Things to look for in a Law School

<p>I was wondering what one should look for in a law school. I see that most offer very similar programs and curriculum. Other than the setting (urban vs rural or suburban), what does one look for in a law school to decide which one is "best" for you. Sure, there are the stats that help you match up which schools are realistic possibilities, but I was hoping for some generic info that comes before the step of eliminating schools based on stats. What makes a law school better than the next and what sorts of things should I look for in my search?</p>

<p>here are a few, in no particular order...</p>

<p>a) where in the country it's located. All but the top 10-20 law schools in the country place people primarily in the city/state/region in which they are located. their courses are geared toward passing a particular state's bar and their alumni network is centered around one particular geographic area. so if you know where you'd like to live one day and you can't get into one of those top 10-20 schools, you should probably go to the best school you can in that area.</p>

<p>b) how many students are in each section of 1L classes (some schools have 50-person classes; some have 120-person classes) and how many courses you have to take each semester (fewer tends to be better, at least for me...I'd rather have 3 4-credit classes than 6 2-credit classes!)</p>

<p>c) what the curve is like. At some schools, the median grade in each class is a 3.2 and at others it's a 3.0 or a 2.8...but employers don't always take this into consideration. Also, some schools (generally those that are easier to get into) have curves that force a fraction of the class to fail. I'd avoid this if you can.</p>

<p>d) what percentage of graduates pass the bar (especially on the first try).</p>

<p>e) what percentage of graduates are employed 6 months after graduation (a more important stat than % employed upon graduation, as that favors those who took law firm jobs instead of government work, private practice, nonprofits, etc). Also, what the median salary is for graduates going into each sector. </p>

<p>f) loan repayment or debt forgiveness programs. The best will help you with your loans no matter what type of law you practice after graduation (pretty much just Harvard and maybe Yale have this). Others will help you only if you go into public service...but how that's defined and how much money you can really get varies a LOT.</p>

<p>g) clinical programs--are they in areas you're interested in? are there options for transactional work or alternate dispute resolution as well as litigation (this is fairly rare, but there is sometimes a tax prep clinic or an urban development one that focuses on real estate or nonprofit law)? what percentage of students get into their first choice clinic at some point in their time at law school?</p>

<p>Its ranking. In general, you want to go to the highest-ranked school you can. If you can't get into one of the top 14, you should try for the top school in the region where you want to practice. You might want to check the NALP directory (NALP:</a> DLE - Directory of Legal Employers) to see how many of the major firms from the city you want to work in interview on campus at the schools you're considering.</p>

<p>Don't overemphasize the employment numbers. They can be misleading and are subject to manipulation by the law schools. For example, some schools have been known to hire their unemployed graduates as "research assistants" to boost their numbers, while temporary attorneys are considered employed even though they have little job security. When you see the salary data, check to see how many graduates actually reported their salaries. Ask the schools what percentage of their students got jobs through on-campus interviewing, and what cut-offs (top 10%, top 20%, etc.) firms had.</p>

<p>Thanks for the info. I had a few more questions. I am meeting with a prelaw advisor here at BU, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask some questions here first. I am a hospitality administration major with a minor in business. I will be doing a marketing internship this summer at one of the top hotels in NYC. After graduation, I plan on taking the LSAT and beginning a management training program in sales and marketing for a hotel chain. However, I am very interested in working in the legal area of the hospitality business (I would imagine that there are many liability issues in hotels and restaurants due to injury, sickness, etc.) Given my current major and aspirations, is there anything I should do that would make me a more solid law school applicant? I have very solid writing and oral communication skills but this may not be evident from my chosen courses. I plan on going through some intensive LSAT preparation so achieving a fairly high score shouldn't be a problem. But have I put myself in a predicament if law school ends up being my road of choice?</p>

<p>stacy, where can you find out what the curves for law schools are, and whether they require a certain percentage to fail? thanks</p>

<p>I don't know...some probably post it on their websites, but you may have to talk with admissions officers or current students.</p>

<p>Why are grading curves in law school relevant? Class rank is very important with respect to job opportunities; but grading curves are only important if they vary among law school profs in the same school as that can affect one's class rank.</p>

<p>Probably the single best source of info. for you is another poster named BlueDevilMike. You may want to try and PM him. He is either a senior at Duke University or a first year law student. You question is well suited for BDM. In my opinion, if you cannot get into a Top 28 law school, then consider a law school located in the state or region of the country in which you plan to practice law as you will make lifelong connections & be recruited within that geographical region.</p>

<p>Stacy's excellent post #2 and Icy's good point in #8 cover the topic very well. I'm not sure how important the curve is -- I would think that an ugly GPA is still a problem even if your class rank is pretty good, but that's beyond my expertise. Obviously, force-fail curves are usually bad news.</p>

<p>There's (apparently) a rather large dropoff in ability-to-place-nationally after the top 14 and then another one after the top 28. Those strike me as odd numbers, too, but that's the conventional wisdom. Basically, icy's right: go to the best law school you can get into (and afford) within the top 28 (or especially the top 14) -- and barring that, go to the best school you can get into within the locality you want to end up at.</p>

<p>The big thing to be aware of is that some of the numbers reported in US News are subject to gaming -- employment is the big one, and actually LSAC's reporting of bar passage rates are a little different from USN's, for reasons that are unclear to me.</p>

<p>I didn't go straight from undergrad to law school; I'll be starting 1L in the fall.</p>

<p>The curve is important because a lot of times interviewers won't know or care about your class rank. When they're comparing a bunch of applicants from different schools (especially similarly-ranked schools) it's very likely they'll prefer a 3.4 over a 3.2, even if the two candidates actually have the same class rank. Why? Because the gpa is the easier number to find (my transcript doesn't even list a class rank...I have no idea what mine is).</p>