How to Choose the Right Law School

November 22, 2019

We don’t have to tell you that choosing a law school is a big decision. The school you choose drives your future success, so it’s important to attend a school that you not only enjoy, but one that will give you opportunities to flourish.

Men in suits discussing law schools they want to go to

Transferring to another school may be an option, but it comes with its own challenges and setbacks. For this reason, make sure the school you choose to attend is a school you would want to graduate from.

Finding the right school is a challenge that anyone applying feels. A variety of factors and desires play a role in what makes the best fit—which is unique to each person. So, how do you decide what law school is right for you? Many students evaluate law schools by one specific thing—the prestige/name/heightened reputation. And that is valued, but sometimes you need to look at the bigger picture and how a school's accolades translate to your future career. Here are some important things we urge you to consider when choosing a law school.

1. Do your research.

Don’t go by your gut alone—do some research. Start with a simple Google search and read over what alumni and current students have to say.

For the schools that interest you, review ABA Standard 509 Reports, which include information on Bar Passage over multiple administrations, employment data, retention data, scholarships, and more. It’s important to know how many who enroll in the school actually graduate, and what percentage of graduates pass the Bar.

Based on what you learn, do you have the academic talents to be in the top percentage of the class at that particular law school? This can be important factor when it comes to earning scholarships, securing externships and landing a job at graduation.

2. Find a good culture fit.

One of the most important things to think about is where you believe you’ll be most happy, can do your best work, and fully enjoy your experience. Learn about the culture, and find a community that cares about you and your success.

A great way to do this is to visit schools and see how you feel when you’re there. Does it feel like a place you’ll enjoy spending three years? As mentioned previously, so many are driven by the name of a school versus what the law school is committed to do for you to help you succeed. Sometimes being a big fish in a small pond is a better strategy and rewards you with greater success. Most schools will offer a tour of the campus for you to experience the school and get a sense as to whether or not it is a good fit for you. You can only get so much by looking at a school through your computer or phone.

3. Figure out the cost.

Cost can be a huge barrier to attending a law school. There’s not only the direct costs to consider—like tuition/fees and books, but there’s also those indirect costs—moving, urban versus rural, and housing costs. Don't just look at the cost of tuition, rather consider the overall cost of attendance. Sometimes your best fit might be a law school community that interfaces with a large metro but doesn't necessarily require you to live in an expensive city core. And, don’t compare solely on the scholarship award amount. Sometimes a lower scholarship offer can still be a better financial option when you consider the overall Cost of Attendance.

Find out if you are eligible for scholarships. And if you are, what are the requirements to maintain it throughout your law school education? All law schools have different requirements for scholarship retention. Know before you go!

4. Think about your future.

You should be thinking about what you’ll do after graduation even before you begin law school. Do you have an idea of what state or city you want to practice in? If you attend a school outside the state, look at the school’s out-of-state bar outcomes and how they will help you secure employment back home, if you choose to return to your home state.

Think about how important it is to you to build a network in the area near your school. Being familiar with the area, attorneys, and having a connection to your professors is invaluable in law school and after graduation.

5. Don’t plan on gaming the system.

Some people begin law school with a plan to “transfer up the ranks” and attend a higher ranked school after their first year. We do not always advise this. Students build a strong network during their 1L year with each other and with the faculty.

If you choose to transfer, you’ll be joining a new school and a culture where everyone is already established. You’ll not only have to force yourself into a group of people who already know each other, but you’ll also have to rebuild your GPA. Think carefully if this is your plan!

6. Look for experiential education.

Learning doesn’t just take place in classrooms. A law school that provides clinics and externships will give you a better education than schools that don’t. Consider focusing on law schools that provide both strong doctrinal classes as well as experiential learning by way of clinical and externship opportunitiesit will solidify your understanding and will help apply what you have learned. Employers want their new hires prepared to do the work. And, clinics and externships can often be great networking opportunities as well. There is nothing worse than choosing a law school where you feel like your experience is more self-service versus full-service, otherwise you’ll find yourself scrambling to find opportunities that build your resume on your own. The right fit for law school should assist you on every level of your legal education.

Find out if Stetson Law is a good fit for you! Set up a visit at Stetson’s beautiful Gulfport campus. We’re just minutes from the beach and from the creative, vibrant downtown of St. Petersburg, FL.

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Topics: Applying to Law School