If you plan on applying to law school, you’ve most likely looked up the top law schools in the US and scanned the law school rankings for 2018 and 2019. It’s easy to assume that the top law schools are the best law schools, but the best law school to one person might not be the best law school to another. Law school rankings only capture certain qualities, like median LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA, acceptance rates and student-faculty ratios. The best law school for you depends on what you care about and what your goals are, so a law school ranking should just be one of a few factors you think about when deciding on where to attend.
It’s tempting to go to the highest ranked school you can get into for the prestige, but coming out of a prestigious school does not guarantee you a job. You can be in the top ten percent of your class at a lower-ranked school and get a big law job over someone who is in the top fifty percent of a higher-ranked school. If you’re going to law school in hopes of getting a big law job, go to a school that big law firms heavily recruit from. Law schools that will put you in a better position for a big law job may not help you obtain a federal courtship placement. There are certain schools that place one-third of their students in big law but only one percent of their students in clerkships. On the other hand, there are schools that place a similar percentage of students in big law and in clerkships. Maybe you’re positive that you’re going to work for your dad’s firm upon passing the bar. In that case, the best law school may just be one that has a high bar passage rate.
If you know you want to practice a specific area of law, look into schools that are ranked based on that practice area. There are lists for the best schools for entertainment law, best international law programs, best schools for environmental law and more. If you’re interested in public interest and government work, the best schools are the ones that position you to enter into government and the public interest field. CUNY School of Law is ranked #125 in Best Law Schools, but it sends fifty percent of its students into government or public interest work. Similarly, if you’re interested in experiential learning, look into schools with the top clinic programs. The University of Denver (Sturm) is ranked #63 in Best Law Schools but #8 Clinical Training Programs.
There’s a strong chance that you’re going to take the bar and practice in the same city where you attend law school. If you know you want to work in a specific geographic location, going to a school with a strong alumni network in a city where you can make connections is more useful than going to a school with high ranking.
The best law school for you might be the one that leaves you in the least amount of debt. In that case, look to the schools that provide the best return on investment.
Maybe your mental health and keeping a healthy headspace comes into consideration when thinking about the best law school for you. Law school can be a taxing three years, so you want to be in a setting where you feel mentally and emotionally strong. Tour law schools while classes are in session to get a feel for the environment – do the students seem tense and competitive or friendly and supportive? Ask schools about their counseling and psychological services. This could also help inform your decision.
Law school rankings can be a good starting point in deciding what your best law school is, but rankings aren’t everything. Reflect on what your priorities are and ultimately go with what’s best for you.
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