Factors to Consider
The process of choosing law schools is something that most applicants will have to do three times: first when you're preparing to apply to law schools, next after you have an LSAT score, and again when you're deciding among the schools that have chosen you.
In starting your law school search, you should ask yourself some questions; the answers will help narrow your search to a workable twenty or thirty schools. Our Preliminary Research section guides you through this process.
A dozen or so. I try to divide schools into five categories, thus:
Is a Dozen Enough?
For most people a dozen is plenty. The two exceptions are the applicant with a problem file, and the applicant with something extraordinary to bring to the law school.
If you have an arrest record, an honor code or disciplinary problem or other risk factors, you should double the number of schools in the Safety and Probable categories. For other categories, rely heavily on LSAT data; schools are more likely to choose an applicant with a high LSAT and a problem than they are a person with a high GPA. If you're interested in the reasons, read this.)
If you have an LSAT score below 145, you should look for schools with summer or conditional programs. But be prepared to tell them something besides, "I'm a poor test taker." The Bar Exam is a standardized test, and telling them why you're likely to flunk it isn't a great strategy.
If you have a building named after your family on any college campus, a family member on the board of trustees, or a personal accomplishment that's at least at the state level for a regional school (for instance, MVP, ACC Regional Championships) or at the National Level for a Regional-National school, you can increase your number of Reach and Longshot schools. But remember the limit of value on a perceived reward; a lot more people think they have pull than actually do.
I Can't Afford This!
If a dozen schools will break the bank, but you aren't eligible for a fee waiver, consider applying to schools on the "Free Application" list. If you have the chance to speak to an admissions representative, double-check this data; many schools have added free electronic apps, and I won't be able to update this list until after I attend a full year's Law Forums, out of fairness to all schools.
Now that you know how many schools to target, it's time to consider how to choose them; and that's what the rest of this section elucidates. So start in the lower left corner and work your way around.