Bwog Gives Pre-Law Advice: How To Pick The Right Law School FOR YOU
Written by Gabrielle Kloppers
Confused as to what law schools you should apply to? Ask Gabbie for more information.
Law Schools are quite similar in terms of curriculum, especially in the first year. Where you go, however, has quite direct impacts on what you have the chance to do after graduating.
The first thing to do is to look at your statistics (GPA, LSAT), and then look at where they fall in line with various schools’ entering class 25%-Median-75% spread. This will give you an idea of what is a possibility for you. Keep in mind that people are admitted below the 25% mark each year! So you can definitely apply widely. A good way to check your chances at a school is to look at https://mylsn.info/, My Law School Numbers or the handy UGPA/LSAT calculator on the LSAC website.
Schools generally fall into what are called national reach schools and regional schools. Because law is jurisdictional, generally, people are employed near where they completed law school and passed the bar. Some law schools are incredibly renowned, which means they have heightened reach, and degrees from these institutions open doors pretty much every where, not just in the region around where they’re located- these are called national reach schools. The national reach schools are generally higher up on the rankings, and the regional schools are below that.
Many people think they need to go to a national reach school, but this isn’t necessarily true. It all depends in your certainty about which region/city you want to practice in, and what your career goals are. Some career goals, like Big Law, legal academia, and so on are more restricted to national reach schools. Others aren’t, so you’re better off going to the best law school in the region you want to practice in that gives you decent financial aid. In order to ascertain how appropriate a law school is for you, first of all compare your stats using the calculators and other links up above, to see if it’s a decent chance for you. Keep in mind that these things aren’t all determining, and mylsn and My Law School Numbers are derived from a small, self-selecting sample (their median numbers for schools are higher than those the schools themselves report, so I believe it generally skews upwards). They are nonetheless a helpful indicator. After you’ve determined whether your numbers qualify for more regional or national schools, you can look at each school’s individual ABA report to look at where exactly their graduates are going. National schools have some specific focuses; for example, Yale is more beneficial for legal academia and for those hoping to become judges and the like, whereas Columbia is more traditionally focused on Big Law and NYU on Public Interest. But from most of these schools, most careers are pretty much possible, although where they are located may have some bearing.
For regional schools, location is the top consideration. If you want to work in Chicago, for example, and you aren’t sure of your numbers for UChicago and Northwestern, or if you don’t want to pay as much and are hoping to secure a scholarship with your numbers, UIUC is an amazing school that will place well within Illinois. Once you’ve settled on a region, you can look at each school in that region’s ABA report. Here, it is important to look at bar passage rate, percentage unemployed, where people are employed and in which legal sector. This can help you establish which regional school is most in line with your future career goals.
T-14 or Bust: What is it?
T-14 or bust mentality is what a lot of aspiring law students, especially from schools like Columbia, come in with. The T-14 is the top 14 law schools on the US News Report: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, UChicago, Columbia, NYU, UPenn, Michigan, Berkeley, UVA, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, and Georgetown. Many people will ONLY consider these schools because of their relative ‘prestige,’ regardless of their eventual career goals. This is a really dumb approach.
If your career goals are hard to accomplish from schools outside of the T-14, it is completely fine to be T-14 or bust. It makes sense. Keep in mind, however, that goals aren’t really impossible from other schools, especially other schools that are still T-25 or T-50 or so. It’s just harder, because you will need to be more competitive among your class cohort. Fordham, for example, which is ranked #37, still has a bunch of each year’s cohort end up in NYC Big Law. This highlights the importance of REGION, once again. If you are admitted to Fordham and NYU, and get a huge scholarship to Fordham, but none to NYU, and money is tight, the decision shouldn’t be based on prestige, but rather on what your financial and career goals are. Do your research and figure out what the best option for YOU is. Don’t base your opinion purely on prestige, but keep in mind what that prestige might mean for your individual goals.