As of Fall 2008, there were 199 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, including the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School. Because of the increasingly intense competition for a relatively fixed number of seats, it is in your best interest to submit your applications as early as October of the year preceding the fall in which you wish to matriculate at a law school. In other words, if you want to begin your legal education in Fall 2010, you should apply in October 2009!
Choosing which law schools to apply to may appear, at first glance, to be a daunting task. It need not be. There is no single "best law school" to attend. Instead, there are a range of choices based upon the criteria that is most important to you, and the strength of your application package. Following is a proposed plan of action to assist you in narrowing your focus:
- Define, as best you can, your criteria for a law school. Factors you may wish to consider initially include:
- Geographical constraints. Are you willing to relocate to attend law school? If so, are you limited to only certain geographic areas, defined by either the section of the U.S. (i.e., east coast, midwest, southwest) or the particular local location of the school (i.e., urban campus v. rural campus)? Schools with national reputations will tend to afford you the widest range of geographic opportunities upon graduation. On the other hand, regional or local schools may hold a particular appeal if you intend to practice in the same area after graduation. As a practical matter, approximately 75% of jobs reported nationally were accepted by graduates who had attended law school in that same geographic area. (The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, 2010 Edition.)
- Financial constraints. What is your present level of debt from your undergraduate education? How much debt are you willing, and is reasonable, to incur to finance your law school education? (See Section XIII for a discussion of financial aid.)
- Strength of your application. You should focus your attention on those schools in which your application would appear to be competitive based upon your combined GPA and LSAT score. You should recognize, however, that falling within the G.P.A. and LSAT ranges for any particular school does not guarantee acceptance to that school. Reciprocally, you should recognize that your G.P.A. and LSAT score may not necessarily preclude you from acceptance into schools with G.P.A. and LSAT scores higher than yours. Therefore, you should consider a few schools outside of your competitive range, both above and below your G.P.A. & LSAT score. Two websites that allow you to experiment with G.P.A. and LSAT scores are as follows: http://www.lsac.org and http://www.bc.edu/LawLocator.
- Compile a list of schools in which you might be interested based upon your criteria, as defined above. Narrow the list by evaluating the particular attributes of each school. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools 20xx (published annually) contains basic information about each ABA-approved law school. The Pre-Law Advisor maintains a current copy of the Guide in her office. Some information that you might want to gather includes:
- School environment. What type of an environment are you looking for? Are students from diverse or homogeneous backgrounds? Is the atmosphere among the students one of cooperation or competition? Are faculty members accessible to students? Does the faculty reflect a diversity of personal and professional backgrounds?
- Academic offerings. What types of courses are offered? How often are the courses offered? Is the school well known for its strength in a particular area of the law?
- Class size. What is the approximate size of the incoming class? How large are typical first year classes? How large are typical 2L and 3L classes?
- Placement. What percentage of graduates are employed in law positions within 3 months of graduation? six months? What percentage of graduates are employed in large law firms? mid-sized law firms? small law firms? public interest organizations? What percentage of graduates obtain judicial clerkships?
- Review The Book of Law School Lists (published annually), which is located in the office of the Pre-Law Advisor. The Book contains a wide range of information for all ABA-approved law schools, including academic and clinical programs, law school publications open to student participation, student organizations, scholarships, and other related topics.
- Where possible, arrange to visit each school in which you are seriously interested. If you do visit a school, please send a "thank you" note to the law school representatives who facilitated your visit.
- Except in rare instances, law schools do not grant interviews to applicants. Remember, however, that everything counts! Any contact you have, whether in person or by telephone, with any individual associated with a law school must be conducted in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.