Now that you have decided to go to law school, it is important to know what makes a great law school. While this answer will vary from person-to-person and situation-to-situation, there are some basic guidelines and characteristics that can help you determine if a particular Law School has the qualities that you think should be included in your upcoming legal education.
When making this decision, you should consider what factors are most important to you and your future career goals. You can use this information to help determine which law school is best for you – not only academically but also personally, socially, and financially.
What To Consider
Some of the biggest considerations when determining “good fit” include, but are not limited to, the following:
Location – While it is certainly possible to complete your three or four years of law school study while commuting from home each day, many people prefer living in a place that offers easy access to entertainment and close proximity to shopping. There are other practical considerations as well, such as cost of living and local employment opportunities.
Class Size – Most law schools do not offer classes with fewer than 50+ students, but smaller class sizes are typically considered better for student-to-faculty interaction and learning opportunities. Many students find that the size of their graduating class also impacts professional prospects after graduation. Larger class sizes mean that there may be less individualized attention from professors, and students may find it more difficult to get involved with clubs or other student organizations.
Faculty-to-Student Ratio – Generally speaking, the number of faculty members at a school is inversely proportional to the class size. That means that smaller classes are usually accompanied by larger faculties, so there are more potential teachers available to students.
Faculty Research – Some evidence suggests that law professors who engage in research outside of the classroom are more effective teachers. Having a faculty that is actively publishing and/or teaching at other respected institutions is a positive for any school, even if you don’t plan to participate in such activities yourself.
Library Resources – Major research universities have been building extensive libraries since the advent of printing. Academic and law libraries are typically very large, contain an abundance of print and electronic resources, and employ professional staff members whose job it is to assist students with their research needs.
Campus Resources – Law school campuses differ greatly in terms of size, history, architecture, setting (rural, suburban, urban), and atmosphere. Smaller campuses have a more intimate feel, sometimes with buildings clustered around a quad or common green area that facilitates student interaction (particularly during warmer seasons). Larger universities may have multiple law schools in different locations on the same campus or throughout the metropolitan region.
Campus Location – There are several major metropolitan areas that are the home to multiple law schools. Some students prefer a location close to a large city with all of the benefits associated with urban living, while others would prefer to focus on their studies without having to worry about the distractions offered by city life.
Student Activities – Most law students spend much more time studying than they do socializing, but the range of extracurricular and social activities at law schools vary greatly. Individual students often find that some activity groups better meet their needs than others, so it’s important to consider which school offers what you’re looking for in terms of organizations and student interest groups.
Reputation – The reputation of a law school can have far-reaching effects on a student’s professional and personal life. A degree from an institution that is widely regarded as providing an excellent education will open many doors for the graduate, both during school and after graduation. Additionally, some employers simply prefer to hire graduates of certain schools based upon their own histories and reputations with those institutions, so it may be more difficult to get a job offer from some employers if they do not recognize your degree.
Exam Preparation – Some law schools offer courses designed exclusively for students preparing for the bar exam or other professional exams required by certain states to practice law, while others will provide such assistance on an individual basis. Note that in most jurisdictions you are legally allowed to use certain commercial study aids designed specifically for bar exam preparation during the exam itself.
Graduates Employment Profile – Annual surveys of recent graduates are conducted by many schools to gather information about their employment status and salaries. These can be found directly from the individual school websites, or through the Law School Admission Council (the organization that administers the LSAT and manages the Credential Assembly Service).
Admissions Profile – Law schools receive dozens of applications for every spot in their incoming class. While each school can provide a general description of its admissions process, there are far too many variables to list them all here. Some things to consider while researching law schools include: number and quality of applicants.
Where you choose to study should be considered as a high priority and based on several of the above factors. Location nearer to home may be tempting, but there are so many other points to consider.