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Top 10 Things You Should Consider When Selecting a Law School
by Jim Vassallo
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Summary: Whatever your decision process is, we have compiled a list of tips you can use when selecting the right law school for you.
Making the decision to attend law school is not one to be taken lightly. Many students make the decision while still in high school. Others make it in college. Then there are those who decide law school is their best career option after they’ve been out of school for a period of time. Whatever your decision process is, we have compiled a list of tips you can use when selecting the right law school for you.
Location, Location, Location
Location should be one of the most important things you look at when choosing a law school. Unless you will be attending a Top 25 school, location will be an important factor in your decision. Consider looking at a school where you would like to reside and practice law following graduation. Doing so will provide you with more opportunities for jobs than going to law school in one state and returning home to find work. The majority of recruiters visiting your school will be local, so it makes sense that you should consider living there after graduation.
If you thought the days of doing on campus visits were over once you picked your college, think again. Campus visits are vital when it comes to selecting a law school. The brochures, websites, and videos can only do so much for your decision. You need to visit the campuses to get a feel for the environment, the people, the surroundings, the extracurricular activities, the social scene, and much more. When you visit the campuses you will be able to meet students, professors, staff, and those who live in the area. Ask plenty of questions, especially about on-and-off-campus housing.
Knowing ahead of time what type of law you’d like to practice can make selecting a law school easier. You will be able to eliminate various law schools if they do not offer your specialization, or don’t have a program that is to your liking. Knowing your specialization early in your law school career can make preparing for a job easier as it will impress recruiters and employers alike.
Evening and Part-Time Programs
Attending law school later in life? You will likely need some form of evening or part-time program due to raising a family or working full-time during the day. Enrolling in a part-time program will take roughly four years to complete instead of three if you were to enroll full-time. If you can afford to go to law school full-time, it’s recommended that you do so in order to receive the best experience possible.
A large number of law schools have some form of law review, which is a collection of scholarly articles about the law. Schools also have scholarly journals that are edited by students studying the law. If this interests you, make sure the schools you’re considering have these in place. They are a great way to learn the law, study, and prepare to write legal briefs upon graduation. If at all possible, browse through the journals of the schools you are interested in so you can get a feel for their character and focus. They might just reflect the law school itself, which may in turn help you whittle down your list.
Academic support is an important feature of law school that you should never overlook. No matter how strong you are as a student, there will come a time where you might need a little extra help. Almost every law school offers some type of academic support program that ensures all students have the chance to successfully compete while enrolled. These programs are offered both during the school year and even in the weeks leading up to the start of the semester in the summer.
Set a Price
You need to set a realistic price you are willing to pay when selecting a law school. Just like choosing a college, you need to find a school that falls within that price range. You don’t want to put yourself in a position you cannot climb out of upon graduating, so be sure to carefully review your finances and set a budget. Create a spreadsheet for each school you are interested in that can track the cost of tuition and living expenses. This will make it easier to compare the schools side-by-side.
A large number of law schools do an excellent job at preparing their students for careers in the legal field, no matter the profession they are seeking. Take a look at each school’s career services department, its track record, and how they help students prepare for the future. These departments use a host of different things to educate students on employment opportunities, including panel discussions, counseling, tours of local law firms, presentations and even on-campus interviews with potential employers.
Is There a Moot Court?
Moot court is an often overlooked aspect of law school. If you aren’t confident in your interviewing, research, negotiation, advocacy, counseling and other skills related to law, a moot court can help you gain the confidence you need. Moot court is a feature that provides students with the opportunity to practice all of these skills and more in a trial setting.
Order of the Coif
The Order of the Coif is an academic recognition society that is found across the nation. Law students can be inducted into the Order of the Coif based on their character and academic prowess while in law school. If being a member of this organization is a goal you set for yourself, make sure every law school you research has a chapter. If the school doesn’t, there’s no need to include the law school on your list of potential landing spots.
As you begin your search for the right law school, keep this list in the back of your mind. Create a list of your own based on the tips provided here so you can begin checking off schools that meet your needs. Again, this is not a decision that should be taken lightly. You are planning at least the next three years of your life, so find a law school that will meet all of your needs.
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