preLaw - Spring 2017 - 28
He said the school you attend can help
you with client development and with distinguishing yourself in just about every
arena, including politics.
However, don't assume that the 15th
ranked school is one step better than the
16th and one step lower than the 14th.
Spivey said many students put an overemphasis on arbitrary ranking cutoffs, deciding, for example, to apply only to the top
5 Look at data to further
refine your list
Now it's time to look at the data. Law
schools provide a large amount of data
about job placement, curriculum and costs.
Every school must file an ABA-required
disclosure called the Standard 509 information report. These reports are posted on
law school websites, and data on all ABAaccredited schools can be found at www.
"That can provide very valuable information when choosing a law school,"
These reports are filed annually, and
they offer information on accreditation,
admissions data, class size, diversity, grants
and scholarships, fees, living expenses and
bar exam passage rates. Spending time
poring over these numbers can give you a
more detailed picture of the law school.
The ABA also provides detailed data on
employment. In the past, when legal jobs
were more plentiful, it wasn't the norm to
scrutinize the employment prospects at a
Law schools provide a
large amount of data
about job placement,
curriculum and costs.
"Now it, is," Spivey said.
So, as you're delving into the hard data,
pay particular attention to the employment
records of each school's graduates, he said.
Law Jobs: By the Numbers, a website
hosted by Institute for the Advancement of
the American Legal System, will walk you
through how to compare employment data
for schools and will show you a comparison
of schools in certain geographic regions.
(Find it here: iaals.du.edu/educatingtomorrows-lawyers/projects/numbers/qatool-prospective-students.)
6 Do a cost-benefit analysis
Now that you have narrowed down your
list, its time to look at costs. While cost
is a key part of the selection process, it's a
step that should come at the end, not the
beginning. Money is important, but only
after you know which schools will meet
Some prospective students look only at
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the amount of merit-based and need-based
scholarship money they are offered by a
certain law school.
"They'll say, 'Oh, wow! This school gave
me a $50,000 scholarship, so I'm definitely
going there,'" Spivey said. But, he recommends looking at the net tuition amount
instead. In the previous example, if tuition
costs $200,000 a year, net tuition would be
"Net tuition is an important part of
decision making," he said.
preLaw looked at scholarship amounts
and found that private law schools discount tuition by an average of 28 percent.
Experts encourage students to negotiate
"It's a sticker price like any other," said
Anna Ivey, a graduate school admissions
There is one caveat when looking at
costs: It might be OK to incur more debt
in order to attend a top law school if the
data shows you'll make significantly more
money as a graduate of that school. But,
this typically applies only to schools that
place a high percentage of graduates at the
largest law firms that pay the most and
assumes that you want to work at a large
7 Make an in-person visit
Now that you have identified the schools
that best meet your needs, it's time to visit
Because there's so much interaction
online, attendance at law school forums
and visitations are decreasing, Spivey said.
However, it's very important to physically visit law schools - and to remember
that admissions staff are going to show off
the best parts of the school.
"See if the vibe of the school fits you
and you can picture yourself there," Mantis
said. She recommends stopping by the
admissions, financial aid and career services
Dig a little deeper into the school, and
talk with several students.
"The biggest question to ask is, 'What
are the biggest challenges you face being a
student at this school?'" Spivey said.
Also, try to talk with a faculty member
who has taught at the school for a while.
"I can promise there are many faculty
members who would love to tell prospective students what they think, especially the
good, but also candidly the bad," he said.
At the end of the visits, you will be pretty sure where you want to apply.