Choosing a Law School
Law Schools and Reputation
Several commercial enterprises promote quantitative systems that rank ABA-approved law schools against each other based on a number of different variables. These ranking systems are inherently flawed because they do not take into account qualitative factors that may more accurately reflect how well a law school will match individual needs. It is not possible to reduce the desirability of a particular law school to numbers.
Reputation rankings are derived from surveying a limited number of legal academics, lawyers, and judges from across the United States. Many law schools with excellent reputations within their states or regions may not be well known in other parts of the country.
Rather than relying on ratings by a rankings establishment whose priorities may not be your priorities, spend the time to do the in-depth research that will provide you with more practical knowledge about which law schools may be right for you.
- Social networks and blogs can link you to people like you who have made the choice you are about to make.
- Law school websites provide a wealth of information, often including virtual tours and other media-rich experiences.
- The LSAC.org website has a comprehensive law school search engine for customized searches on key variables that are important to your decision about where to apply. You can rank law schools according to your own priorities and save your choices to your LSAC account.
- LSAC also sponsors law school forums that provide a unique opportunity to speak with law school representatives about what is important to you and how their schools may meet your needs.
- Nearly every undergraduate school has a prelaw advisor who is knowledgeable about ABA-approved law schools and can help you determine which ones may be right for you.
- In many cases, you can visit law schools and speak with admission staff so that you can see for yourself whether the school would be a good fit for you.
The factors listed below are among those students say influenced their choice of a law school—many of which are either excluded or seriously undervalued by the many law school numerical ranking systems.
- Bar passage rates
- Breadth and support of alumni network
- Breadth of curriculum
- Clinical programs
- Collaborative research opportunities with faculty
- Commitment to innovative technology
- Diversity within the faculty and student body
- Externship options
- Faculty accessibility
- Financial aid availability
- Intensity of writing instruction
- Interdisciplinary programs
- International programming
- Job placement rates and resources
- Law library strengths and services
- Loan repayment assistance for low-income lawyers
- Part-time enrollment option
- Public-interest programs
- Quality of teaching
- Religious affiliation
- Size of first-year classes
- Skills instruction
- Specialized areas of faculty expertise
This research will take some time and effort, but that effort is a worthwhile investment in your short-term and long-term future.