4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Law School
Law school applicants need to consider a number of factors when planning their career—from where to practice law to which legal field to pursue.
Planning ahead and considering the legal job market can help applicants choose the right law school for their career goals and ambitions. Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach and contributor at US News, recently highlighted key factors about legal employment that law applicants should consider when mapping out their career and deciding on a law school.
BAR EXAM PASSAGE RATE
Passing a state bar exam is generally required to practice law in most states. A law school’s bar passage rate is a good indicator of how well the law school prepares its students for a legal career.
“The bar exam is scored on a pass/fail basis, so it’s a cause for concern if a law school doesn’t adequately prepare its students to pass this test,” Kuris says.
While your grades and class rank are some of the most important factors to employers, there are a number of opportunities to demonstrate your potential and experience.
“During law school, legal clinics, law journals, student activities, externships and conversations with peers and professors may also yield opportunities to explore legal fields, gain valuable experience and make connections with potential employers,” Kuris says.
Additionally, summer positions are an opportunity to gain an edge in the job market.
“Lawyers who aspire to work in the private sector might aim for a summer associate position with a firm they might wish to work for, particularly after their second year,” Kuris says. “Public interest lawyers might aim for relevant summer internships or clerkships.”
Consideration of geographic markets is essential when choosing a law school, as each city or region may differ in the legal opportunities it provides.
“Some legal markets are small or shrinking due to economic or demographic factors,” Kuris says. “Others, like Boston and Washington, D.C., are robust but served by many highly regarded local law schools. However, booming sunbelt cities in states like Florida and Texas as well as other growing regions like the Pacific Northwest are more open because they have more jobs than local law schools can serve.”
That said, choosing the right location is a personal decision. Make the decision based on where you think you’ll flourish best.
“Law schools in urban settings may have more resources for students, such as a wide array of internships at law firms, city agencies and government offices,” Merideth Kimble, of National Jurist, says. “However, big cities can provide lots of distractions. Same goes for beach towns and party schools. A rural town might provide fewer opportunities, but plenty of community warmth and less distraction.”
Lawyers are generalists, and different legal careers often have an overlap of skills required for doing the job. When it comes to choosing a legal career, Kuris recommends focusing less on legal discipline and more on the day-to-day aspects of the job.
“Do you care more about financial security, work-life balance or doing meaningful work? Do you prefer to work solo, in a small team or as part of a large organization? Do you like work that is predictable or that requires thinking on your feet?” Kuris says. “These are the kinds of questions that can help distinguish between legal roles that may seem superficially similar.”
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