If you're applying to law school right now, March sucks. It's probably the absolute worst, nerve-wracking month in the entire year. You've already applied everywhere you can, so that's done and over with. The next LSAT - arguably your best chance of turning a waitlist decision into an admission - isn't until June. The thing is, you don't even know if you've been waitlisted, so there is no reason to (re)open those books just yet. Most of our LSAT courses start in April anyway. Bottom line is: there is nothing to do - literally nothing - but wait for those envelopes to start coming in. Is it gonna be a big envelope or a small envelope? This can be very frustrating. Or not.
Here's the thing: March gives you the unique opportunity to prepare yourself for one of the most important decisions in your life. You've probably applied to a handful or reaches, a few targets, and a couple of safeties for good measure. You will get into at least a few of these schools. Trust me! Assuming your numbers are good, you may even get money at some of your safeties. If you're lucky, your decision will be made for you - you got into a reach school with borderline numbers, or received a full ride at a target school. Most of you, however, will be faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of choosing among half a dozen law schools of similar prestige and financial obligations. How do you choose the right law school?
The general rule of thumb is this: unless you get into a national, Top-14 school, go to the best school located in a region where you'd like to practice. There are some exceptions to that, of course, which is precisely why it can be a complicated decision. You'll need to research your options carefully and figure out a few things:
- What is the job placement rate of each school you're considering in the region you'd like to work in?
- How much would it cost to attend?
- What class rank do you need in order to get the employment opportunities you seek after graduation?
- If a lower-ranked school offered you money, is it worth taking it?
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you want to work in San Diego. You are debating between Boston University (a top-30 school) and the lower-ranked University of San Diego Law School. The latter will place much better in San Diego than Boston University, even though BU is ranked higher. Sure, there will be probably a handful of people at BU who will want to work in San Diego, so competition for these jobs will be close to non-existent. But, at the same time, almost no firms from San Diego will be recruiting at BU. Even if you look at the state of California as a whole, only the largest CA law firms will trek all the way to Boston, and you'll need to have top grades to get an interview with them. Networking where you want to practice is key (especially outside the top-14 schools), and it's a lot easier done if you have a robust alumni base on the ground. Faced with this choice, I'd go to San Diego Law.
Of course, not all decisions will be so clear-cut, which is precisely why you need to visit each school! Many schools will have Open Houses or Admitted Student Days, where they will hook you up with 2L's to show you around, take you to the local ramen bar, and even let you crash on their couch for the weekend. It's an experience you won't find on the glossy pages of a law school brochure, and can make or break your decision to attend.
Since your decision will also take into account objective criteria, such as prestige, job placement, scholarships, etc., make sure to consult the following resources as well:
As you can see, there is a lot to keep you busy in March. If you spend this downtime wisely, you will have the resources, knowledge, and - above all - the confidence to make the right decision in April.