Researching Schools

Every ABA-approved school provides sufficient basic training in U.S. law to qualify its graduates to take the bar exam in any state. It is advantageous, however, to attend a law school in the area where you hope to practice, in part to build profile contacts within the legal community in the area, and in part to become familiar with regional variations in the law.

There are now more than 150 public and private law schools in the U.S. and Canada, each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.

Although there are resources that “rank” schools (The Gourman Report, U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, etc.), rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicantsMost importantly, there should be a good “match” between applicant and school.

To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC pre-law advisors can help with this process):

1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
2. List ALL schools you would consider attending, which may be limited to the schools in one state or region;
3. Use the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools to create your “Long List” by omitting schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, or personality. PAC offers a list of 7 factors to consider, found here.
4. Create your “Short List” once you have your LSAT scores by categorizing the schools into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety,” ranking the schools by preference. Finally, choose how many schools to apply to.
5. If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.
As with choosing your undergraduate school, do your homework when searching for a law school. Decide which factors are most important to you (size of school, location, course offerings), assess your personal resources, consider family obligations, and confer with people you trust: college professors, prelaw advisors, law school admission professionals, and current law students.

It’s never too early to start thinking about law school. The decisions you make today will determine your career choices down the road.

What are law schools looking for?

Law schools are seeking mature, well-rounded individuals who demonstrate the aptitude to excel in legal analysis.

While there are common criteria used by most law schools, there are also criteria unique to individual schools, which you will discover through direct contact with the school. Criteria that are considered important by most law school admission committees include:

  • Successful completion of a rigorous undergraduate degree
  • a pattern of strong or improving grades
  • high grade point average (GPA)
  • evidence of courses requiring extensive reading, writing, public speaking, research, and logic/critical thinking
  • graduate course work (optional)
  • High LSAT score
  • Strong personal statement that demonstrates
  • motivation to pursue a career in law
  • maturity
  • strong writing skills
  • thoughtfulness
  • evidence of having overcome difficulties
  • lessons learned from life experience
  • Strong letters of recommendation
  • address your academic ability, personal character and future potential
  • by recommenders who know you well. The more details your recommenders can provide, the better.
  • State of residency (for schools that give preference to residents)
  • Knowledge of and experience with the law profession through extracurricular activities (optional) that demonstrate:
  • personal initiative, maturity, leadership, and integrity
  • commitment to public service and helping others
  • commitment to the legal field.
  • understanding of what a career in law entails

Tuition, especially for public institutions, often covers only a part of the cost of educating a law student, which means that each new student represents an investment by the law school. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the law school curriculum and are likely to become good lawyers.

Next: Applying to Law Schools

Previous: Extracurricular Experience