Specific Needs

Size, cost and climate concern most applicants to law school. Other needs, however, are less general.  Bus systems can come in very handy when your car breaks down, or when you're sharing a car with another person. "Married student housing" can be much cheaper than an off-campus apartment.  And some schools open this housing to gay and lesbian couples, to unmarried heterosexual couples, or to single parents.

Your religion is rarely an issue at a secular law school and almost never discussed. But the ability to worship with your community is essential to many people. Does your campus have a Hillel or Newman Center? Is the synagogue within walking distance, or in the next town (as I was told by the recruiter for Washington & Lee)? If your religious affiliation is less common, how difficult will it be for you to find a congregation?

A good place to find information about various cities is the

Places Rated Almanac by David Savageau & Richard Boyer, MacMillan Travel. But Amazon has dozens of books, even one listing the hazards associated with each area!

Unfortunately, they don't have a web site, although the book is a fairly standard reference item at libraries, so you'll have to let your feet do the walking instead of your fingers. A new competitor to Places Rated is Cities Ranked and Rated, by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander. It gives a composite for each city, while Places Rated breaks down the info into separate categories. Each is helpful sometimes.

Do you have any special physical needs?

If you have any physical limitations, facilities can be critical. Those too-close shelves can be troublesome for the average student; for the claustrophobic or wheelchair-bound person, they can be impossible. Chicago has steps in and out of every large classroom, and not a single ramp. This can be a major problem if you're wheelchair-bound, or even if you're on crutches for a month.

If you are visually or reading impaired in some way, you may think of your special needs as requiring the assistance of the law school's staff - readers, or people to find books. But technology has helped make reading-impaired people self-sufficient. Does the law school have talking computers? Word-processing programs with extra-large type? Braille keyboards? Are the textbooks already on tape, or will you have to wait while they're recorded? Are all "Handicapped Services," as most universities call them, handled through a central university office several blocks away, or will you have support in the law school? Will you have to find your own readers, or will the law school provide that service? If you have to provide your own readers, you may well have trouble the first few weeks of class, when the undergrad's aren't back yet. Will the law school help you over this hurdle?

Do you have special academic needs?

Applicants with learning disabilities, language barriers, or poor study skills (often caused by attending inferior primary and secondary schools) may want to consider the presence or absence of academic support programs. These programs, like those offered at many undergraduate institutions, help the student in specific subject areas, as well as offering generalized programs in time management, study techniques, and exam preparation. If you know you relied on these programs while in college (or wished your college had such a program to assist you), you might want to attend a law school which offers assistance. If a law school has an "informal" assistance program (i.e., "we'll help you if you ask"), you might want to look at its attrition rate to decide if that informal assistance seems effective.

What are your family's needs?

Applicants in charge of young children should think about their special needs. What about day care? Is it provided in the law school, elsewhere on campus, or "not too far away"? Do they charge on a sliding scale or a fixed fee? Do they allow infants? What about six-year-olds? Can you bring an older child to class when the baby-sitter is sick? A person responsible for the care of young children may well want to investigate schools that offer part-time day or evening programs.

If you have school-age children, you should consider the quality of the local public school system and the cost of private alternatives. NYU may seem better for you than Minneapolis, but the Minneapolis public school system may be better for your kids. If a life partner is moving with you, the job market in her or his field may also be a consideration. Some jobs are easily found, while others require a fairly specialized market. Consider these needs when looking at the community in which the law school is located.


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