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Law School Application


How to Choose a Law School?

This often-asked question misses the mark. What you really want to know is what law schools are most likely to be best for you. If you're interested in rankings of American law schools, take a look at Appendix A. This ranking is compiled from a variety of sources like U.S. News & World Report and Barron's. Rankings of the "best" law schools are based on more-or-less objective criteria such as the size and quality of a school's faculty, the number of holdings in its library, and the quality of its physical facilities. While they will never admit it, law schools, especially those ranked among the "best", consider the rankings to be important.

But what do rankings tell you? That Harvard, Yale or Michigan are among the top law schools in the country? Do you really need someone else to tell you that? These rankings tell you nothing about your chances of getting into any particular law school. Nor do they tell you about a school's classroom or clinical offerings, or the demographics of its student body, or the financial assistance available at the school. If you want that information, and chances are you do, then you'll have to do some homework.

Is there an advantage in attending one of the "best" law schools? Sure. Going to a top law school may give you access to teachers and extracurricular activities not available at other schools. For example, the best law schools tend to have more clinical programs and law journals, which help to build an impressive resume. The prestige of a top law school will also open doors to more career opportunities. Big money law firms are anxious to court graduates of the best schools, and choice judicial clerkships are reserved for the best of the best.

A bit later, we'll talk about how to choose the law schools that are best for you. For now, here's the bottom line on law schools. Most law schools in this country are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), which means that they meet ABA standards concerning faculty, facilities, and curriculum. Though law schools are reluctant to admit it, ABA approval has resulted in a high degree of uniformity and standardization among law schools, especially in terms of curricula. No matter where you go to law school, in your first year you will take courses in legal research and writing, torts, contracts, property, and perhaps constitutional law, criminal law, or civil procedure. You will learn the same tort law principles at the University of Missouri as you will at Harvard University.

You certainly want to get into the best law school that you can. If your undergraduate GPA is between 3.7 and 4.0, you're in the top 15 percent on the LSAT, you have strong recommendations, and you've got some other factors going for you, then go ahead and apply to one or two of the top law schools. But don't put all your eggs in that basket. Some of the best schools get ten applications for every spot in the entering class, and most of those applicants have credentials as good as yours. Be safe rather than sorry, and apply to some schools where your chances of admission are greater.

Remember, the important thing is that you get into law school. Most states require that you graduate from an ABA approved law school to sit for their bar exams. But you don't get extra points on a bar exam for having graduated from a "top ten" law school, and the prestige of such a law school won't make the bar exam seem any easier. If you get preoccupied with getting into the "best" law school, you may lose sight of your real goal.

Next: Law School Admission Requirement




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