Preliminary Research

Most people fail miserably at choosing law schools. They begin by looking at the US News ranking. Often they look at nothing else.

A school's ranking should be considered only insofar as it reflects your needs and interests. Iowa has a great ranking; so does Minnesota. Do you prefer a large city or a small town? George Washington and Boston U. are comparable to these schools in ranking and programs, but in harried, dirty, east coast cities (which I love).

The hardest part of choosing the right law school for you is figuring out what you want. But this is a bit circular; if you don't know what your options are, how can you choose among them?

That's why we've devoted a whole section to helping you with your preliminary selection. By giving you some variable to consider, we hope to jump-start your powers of selection. Begin with the factors we discuss here, and continue with your own research on other factors you may consider important.

Researching Law Schools

In this wonderful Internet age, every school has a web page.  (Of course, if you're not part of this wonderful internet age, you might disagree, but then you wouldn't be reading this web page!)  But here's my solicited advice:  

You still want to request paper or DVD catalogs if the school has one!

The online application often doesn't have info about personal statements, optional essays, resumes, etc., that you can only see by reading the instructions printed in the catalog. Even the online instructions frequently differ from the paper ones.  So get the catalog!

You can request catalogs from the school's web page in a number of instances. In fact, we recommend this method.  Messages left on an answering machine often get lost or mistranscribed; the information you send over the computer is more likely to be entered directly into a data base.

How many catalogs should you get? As many as seem interesting to you from your reading or web-crawling.  In fact, that's a great way to begin requesting catalogs. Browse the law schools on the web through the links we've provided. Look at our extensive data both here and in the Choosing section.  When you get to an interesting site, ask for a catalog. If you proceed in this manner, be sure to keep some record of where you've been. Otherwise you run the risk of getting too haphazard and missing a great school.

The New Forum Schedule! 

At its annual meeting in early May, Law Services changed the Forum schedule for the next two years.

The three forums held in February for the past two years are being moved. The Los Angeles Forum is scheduled for September 25th, the Houston Forum is scheduled for November 20, and the San Francisco Forum will be held sometime next summer.

The result?

There will be no place for takers of the December LSAT to talk to admissions officers.

Yes, of course you can talk to admissions officers at earlier Forums; there will still be nine events (although they've reduced all but New York to one day instead of two).

  • But you'll be talking without an LSAT score, so you'll be getting much more generalized answers than you would with a score in your hand.
  • And if you got a low score and plan to retake, you'll get a more negative response than you would in February with your new, higher, number.


Here's what I think is going to happen in the next two years:

With no Forums later than November, law schools will look at their crowd from the early Forums and try to make a lot of offers fast; by the time December scores come out, there will be only a handful of seats left -- a few at the top, a few more at wait list time (late May to mid-June).

Applicants who don't get the score they want in September will face three options:

  1. Settle for less-selective schools;
  2. Retake and get a really high number;
  3. Apply super-early (October or November) next year and try for a binding early decision.

Ripple Effects

  • As more students scramble to take the June and October LSATs, the test centers will fill up, and backup (hear "less appropriate") centers or centers further away will be offered.
  • LSAT prep companies will face the same phenomenon; they'll either have to overcrowd their classes, overuse tired teachers, or hire new, less appropriate teachers.
  • Fewer applicants will cancel early scores, even if they fear they did poorly, because they'll think they have to apply now. With more lower scores, the rate of retakes will be driven up even further than the 20% increase we've already seen in 2008 and 2009.
  • Law schools will find themselves at the end of their LSAT rope, as it were, and be forced to find other ways to "game" the USNews rankings.

How Do I Know?

I don't. That's what "prognostications" means. But I've studied enough trends and talked to enough admissions officers in 25 years that I know the patterns.



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