This week in the Law School Insider we are bringing you Brianne Myers, Director of Admissions at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Today we are talking with Brianne Myers about what you can do once you have gotten your acceptance letter(s) from the law school(s) that you may want to attend. Many of you may be applying to multiple schools and figuring out how to weigh the factors for admissions can seem difficult, but it does not have to be so. Today we will share some great hints, tips and resources that will assist you in the process of evaluating your admissions offers and making an informed law school decision.
After you have gotten your offer the first thing that you need to consider is location. This is important because you are going to be spending 2-5 years in law school which is a significant amount of time. Where you are will also determine a lot of things for your personally and professionally. Cost of living is a big factor, as what it will cost to live in an area is not always factored into a law school decision. What it will cost to live in New York City far surpasses what it will cost to live in lets say, Lansing, Michigan. Also, where you live can also open up opportunities for you in law school. If you are passionate about working for the government, then going to law school in a capitol city may offer you amazing opportunities for internships, externships or other clinical experiences that will open doors to network and potential jobs for the future.
Cost of Attending
Cost is one of the big factors that you have to consider when thinking about law school. When thinking about costs, living expenses, tuition and more comes into consideration. You also have to consider scholarships that you may be offered and make sure that you are able to consider scholarships equally across all institutions that you are considering. When looking at scholarships make sure to determine:
- Is the scholarship a one year scholarship or will it stay with you for the entirety of your time in law school without terms being placed on it (e.g. keeping a certain GPA).
- How many students in a class are being offered scholarships? If you identify that 75% receive a scholarship but only 25% keep the scholarship after their first year, this may be a somewhat alarming figure.
When thinking about costs make sure to look at the long term costs for attending different law schools and not just the first year in law school.
Understand the Culture
Also, when looking at law schools you have to gain a better understanding and perspective on the culture of the institution. The best way to do this is to visit the campus. All law schools offer campus tours like the tours we offer at WMU Cooley Law School. Through on campus visit you can walk around, talk to students, faculty and staff and get a picture of what the law school is like, what class schedules consist of, campus diversity and more.
If diversity is important to you in your law school experience, make sure to look at all aspects of diversity as this covers many areas in ones' life and ask the right questions to gain a better perspective on how diversity is reflected throughout the student body.
You can also examine student organizations at the law schools you are contemplating. These student organizations are a good indication of the level of student engagement at our different campuses.
Law School Concentrations
Some students look at law schools based on the concentrations that they offer. Brianne Myers mentioned that this is fine, however know that many times, what you think you will attend law school for is different than what you will want to focus on in your career. What is most important is that you look at the breadth and depth of the entire program available to you, so that if you do change your focus area in law school you are not disadvantaged. You also never know what you will be drawn to in law school or what law school professor will inspire you to explore a new area. These factors need to be considered as well as you consider your options.
Speaking of faculty, having the opportunity to speak to faculty members at law schools before deciding to attend is very rewarding. You will find that faculty are very receptive to speaking to prospective students and through these conversations you will gain a stronger understanding of the law school expectations and environment. Make sure as you are going through the law school application process to ask about the accessibility of faculty if this is important to you!
Being Practice Ready
As you look at law schools you will see the term practice ready. This is referring to what the law school provides you or requires you to complete in regards to practical learning opportunities. At schools like WMU Cooley Law School students are required to complete either an internship or externship as a part of their legal experience. At other law schools, the experiences are highly encouraged and students work to get these experiences during the summer months instead of going to school year-round.
When you are looking at law schools ask the following questions.
- Will I be required to have an internship or externship to graduate?
- What does the institution do to help students find these opportunities?
- Are their pro-bono opportunities that you can take part in during law schools to get additional experiences?
- Are their clinics at this law school and how many opportunities per term or per year are available for students to take part in this clinical experience.
Another way to gain great experiences is through simulation courses such as Trial Skills, Alternative Dispute Resolution or Mediation. Make sure to ask who is teaching the courses. Is it a judge or someone that is practicing these skills on a daily basis?
Finally, are you taking courses that will prepare you for the type of law that you will practice when you graduate?
Looking at the Data
Reviewing outcomes/data is something that will probably require you to reach out to gain more understanding on that you are looking at. You can ask them: Is there anything in the data that I am seeing that will better be able to help me differentiate your law school from other law schools. Also, know that just because a law school has a 90% bar passage rate, this does not guarantee you the same result, so take all data that you are reading lightly and ask questions to better understand what you are reading.
Make sure to look at the resources that the law school provides which includes, faculty, internships, student organizations, study abroad but may also include things like writing centers or academic success centers. These and many other resources can help you to find your ultimate law school success in the end.