Criteria When Choosing Schools
The Reputation of the Program
The number of excellent law schools is far greater than most people realize. Of course, some schools with national reputations can provide access to wide opportunities. Other, less known, schools do open doors within a region or a legal specialization. Therefore, where you want to live or how you hope to specialize can influence your selection. For instance, if you are planning an academic career or a judicial clerkship, you should apply to schools that most commonly produce professors and judicial clerks. Applicants with specific professional objectives should consider the schools’ elective courses, clinical programs, and law journals. Although rankings of schools are controversial, especially if the criteria are not well defined, you may be interested in looking at a school’s Gorman Rating, available in the Office of Career Services.
The Placement of Graduates
Most catalogs contain profiles detailing percentages of graduates entering major law firms, corporations, law-related positions, the judiciary, federal and state government, and private practice. When you talk with current law students, ask about the placement opportunities, including summer jobs available to first-year students. Don’t be shy about visiting the placement office at the schools you are interested in to ask about positions obtained by recent graduates.
Some very competitive law schools are able to place graduates throughout the nation. Most schools, however, initially place graduates with firms within their region. Therefore, if you have a strong preference for practicing law in a particular area, you might consider location as a criteria for selecting a law school.
The Educational Experience
Learn as much as you can about the general ambience of the law school and its specific methods of instruction. Is the school a setting that will foster your best work? Consider also the quality and accessibility of the faculty, the size and diversity of the student body, the facilities (particularly the library), the quality of life, the special programs, and the clinical opportunities.
Consider not only the tuition, but also the cost of living and the availability of financial aid. Many loan programs are available, but the overall cost of an education varies tremendously from school to school; a student’s accumulated indebtedness can also vary considerably depending on the law school attended.