How can you be sure that the law school you pick is the right fit for you? Here are six things to consider before making the decision.
1: Not all law school curricula are the same. After the first year, course offerings, curriculum requirements, and field experiences can vary significantly.
- Identify your top five or six law schools, get on their websites and find their curriculum offering. Line up each curriculum against the other and rank order.
- Does the school offer a solid foundation of required courses?
- Does the required curriculum align with the bar exam where you intend to practice? BTW: Did you know that the bar exam is not the same in every state?
- Does the school offer law specialties that are of interest to you?
- Is the clinical or internship opportunity required or only suggested?
- Many schools say they will make you "practice ready," does their curriculum offering support that claim?
2: Compare the faculty at each institution. Not all faculty are the same.
- Do full-time faculty teach required curriculum?
- What is the experience of the faculty member prior to entering the classroom?
- Does it matter to you if a law professor has ever practiced law?
- How accessible is the full-time faculty? Ask current students. Don't rely solely on websites and brochures.
- Do faculty members provide extra assistance outside the confines of the specific class times? Again, ask current students.
- Do faculty members regularly participate with students in pro-bono and community service activities?
3: Determine the full cost of attendance.
- Tuition, living expenses, books, and travel costs reflect the true expenditures. Factor in any scholarship or tuition discount, along with the length of attendance.
- For each location, review the cost of living. Housing costs in each community can vary greatly.
- How long will it take for you to finish your degree (typically 2-5 years)?
- Is there a distinction between in-state and out-of-state tuition?
- Review financial aid budgets to make sure they are reasonable for the area you will live in.
- Pay special attention to what the budget period represents - one semester, two semesters. Is there a summer session?
4: What strings are attached to your scholarship offer?
- Make sure you FULLY understand the conditions tied to that scholarship.
- Does the school review the scholarship after a period of time (typically after the first year) to determine if it will be continued?
- Is the scholarship contingent on grade-point average or class rank? Be realistic about your expected academic performance.
- Try to discern what the total dollar amount will be for the scholarship.
- Download our Scholarship Research Checklist
5: What about location and lifestyle? Do you want to live in the heart of a city, or in a more suburban area?
- Are you open to living in a new or unfamiliar location?
- Do you want to be close to local, regional, and federal courts or other government entities?
- Visit each campus if you can. Meet people and see where you will attend classes.
- How important is diversity? Does it matter that you are in a classroom that reflects the diversity of our society?
- Will the weather play a role in your school choice?
6: Will you attend full-time or part-time? How soon can you start attending law school?
- "Traditional" models start in September, attending two semesters, and then taking the summer off.
- There are other options at some schools - nights, part-time, weekends.
- What are the specific schedule options at each school? What days and times are classes offered?
- What works for you?
Contact us if you have any questions. We're happy to help.
WMU-Cooley Law School
(517) 371-5140, ext. 2244