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Selecting a Law School

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What to Assess in a Law School

There are a number of elements to consider when assessing potential law schools. Some popular criteria include:

  • The Curriculum: Does the coursework align with your interests? What course are required and what types of electives are offered?
  • Law School Clinics: What opportunities are there to gain hands-on legal experience during your law education?
  • Dual-Degree Programs: If you are interested in complementing your JD with another degree, does your school of interest offer such a program?
  • Prestige/Rank of School: While it should not be the most important factor, you should take into consideration how future employers will view the school name on your diploma.
  • Faculty: What is the faculty to student ratio? What are their faculty known for? What have they conducted research on, and does it align with your interests?
  • Diversity of Student Body, Employment Outcomes Data, Bar Passage Rates: Is your school committed to diversity of thought and identity? Where are students going upon graduation and what percentage of graduates are passing the bar exam? All of this information and more can be found by searching your school of interest on the ABA's Standard 509 Required Disclosures page.
  • Financial Impact: Tuition, summer stipends, fellowships, merit-based scholarships, school-specific scholarships, as well as loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) should all be taken into account. For students interested in Public Interest Law, many schools have a program to assist you with your student loans until you qualify for federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). To see a list of schools that offer LRAPs and learn more about how you can manage your student debt, check out this guide by Equal Justice Works.
  • Location: While many school degrees can enable you to work across the country (and sometimes even internationally), you will be building your network and gaining experience in a specific region of the country which increases your prospects within that given location. 
  • Likelihood of Acceptance: Applications cost money. While we encourage students to shoot for their dream school, we also recognize that the number of schools you apply to is impacted by your budget and so we encourage students to determine what schools are realisitic based on their LSAT, GPA, and other application materials. That being said, even if you do not demonstrate financial need, you can ask your law school of interest's admissions teams if they issue merit-based application fee waivers to help alleviate this financial burden.

How to Assess Law Schools

Above all, consider enrolling where you have the best chance of rising to the top of your 1L class. Outside of the top five law schools (and remember that the ranking is somewhat arbitrary), your class rank is typically more important than the rank of your institution. While there are multiple variables to be considered, you need to visit your potential law schools and ask yourself where you think you would thrive academically and professionally. The Pre-Law Advising team is happy to discuss your proposed list; share with you the median scores for recent Vanderbilt graduates who have been accepted into particular law schools; and brainstorm with you, weighing pros and cons, to find your best course of action.