Why You Should Visit Law Schools Before You Apply
Disclaimer here: I didn't visit any law schools until after I was admitted, but looking back I would suggest the earlier the better.
All of the law school application process is kind of a blur to me because it was about this time last year when I was living 1,000mi away from home, called my mom after work one day, and said I was going to law school. After that is when the blur started. I signed up for the November LSAT because that was the closest one and I wasn't able to take time off of work so I applied to school based on research I did online and any prior knowledge I had.
If I could do it over again I would take some time during my application process to visit some schools. Why? Because you don't know until you know.
If you are one of those gifted question askers who always has the smart question and knows exactly what they are looking for out of an experience from the moment they first thought of it, then good for you!
But, if you're like me and you feel like you are flying blind here then visiting a law school early is extra important for you!
I was super nervous doing my first law school visit because I had zero questions. I felt like I didn't even know enough to come up with questions, so I didn't. Luckily, there was another person on my visit and she came prepared with questions that inspired me.
Showing up, seeing the school, and talking to students allows you to learn and absorb the information that just doesn't show up on the website. When you visit there will 100% be schools that you love, there will also be schools that you know aren't for you. It's better to get these schools out of the way early.
Before you go a suggest trying to create a list of 3-5 things that you are looking for in a school and see if you can create questions surrounding them. Two of the things that I cared about most was the sense of community (some law schools have a very cut throat reputation and I was not interested in that at all) and the option to study abroad. There were programs that I applied to that seemed to have options and a community I loved, but on further review they didn't really. I wished I would have known that before taking the time to apply.
If you are in need some questions to ask here are some I found helpful:
What is the class schedule like generally?
1L class are all the same across the country, but when people take them can sometimes vary, and the credit hours associated can be different so it is good to check out.
What pro bono opportunities are there?
(follow up are there many student orgs, which are the biggest and most active (because trust me, some are just for show) and ask about anything that may have a connection to the area of law you're interested in)
I had basically no idea what pro bono was aside from that it was lawyers volunteering their time. Turns out there are TONS of opportunities to be involved in school, and it is one of the only ways to be involved in actual legal activities as a 1L.
My school has tons of pro bono organizations, but I honestly didn't know that until I got here. I wish I would have known earlier because that would have made my decision much easier.
What are the class sizes for 1Ls?
My undergrad institution was huge, so I was always used to big classes and it didn't really bother me. My 1L classes are broken up into thirds so there are about 60 students in each of my classes, except LRW which is smaller. If you are concerned about large class sizes ask!
Do they have practice groups?
Honestly, my practice group is the best. It is just a group of 6 1Ls and our PG leader is a 2L. What is super nice is that we have every class together. On the first day it is really nice to have a friendly face when you're trying to avoid being that unlucky person who gets called in the first class on the first day.
Are there study abroad and externship opportunities?
This was a huge decision factor for me. I desperately want to study abroad during my time in law school and it was important for me to find a school that would allow me to do that. There is probably at least some information online, but the best information comes from the students who were actually able to participate.
All of these questions, or any others that you have, can help you decide what you are looking for in a law school. Which, in turn, allows you to create a stronger application because you know what you want. It also allows you to learn something about the school and what they are looking for in students.
If you have time in the fall and early winter I highly suggest taking the opportunity to visit some of the schools you are interested in.
Good luck on your LSATs and applications this fall! Let me know how it is going and if you have any burning questions.