LSAT & Law School Blog

How to Pick a Law School

Posted by Dan Lee, Solomon Admissions on Fri, Jun 25, 2021 @ 01:39 PM

law-schoolSo, you want to be a lawyer? Congratulations! Attending law school – and eventually practicing law – is a fantastic way to expand your strengths, enrich your academic life, engage in meaningful dialogues, connect with pressing, modern-day issues, and ignite your intellectual spark, all while working to change the future in a meaningful way. 

The first step is choosing the right law school that fits your specific needs and desires.

You should keep in mind a number of important considerations as you traverse through learning about different institutions and what they have to offer you. 

What law schools should I apply to?

When selecting law schools, you should aim for the best – the Top 14 (T14”) law schools in the country. These include: 

  • Yale Law School
  • Stanford Law School
  • Harvard Law School
  • Columbia Law School
  • University of Chicago Law School
  • New York University School of Law
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • University of Virginia Law School
  • University of California Berkeley Boalt School of Law
  • Duke Law School
  • University of Michigan Ann Arbor Law School
  • Northwestern Law School
  • Cornell Law School
  • Georgetown Law School

Note: sometimes the University of Texas at Austin Law School is included in this list.

There are many reasons for aiming specifically for the Top 14 law schools, but the main reason is access. If you attend a T14 school, you can practice law anywhere in the country – you will be competitive for top jobs regardless of the geographic region, simply because of the prestige of the T14 institution. 

If you studied at Georgetown Law School, for example, you would have an easy chance getting a job in Seattle, Texas, California, New England, wherever – simply because top law firms know the T14 schools very well and have confidence in those institutions. 

The Importance of Location

If a T14 school is out of reach, then you should consider a regional law school that aligns with where you ultimately want to practice law. Therefore, if you want to practice law in San Francisco, for example, rather than attend a non-T14 institution in Florida, you should consider law schools like the University of California Hastings College of the Law, which is based in San Francisco. SF-based law firms hired lawyers from UC Hastings frequently, because they know the school and can vouch for the strength of its programs. 

It would be much harder to study at UC Hastings and then try to get a job in New York City. So, if youre not going to aim for the T14 schools or theyre out of reach, make sure youre going for a strong regional law school instead. Once at that top regional law school, youll want to ensure youre graduating in the top 10% of your class to be competitive in the job search. 

Therefore, you should spend some time getting to know the locations that are most desirable to you and think about where you ultimately want to practice law. From an institutional standpoint, going to a law school in the area in which you hope to practice means youll have access to stronger local programs, like law clinics, etc. where you can build connections. Youll be able to network better with professors and alumni that can lead to better job opportunities. 

And from a practical standpoint, you need to take the bar exam in whichever state you hope to practice law, so you dont want to have to take multiple bar exams if you dont have to. There may be some states that provide you reciprocity based on where you took the bar exam, but this is not a guarantee. 

Being able to understand the best regional law schools is crucial – this is where law school admissions consulting can be so beneficial to you as an applicant. 

The Importance of Compatibility

Not only should you be aiming for a T14 school, but you should have a keen sense of what you want to pursue in law school. Schools have different strengths and opportunities that they can offers incoming students, so its important to navigate through these lists and understand what resonates most with you and your academic and career goals. A law school admissions advisor can be a key resource to you here, as theyll understand the different programs and their relative strengths and weaknesses. 

If youre interested in policy, immigration, or international law, the Washington, D.C. area might be a perfect place for you to consider. If youre interested in entertainment law, look into Los Angeles. For corporate, finance, or litigation law, New York City would be a great fit. If you want to be in the tech world and are interested in intellectual property law, then a place like Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, or Denver could be excellent places to consider. 

Therefore, think about what type of law you ultimately want to practice. Align yourself with institutions that are strong in your desired field of study. And beyond working with a strong law school admissions advisor to understand the best fits for you, engage with recent alumni to get a sense of what that school is actually like as a student. This can provide the type of useable insider knowledge that helps you maximize your time on campus. 

Lastly, here’s a list of things to consider as you’re determining compatibility: 

  • Ranking / prestige (T14 school will let you practice anywhere in the country)
  • Location
  • Academic Programs
  • Areas of Specialization (strengths/weaknesses)
  • Average class size
  • Campus culture
  • Diversity of student body (demographics)
  • Joint-degree programs / special-degree programs
  • Student law journals
  • Job placement / career services and support
  • Alumni network
  • Faculty
  • Tuition / financial aid
  • Internship / job / research opportunities
  • Student organizations
  • School ethos

Best Way to Get Into Law Schools

Just like medical school, law school applications are heavily quantitative in their initial approach, meaning you have to have the right GPA and LSAT score to make it through the first round of admissions evaluations. At that point, the admissions committee will be evaluating the qualitative side of your application, meaning all the activities, extracurriculars, intellectual successes, and community work that youve done. Therefore, you should think of this as a holistic admissions approach, but in order to get through the initial evaluation, you must have the proper test scores and academic background for that school. 

Your scores absolutely must be in range for top schools – you need to be in the top 10% for your GPA and LSAT score for a top 3 law school and top 20% GPA/LSAT for other T14 schools.

