In this Simply Law article, our partner’s Lawyer Monthly discusses the 9 things you need to know before choosing a law school.
The prospect of going to law school is not only one that requires a lot of hard work and money but also some thorough research. As with any other profession, while some grads can easily embark on to their successful careers, others might find themselves struggling to find a job.
As such, you need to be fully aware of how choosing to study law and your choice of school can affect your future. Here are nine things that you need to know beforehand.
1. Do you really need a law degree?
Not everyone who goes to law school wants to work as an attorney. So the first thing is to figure out if you are interested in the legal industry or the profession. This is crucial because there are numerous jobs in the field that do not require you to have completed a JD. You can work as a communications manager, marketing, or even as a consultant.
Moreover, many aspirants have the wrong impression of how their life after graduation would be, thanks to ‘Law & Order’ or ‘Suits.’ In reality, you are more likely to find yourself working incredibly hard, trying to keep up with the reading materials to complete your assignments.
And whether or not you find a job and how lucrative your career would be will depend largely on the job market. Graduates from only around 35 law schools among the 197 in the country reported earning a six-figure salary. For others, life after graduation might not be as glamorous as you might have expected it to be.
2. What kind of law do you want to practice?
Many students also join law school without realising which type of law they would like to practice. For instance, you could specialise in a wide variety of fields:
- Admiralty Law
- Business Law
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law
- Environmental Law
- First Amendment Law
- Health Care Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Joint Degree Programs
- Patent Law
Knowing which of these areas you prefer or want to focus on will help you use it to your advantage in the admission process. These days, it is paramount for you to tailor your application, and if a particular college is known for a specific type of law degree, then it would be wise for you to mention that as a reason to choose the school.
3. Consider the rankings, but not only that
There is no question that pursuing a law degree in one of the top-ranked colleges can offer a competitive edge in the job market. And as such, this can heavily weigh on the decision-making process.
However, it is important to understand that factoring in one ranking list cannot offer you sufficient insight into a school’s value. It is only a single piece of the puzzle. Instead, you should look at a variety of factors, such as the programs offered, bar passage rates, and student bodies. These statistics can provide you with more information about your chances of landing a job when you graduate.
4. How much will the law degree cost?
The tuition and other expenses can vary widely depending on the school you choose. For instance, an institution’s status as a private or public university can have an impact on the expenses, and whether you are attending full-time or part-time can also make a huge difference. Regardless, law school can be costly. You should pay attention to what the university is offering and whether it’s worthwhile to invest so much.
Those who require financial aid should also keep an eye on financial aid deadlines, negotiate the packages and apply for scholarships. Some colleges even give you the opportunity to receive generous scholarships that cover the entire law school fees.
Unfortunately, while some institutions are quite diverse, others might have small percentages of minorities. If you are a minority applicant, it would be better to contact other minority law students to understand the ambiance of the college.
No matter what the website portrays, you need to get firsthand information from a student of the college. Minority students can identify themselves as minorities when submitting the application; this can be viewed as an advantage in the admissions process. You should also consider submitting a diversity statement.
6. Class size and atmosphere
One of the most important factors that students often overlook is the importance of class sizes. In fact, this can determine how you spend your time in law school. For instance, smaller class size can get you individualised attention.
You will interact more in the class, especially considering that many law professors use the Socratic method and encourage discussion in class. A smaller class size might also make it easier for you to find student organisations.
That said, large class sizes might offer you other advantages. For instance, you will be able to network with a larger pool of students. This will increase your chances of finding classmates with like-minded interests.
Moreover, this also means bigger alumni, which can be beneficial for finding work in the future. But it will also instil fierce competition. And if you are able to graduate in the top 10% of the class, this can be more valuable to the employer’s eyes.
For the majority of students, location is one of the key factors that come into play when choosing a law school. This is also practical in many ways. If you attend law school in the region where you want to work, you can start investing in your career sooner.
For instance, you can build a network that is critical to finding employment. Some students also might want to go to a law school in their own state for the proximity of their homes.
8. Talk to the alumni and current students
There is no point in choosing a prestigious school if you think you will not fit there. It certainly carries weight to say that you graduated from the Ivy League uni, but the most important factor is that you feel comfortable there. And what better way to find this out other than to talk to the students. Thanks to the internet, you can easily find student forums to reach out to contacts.
You can even read reviews about professors and how their classes are, so you can choose the courses wisely. This step can offer you some unparalleled insight into the culture of the law school, giving you a clear picture of what to expect.
9. Internships and placements
Lastly, you should find out your prospects of landing employment before choosing a law school. Most students receive a pre-placement offer during their internship, and you must choose a location where you can easily find opportunities.
Good law schools would also have partnered with companies to hire their students. This will give you a priority and better chances than hunting for a job by yourself. So it would be a good idea to see if your chosen college has a dedicated placement cell that can help with your internships.
Once you have figured out what you are looking for in a law school, you will have a better idea of shortlisting your choices. You can then spend your energy crafting a well-tailored application that focuses on your aspirations.
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