Law School - How Do I Choose a School?
Ideally, selecting law schools to apply to involves research and introspection. Many students rely on rankings to determine where to apply to law school. While a school’s reputation can be important, we recommend that you gather information both about law schools and yourself to arrive at your own set of criteria that can help you make an informed decision about the law schools that are best for you.
- Attend Cal’s Law School Fair in October to talk face-to-face with law school representatives.
- Check the Cal Career Center's online Calendar for Law School visits and law related information panels.
- Use the law school links on the Law School Admission Council's website to access detailed program information such as courses, professors, costs, financial aid and application forms. Usually, contact information is provided. If you have specific questions, directly contact the school.
- At the campus library, or your local library, you will find books, brochures, catalogues, directories and guides that list information on universities that grant graduate or professional degrees. One such guide is ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, which contains descriptions of all accredited graduate programs.
- Conduct informational interviews with current law school students, professionals, and faculty in the law programs you are considering to gain insider information about programs.
- Visit the law schools and sit in on classes if possible.
- Network with other pre-law students and legal professionals by attending events hosted by Pre-Law organizations such as San Francisco Bar Association, For People of Color, Inc., The Pre-Law Student of Color Network, The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO).
Deciding where to apply
After you have gathered information, here are some factors to consider when evaluating law schools:
- Admission considerations: It is a good idea to look at schools’ entering class profiles to see what their students’ average and mean LSAT scores and GPAs are and how your numbers align with them. However, don’t rely on "numbers" alone to select potential schools; applicants with other strong qualities and/or accomplishments will be admitted to schools even if their numbers are lower than average. Schools are interested in students who demonstrate potential for success, which may not be reflected by their grades/scores. Since admissions decisions can be unpredictable, a common strategy is to use comparisons of your LSAT and GPA to recent entering classes to develop three lists of potential schools:
- Dream schools that are a "stretch"
- Core schools where you application will be competitive
- Safety schools where you will likely be admitted
- Diversity of student body and faculty
- Financial Considerations
- Location (Where would you like to begin your practice? Is weather a factor for you? Do you need to be near your family?)
- Availability of classes in your areas of interest
- Career services and placement rates
- Campus facilities (housing, library, classrooms)
- Faculty (legal training, areas of interest, accessibility, diversity)
- Extracurricular activities (Law Review, moot court, student clubs)
- Academic programs (clinical opportunities, joint degree offerings, study abroad options)
Check out the profiles of UC Berkeley Law School Applicants. Information includes statistics for Graduating Seniors 2011-2015 (PDF) and Top 15 Law Schools by Cal Graduating Seniors 2011-2015 (PDF).
- Use the online Find the Best Law School tool to do a side-by-side comparison of law schools' acceptance rates, LSAT and GPA scores, tuition, and more.
- The Boston College On-line Law School Locator is another tool that lists the 25th to 75th percentile LSAT scores and GPA ranges of first year classes at accredited law schools.
- Access Standard 509 Reports. The American Bar Association, Section of Legal Education, has up to date reports of all ABA approved schools. The reports include data about tuition and fees, living expenses, GPA and LSAT scores, and grants and scholarships which can help you compare law schools before applying.
- Review the California State Bar Association's Examination Results. This is a very interesting site with the bar pass rates for ABA and non-ABA accredited schools in and out of the State. If you click on the Main Menu, you will go directly to the Cal Bar Association home page, where there is even more information a pre-law student would find valuable.