Three years is a long time to commit to one place, so you should plan on visiting law schools, their facilities, and surrounding area to determine the right place for you. While you're visiting law schools, you may also be able to talk to students and professors to get a general overall feel for the atmosphere as well.
You can plan to visit law schools before you apply or after you've been accepted, but it's important to note that traveling around to law schools will get expensive fast as they are generally more spread out than undergraduate institutions. Ideally, you will visit no more than three law schools, unless there are several within close proximity.
Setting Up Visits at Law Schools
The easiest way to set up visits at law schools is to get in touch with the school's admissions office. You may receive information on open houses, formal tours, self-guided tours, sitting in on law classes, interviews, and talking with current and former students--not to mention directions to the school itself.
Be sure to contact the school well in advance of your visit so both you and your school can plan appropriately.
What to Look at During Visits to Law Schools
Many questions that you may have about admission statistics, career placement, courses offered, programs, centers, and clinics are probably answered in the school's information packet or on its website, so be sure to do your homework before you show up. There's no need to waste valuable visiting time asking questions that could have been answered by a quick scan of a website.
So what information should you be looking for when you visit law schools?
If you are meeting with an admissions officer, you could ask questions specifically about the admissions process, such as:
- How do you review an applicant's portfolio? What is the process like?
- With my grades and LSAT scores, what are my honest chances of getting into this school?
- Are there any advantages to applying early?
- What is the best personal statement you've ever read? What is the worst?
- What makes for great letters of recommendation?
If you meet with professors, you can ask:
- Is the Socratic Method the teaching technique of choice?
- Do you take on student research assistants? If you have one now, what is he or she working on?
- What factors do you think I should base my choice of law school on?
- Would you recommend legal academia as a career?
- Do you have an open door policy? Do most professors?
- Can you share some of your publications with me?
If you get the chance to meet with students, you should try to get an idea of the atmosphere of the school with questions such as:
- Do you find your classmates to be overly competitive? Collegial?
- Who is your favorite professor and why?
- Do you find professors are generally accessible and accommodating?
- Do you find legal research resources adequate?
- If you had the chance to start over, would you choose this school again?
- What is the most common complaint among your fellow students?
- Have you gone through the law journal selection process? If so, what was it like? Did you find it fair?
- How safe do you feel in the law school? On campus in general?
- Do you take part in study groups? Why or why not?
- Do students spend time together outside of class, socially?
Now that you are armed with ideas on what to pay attention to while visiting law schools, you're ready to make that call to the admissions office and set something up. While keeping all of these tips in mind, make sure you also take time to simply look around and soak in the energy of the law school. You should come away from your visit with a good idea of whether you will feel comfortable learning in that environment for the next three years.
Also, if you can, spend a few days in the area to see if it's a place you can imagine yourself living; consider how close you could live to the school (and factor that into a potential budget). Even though law school will take up a lot of your time, you'll also have a life outside of school, so be sure you are comfortable in the city or town where the school is located.