "Schools are general ranked in three categories - national, regional, and local. A national law school (top 15-20) typically recruits its students from the whole country and typically places its students across the country. A regional school typically recruits and places students from the states' contiguous to its location (i.e. Indiana University law school recruits and places students in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky). A local school recruits and places students in a particular city or region of a state (John Marshall recruits and places students in the Chicago metropolitan area). In addition, typically the higher ranked schools will have a better track record in placing their graduates in jobs." "If you are considering a regional or local school, you need to think about where hey would like to live and work in choosing where to apply. Don't attend law school in Georgia if you want to live in Wyoming."
RANKING OF LAW SCHOOLS REPUTATION OF THE PARENT UNIVERSITY (If there is one)
GEOGRAPHIC CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD YOU GO TO LAW SCHOOL IN THE AREA IN WHICH YOU WANT TO PRACTICE? The University of Miami School of Law gives their response to the question Should I only consider going to a school in the location I want to practice? Their answer is, "It makes sense to consider schools in the geographic areas where you might be interested in settling; however, this should not be the primary reason you choose a school. Law schools with national reputations provide job fairs and networking opportunities so that their graduates can be placed throughout the U.S. Ties with different legal communities can be developed during summer clerkships or clinical placements. In the current legal job market, it is not unusual for law graduates to change jobs several times within five years of graduation. THE LOCATION OF THE LAW SCHOOL AND THE NATURE OF ITS SURROUNDING COMMUNITY ON-CAMPUS AND OFF CAMPUS HOUSING LAW SCHOOL IN ANOTHER PART OF THE COUNTRY.PRELAW ADVISING AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY IN CHICAGO gives the following advise: Consider attending a law school in another part of the country. Law school is a new chapter in your life, and it might be exciting to begin again in another region of the country. With a degree from an ABA-accredited law school you are eligible to apply to the bar in any state in the union; you are not restricted to practicing law in the place where you studied it. And because law schools seek to admit a broad mix of students, you might be a bit more attractive to a school if you come from far away.
LAW SCHOOL FACULTY The University of Miami School of Law says that, "It is a good idea to review the biographies of the faculty for each school you are investigating. The faculty will often define the breadth of the curriculum, and their areas of specialty will be reflected in course offerings. Note the law schools they attended, their practical experience, and eir publications and recent research projects." DIRECTORY OF US LAW SCHOOL FACULTY PROFILE PAGES provides official biographies and contact information for full-time law professors, with additional links to faculty members maintaining their own personal home pages. The University of Miami School of Law adds that "the student-to-faculty ratios can sometimes be deceiving, as many factors go into this relationship. Not surprisingly, large schools are going to have larger class sizes, and the reverse is probably true. Whether the size of the class affects the student-faculty relationship depends primarily on the professor. How you respond to faculty members also will be important; if they feel you have challenged yourself intellectually, they will be willing to spend time with you. Conversely, they will not have much patience for those who are not prepared."
LAW SCHOOL LIBRARY
Information about Informational and Library Resources are available in the ABA-LSAC ABA-Approved Law Schools; the information is very complete.
The University of Miami School of Law says that, "The library is the lifeblood of a law school, and having a mediocre facility available to you would place you at an educational disadvantage. Investigate not only the physical facility (layout, seating space, computer labs, etc.), but also the collections, services, and staff. Often the library is a reflection of the school's dedication and commitment to scholarly research."
LAW SCHOOLS WITH JOINT (DUAL) DEGREE PROGRAMS
Many law schools offer joint-degree programs in cooperation with other schools or departments. One common example is a joint JD and masters program (this includes MBA and MPA). Such a joint-degree program will usually takes an extra year (a total of four years); this is usually less time than it takes to complete the two degrees separately. A joint JD and MD program as well as a joint JD and Ph.D. program, if available, would almost always take at least six years. These joint-degree programs are primarily intended for those who wish to acquire the specialized skills of some body of knowledge related to law. If you are interested in a joint degree, you may want to see which law schools that interest you also offer the joint degree of interest to you.say.
Johns Hopkins University The Law School Option says that, "Joint programs involve the simultaneous pursuit of two separate courses of graduate study under a combined degree arrangement. Law schools have developed structured [joint degree] programs within their own university or in conjunction with another college or university. Programs at the master's level are numerous. A few select schools offer joint programs at the Ph.D. level as well. Applications for joint degree programs must be made to each of the schools involved, and admission is based on acceptance by both schools. One may be accepted at the start of law school studies or at the beginning of the second year."
