by Rhianna Shabsin
How to Research Law Schools
One of the most important and most often overlooked steps in the application process is to research thoroughly the law schools you’re considering. Whether you’re just getting started in your law school search or are about to press “submit” on your applications, the right research can go a long way in ensuring you find a school that’s just right for you.
Getting Started: What to Consider In the Beginning
No two law schools are exactly alike, and the qualities that make one school perfect for one person may be the very things that make it the wrong choice for another. Here are some things to think about as you begin your law school research:
What are your career goals?
Do you want to work in public service? Land a job at a large firm? Work at a federal agency? The number and variety of jobs available to lawyers are vast, but different schools will have different programs available to meet your specific career goals. Look for things like clinical opportunities and externships, and take note of those places that have an active and engaged Career Services office. You may also want to consider the area of law you would like to practice in and look over each schools’ curricular offerings in that area. If you’re unsure what kind of law is for you, look for schools with well-rounded course offerings that will allow you to get a wide range of subjects under your belt before graduation.
Where do you want to practice relative to the school’s location?
Law schools are typically thought of as “national” or “regional.” National schools draw students from across the U.S., and they tend to have alumni in most states. These schools may have concentrations of alumni in specific areas of the country, but, generally speaking, their reach is nationwide. Alumni from regional law schools tend to be concentrated in one region, state, or even in one specific area of a state. Which type of school is right for you will depend on several factors, including the geographic region in which you want to practice after law school (if you know) and your financial situation and the relative costs of each school.
In what type of school environment will you thrive?
For the most part, law schools today are a far cry from the ultra-competitive environments portrayed in films like The Paper Chase and books like One L. But each law school has its own distinct personality, and the degree of collegiality will vary from one school to another. In addition, some schools will offer more interaction with and access to professors than others. Think about the type of environment that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of admission offices and current students!
Now that you have an idea of some of the things to look for in a law school, it’s time to begin gathering that information. A great place to start is the LSAC website. It has information about law schools, preparing for the LSAT, and dates of law school fairs across the country. The resources on the LSAC site can help you as you work to narrow down the list of schools you’re interested in.
Next, look around on the websites of the various schools you’re considering. You’ve already thought about what you’re looking for in a law school – which schools offer the programs and environment that appeal to you? If you are still in undergrad, your school’s prelaw advisor is another great resource.
Finally, once you have your top schools narrowed down, consider attending a law fair or, if you’re able, visiting schools in person. Admission officers are happy to answer any questions, and most schools will set up a campus visit so you can get a firsthand look at daily life in law school. In fact, if you’d like to arrange a visit to William & Mary, we can do that for you right here!
This is a series written by the admission staff at William & Mary Law School about the admission and application process. The posts in this series will be published in no particular order and are not inclusive. The series is designed to provide information and advice to our applicants as they apply to law schools!