Law & Legal Studies

The Second Critical Question Your Law School Application Needs to Answer

The Second Critical Question Your Law School Application Needs to Answer
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Alison Monahan profile
Alison Monahan March 21, 2012

The second big question you should be asking yourself is: Why here?

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The Big Three: Why Here?

The second critical question your application needs to answer is why this specific law school makes sense for you.

You Do Have a Reason For Applying, Don’t You?

Let’s be realistic – most people are simply applying to the most highly ranked schools they think they can get into, with little regard for the attributes of individual programs. This is generally a non-ideal strategy for picking a school, so I’m sure you have a very clear idea why you’re applying to each school. Right? Naturally. You’d be well advised to discuss your rationale in detail.



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Every School Wants to Feel Special

Even if you don’t really know why you’re applying to a particular school, however, you’re going to have to fake it. Every school wants to think that they’re unique, and uniquely desirable. You can use this vanity to your advantage by discussing why specific aspects of the school appeal to you as an applicant.

Say, for example, you’re considering law schools in the San Francisco area, and you want to apply to UC-Hastings, which happens to be located in the heart of San Francisco next to a plethora of state and federal courthouses and government buildings. Naturally you might expect the school to be proud of this fact, and highlight it in their marketing materials. You’d be correct, as a quick check of their website confirms. Their prospective student page includes the following:

This proximity gives Hastings students the opportunity to experience the law in the very forums where it is practiced and determined, and provides a level of relevancy to their education that is unparalleled in most law schools.

A bit more research reveals that Hastings has an extensive judicial externship program, and offers a variety of clinics, including the much-emphasized Civil Justice Clinic. If you’re interested in litigation, these things need to be in your essay.

Tell Each School Why You Want to Attend

Why do you want to go to Hastings (possibly over the more highly ranked schools nearby)? Because Hastings features unparalleled proximity to hands-on learning you couldn’t access as easily at other, less centrally located, schools. Does this mean you have to sign up for an externship or a clinic upon arrival? No, of course not. You can do what you like once you get in, but your application will be much stronger if you can highlight specific experiences you’d at least plausibly like to have.

I’m Totally Stumped

What if you can’t come up with anything? If there’s absolutely no reason you can find to apply to a particular school, why are you applying there?

Is this school really a good fit for you? If you’re completely stuck but still want to apply, try to consider your background objectively. Go to the school’s website, and look at it through the eyes of a friend who’s done the same things you’ve done, and has similar interests and goals. What would your friend find interesting? Would she be excited about a particular clinic, a research project that’s being conducted by a professor, or the opportunity to study abroad?

Don’t Apply to Schools that Bore You

Pick whatever’s most logical, and include it in your essay. But be careful – this strategy might get you in, but you’re unlikely to be very happy once you arrive. Try not to apply to schools that bore you.

Want more info on law school applications? Check out Applying to Law School 101 or save time on your school search by taking our Law School Wizard.

It’s simple: you tell us a little about yourself, we do some calculations, and, voila, you get a comprehensive list of schools that suit your personality, preferences, budget, and academic profile.

Click on your results to get all the information you need about each individual school, from cost to career outcomes.

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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.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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