How to Find a Good Law School

Four Parts:Identifying Your Needs in a Law SchoolAnalyzing SchoolsChecking Employment ProspectsVisiting Law Schools

In the United States, there are over 200 accredited law schools.[1] To find a good law school, you should first think about what you are looking for in a law school. There is no single definition of “good.” Instead, all accredited law schools will provide you with a solid legal foundation. A law school is “good” if it fits your needs in terms of price, location, and employment opportunities.

Part 1
Identifying Your Needs in a Law School

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    Decide where you want to study. There are law schools in 49 states, as well as in the District of Columbia.[2] Many are in urban areas, whereas others are more suburban. You should spend some time thinking about where you want to study, which will help narrow down the list of schools you look at.
    • You might be tied to a particular geographic region. For example, if you are married, then your spouse might not be able to leave her or his job. In this situation, you might need to attend a law school near your home.
    • You also should think about where you want to practice. Although some law schools are national and can open doors around the country, most law schools feed attorneys into regional or local jobs.[3] For example, it is common to see Harvard Law School graduates working all over the nation, whereas graduates of many state law schools work in-state.
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    Identify what field of law you want to practice. No law school has “majors.” However, some law schools are known for specialties, such as intellectual property law or tax law. In these schools, you can sometimes can a certificate in the field. You should spend some time thinking about what kind of attorney you want to be so that you can identify if there are any law schools that specialize in that field.
    • Of course, it is perfectly fine if you don’t know what type of law you want to practice. Many people don’t decide on a field to specialize in until they have already started their legal careers, and you will receive a solid legal education regardless of where you go to school.[4] But this is still a factor you should consider.
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    Decide if you want a joint degree. Many law schools allow JD students to pick up another graduate degree, such as a Master’s of Business Administration or even a Ph.D. You should think about whether you want another degree along with your law degree.
    • Some schools might not have formal joint degree programs but will allow you to create your own.[5] Ask the admissions office about this possibility if it is important to you.
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    Determine if you must attend school part-time. About 10 percent of all law school students attend part-time.[6] Some schools offer part-time JD classes, often at night. If you need to work during the day, then you might look for law schools that offer part-time programs.
    • You shouldn’t expect part-time programs to be less expensive than full-time programs, nor should you expect them to be easier to get into.
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    Check your finances. Law school is expensive, and you may have to finance your education with loans. Accordingly, you should think about how much you can spend for your education.
    • Calculate the total cost of attending the law school. This includes tuition, fees, housing, and book costs.[7] Don’t simply look at the tuition amount, since your other costs will be substantial.
    • Calculate how much money you can contribute to your legal education. If you will continue to work, or if a partner/spouse works, then you could help defray the costs of law school.
    • Also check what your loan payments would be like after three years of law school. There are online calculators you can use to estimate monthly loan payments.[8]

Part 2
Analyzing Schools

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    Check that the law school is accredited. Law schools are accredited by the American Bar Association, which maintains a list of accredited law schools at its website.[9] You should always make sure a law school is accredited.
    • There are many unaccredited law schools. An unaccredited law school isn’t inherently “bad.” In fact, some are working diligently to gain accreditation by bulking up their faculty and being more selective in their admissions process. However, with so many accredited law schools to choose from, you should ask yourself why you are looking at an unaccredited law school.
    • Many people attend unaccredited law schools because they don’t have the credentials (grades and test scores) to get into an accredited school. If this describes your situation, then you should probably reconsider law as a career.
    • Attending an unaccredited law school will restrict where you can practice law. For example, only a few states allow graduates of unaccredited law schools to sit for their bar exams.[10] By contrast, graduates of ABA-accredited schools can sit for any state’s bar exam and practice in the state if they pass.
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    Analyze the faculty. You should check the faculty to make sure that they are diverse in terms of experience, expertise, and points of view.[11] You can look at each professor’s website. Pay attention to the following:[12]
    • The diversity of the faculty. Check how many are women and how many are minority. Law schools tend not to have many non-white faculty; however, if diversity is important to you, then you should find schools that do have particularly diverse faculties.
    • The professional backgrounds of faculty. Many professors work in government or in law firms before going on to teach, whereas others teach directly after a clerkship with a judge.
    • The student-to-faculty ratio. Generally, all law schools will have large sections for 1L students. However, in your second and third years, you might take smaller seminars. A school with a high student-to-faculty ratio might not offer many small classes.
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    Check the school’s admissions criteria. Law school admissions is basically a feature of two numbers: your LSAT and your undergraduate GPA. Law schools should publish their median numbers on their websites. You can also find the medians by looking at the law school rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.[13]
    • A school with higher medians is generally more selective than a school with lower medians. If you want to attend a selective law school, then you should put heavy emphasis on the school’s medians.
    • You should think about attending a school where the student medians are similar to your own numbers. You will want to feel challenged by your classmates, and this can happen when they share equivalent preparation as you do.[14]
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    Look at the diversity of the student body. Many law schools in the United States draw students from around the country and from around the world. The student bodies at these schools are diverse in terms of national origin, race, age, and work experience. By contrast, other schools might be more focused on educating students from a certain geographic area, and accordingly might not be very diverse in terms of national origin or race.
    • You can visit a law school’s website and check the diversity of the student body. Often there is a “Student Profile” or “Entering Class Profile” link that should list this information.[15]
    • If you can’t find the class profile at the law school website, you should check the ABA’s website, which gathers this information for all accredited law schools.[16]
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    Read the school’s course offerings. Larger law schools tend to offer more law school classes.[17] However, most schools offer pretty much the same curriculum. Try to find the school’s course offerings and see if any law school offers classes that look particularly interesting to you.
    • Schools might let you go onto their website and check the course schedule to see what is offered each Fall and Spring semesters.
    • If you can’t find the classes offered, then contact the school and ask if you can get a list of classes.
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    Check a school’s attrition rates. You should also check how many students drop out after the first year and how many transfer out of the school. Most law schools will have a few people who drop out. However, you should be wary of schools with large numbers of people leaving each year.
    • This information should be on the school’s website. However, you can also find it at the ABA’s website.[18]

