Choosing a Law School
Assess Yourself Realistically
When selecting law schools to which you will apply, the general philosophy is that you should have a threefold plan: dream a little, be realistic, and be safe. Most applicants have no trouble selecting dream schools—those that are almost, but not quite, beyond their grasp—or safe schools—those for which admission is virtually certain. A common strategic error made by applicants is failure to evaluate realistically their chances for admission to a particular law school. The admission data and law school admission profile grids for the individual law schools are helpful sources because the data are provided by the law schools directly to the ABA and LSAC.
Use the Admission Profile Grids
Check your qualifications against the admission profiles of the law schools that interest you. Most schools publish a grid that indicates the number of applicants with LSAT scores and GPAs like yours who were admitted in the most recent admission year. This gives you a general sense of your competitiveness at that school. These charts will help you determine which schools are your dream schools, your realistic schools, and your safe schools. If your profile meets or exceeds that of a school, it is likely that that school will be as interested in admitting you as you are in being admitted. Other statistics are contained in the school's ABA data, so that material should be read with care as well. A few words of caution: First, law schools consider many other factors beyond the LSAT score and GPA, and the grids and data about these credentials only give you part of the story. Second, you should make your final decision about where you will apply only after obtaining additional information from each school. Third, the data in the grids are from a previous application year and may not reflect fluctuations in applicant volume that affect admission decisions.
Research Specific Law Schools That Interest You
Other sources of information include:
- The school's admission office. This is a good source for general information about the school and your chances for admission. Do not hesitate to request admission counseling. Be sure to obtain current catalogs and visit the websites for each law school you are considering.
- Your college or university prelaw advisor. LSAC provides the name of a prelaw advisor at your degree-granting institution (available on your LSAC.org account). Your prelaw advisor can often provide you with reliable information about which law schools fit your personal profile. He or she may also be able to tell you which law schools have accepted students from your school in the past and provide you with an overview of the admitted students' credentials. This will help you to determine how law schools have treated applicants from your school in the recent past.
- Law School Forums. The Law School Forums, organized by the Law School Admission Council, are excellent opportunities to talk with law school representatives from around the country in one central, urban location—usually a hotel exhibit hall. Recent forums have been held in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, and Washington, DC. In 2010, 207 ABA-approved law schools participated in the forums, and about 9,900 people registered as attendees. Because traveling to a number of law schools can be expensive, many prospective law students find the forums to be the most productive means of gathering information and making school contacts. Forum admission is free, and you can preregister online.
- School representatives and alumni. Take advantage of opportunities to talk with law school representatives and alumni. When you talk with alumni, remember that law schools sometimes change fairly quickly. Try to talk to a recent graduate or to one who is active in alumni affairs and therefore knowledgeable about the school as it is today.
- School visits. Law schools encourage you to visit. You can learn a surprising amount about a school from talks with students and faculty members. Many law schools have formal programs in which a currently enrolled student will take you on a tour of the campus and answer your questions. Firsthand experience can be quite valuable in assessing how you would fit into the school.
- The Internet. Links to ABA-approved law schools are provided on the LSAC website and on the ABA's website. The various avenues of online social networking are likely to provide many opportunities to link up, electronically at least, with students at law schools you are considering. Do keep in mind that a school may be a right (or wrong) fit for one person but not another. As is always true in online relationships, it's best to keep an open mind when it comes to comments from people you have never met in person. There is no substitution for seeing and experiencing a school for yourself.
Keep Your Options Open
Flexibility is a key word in the law school admission process. Keep your options open. Even during the early stages of the admission process, you should continually reevaluate your prospects, prepare alternative plans, and research conditional admission programs (PDF). Don't set your sights on only one law school and one plan of action. You could severely limit your potential and your chance to practice law.