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Choosing a Law School is the Most Important Decision of Your Life

  • by M Hope Echales
  • Jan 08, 2010
  • Admissions, Law School, Law School Advice

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Making choices is a difficult thing for me. Even discounting the omnipresent, everlasting war between burrito and taco, I have a tough time. Do I take the freeway or a side street? Do I drunkenly leap frog this parking meter or do I walk around it like all sober-minded Puritans? Do I go to Vegas and lose all my money playing five dollar blackjack or do I go to Vegas and lose all my money playing ten dollar blackjack? These are the questions that occupy my time, and, after days of agonizing thought, I invariably end up making the poorer choice.

Luckily, I’m here to keep you from doing the same in what is the MOST IMPORTANT DECISION OF YOUR LIFE… choosing a law school to attend.

Choosing your law school actually isn’t the most important decision of your life, but I always find that effective use of caps lock keeps people reading.

Most people, based off my completely anecdotal and thus 100% reliable evidence, choose law schools based off the US News Rankings. They look wherever their LSAT fits somewhere around the median and basically pick via pin the tail on the donkey method. This is not totally foolish, because whatever our objections to the methodology, they do sort of matter because of the value placed on them by various employers, but it probably should be neither the end all nor the be all of your law school decision.

Of other factors, first and foremost, you should probably consider what you actually want to do out of law school. I know, I know that seems awfully ambitious, but the question at least bears a little mental exercise before you commit thousands upon thousands of dollars to the enterprise. Research your target schools and find out what sort of work they are known for. Do they churn out a lot of Intellectual Property lawyers, or is it nothing but Tax law? If you first figure out what you want to do, and I know you all want to work in social justice to save starving babies and kittens, then it’ll be easier to narrow down exactly where you want to go.

If you’re like me, and you have no idea what you want to do with your life in the next day, let alone in the next ten years, then there are other factors to consider, significantly among them the location of the school. Take Los Angeles for example; or, better yet, San Diego. These are nice, nice places. There is sunshine all the time. They are places where the beer flows like wine, and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Now, take a look at Chicago. Forbes recently rated it one of the ten most miserable places in the United States (Stockton, CA takes the proverbial crap cake on that list). It is absolutely the coldest place you will go in your life, if you’re not Siberian. I hear water even freezes there and falls from the sky in a soft granular structure. It’s not exactly my ideal place to spend the three years of law school, but I cannot speak for you.

Of course, you’re going to be a law student, so all you really need to know is where the bar and library are, but overall ambiance is something to consider. If you haven’t dealt with cold weather before, going to a place like Boston or D.C. might be a shock to the system you just don’t want to have when you’re experiencing a more intense academic environment than ever before.

Then there are numerous other extraneous factors, like academic environment. In general, law school is going to be tough and competitive. There is some relative difference between schools, but basically you’re going to have three years of long nights, unpleasant days, and serious, sustained alcoholism. Sure, if you go to some of the upper-echelon schools they won’t even really have grades, but few of us have the LSAT score, GPA and general saint-like status to attain Nirvana and attend Yale or Stanford. It’s best if you don’t delude yourself that there’s some utopian law school out there. There isn’t. Wipe your tears of sorrow with the mountains of money you will collect after your three years.

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