10 Steps To Choosing Your US Law School
Choosing where in America to undertake your postgraduate law studies is a major life decision. If you are struggling to make a shortlist, here are ten things to consider when narrowing down a selection of schools:
1. What kind of campus would you like to be part of?
Do you want to be part of a large student body or would you rather keep it small? The largest American law schools have a huge range of extracurricular activities, great student services and excellent facilities for sport, dining and leisure. Nevertheless, at a smaller college you’ll enjoy a more personal relationship with staff, administrators and the law faculty, as with fewer students they get to know individuals faster.
2. The student population
To find out more about the student population of a particular university you can browse their website for details and statistics, or get in touch with the law school to ask general questions. It makes sense to pick a school where your classmates will provide a challenge, rather than somewhere that you’ll always be top student. However, as group participation is a key aspect of a postgraduate course in law, your average grades should not be hugely lower than those of your fellow students. Diversity is another key factor, if the majority of people on campus are the same gender, age and race, then it’s less likely that you’ll be exposed to conflicting standpoints in class and that could be detrimental.
3. Research US law school rankings
There are many websites where you can check the rankings of US law schools and filter the results based on grades, bar acceptance rate and employment prospects. These can be helpful indicators, but won’t enable you to assess whether the school is a good fit for you in other areas, like quality of life and student welfare.
4. Look at law schools that specialise in your area of interest
As a graduate it is likely that you know what kind of law you wish to practice, so you’ll need to search for schools that specialise in that field. The US News website has a helpful tool for seeking out exceptional programs and also lists their national ranking.
5. Visit law schools online or on-campus
University websites can provide a wealth of information about courses, students and campus life, but there’s no substitute for actually being there. A campus visit is a great way to find out more about living at the university, just contact the school for further information on open days. Some campuses have guided tours led by current students who can offer in-depth information on what to expect if you enrol.
6. How do you want to study?
It’s important to make sure the university you are looking at has the right type of course for you. Whether you would prefer to study part time, full time or take a research based postgraduate law program, there are many US universities and law schools offering postgraduate programs to suit your study needs. US law schools are happy to accommodate all types of student and will help you work around any commitments you have. Speak to the admissions office or faculty direct for more details, or get a general idea of what’s on offer by visiting the postgraduate law page of a university that interests you.
7. What are the facilities like?
It is important to make sure that the law school facilities meet with your expectations. Is the library suitable? It may seem like a small consideration in comparison to other factors, but it’s likely that you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the library, so find out more about what this facility is like at your chosen college before applying. Assess its merits on a number of fronts, for example; are the staff well-trained enough to point you in the right direction, will you have access to IT and printing resources, and is the building open outside of office hours?
8. Consider your location carefully
It's important to consider your US destination very carefully. If you plan to spend your free time relaxing on a beach, then the sunshine state of Florida would be a great choice, but for people who hope to explore the great American wilderness, states like Montana or Idaho will provide a stunning backdrop to university life. Think about your interests and preferred habitat and adjust your selection process accordingly.
9. Check that the law school fees are within your budget
Lawyers can command impressive salaries, but the initial investment can be high. Once you have established the kind of budget you are working with for your postgrad law studies, begin proactively looking at the differing costs at individual US law schools and universities. For example in the year 2016/17, LLM students will pay $59,550 at Harvard University for a year’s study, but at more affordable law schools that figure is markedly lower. For example, at the University of Arkansas, LLM students pay $31,612 if they are from out of state and $13,944 if they are a state resident.
10. Can you afford to live in that city and state?
Where you choose to live in America will have an impact on your finances; states like New York, Hawaii and Washington DC tend to have higher living costs for students and residents alike. However, if you set up home in one of the more rural less densely populated states like Arkansas or Mississippi, your dollar will go much further.