I’m a law school grad, and I know quite a few people that are thinking about going to law school, so I’ll share a few things that I think will help you out.
1. Why do you want to go to Law School?
Law school is rigorous, demanding and expensive. Make sure you can answer the question: “Why do I want to go to law school?” You might not know exactly what kind of law you want to practice (if that is your goal), but if you have a solid general idea that you can express about why law school would be a good move for you and your career, it most likely will be. Law school is not for everyone, but it can be rewarding for those who are committed to succeed both in school and in their career.
2. Give yourself a minimum of 3 months to prepare for the LSAT
– You want to give yourself the most options possible, whether you want to get into a highly ranked school, or get a scholarship (or both). As I mention later, getting into a highly ranked school isn’t everything, but it sure doesn’t hurt (usually).
– Look into prep courses
An LSAT prep course is the best thing for most people (unless you’re a genius). Make sure you do your research, though. Find a place with a proven track record of success, and make sure you talk to a few people that are taking the course to get the inside scoop. There are quite a few options to choose from, including live and online courses, and courses that mix the two. I took a local course which worked pretty well for me (Ace Test Prep), while others that I know took nationally offered courses.
– Practice Practice Practice. Make sure you have taken at least 10 practice tests before test day, but 15-20 would be better. I mean full-on, 4 to 5-hour simulation Saturday tests, so that when test day comes you can sit in your chair, take out your 10 pencils, set them down on the table and think to yourself, “I’ve been here before. This is no big deal.” You’ll be relaxed and ready to dominate. You’ll also have a really solid grasp on the types of questions given on previous tests, along with your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Do NOT base your choice of school purely on ranking alone
– When choosing a law school, there are a lot of factors to take into account (hint: ranking should be toward the bottom of your list). Let’s go back to the very first question; why do you want to go to law school? Some want to practice business/corporate law, others want to study the law in order to apply it to their passion, like protecting the environment, adoption, or criminal prosecution. Some don’t even want to practice law, and choose to pursue one of the many other careers a law degree can offer. Depending on what you want to do, some schools will be better for you than others. Here are a few factors for you to consider:
– Geographic Location – It’s best to choose a law school in an area where you would like to work and live. Employers will always be inclined to hire from a local school. It shows commitment by you to stay in the area, and makes it easier for you to establish contacts and relationships with potential employers and clients.
– Specialty programs – If you want to practice business law, environmental law, join the FBI or work in some other area, find the schools that have the best programs for your specific area. The best way to find out the most pertinent information for any school is through the LSAC website. You could also look up information on Top Law Schools and the U.S. News rankings.
– Tuition – If you can go to a state school and get in state tuition, that may just be the best bang for your buck. Also, find schools in areas where you wouldn’t mind living or practicing where you think you can get a scholarship. As long as you apply pretty early, law schools are actually pretty generous, so find a few schools where their average acceptance factors (LSAT score, GPA) are lower than what you have/can score.
– Employment Statistics – This is a statistic that, for some REALLY strange reason, is one of the last things that people look at. The reason you are going to school at all is to be able to get a job, so make sure the schools that you narrow down are good at placing their students with jobs upon graduation. Find out what the statistics for employment are for students before graduation, upon graduation and after graduation but before bar results.
– Ranking – Okay, okay. You shouldn’t absolutely rule out school ranking. The truth is, a lot of times, a high ranking school is simply a more expensive way to get to the same place that a lower ranking school will get you. It’s true. Here’s a case study: Go to Top Law Schools and find the University of Oklahoma (71). Then go to the lower tier of the rankings and find the University of Tulsa. If you look at pure average starting salary from both schools, the University of Tulsa has better numbers, and most likely, if you have stats that will get you into OU, you could probably get a scholarship from the University of Tulsa. Most people don’t have the numbers to get into the University of Michigan (7), but a lot of you could have the numbers to Michigan State, possibly with a scholarship, and on average, graduates come out of MSU making pretty good money. So, yes, ranking may be important, but it’s definitely NOT everything.
Just like with any major career decision, there is a lot to weigh. Make sure you practice due diligence. Good luck!