Law Admissions Q&A: Choosing Where to Attend

Get expert advice on weighing your law school options.

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This is the second installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a new monthly feature in Law Admissions Lowdown that provides expert admissions advice to readers who write in with their profiles (GPA, LSAT score, education, work experience, and extracurricular leadership).

If you have a specific question, please E-mail me for a chance to be featured next month. Given the response volume, I apologize that I typically cannot respond individually to each submission, but I will consider all of your questions—and you may be featured in any of the next few installments of Law Admissions Q&A. Please stay tuned.

This week, let's focus on what to do after you have been admitted to one or more schools and are considering your options.

Dear Shawn: My GPA is 3.86, and my LSAT score is 163. I go to Fordham University. I was admitted to Fordham's 3+3 program, in which you get your bachelor's degree from Fordham in three years, and then start at Fordham Law School the following year. I am a campus leader in a variety of student organizations related to law and business, as well as student government. I think something unique about me is that I came to the United States at 7, not really speaking English. However, today, I'm very Americanized. 

My question: If I decide not to do the 3+3 program, do I have a good shot at a better law school? -Am I settling?

Dear Am I Settling: Congratulations on your great GPA and impressive LSAT score! Fordham is an incredibly strong school with a strong reputation, nationally and particularly in New York, and a #29 (up from #30) U.S. News Best Law Schools ranking. Since you are unlikely to be admitted to a far superior law school in terms of rank and reputation with your current profile, you should strongly consider attending Fordham. You will also save the time and cost of an additional year of college by doing the 3+3 program.

Clients of mine have gotten into top three law schools, such as Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, with your LSAT score and GPA, but given the relatively low odds of this, I would only suggest applying to other schools if you increased your LSAT to the high 160s or low 170s.

[Get seven tips for LSAT success.]

Dear Shawn: I'm the parent of a senior at a well-known private university in South Carolina. My daughter was just accepted to the University of South Carolina School of Law with a $12,000/year scholarship. In-state tuition last year was $21,000. She likes the school very much, but is really enamored with the University of Richmond School of Law. She visited both schools, and would be happy either way. South Carolina is #109 and Richmond #58 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. If she gets into Richmond (which costs $35,000/year) do you have any thoughts on which she should select? She does still have about $120k from her college fund that she didn't have to use because she won a scholarship as an undergraduate. –Tough Choice

Dear Tough Choice: This is a great question and one I often receive from parents and students alike who are considering much more cost-friendly state schools versus pricier private schools.

Your daughter should first consider where she wants to practice law after school. If she wants to practice in South Carolina and would be happy attending the University of South Carolina for about $10,000 a year (given her scholarship), then she should definitely strongly consider taking that route, as her job prospects and alumni network in South Carolina likely will be as strong coming out of a public school as they would be if she attended a somewhat higher ranked private school in another region.

[See the Best Law Firms rankings.]

If, on the other hand, she wants a school with a stronger national reputation that would give her greater geographic mobility throughout her career, she should likely consider Richmond.

Students considering a state versus private school also need to look at the specific programs, centers, and professors at each school. If the private school has better programs and faculty in certain practice areas in which your daughter might want to specialize, the additional investment would almost certainly be worth it.

[Explore the U.S. News law specialty rankings.]