If there’s one thing that ev-ver-ry-body had an opinion on during my law school application process, it was the location where I should be going to school. Since even those outside the legal field can relate to this aspect of the law school decision, you’ll no doubt hear numerous opinions during your own application timeline. But the reasons for choosing a location can vary. Knowing the main reasons for choosing one location over another can highlight how important the location will be to your law school experience. Here are some location factors that will top any law student’s list:
Cost: In this year’s U.S. News and World Report Law School rankings, UC Berkeley and UVA are tied. So are Duke and Northwestern. However, these schools are most definitely not tied when it comes to cost of living. As a native Californian, I feel qualified to say: the rent is too damn high.
Support Network: Do you have a support system of family and friends in one part of the country? Preferably, people who care about your wellbeing but work in some area unrelated to law? Those entering the legal field will appreciate the respite from other law students and lawyers if they have a built-social network in their chosen region.
Bar Passage: The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is now the test that most law students take to earn their credentials. There are 33 states and territories with plans to implement the UBE, which means that your bar admission in one of those states can allow you to practice in many others. The major hold-outs with their own unique bar exams: California and Florida. Oh, and if California’s not frustrating enough, the state’s bar passage rate is at an all-time low.
Job Location: Where do people get jobs? It’s generally understood that the law schools topping U.S. News rankings have a national reach for legal jobs, meaning that you can find jobs within law firms outside of the region of the law school. However, each school still sends most of their students to particular regions after graduation, so it can be extremely helpful to look at the American Bar Association Employment Reports for each law school in order to see the statistics on where grads from that school really end up.
Job Prospects: You probably don’t just want any old legal job. Specific areas of interest such as employment, civil rights, immigration and so many others will be very different depending on the laws, the courts and the political climate of a region. There are job markets more favorable to corporate law, labor, litigation or tax, so it can help to know how the region around your potential law school fares in the area of work that interests you.
There are law school applicants out there who will blanket a list of law schools within a certain section of the rankings without regard for the location of the schools. But you’ll be better off refining your application pool to those locations that fit best with your finances, your career interests and your life. After all, this will be your home for at least three years.