Deciding Where to Apply
Deciding to which law schools you should apply is as important a decision as which law school you should attend. Indeed, a major set of blunders here may well eliminate the opportunity to decide which law school to attend. There are several excellent reference sources available to you in order to assist in the initial application process.
The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Aproved Law Schools, published by the Association of American Law Schools and the Law School Admission Council, will probably be your single most useful reference. It contains short descriptions of all of the ABA approved law schools, a grid indicating the success of applicants with various LSAT scores and GPA's to each school, and several good essays and charts every pre-law student should read. You can order it through the Law School Admissions Services when you register for the LSAT, or buy it in May of your junior year when the new editions appear. The UD bookstore should stock it, and it can be read for free online at http://www.lsac.org. Be sure to use the current edition, i.e., the one published in the spring prior to your senior year (its title should contain your year of graduation). The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.
Law school bulletins are available for student use in the pre-law library of the University Studies Program. Law school bulletins provide a much more complete picture of a law school than does the Official Guide. The bulletins give biographical information about faculty and staff, the law school curriculum, and financial aid and admission procedures. Most students now obtain this information online at each school's website.
For students who would like information on joint degree programs that are offered, or on January or summer term admissions, this link provides an excellent resource: The NAPLA/SAPLA Book of Law School Lists 2007-2008 Edition
Minority students should find Graduate and Professional Opportunities for Minority Students very useful in their application process. The book's law section gives basic information on application fees and whether or not they can be waived, the number of minority students and professors at the law school, whether the school recruits minority students, and other valuable information. The book is available in The Career Services Center (near Perkins Center Parking Garage).
Additional books on law schools and the admission process (e.g. Princeton Review) are available in Morris Library Reference Room. Other books on the law profession are also available in the University Studies Center's pre-law library and at the Career Services Center.
When you have reviewed all of the above materials, you must decide on how many and to which law schools you should apply. The basic guideline is that you should apply to at least 2 "safe" schools (i.e. where your chances are better than 2 out of 3 as shown in the grid in the Pre-law Handbook, or where your credentials are above the medians for the school's most recent entering class), and at least 3 schools where you'll "probably" get in (i.e., chances better than 50-50, according to Official Guide). There are several more suggestions which may save you both time and money:
- Be realistic about your chances with the qualifications you possess. Law school admissions are becoming so competitive these days that even if your mother and father and grandfather and great-grandfather went to the same school, there's no guarantee that you will be given special consideration. It is no longer who you know, but who and what you are that counts.
- Do not apply to any school which you would not attend if you were accepted. It is a waste of time and money.
- Apply to as many schools as you wish to as long as you follow the rules above but be realistic about how much the whole thing costs. There is no "right" number of applications.
With admission to law school still quite difficult, more people are considering enrollment in law schools without national accreditation. As long as a law school has accreditation in that state, you will be permitted to enter the bar of that state. Most states will allow you to enter their bar once you have practiced law for 5 years in another state. However, it is no longer necessary to attend unaccredited law schools. By now there are enough recently accredited law schools around that almost anyone with a college degree can get admitted somewhere. But if you are considering a recently accredited law school, caution is in order. Finding a law job from that school after graduation may be very difficult. Consult a pre-law adviser about where to apply, if you are limited to the less selective schools.
Once you have decided to which schools you will apply, review the list again with other thoughts in mind. There are more things to consider than simply "Will I be accepted?"—questions to which only you know the answers. For instance:
- Consider the geographical area of the school—will you be happy in a large city for the next three years? Do you want a school which emphasizes the law of the state in which it is located? (Most of the "better" schools do not do this.) Is the law school connected to a university? Are there opportunities to work in the area?
- Consider the law school faculty—their backgrounds, both educational and extracurricular.
- Consider the student body—are they all from the same general area? What schools do they represent? You will probably find the student body at a law school more homogeneous than the University of Delaware so make sure you like that kind of homogeneity.
- Consider the law school placement office—what percent of graduates are placed in jobs? From which geographical area do most law firm interviewers come? Do you want to practice in that area? Jobs in the law profession are increasingly hard to come by. Those students who attend newly-accredited law schools or low-prestige law schools may face a severe problem in the job market.
- Consider the curriculum—do you have the opportunity to take electives? Is there a clinical program? Can you take courses in other areas of the University such as graduate departments?
- The U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of law schools is something many students consult but it is important to keep these rankings in perspective. It is useful for learning the thirty or so most nationally prestigious law schools; but if you know the geographic area where you want to live, attending a solid regional school many perfectly suit your career purposes. Law school can help you land that first job, but after this, your career will be what you make of it.
Once you have worked your way through all of these signs, it is time to begin the application process.