How Becoming a Lawyer Works

By: Laura Murray & Sam Burritt

Selecting a Law School

You've decided to only apply to ABA-approved schools. But there are more than 200 such institutions in the United States. Which should you apply to? Of course, you need to find the school that's right for you. Look first at the curriculum. Keep in mind that the first year and a half is the same everywhere: every ABA school teaches the same core classes within the first year. However, this does not mean that these core classes are taught in the same manner. Just as with undergraduate institutions, some law schools have a reputation for being liberal or conservative. And the professors have a lot of influence over how their classes are taught. The elective classes offered depends on the school you attend. Visit Web sites for various universities or write to them for a catalogue and other information.

Look at the size, composition and background of the student body: could you get along there? Would you like a more diverse population? Would you rather be in a big city or a college town? The faculty of each school can vary by degree of clinical experience, as can the size of classes and the availability of student organizations. Some schools offer special programs of study that might interest you, while others will have mentoring programs that might fit your learning profile. There are public schools, private schools, large schools with small graduating classes, small schools with large graduating classes, schools with high tuitions and schools with comprehensive financial aid packages.


Most people agree that applying to six law schools -- two "safety" schools (schools you're sure you can get into), two "targets" (schools you would, ideally, like to attend and feel suited for) and two "reaches" (schools you probably don't have the credentials to get into, but would like to attend) -- is reasonable, but depending on your situation you may choose more or less. Keep in mind that application fees can be very expensive (up to $250 for some schools), but law schools are also generally very competitive. For more information, check out a Web site like Law School Numbers, where law school applicants post information such as LSAT scores, GPA and where they applied and were accepted, rejected or waitlisted.