Congratulations on your offers of admission! How do you decide where to go? Do you go with the best name brand school? The school that offered the largest scholarship? The one that sent you the nicest swag package?
If you are deciding between two or more schools, attending Admitted Students Day events is an excellent way to decide which program is best for you. Your visit could help you make a final decision about where you will spend the next three years of your life.
- Have an opportunity to speak with current students about their law school experiences (Do the students feel supported by the institution?)
- Speak with administrators from financial aid and career services and get a sense of the support and institutional commitment to the students
- Speak with faculty members to discuss your areas of legal interest and see their level of engagement and enthusiasm for teaching
- Likely get a chance to feel the 1L experience by participating in a mock classroom situation with actual professors
- Have an opportunity to explore the campus and surrounding neighborhood and decide for yourself if the environment is appealing to you (Does the school feel big enough for you? Is it cozy enough for you? Do you feel physically safe?)
- See what sort of housing opportunities are available to students and how much it will cost
- See what your transportation needs will be (Will you need a car? Does everyone Uber?)
- Interact with other admitted candidates (Is this a community that you want to join?)
You should also ask current students and the appropriate administrators about student resources like clerkship opportunities, public interest opportunities, clinical opportunities and the availability and competitiveness of other resume-building opportunities. Ask about the percentage of students who participate on Law Review and other journals and the process of joining. Ask what sort of networking opportunities and career services programming are provided and when.
Before you attend, email the admissions office and ask if the school will offer a travel stipend for you to attend the Admitted Students Day event. It never hurts to ask politely. Prepare your narrative and decide how you will introduce yourself to your future colleagues and faculty. Do some research into the city/town so you can make casual conversation.
On the day of the event, dress in business casual unless otherwise directed. You might feel awkward and shy, but EVERYONE is feeling the same way. Stand up straight, shake hands, talk less and smile more. You might feel apprehensive about appearing less than impressive to admissions or faculty. Remember that the event is a means for the school to impress YOU and get you to commit to their program.
The annual uproar about law school rankings might lead you to believe that the rank of the school you attend is the only factor in determining whether you will become a successful lawyer. As Above The Law points out, the T14 law school rankings, as determined by US News and World Report, rely heavily on inputs – especially peer assessment, grades, and LSAT scores — while ATL’s rankings rely more heavily on outputs like jobs and starting salaries. Given that the two lists overlap quite heavily at the top, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you might as well say goodbye to your law career before you’ve even read your first case note if you don’t get into a T14 school. But don’t lose heart! Many, many law school graduates attend non-T14 schools and go on to have successful law careers.
I speak from experience. By way of background, I graduated from Emory Law School squarely in the middle of my class. It was a great place to go to school, with whip-smart professors and clinics, but it was not T14 when I attended and still isn’t (though it’s been solidly T25 for many years). Emory is also located in Atlanta, which, for all of its charms, was not the city where I intended to practice upon graduation. Like so many others, I had my eyes set on New York City. I managed to write myself onto the law review which, given my highly mediocre class ranking, definitely helped boost my resumé. This, combined with my comfort with interviewing, helped me land a job in Big Law in the New York office of a Chicago-based firm, where I specialized in real estate law.
I jumped ship after five years and wound up in Cardozo’s admissions office, where I counseled prospective students about whether they should or shouldn’t go to law school, and why they might be a good fit for Cardozo in particular. I later returned to practicing real estate law with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. As a lawyer, first in private practice and later for the City of New York, I regularly interviewed candidates for summer associate and lateral positions. While I can’t speak for every law firm or government agency, I do think I have some insight about whether attending a T14 law school really matters—so here goes!