- How can I learn more about what law school is like?
- How can I learn more about specific law schools?
- What factors should I consider when deciding what law schools to apply to?
How can I learn more about what law school is like?
In addition to talking to as many lawyers and law students as you can, take advantage of events sponsored and advertised by the Center for Pre-Law Advising. Past events have included mock law school classes, panels of current law students, and opportunities to attend classes at UW Law School.
Further, most – if not all – law schools are happy to set up a Prospective Student Tour that typically involves a tour of the school, attendance at a law school class, and a meeting with an admissions officer. Setting up this kind of visit is a great way to learn more about law school in general and also what it might be like to attend that specific law school.
Finally, several law schools offer summer programs to help undergraduates better understand what law school and the law school admissions process entail. These programs strongly encourage students from groups historically underrepresented in law school to apply.
How can I learn more about specific law schools?
There are many ways to learn more about specific law schools both online and in person.
Start your research by looking at the American Bar Association’s Standard 509 Information Reports. These reports include information about a school’s Admitted Student Statistical Profiles (including median and 25th/75th percentile GPA and LSAT statistics), Tuition and Fees, Financial Aid Statistical Profiles, Enrolled Student Demographics, and more. You can also find relevant information on individual law school websites, including more recent data at times.
A list of other valuable resources is available here.
(1) Attend the UW-Madison Law School Fair. More than 100 law schools send representatives to campus each year to meet with students and provide information about their respective schools.
(2) Attend an on-campus Information Session. Law schools often work with the Center for Pre-Law Advising to schedule on-campus informational sessions. Follow the Center for Pre-Law Advising on Twitter and Facebook for notifications about upcoming Information Sessions.
(3) Law schools typically all offer prospective students the opportunity to schedule a formal Prospective Student Tour. These tours typically include the opportunity to tour the school with a guide, to sit in on a law school class, and to meet with an admissions representative. Contact the school’s Admissions Office to schedule a Prospective Student Tour.
What factors should I consider when deciding what law schools to apply to?
First, consider geography. What region(s) of the country are you considering? Do you prefer schools in cities or college towns? Are you including schools in the region where you intend to practice law? These considerations may seem trivial, but they can have a significant impact on your law school experience and even your employment prospects. [Note that geography is not as significant a factor if you are considering law schools ranked in the Top 14 because these schools have strong national reputations.]
After identifying certain state(s) or region(s), you should narrow the list of schools in those areas by considering the schools’ admissions criteria. When applying to law school, the most important two pieces of your application are your GPA and LSAT. So you should find out the following for each school you are interested in: (1) median GPA/LSAT, (2) 75th percentile GPA/LSAT, and (3) 25th percentile GPA/LSAT. Consider choosing a range of schools to apply to, including 2-3 “target” schools (where your GPA/LSAT = median GPA/LSAT), 2-3 “reach” schools (where your GPA/LSAT < 25th percentile GPA/LSAT), and 2-3 “safety” schools (where your GPA/LSAT > 75th percentile GPA/LSAT).
Other important information to consider includes the employment statistics for recent graduates of each school that you are considering. The American Bar Association collects and publishes this information at http://employmentsummary.abaquestionnaire.org/. Of particular importance are the percentage of recent graduates who are employed as full-time practicing lawyers within 9 months of graduation and, at the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of unemployed graduates who are still seeking employment 9 months after graduation.
Before actually committing to attend a school you should also consider the cost of attendance, but you cannot be sure of your actual cost of attendance before knowing if you will be offered merit- or need-based financial aid. But by applying to a range of schools, including target and safety schools, you are more likely to receive an award of merit-based financial aid from one or more schools.
For a great in-depth analysis of these factors, check out this one by Law School Transparency.
- School-By-School ABA Information Reports: The American Bar Association collects data from accredited law schools concerning factors including their admitted students, financial aid, curriculum, faculty, and tuition. It publishes that information in the form of “Standard 509 Information Reports.” Review the reports for relevant admissions information including, for example, median/25th percentile/75th percentile GPA, median/25th percentile/75th percentile LSAT scores, and financial aid statistics.
- School-By-School Employment Statistics: The American Bar Association collects data from accredited law schools concerning the employment statistics for their graduates. It publishes that information in the form of “Employment Summary Reports.” Review the reports for relevant employment statistics including, for example, the number of graduates employed as full-time practicing lawyers within 9 months of graduation, the number of graduates still unemployed 9 months after graduation, and the breakdown of graduates’ jobs by category and location.
- 2014-15 Book of Law School Lists: This 500+ page resource guide provides lists of law school academic programs, clinical programs, available scholarships, admission policies, and other information on a school-by-school basis. This information is collected from the law schools annually.
- Law School Transparency School Reports: Law School Transparency is a private organization that collects and publishes information concerning accredited law schools’ admissions profiles, costs, graduates’ jobs, graduates’ salaries, and job trends.
- Interviews with Law School Admissions Deans: Admissionsdean.com has interviewed numerous law school admissions deans. The transcripts from those interviews are available here.