How to Choose the Right Law School
International students who are applying to law schools in the US will first have to determine which school is best for them. How to choose the right law school is a challenge. Students need to research potential law schools thoroughly and apply to those that offer the best fit for them.
Explore Law School Rankings
Law school rankings are becoming increasingly important to incoming law students exploring schools. All accredited law schools in the US are ranked annually based on various criteria. These criteria include quality, rankings by lawyers, selectivity, placement success, and bar passage rate. International students often apply to law schools based on these rankings. Generally, the higher ranked the law school, the more likely their graduates will be widely sought after by employers after graduation. It’s recommended that students explore the top 100 ranked law schools when getting started on their search. Find schools that interest you personally, based on their location, teaching style, courses and extra-curricular activities. Make sure they have the quality education to develop your skills for your professional career.
The next tier of law school is the top 40 ranking. These schools are more selective and have an even better success rate in placements and quality. Lastly are the top 12 schools, which are generally seen as the best law schools in the country, and are, therefore, the most competitive. Many of the biggest firms around the country recruit directly out of these schools and look to select the top students in each class to work for them as summer associates and eventually full-time employees.
The School’s Location
One of the most important things to consider when choosing the right law school is where it is located within the US. In most cases, the region in which the school is located is where you will practice law when qualified, if remaining in the US. The key reasons for this are:
- Law degrees are very regional. This means that they carry much more weight in the area where you studied than in another. A student who earned a degree from a school in Florida is far more likely to find work in a nearby city than a student from another state. While exceptions happen, it is rare that students change states when practicing law, unless they pass a second state-specific bar exam.
- The significance of the local alumni base. Alumni partners are more likely to hire a law student from their alma mater than from a different school.
- Perhaps most importantly, the reason that law degrees tend to be regional is the bar. Once you have graduated from law school, you will be required to pass a state-specific bar exam. State law varies depending on the state. Therefore, a student who studied law in Georgia may not be prepared to pass the bar in Florida. They will not have the necessary knowledge and skills and will be required to study again for the local bar.
There are, of course, exceptions to all these rules. The best schools in the country extend degrees that are admired nationally. Students from these schools can find work just about anywhere and are heavily recruited by law firms.
The Right Field of Study
When choosing the right law school it’s important to think about which law courses you want to take. Not all schools offer the same courses so don’t get carried away with rankings and location before checking your course options.
Some schools are stronger in certain types of law than others. Reputable faculties are generally those with good graduate employment rates. Other schools offer good practical training and internship opportunities, such as working with state or public defender’s office. If you’re looking into a specific type of law for your career, some schools have a reputation for putting out some of the best sports agents or criminal lawyers. So, whether you want to study human rights law or environmental law, check the courses available at your top schools before applying.