Choosing Law School

Many factors will impact your decision to attend law school. Below are some guidelines and tips to help you decide if you should go, and if so how to choose a law school that fits you.

Should I Go?

This is a difficult question to answer. Some people say they've always wanted to go to law school or be a lawyer. Most people struggle wth this decision right until they attend law school. After law school, some graduates are still unsure if they specifically want to be a lawyer or enter another profession related to law.

For assistance figuring this question out, you can attend our free Should I Go to Law School? workshop, or register for the 2-credit Law School Exploration class.

Ask Yourself These Questions

  • Do I enjoy working closely with people regarding significant events or issues affecting their lives?
  • Can I empathize with a client's situation, yet have the ability to objectively analyze the issues and their consequences in light of the existing law?
  • Do I enjoy educating or teaching a person about a subject which he or she may be ignorant or have significant misconceptions?
  • Am I able to articulate in a clear and concise manner my analysis or a problem to others, whether it is verbally or in writing?
  • Do I enjoy being an advocate? Can I argue both sides of the questions with enthusiasm?
  • Do I like detail work? Do I enjoy searching for the facts of a situation?
  • Do I like to read and study?

Career and Interest Assessments

Consider taking an online personality or interest assessment. These help you figure out which career paths might fit you. If you're a CLA students, arrange these through CLA Career Services; other U of M students should contact Student Counseling Services.

What Can I Do with a Law Degree?

Each year, the U.S. Department of Labor compiles a helpful book called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Browse it for an overview of the legal profession (and related professions), trends in the current job market for lawyers, and average earning.

We also recommend you do informational interviews with lawyers to get some personal insight about law-related jobs and how to succeed in them, and with law students (One way to find students to talk to is to contact the admissions office of a school you're interested in attending).

What School Should I Go To?

Don't just look at what you hear are the best schools. What you should figure out is which school is the best one for you.  What are you looking for in a law school?

Researching Schools

See our Graduate & Pre-Law Research guide for questions to answer while exploring school options.

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has an Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools that allows you to gather and compare school information easily. You can also check online for a particular law school's School Catalog.

What are "REACH," "TARGET," and "SAFETY" schools?

It's rare that an applicant will gain admission to all of the law schools they apply to. Therefore, it's helpful to make educated guesses based on three categories of prospects.

  1. REACH This is a law school where about 20% or less of the applicants with your GPA and LSAT scores were recently admitted. Your "REACH" applications should be your dream schools. Work hard to make your application one of the few they might accept.
  2. TARGET This is a law school where your GPA and LSAT scores are approximately the same as the medians for last year's entering class. "TARGET" schools present at least a 50/50 chance.
  3. SAFETY This is a law school where at least 80% of the applicants with your GPA and LSAT scores were admitted last year. Include several "SAFETY" schools on your list due to the accelerating applicant pools in terms of quality. What may have been a "SAFETY" school last year may have suddenly become a "TARGET" school instead.

Visiting Schools

Visiting law schools can be helpful at many stages of your decision-making process. Consider visiting one or more law schools if:

  • you're not sure if law school is a good fit for you
  • you're choosing which law schools to apply to
  • you've been accepted but haven't seen the campus

While visiting, build on the research you've already started. Ask questions that can only be answered in person. The schools you visit will provide a formal tour. Some will also allow you to sit in on a law class and connect you to current students. Contact the admissions office of each school to set up your visit.

Law School Scholarships

Each law school handles scholarships differently. You need to check with individual law schools to learn about their scholarship options and processes. Below are a few resources for law school scholarships and more information.