From fields of study to future career paths, here's what you need to keep in mind when choosing a law school.
If you're not considering a Top 10 school, you may want to start your search by thinking about where you'd like to practice law one day. As a law student, you'll get to be involved in the community through clinics and build connections with professors and students which will, in turn, open doors for job opportunities. So, with that in mind, you can cross out any schools located in states where you do not want to practice as a lawyer.
As you start to narrow down your list of schools based on where they are, you should also be thinking about what kind of law you'd like to practice after you graduate. Law schools do have specialties, just as practicing lawyers do. By applying to schools that are focused on your preferred field of study, you'll be able to better prepare for a career down the road.
Matching your interests and resume to a school's strengths and opportunities will help you find schools that are good fits for you. Pump up your ambition by applying to a few programs that feel like “reaches”, but keep in mind the acceptance rates for each school, the average LSAT scores and GPAs of their current classes and be realistic with your expectations.
Find recent alumni, and get in touch. If they just graduated, the memory of school will be fresh in their minds. Not only will you get insight into the particular program, but you may find out which professors to seek out, which to stay away from, and you may even make a contact that will come in handy in a few years—when you're looking for a job.
While this may seem like you're getting a little bit ahead of yourself, go ahead and contact the career placement offices of the schools you are interested in attending. Ask how many graduates get jobs right out of school, the average salary of a graduate from that particular school, and what kind of recruiting they have on and off campus. Also, if it is important to you to gain hands–on experience during your education, find out if the school offers externships, clinical programs, field studies, etc.
Of course, you're going to need money to cover your tuition, fees, room, board, books, and other expenses. Taking out loans for any grad program means you may be paying the banks back for years to come. To minimize your debt load, consider public law schools in your state of residency. These tend to be less expensive than private law schools.