Curating Your Law School Application List

While you will be obtaining a general Juris Doctorate (JD) degree, the institution you attend and the complexity of your experience can be anything but ordinary.  Law schools offer opportunities and resources attuned to their vision, mission and values.  I encourage applicants to consider law school list curation as a process for self-reflection to assess the type of career they would like to build and the best place for their next professional chapter.  To help with this assessment, here are five things to consider when putting together a law school application list:

  • Location.

Where do you want to live for the next three years?   Where do you want to practice?  How do you want to build your network during law school?  It’s not required that you attend law school in the same city or region in which you would like to practice.  Instead, use these questions to consider the strengths and weaknesses of different regions and to reflect upon the activities supported by the law school for networking and recruitment.

  • Vision, Mission and Values.

What are my values and how does this school’s mission align with those values?  How does the school describe their purpose and vision?  A school’s mission should be easy to locate on their website.  Listen carefully to admissions presentations to understand how institutions describe their vision for influencing the legal field.  Additionally, understanding your personal values can make it easier to respond to supplementary application essays regarding institutional fit.

  • Culture.

What are the top three adjectives that law students use to describe their peers?  Is the school collaborative? Competitive? Homogeneous? Diverse? Inclusive? Supportive? How do students describe the support structures that empower students to succeed?  Speak with admissions ambassadors, current students, and Penn alumni to discover a range of experiences at your schools of interest.

  • Exploration and Opportunities.

What legal clinics are available to students?  How do students fulfill pro bono requirements?  It’s never too early to understand the requirements and offerings provided by your future institution.  Legal clinics offer the opportunity to gain exposure to the practice of law under the supervision of a clinical professor.  If you are interested in a specific area of the legal field, you should speak with the career services office at the law school to understand placement trends and recruitment patterns.

  • Balance.

Does my law school list have balance?  This is a great question to review with your pre-law advisor.  Take the time to look at a school’s class profile to determine how you fit into the general percentile range of admitted students.  Consider whether or not you’ve included one or two schools where you nicely fit their acceptance range.

Lastly, curating your school list can offer a moment of reflection rather than anxiety or competition.  Remember, your law school list only needs to make sense for your personal goals and career objectives.  The questions above offer a good starting point for considering your needs and professional aspirations.

Curious about the application process and next steps?  Check out our “What To Do & When To Do It” slide deck for further information.

By Ariana Alexander
Ariana Alexander Associate Director, Graduate School Advising Ariana Alexander