Part 3
Checking Employment Prospects

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    Get a school’s employment data. Law schools used to make their employment data difficult to understand. However, over the past few years, the ABA has forced law schools to become much more transparent. Every law school should share detailed information. Look for the following:[19][20]
    • Median salaries. You probably want a job after law school, and you will want to make enough money to pay for your loans. Accordingly, you should look at the median salary students make. Compare the median salary to what you anticipate your student loan debt will be.
    • The percentage of graduates with full-time, “Bar-passage required” jobs. Anyone can get a full time job working as a barista. However, you probably didn’t go to law school to make coffee. For this reason, look at the percentage of graduates who work “Bar-passage required” jobs. These are jobs where you need a law degree and a law license.
    • The number employed in firms of various sizes. The law school should tell you what percent work as sole practitioners, in small firms (2-5 attorneys), etc. If you are striving for a job in a large law firm, then check how many students get jobs with those firms.
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    Check who recruits on campus. The Career Center should share with you a list of the employers who recruit on campus.[21] Also try to get numbers about how many are hired through this “on-campus interview” process.
    • It’s not uncommon for employers to interview a few people but not hire any, so don’t be impressed with a long list of firms who interview.
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    Research where alumni work. You should judge a school based on how well they do placing students in your preferred market. If you decide you must work in Los Angeles, then you probably shouldn’t attend a school that places few students in the city.
    • Career Placement offices should have information about where their alumni work. Because the legal market can change rapidly, try to get recent information (the past three years).
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    Pay attention to bar passage rates. To work as an attorney, you will need to pass the bar exam. Law schools collect information on their bar passage rates. You should look at this information, which should be posted on the law school’s website.
    • Passage rates vary, depending on the school. Some schools approach 100% passage, whereas other law schools only have 50% passage rates.[22]

Part 4
Visiting Law Schools

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    Attend Admitted Students Day. Many law schools have “Admitted Student Days,” where all students who have been offered admission are invited to visit the law school. You can meet with staff at the law school and also meet other admitted students. Once you are admitted to a school, you should think about attending an admitted student day. [23]
    • You can also visit a law school before being admitted to the school. Contact the admissions office and check if you can schedule a tour.
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    Sit in on a class. The law school should let you sit in on a class in the back.[24] This will give a good idea of how engaged the students are in the class, and how interesting the faculty are.
    • Don’t expect to understand the flow of the conversation, but you should ask yourself if you would feel comfortable sitting there as a full-time student.
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    Talk with current students and alumni. The best source of real information about a law school remains students—whether alumni or current students. All law schools can print glossy brochures and create nice websites, but you won’t get the “inside scoop” until you talk to people who have attended the school.
    • If you visit the school, then the admissions office will probably assign you a tour guide. However, you should think about trying to talk to people other than the guide. After your tour, you can hang out in the student center and ask students questions.
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    Avoid a law school that bad mouths rivals. When you visit a law school, you will probably talk to many students and staff members, all of whom should speak positively of their school. Howev er, you should be skeptical of any school that speaks negatively about other schools.
    • Over the past several years, law schools have become more competitive as the number of applicants has declined. Some have started poaching students from rival institutions.[25] Some schools might also resort to criticizing their competitors.
    • A law school should treat you like an adult. It should answer your questions and share any information that will help you make an informed decision, but it shouldn’t attack the reputation of rival institutions.


  • Some people recommend that you check out a school’s library facilities. Today, libraries are virtually all identical because most of the information you will need as a law student is online. If your library doesn’t have a physical book that you need, then your library can get it for you using interlibrary loan.

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