Law School Application Process

Many factors should be considered in deciding where to apply: geographical region, setting (urban or rural), size, selectivity, status, cost, financial aid possibilities, special programs (combined degree, affirmative action admissions, night law school), clinical programs, and so forth. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools is a good place to begin your research. The guide presents two-page descriptions of the various schools prepared by the schools themselves. It gives a good sense of how the schools see themselves–what they think they do especially well–as well as specifics about their programs and financial aid. Many include a grid of their admissions record from the previous year at the various GPA and LSAT levels, which can give you some idea of how likely you are to be accepted at any particular law school.

Law school admissions personnel are usually happy to provide information to prospective applicants. You should take the opportunity to meet with many representatives in person each fall (usually early October). Once you have established a list of potential law schools, you should write to ask for catalogues and applications. New catalogues are available in August or September.

Selecting a law school is a critical decision. You should gather as much information as you can before you commit your time, money, and energy. The following is a checklist of items you should investigate before you make a final decision.

  • Faculty: Legal training, specialties, diversity, accessibility to students
  • Financial support: loans, scholarships, employment opportunities at law school or law firms for second and third-year students
  • Housing: dorms, apartment rates, parking, clearing house for roommates
  • Tutorial: academic support programs
  • Internships: number, locale, salaries (if any)
  • Community environment: recreation opportunities; clean, well-lighted places; cafes, records stores, book stores
  • Student organizations: kind and type
  • Attrition rates: how many drop out or fail; why?
  • Placement: locations, salaries; depth; differences between top 10% and other 90%
  • Library facilities: extent of holdings; computer access; hours of operation; access to other libraries’ holdings; available individual and group study space; parking and proximity to rest of campus
  • Alumni: what do recent alumni have to say?
  • Student body: satisfaction level; backgrounds; undergraduate schools; diversity
  • Costs:fees, likely increases; transportation or commuting costs, parking fees
  • Bookstores: holdings, study guides
  • Bar Pass Rates: review courses and costs, study facilities and accessibility
  • Special Programs: guest speakers; moot court and/or other competitions
  • Career services: number of advisors; programs; resources
  • Student participation and representation: in admissions; in curriculum selection; in administration of the law school
  • Philosophy: practitioner oriented; Platonic method
  • Reputation: how does the school measure it? how do students?
  • Administration: focus; personnel
  • Joint programs: joint degrees; flexibility in tailoring a program
  • Enrollment: student body count; class sizes
  • Physical facilities: classrooms; student lockers and study spaces; student meeting areas; disabled student access

Application Tips

Make an attempt to contact current students and recent graduates as well as law school representatives to get answers to your questions.

You should select a range of schools for application. It is wise to apply to a few schools that will almost certainly admit you. You should also include a few on the other end of the scale, where you are not likely to be admitted, but would dearly love to attend if accepted. Your middle range should be schools that may or may not accept you, but you would be happy to attend.

You can apply to as many or as few schools as you wish or can afford. Each application requires a fee; fee waivers are available in cases of financial need. You should apply to enough schools to to be sure of being admitted to a school you would like to attend.

If possible, visit law schools before you make your final decision about which one you will attend. Most schools provide tours, arrange for you to sit in on classes, and to talk with professors, students and staff. Since law schools do not conduct formal interviews, visits are a good way to introduce yourself to school representatives at the same time you are gathering direct knowledge about the school.