By Alexis Cristo
When deciding what law school to attend, there is a lot to consider. . As a law school recruiter, I’m often asked what should prospective students look for in a law school. It’s no longer enough to ask if you will get a good education and if you will get a job. In addition, I’ve come up with four topics that you likely should consider as you make your decision about which law school to attend.
The legal field has, for many years, been a place of tradition. Law school taught the same theories and concepts over generations, updating as our society and the law grew and adapted. While traditional legal theories are the foundation of a successful legal education, our idea of the law and law school must be on par with the times and therefore you must look for a law school that is developing and advancing the way law is presented to students and how the law is looked at. In other words, you will want to ask, can this law school give me a thorough legal foundation and also provide me with the skills I will need to be innovative in a changing legal market?
Look at what opportunities are available to get experience outside the classroom. The old idea of going to law school for three years and then being trained as an associate post-graduation are few and far between. Employers are looking for practice-ready hires. That means you need to learn and train to be a lawyer while you are in law school. As you assess prospective law schools, consider whether a law school will give you these opportunities? Ask about clinics, internships, jobs during the school year, and any experiential learning programs that will combine your classroom learning with real, hands-on work experience.
You should peruse a law school’s course descriptions and learn what upper-level classes are available. Are there electives that build skills that graduates of other law schools won’t have. The goal is to get a well-rounded education to give a competitive advantage in the job market and prepare you for law practice in the 21st century legal market.
The people you meet at law school will lead to friendships, mentorships, internships and ultimately jobs throughout your career. From the day you walk in the door, you should be building this network and connecting with people in the legal world. Look for a law school with a strong and broad alumni base, which is a built-in professional network. Does the law school host events where networking with alumni is possible and encouraged? What resources are available for you to find and contact alumni in certain fields?
If you look for these four things and ask the right questions, you’re on your way to picking the right law school.
Alexis Cristo is the Associate Director of Law Admission at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. She also is a double alumna, earning her BS in ‘07 and JD in’12. Before joining Suffolk Law Admission, she worked in private practice in Boston.