Law & Legal Studies

How to Build a Law School List

How to Build a Law School List
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Jonathan Arak July 31, 2014

What law schools should you apply to, and how should you think about putting together a list? From thinking regionally to focusing on your desired speciality, we've got your tips right here.

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Having constructed a college list not too long ago, you will be familiar with many of the issues when it comes to compiling your law school list, though there are a few extra wrinkles that you definitely need to keep in mind.

As with your college list, you will have "reach" schools "in range" schools and "safety" schools. One substantial difference in this process is your LSAT score has a greater bearing on your application then did your SAT or ACT score for college. And if you're someone who is been out of college for more than five years, your GPA is going to be a less of a factor in evaluating your application; it will still have an impact, but work experience and hobbies will be considered as well, and your LSAT will be even more important.

There are a few considerations when building a list of law schools. If you don’t care about where you go to law school, your primary tools for building your list will be your LSAT score and your GPA. All schools report their 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile LSAT and GPA numbers; you will want to focus on schools where your LSAT and GPA fall between the 25th and 75th percentiles, as you will be a strong candidate at those schools. If one of your scores is a little below the 25th percentile, you may still have a shot at that school.

If your numbers are above the 75th percentile—especially if they both are—you are not only a likely candidate, you may even have a chance at getting a grant or fellowship.

Think Regionally, Think Specialty

There are two additional ways of thinking about law schools that will assist your ultimate goal to be a gainfully employed lawyer not just a law student. One is to think regionally: if you know the area you want to work and live in, you can look for law schools that are well-connected in that area. For instance if you knew you wanted to work and live in the Boston area you could look at Suffolk which is a degree that is well-connected in the Boston area but isn't going to travel much past Connecticut. Or you might consider Hastings in the San Francisco area or St. John's in the New York area. There are also schools like USC which are more regional and my travel as far as Arizona and New Mexico as opposed to most of the schools that people are considering with the big names that have national reputations. You can look at the websites of firms in your desired area and see what institutions the partners at the firm went to. Another good source to connect with law opportunities is Martindale-Hubell. With your time and debt accumulation through attending law school, you want to know that the "network" you are buying into will have firms you are interested in coming to interview 3rd year students for jobs.

Another major avenue to build your law school list is to think about a law "specialty" as there are schools that are highly regarded in certain areas but aren't necessarily in the top 25. For instance, if you knew you were interested in environmental law, Lewis and Clark would be a great school for you to consider.

While LSAT and GPA are the prime determining factors of where you can get in, where you want to live and work, and the kind of work you want to do should also factor into building your list. And always make sure your list contains a nice mix of school you are a strong candidate for and a couple of schools that are a little bit of a reach, but that you have a shot at.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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