How to Find the Right School
How to Find the Right School
What makes a law school the right one for you? Is it the location, the type of law you want to practice, its size?
There are many variables to consider when choosing a law school. To be confident you’re selecting the school that best suits your needs and goals, it’s important to thoroughly research the schools that interest you. Your research should include:
Find a Law School
ABA-Approved JD Programs
Earning a JD degree from an ABA-approved law school is the most straightforward path to becoming a lawyer in the United States.
Using LSAC’s Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs, you can search for law schools by location, keyword, and UGPA/LSAT combination to find schools that interest you. Each school’s profile includes valuable information on admission data and requirements, tuition, special programs, student life, and more.
Canadian JD Programs
Get concise descriptions of each law school in Canada, as well as information about Canada’s two legal traditions. Learn about schools’ admission requirements, special programs, financial aid opportunities, and more.
LLM, Master’s, and Certificate Programs
Learn about LLM, master’s, and certificate programs available in the United States and Canada here. Find information about individual programs, as well as other details about each school.
Non-ABA-Approved Law Schools
Get links to the websites of non-ABA-approved law schools in the United States, Armenia, China, and India. Before you apply, make sure to understand the limitations of graduating from a non-ABA-approved law school, particularly with respect to taking the bar exam.
The Best Law School for You
Applicants sometimes select schools they view as “prestigious” or those that offer a particular program of study or the most financial support. Some applicants may need to stay in a particular geographic area because of family or job obligations. There are many factors to consider in order to find the right law school. The school may be public or private, large or small, faith-related or not, stand-alone or university-affiliated. The choice of the “right” law school is subjective. Examine your own needs and find schools that match up.
Getting Informed About Law School
Evaluating Law Schools
The first year of classes is similar, but not identical, at all law schools. Almost every school offers a core curriculum of civil procedure, criminal law, contracts, legal research and writing, legal methods, torts, constitutional law, and property, though not necessarily all during the first year. At some law schools, required courses comprise only a small part of the JD curriculum; at other law schools, required courses and other experiences take up more of the curriculum. Generally speaking, however, you will have the opportunity to take a variety of electives during your second and third years of law school. Don’t assume a school has a program to suit your particular interests; individual school websites can tell you more about that. Many beginning students don’t have a specific direction in mind, so just make sure the school offers a wide range of electives, or the type of electives that interest you.
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 (or more, if you choose a part-time program). What kind of environment will you thrive in? Also, learn about the faculty; school websites will tell you about individual professors’ backgrounds and expertise. Other areas to consider are:
- Overall size of school
- Average class size
- Demographics of the student body
- The library and other physical facilities
- Availability of part-time or evening programs
- Joint-degree programs, LLM programs, other special-degree programs
- Clinical programs
- Moot court competitions
- Student law journals
- Academic support programs
- Student organizations
- Career services and employment
- Honor societies such as Order of the Coif
Diversity and Inclusion
You may wish to consider a school with a strong commitment to diversity recruitment, retention, and mentoring. A faculty and student body with diverse backgrounds, points of view, and experiences enriches the legal education of all students, broadens your point of view, and prepares you for the variety of clients you will encounter when you enter the profession.
The single best source of information about financing a legal education is the financial aid office (or the website) of any LSAC-member law school. Tuition at law school can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $50,000 a year. Adding in the cost of housing, food, books, transportation, and other personal expenses, the total cost for the degree could exceed $150,000. Most students rely on educational loans and think of this debt as an investment in their future. It is important that you have a financial strategy from the outset that includes thinking about your budget while attending law school, repayment options when you graduate, and expected future income. The law school is your best guide as you navigate this process. Daunting as the numbers seem, they should not deter you from your dream of becoming a lawyer. Planning is key.
When selecting law schools to which you will apply, the general philosophy is that you should have a threefold plan: dream a little, be realistic, and be safe. Most applicants have no trouble selecting dream schools — those that are almost, but not quite, beyond their grasp — or safe schools — those for which admission is virtually certain. A common strategic error made by applicants is failure to evaluate realistically their chances for admission to a particular law school.