The law school application process is not fun– but choosing the right law school from those which have accepted you can be very fun. Of course, choosing a law school is a very important process because the law school you choose will shape your experience for the next three years. As someone who recently went through this process, these are my personal recommendations:
Accreditation by the American Bar Association does matter. Always choose an ABA accredited law school if you can. This is for a number of reasons. First of all, some states will require you to take a “baby bar” exam before the actual state bar exam if you have not attended an ABA accredited law school. This is an annoyance and should be avoided when possible. Secondly, ABA accredited law schools usually have much higher state bar passage rates. In California, for example, students who graduated from ABA accredited law schools have a much better chance of passing the bar than those who did not. Although its hard to think 3 years down the road when choosing a law school, its very important that you think about the bar exam which looms ahead.
Remember that you’re going to be spending three years at the law school you choose– which means you will be around the same students, professors, and administrators for all of those three years! Choosing a law school with an atmosphere and quality of life that works for you is important. Remember that many law schools are extremely competitive– if this doesn’t interest you, and you’re looking for a more cooperative law school student body, choose a school that suits you. The website TopLawSchools.com is a great tool for prospective students because it offers great overviews of the different law schools.
Courses and Clinics Offered
If you know ahead of time that there is a particular area of law which interests you, be sure to check the law school course catalogue’s before choosing a school. Certain schools have certain specialties, so keep that in mind as you choose your school. Also, many schools offer clinical programs. If you think you’d like to participate in a clinic, check the law school’s offerings and use that as a criteria when you choose.
Law school is a very challenging time for all students. For this reason, it is really important that you choose a law school with a good support system. For example, some schools have student run academic support programs, while others have professor run programs. Law school librarians can serve as great support systems too. Remember that you may need help from these sources during your three years, so making sure that they are potentially available to you is important. Additionally, the professors themselves are extremely important– law schools with professors that have open-door policies, who are friendly and supportive, are going to be much better choices than those with aloof professors.
In my opinion, location of your law school really doesn’t matter much. Law students are too busy to enjoy the city that they’re in and really don’t have time to appreciate it. So don’t focus too much on choosing your law school based on its city and/or state. Additionally, it doesn’t matter much that you attend a school in the state that you intend to practice in– schools teach generally the same material no matter what state they are in.