For the top 3 law schools in the country (Yale, Stanford, and Harvard), youll need a 3.9 GPA and 170+ LSAT score. Additionally, youll need to demonstrate immense impact in your extracurriculars and academic career – similar to that of a Rhodes scholar. Yale and Stanford, in particular, require a deep resumé with the most impressive qualifications.

For other T14 schools, you should be aiming for a 3.7+ GPA and 160+ LSAT score. If you have a slightly lower GPA, then you will need to have an even higher LSAT score to compensate. Extracurriculars are still very important, so make sure youre making the most of your undergraduate career to demonstrate your depth and impact to law school admissions officers. 

A law school admissions consultant can provide you a strong pathway forward in building a robust, competitive profile for T14 schools and the best regional law schools, as theyll understand the extracurriculars, internships, research opportunities, and intellectual activities that are worth pursuing to build an angular, persuasive, and competitive application. 

Odds of Getting Into Law School

As mentioned, law school admissions are largely quantitative – you must ensure you have a high GPA and LSAT score to gain entry into the best programs in the country. And between the two, the most important piece is your LSAT score. 

Admissions committees need to make certain that you can handle the workload at their institution, so the GPA is a good barometer of how competitive you are in your undergraduate context. Combined with your LSAT score, these two data points are a good predictor of your grades from your first year of law school. Additionally, your GPA and LSAT scores count heavily in a law schools U.S. News & World Report ranking, making them risk averse and seeking students that can raise their overall USNWR rankings.

To see if youre competitive for a Top 14 law school, you should compare the median GPA and LSAT score to see if youre in range. 

School

Median LSAT

Median GPA

Yale Law School

173

3.94

Stanford Law School

171

3.89

Harvard Law School

173

3.88

Columbia Law School

172

3.82

University of Chicago Law School

171

3.89

New York University School of Law

170

3.82

University of Pennsylvania Law School

170

3.89

University of Virginia Law School

170

3.90

University of California Berkeley Boalt School of Law

168

3.81

Duke Law School

169

3.80

University of Michigan Ann Arbor Law School

169

3.76

Northwestern Law School

169

3.85

Cornell Law School

168

3.86

Georgetown Law School

168

3.78

Heres a great resource for potential applicants – check out LSData’s scattergram tool, which pulls from 15,000+ self-reported applicant data submissions to also see how your quantitative profile relates to those who were accepted, wait listed, or rejected. 

You can also use the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) UPGA and LSAT score search tool to assess your chances of getting into top law schools in the country. 

If youre in the 75th percentile of applicants with your GPA and LSAT scores, then you have a much easier chance of getting in if your essays and extracurriculars are a bit weaker. Therefore, you need to really analyze your quantitative data and compare it to the schools median scores, as that will tell you how much the qualitative side of your application matters. The closer you are you are to the median, then the more the qualitative portion of your application matters. If youre under the median, youll need to take extra steps to show the law school admissions committees that you are a competitive applicant and a perfect fit for their program. 

If you are an underrepresented minority, you will receive a considerable bump in your law school admissions process – even more-so than undergraduate admissions. This can help you attain higher reach schools than expected. 

Other things to consider: Timing and Applying Early Decision. The earlier you apply generally correlates with a higher chance of being accepted into a school as law school admissions are generally done on a rolling basis, opening in the fall. November is considered on time” – anything before is early and anything after is late. A law school admissions counselor can help you navigate how to put together a competitive law school application and know when to apply to your desired schools. 

Some law schools offer Early Decision as an option, just like many undergraduate schools. This is a binding decision, so if you are accepted in the ED (Early Decision) round, you are committing to attend. ED applicants see a higher acceptance rate than those applying later in the admissions cycle. 

Law School Admissions Essay

The law school personal statement essay is an important component of a competitive law school application. It provides the admissions committee a chance to see who you are and why you want to go to law school. Additionally, it gives insight into why that particular institution is a perfect fit for you. Therefore, you need to be able to distill down who you are, your strengths, why you want to go to law school, and why that law school is the perfect fit for you.

Lawyers are required to write when they practice law, so this is also a good barometer for admissions committees to see how strong you are in writing. A persuasive essay that demonstrates intellectual depth and clarity of voice is very impressive to an admission committee and can be a key component of a competitive law school application. 

You need to identify some stories and anecdotes from your life that show admissions committees who you are and deepen your profile beyond the quantitative part of application (GPA/LSAT) and use these to demonstrate why you have the right personal qualities and intellectual depth. Additionally, because law school does not have a list of prerequisite courses like medical school, admissions committees want to see why exactly you want to practice law and why their institution is the perfect fit for you.

Conclusion

In looking for the right law school, you need to weight a number of considerations, including reputation (aim for a Top 14 law school), location, specialization, and opportunities. Youll also need to compare your GPA and LSAT scores alongside the median GPA/LSAT scores for each school and know that if youre near the median, the qualitative side of your application becomes more important. To navigate all of these considerations, a law school admissions counselor can be an invaluable resource to you and help you build a competitive application for your desired law schools. 

About the Author

Dan Lee is a founder of Solomon AdmissionsDan has over a decade of experience helping talented students gain admission to the top undergraduate and graduate institutions in the country. He has personally edited countless personal statements and has advised applicants on the proper structure, language and tone.

Topics: LSAT Test Prep, Law School Admissions, Law School Personal Statement, Getting in to Law School, Choosing a law school