Yesterday was the first day that I actually felt like we were headed somewhere, seasonally speaking. Granted, we've had a few warmish days here and there, and yesterday wasn't scorching, by any means. But there was something about the feel of it that just gave the impression that things were turned around.
Of course, the forecast for today is for some rain and/or snow, so it looks like that feeling will be pretty short-lived. Easy come, easy go.
In other news, the new law school rankings are out (they'll apparently be on the web in the next week or so). I don't know how my school did, nor do I particularly care. With all due respect to those who go to Yale, Harvard and the rest on down, I think the graduations on quality of legal education are usually so fine that it's irrelevant. And the methodology of the rankings is a joke.
So what do I think should be important in choosing a law school? Here are a few factors, in no particular order:
- Region: For those of us who don't go to those high-priced top-ranked schools, it makes a lot of sense to attend a school in the geographical area in which one intends to practice. Local schools usually have pretty good local reputations. Plus it makes the job hunt easier.
- Cost: Legal education can be expensive, but what's the substantive difference in the quality? Yale's tuition this year is over 36k. My tuition this year didn't even hit the 6k mark, as mentioned here. My contracts casebook is the same one they use at Harvard. Big deal. You get what you put into it, and I doubt my grasp of the subjects so far (which seems to be pretty solid) would get any better if the professor were one of the Anointed.
- Curriculum: Does the school you're considering have the program you want? If what you want is nothing special, then you'll be pretty free to pick any school that strikes your fancy. If your interests are more esoteric, perhaps you'd like to become a scholar in one faced of Constitutional law, you'll need to find a school that has the faculty to adequately train you in that area. The thing is, in many cases this will be dependent on the Faculty, not the school. Rank is irrelevant. In many cases, however, what you want to do will be pretty standard in any school. I'd like to prosecute, and CrimLaw is standard, so just about any school would have been fine for me.
- Clinical Opportunities: This is one of the few areas where I suggest a hard and fast rule: Pick a school with clinical opportunities. Period. It's a not-so-well-hidden secret that law school doesn't really teach you how to be a lawyer, until you start doing it. You may not want to do any of the clinics, but to rob yourself of the opportunity right away is starting out your career with one strike against you.
- Culture: This is the most important for actual happiness while in school, I believe. Do your classmates tend to be cutthroat? Do they want to 'win' law school? Are important cases sliced out of the reporters in the Library (this can happen)? For anyone who wants a great, comfortable atmosphere, academic yet not competitive per se, my school is fabulous. You can walk through the library, or even in the classrooms, and find that we trust each other enough to leave all our personal stuff unattended while we do whatever. We all work hard, but I don't get the feeling that anyone is really all about grades or rank. And let's face it, while employers may look at that stuff for your first job or two, it doesn't really matter in the long term. Anyone know of the top of their head what school Johnny Cochran attended? Do you know his rank and GPA? Is he a highly successful attorney?
None of this is to suggest that if rank is really that important you shouldn't base your decision on that in part, but if that's the sole factor, rather than finding a school that's a good fit, chances are greater that you'll have a miserable three years. Life is too short to be miserable. Another upshot is that if you're interested in PI and go to a less-costly school, there's less motivation to sell your soul to BigLaw to make up the cost. And if you think BigLaw is for you, you can still make it, you just have to be top in your class.
For anyone looking to select a law school, it's probably too late by the time you read this. But if it isn't, try to have fun with the process.
For the record, I applied to precisely one school.