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The final and most fun part of the law school application process is choosing which school is right for you. Hopefully, you’ve applied for a mix of safety schools (ones where your scores are higher than average), reach schools (ones where your scores are lower than average) and schools where your scores are the average. Now that admissions decisions are out, congratulate yourself — you finally get to choose a law school rather than waiting to be chosen by a law school! Plus, you’ll never have to take the LSAT again. However, picking a school to dedicate the next three years of your life to is still a huge decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are the criteria I used to make my decision.

Location, location, location.

I think choosing a law school based on its location is important for a few reasons. First, you’re not just moving there to experience the law school; you’re also living in a completely new place. Living in a place with plenty of things to do can make your time more enjoyable outside of class, as well as provide a method to unwind when you’re stressed. Second, choosing a law school based on location allows you to focus on your support systems. Whether it’s family, friends or a chain of good coffee shops, knowing what you’ll need to be close to when law school gets tough is super important. Finally, law school is a professional school. Their goal is to get you into a law career as soon as you graduate. Their connections to employers may vary, but they will most likely be strongest with the legal community where your school is located. The name recognition of your degree will also be strongest in the school’s location, and sometimes law schools will even prepare you the best for the bar exam administered by the state. Choosing a law school based on location allows you to take advantage of the reputation, connections and focus of the school, which will lead to a good career.

What’s your focus?

Ever since I started telling people I was going to law school, I have received countless responses of, “What kind of lawyer do you want to be?” My answer, which definitely needs refinement, is, “I’m not sure.” When I picked a law school, I knew that my uncertainty about what type of law I wanted to practice meant I needed to pick a school with a broad range of options. If you’re decided on a type of law, make sure that the school you choose doesn’t only offer it — see that it is connected to the kinds of employers that specialize in your chosen field, or even if the program is ranked highly for the type of law you want. If you’re undecided, choose a school with range, both at the concentration level and the clinic (legal internship) level. Sometimes, there are even opportunities that law schools will provide in the first year that help you discern which type of law is right for you, like a specific class, simulations or shadowing experiences.

Are you ready for the financial commitment?

Law school is expensive. You know going into the application process that it’s expensive. You know in the preparation process that it’s expensive. However, it is worth noting again that picking a law school is only relevant if you can get a good return on your investment. If you’re not 100% sure that you want to be a lawyer, now is one of the last times to change your mind without investing your time and money. There are so many great careers out there where you don’t need law school. It’s totally okay to change your mind, or even just wait a year and apply again (your LSAT score is good for 5 years!). If you’re decided, make sure the costs of school line up with your idea of career path. If you want to be a public defender, don’t pick the most expensive school you applied to; inversely, if you want to practice in a huge firm, don’t pick the cheapest school that doesn’t have graduates working in large firms. Spending some time on the career websites of your admitted schools will really help you determine your return on investment.

Once again, if you’re at this point in your law school application process — congrats. This is the end of one chapter and the start of another. I wish everyone who’s even thinking about law school the best of luck in finding a career and law school that’s right for them!

Hi, my name is Caroline Moriarty, and I'm a senior at UMKC majoring in Political Science and minoring in International Studies and Anthropology. I am involved with College Democrats, Student Government Association, the College of Arts and Sciences, and St. Paul's Outreach on campus. I am passionate about helping students become more informed about the world they live in, both locally and beyond.
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