How Do You Decide Where to Attend?

CONGRATS!  You have been accepted to at least one law school. Take a little time to celebrate and pat yourself on the back. But now what? How do you decide where to attend?   

Different people are going to tell you different things, but always remember that the law school you attend is YOUR CHOICE.

This may seem obvious, but law schools are very different from each other. It is important that you go to a law school that “feels right.” Law schools want students who are a “good fit;” law school is an intense experience, and they do not want students who will be miserable.  

The best advice:  VISIT!  A law school that looks great online may feel very different when you actually go there. 

Most law schools have admitted student days, often over a weekend, and you should take advantage of these. But while these are invaluable, keep in mind that these are “staged” events, with the intent of designing activities and hand-picking speakers that put the law school in the best light. 

To get a better feel for what a law school was really like, one of my students developed “the Bathroom Test.” During admitted student visit days, whenever he went to the restroom, he would strike up a conversation with a law student (during an appropriate moment, like washing hands). He would explain he had been admitted, and then ask a quick but valuable question, like, “do you like it here?” or “what do I need to know about going here?” He often learned something new in these in-the-moment and unrehearsed conversations, but it was also helpful when he got confirmation of his impressions from the planned activities and speakers. And this does not have to happen in a restroom. Strike up conversations with law students when you are in line for coffee or food, at a vending machine, or taking a break.

If a school where you have been admitted does not have a planned visit day, you should call the admissions office to arrange a visit. You should get a tour, meet with professors and law students, and see if you can sit in on a class. You can (and should) do this even if you have been to the campus before for an open house or some other event.  

Figure out YOUR Priorities: what is important to you? What follows is a list of questions that may have helped you decide where to apply in the first place, but they can also help you figure out where to attend. You might not care about all of these things, but this list is intended to help you brainstorm.

Where is this law school located?  Do I want to be in a large city or some place smaller?  Do I want to be some place with an intense urban vibe, like New York City or Chicago, or some place more laid back, like Austin or Madison?  What is the climate like? 

Is the law school part of the consortium of states that uses the Uniform Bar Exam?  

Do I want to stay close to home where my support system is? Or do I want to get the h*** out of here? 

Is the law school near the state capitol or near Washington, DC? This will provide you with more opportunities to work in government or on policy, if that is something you are interested in.

What are the class sizes? How large will your cohort be? What would make me more comfortable? 

What programs or clinics are offered? What other experiential learning opportunities are there? 

Are there study abroad opportunities? 

What kinds of summer work experience opportunities are there? 

What kinds of jobs do graduates get? What size law firms do they work at?  Ask for employment data.  Do not just get the overall percentage rate of students employed within one year of graduation:  get DETAILED data on this! Law schools have this data. 

Where do most graduates end up?  In terms of location, do most get jobs locally?  Regionally?  Nationally? 

Can I see detailed salary data for their graduates?  Do not just get the average starting salary; this can be very misleading. 

What are the bar passage rates?  What resources does the school have to help prepare for the bar exam? 

How diverse is the student body? What does diversity mean at that school? Are there any classes (optional or required) that focus on social justice? 

What kinds of clubs, groups, or sports teams are there?  Informal study groups?  

How engaged are alums? 

What is the campus climate like? How competitive is the culture? 

How many students are the first in their family to go to college or to law school? 

Are there parks or greenspace nearby? How important is being close to nature to me? 

What kind of mental health resources are there?  How open is the school to talking about mental health issues?  

What is tuition? Fees?  Books?  What is the cost of living and how much can I expect to pay in rent?  What kind of scholarships are there?  Do I have to maintain a certain class rank to keep my scholarship? Will tuition go up every year or do they have a tuition-freeze policy? Get the details. 

Remember…  Ask questions. Lots of questions. Pick a law school that is a good fit for you.

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