Future JD Students

 Choosing a Law School

How to Evaluate Law Schools

For some people, the choice of which law school to attend is an easy one. Applicants tend to select the schools they perceive to be the most prestigious or those that offer a program of particular interest or the greatest amount of financial support. Some need to stay in a particular area perhaps because of family or job obligations and will choose nearby schools with part-time programs.

Whether the law school you choose is public or private, large or small, faith-related or independent, stand-alone or affiliated with a university, you'll find that the basic curriculum focuses on certain legal skills required of all lawyers.

However, the majority of applicants will have to weigh a variety of personal and academic factors to come up with a list of potential schools. Once you have a list, and more than one acceptance letter, you will have to choose a school. Applicants should consider carefully the offerings of each law school before making a decision. The quality of a law school is certainly a major consideration; however, estimations of quality are very subjective.

You should consider the size, composition, and background of the student body as well as the location, size, and nature of the surrounding community. Remember that the law school is going to be your home for three years. Adjusting to law school and the general atmosphere of a professional school is difficult enough without the additional hardship of culture shock. Don't choose a law school in a large city if you can't bear crowds, noise, and a fast pace. And, if you've lived your entire life in an urban environment, can you face the change you will experience in a small town? You also may want to ask yourself if you are already set in an unshakable lifestyle or if you are eager for a new environment.

Other significant factors are 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, the range of library holdings, and whether a school is public or private. You may wish to consider a school with a strong minority recruitment, retention, and mentoring program, or one with an active student organization for students of your particular ethnic background.

At any rate, you should actually select more than one law school where you think you could succeed. Last year, about half of all applicants applied to five or fewer schools.

Choose the school that is best for you. The law schools invest substantial time and effort in evaluating prospective students, and applicants should evaluate law schools with equivalent care. The following are some features to keep in mind as you systematically evaluate law schools. (Costs and other financial criteria are not included below; you will need to do additional research about how to finance your legal education.) Our searchable database provides school-specific information in the following categories as well:

  • Enrollment/Student Body
  • Faculty
  • The Library and Other Physical Facilities
  • Curriculum
  • Joint-Degree Programs
  • Master of Laws (LLM) Programs and Special-Degree Programs
  • Part-Time and Evening Programs
  • Clinical Programs
  • Moot Court Competitions
  • Student Journals
  • Order of the Coif
  • Academic Support Programs
  • Student Organizations
  • Career Services and Employment
  • Pro Bono Programs

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