Law School: Finding the Right Fit
There is a lot that goes into planning for law school. You think about studying for the LSAT, you take a practice exam, you STUDY for the LSAT, plan visits, meet professors, daydream about your career, and, if you’re anything like me, watch Legally Blonde a million times. Before any of the real madness begins though you have an even more important task: deciding where you want to spend the next three years of your life.
When I first started narrowing down my law school choices, I felt very intimidated because I kept talking to people who had known exactly where they were going to go to school since they were like 5. I couldn’t relate to that AT ALL so in the beginning I was very wishy washy. At different points in the process I would swear I was going to one school and hated the others and then I would learn something about another law school and fall in love with that one instead. It’s okay to be indecisive. But, at some point you have to make a decision. These are the criteria I used for choosing my home for the next 3 years:
Does this law school have a section of law that interests you?I am pretty confident I want to work in the Intellectual Property field and IP looks different at different schools, so it was important to do my research here. Also, not every school offers IP classes and if they do, they don’t necessarily offer patent classes. This was a deal breaker for me because I know I want to use my engineering background and not just learn copyright and trademark law. That being said, it’s perfectly okay to not know what type of law you want to study. Even though I have a pretty good idea I am still keeping my options open. If you are unsure though you should make sure they have a variety of law classes you are interested in so that you can explore your options.
What does your financial situation look like for the next 3 years?As unfun as this question is it is SUPER important. A law degree is great, but if you can’t afford to pay off your student loans you may live to regret it. As you begin to consider where you might like to end up, keep your mind open to financial aid programs, cost of attendance, and cost of living over the next few years.
When I got down to my top two schools the big dividing factor was my scholarships. It ended up being about $20,000 in difference when I looked at the total budget (tuition, living expenses, etc) and that it what kept my second school choice in the running for so long. Money is important and there is nothing wrong with making the financially responsible decision and choosing the more cost effective school. There is also nothing wrong with choosing the more expensive school, but be honest with yourself about the cost and decide if you can truly afford it BEFORE you spend thousands of dollars.
What types of resources do they have?One thing I looked at very heavily was clinics. The more I read about them the more I decided it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. Clinics can be a really great way to get practical law experience in a more low risk environment because your professors oversee the work. My school offers a few clinics, but they are one of the few schools I saw that had an IP clinic.
This was a huge selling point for me. I also found out that they just started a program for 1Ls to get involved which is pretty much unheard of and I never would have known if I wouldn’t have reached out to a professor and asked. If you have questions about resources, certificates, clinics or anything academic definitely don’t be afraid to get in contact with a professor. In my experience they are very happy to help!
How was your visit?This was the MOST important part for me. I make decisions based on gut feelings always. That’s how I chose my undergrad university, my sorority, my first job and basically every decision in between. So, when I visited each school it really gave me the chance to learn about both in-depth and I just knew after visiting both which one was right for me. I really enjoyed both visits and to be perfectly honest I think I would have been happy at both schools. The difference was when I visited my first-choice school and thought about going there I didn’t think twice about the second school except for the damage I would be doing to my wallet.
LocationLocation was also a factor for me, but not after narrowing down to my top 3. They were all back in the Midwest where I wanted to be and about 1.5 hours away from each other in a little triangle near me. The farthest one was only 4 hours away from my hometown and if you are from the Midwest that is NOTHING so I wasn’t really concerned with location anymore.
There are a lot of factors that go into making this huge decision; these were the ones most important to me. If you had other factors that helped make you make your decision let me know!Follow my blog with Bloglovin