Do not confuse a joint-degree program with a Masters of Laws (LL.M.) program. The LL.M. a post J.D. program, is usually earned in one year of full-time study and usually involves a concentration in an area of specialization (e.g. Taxation, International Legal Studies, International Trade Law, etc.). For LL.M. programs see The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.
AVAILABILITY OF SPECIALIZATION PROGRAMS
Many lawyers, by accident or design, develop expertise in a particular field; sometimes this is done while in law school.
The University of Miami School of Law considers the question, Should I choose a school that seems to have more offerings in the area of law in which I think I want to practice? Their answer is, Some schools may be better suited for your areas of interest because of the number of professors and courses offered in those areas. However, many students will change their minds about what they want to practice, so initial interests may be less important by the time of graduation. Getting a well-rounded, interdisciplinary legal education is most important in preparing you for the practice of law.
For a description of nine possible specializations, see Pages 2-3 of The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools or see FIELDS OF LAW.
LAW SCHOOL SELECTION FACTORS HOW LAW SCHOOLS DETERMINE WHOM TO ADMIT
The Pre-Law Advising Center at Duke University answers the question What factors are considered in admission to law school?. Their answer offers little consolation for those who hope that an amazing personal statement, glowing letters of recommendation, and spectacular extracurricular activities can do what the GPA and LSAT cannot do. The Pre-Law Advising Center says that "There are basically two factors involved in the law school admissions decision: a student's undergraduate Grade Point Average and a student's score on the LSAT. Extra curricular activities should be a part of the student's college experience, and recommendations may be required, but only in marginal cases have they any bearing upon law school admissions." The Pre-Law Advising Center goes on to say that, "In general, recommendations carry little weight unless a student is already a highly qualified candidate for admission, or the student is a marginal candidate and the letter points out some unusual or outstanding fact that is not apparent from examining the student's objective record." Can a brilliant personal statement gain admittance where the GPA and LSAT imply No? Perhaps, but this Pre-Law Advising Center answer to the question What factors are considered in admission to law school? does not even bother to mention the personal statement.
Arizona State University says, "There are basically two factors involved in the law school admission decision: your grade point average and your score on the Law School Admission Test. Those who have sufficiently strong scores are admitted. Those who do not are rejected. Applications in the middle range are enhanced by excellent recommendations and by evidence of extracurricular activities, interposing, and foreign travel.
The University of Texas at El Paso Prelaw Information gives a partial answer to the question "How Do Law Schools Decide Which Students to Accept?" Their answer is: "Law school admissions committees generally make their decisions based on two factors: undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. Most schools transform an applicant's GPA and LSAT score into an index score, a single number which is then used to compare the applicant to the rest of the applicant pool. Some schools require extremely high GPAs and Slats, while other schools will be more flexible in their approach. Typically, the highest ranked law schools require superior performance both in terms of grades and LSAT scores.
Johns Hopkins The Law School Option indicates that "Employment in a job not law related may play a role in an admissions committee's decision if such work shows significant entrepreneurial ability or involves situations where employers have given the applicant real responsibility in a company's operations. If a student has found it necessary to work in order to pay for college tuition or expenses, it is important to bring it to the attention of the admissions committee. Demonstrating maturity in accepting responsibility for college expenses and learning to balance employment and academic commitments can have a positive impact on an admissions officer."
The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Prelaw answers the question How do schools determine whether I get in? by saying that, "Getting into law school has become a very competitive process. I have found that most law schools do not have a lot of time to scrutinize each application. Instead, they take your GPA, multiply it by a number (usually around the number 13), and add the product to your LSAT score. Your sum is then ranked with the summed scores of other applicants. The applicants with the highest ... scores or so are sent letters stating that they have been admitted. Those who are close to the top, but not in the first category are sent letters stating they have been placed on the wait list. A person is wait-listed until one of the original admitted frees a seat up for them in law school by indicating to the school they will not be attended that school. In addition to the standard indexed admission list, most schools will reserve a number of seats for students who would otherwise not get in, but could offer the student body something by their presence, such as their racial or ethnic diversity or life experience." Suppose that a law school multiplies the GPA by 13 and then adds it to LSAT score. The following table indicates how applicants could have a combined score of 202: