How to Choose the Right Law School for Your Career
A helpful primer on choosing the law school that will best help you to achieve your career aspirations.
Do you imagine yourself fiercely defending people unjustly accused of crimes in a court of law, negotiating contracts for the top names in the film or music business as an entertainment attorney or fighting to save the environment using legal means? Perhaps you want to work as a high-powered corporate attorney or focus on human rights abuses, or maybe you want to help people with their bankruptcies or divorces. Maybe you hope to be a small-town district attorney or a big city federal prosecutor. Whatever type of legal career you envision for yourself, the first step is to pick the right law school that will help get you there. Cost, compatibility and rankings are all factors you should consider.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you look at cost. It is important to have a sense of balance. If you want to go into an area that pays less, such as human rights or environmental law, you may not want to take on the highest debt. On the other hand, choosing a school that isn’t really right for you because it’s $15,000 cheaper than a better fit is probably not a great trade-off either. Ultimately, if you can’t pay for it, you can’t go there, but law school may be more affordable than you think. With a combination of student loans, savings, money earned while in school, grants and scholarships, you should be able to cover tuition, room and board. Keep in mind that there may be a number of private student loans available. The best private loans for students will have low interest rates and these are often quick and relatively easy to apply for online.
Compatibility can mean making sure the school has a focus in the area of law that interests you, but there’s more to it than that. Schools have different atmospheres. You might be looking for a particularly competitive environment, or you may want one that encourages building relationships and helping one another. It’s also worth looking at the location itself. Going to law school in a big city might be very different from attending one in a small town. You may also have a preference about the size of the law school itself.
Like compatibility, there is more to rankings than meets the eye. Everyone may know what the top 10 law schools are, but that doesn’t mean they are right for you. You may want to prioritise such factors as how many graduates get jobs in the legal field, how many students who attend pass the bar and what the student body is like. Prestige might also be a factor for you. You should also consider how likely you are to be admitted to the school. If it’s a long shot, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply, but it is usually a good idea to have at least one safe school, at least one you have a good chance to get into and at least one that is an ambitious leap for you.