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What are the 3 most important things to consider when applying to law school?

I often respond to questions from readers on the law school admissions process. Here is a question I recently responded to: 

 

Q: What are the 3 most important things to consider when applying to law school?

A: As a Harvard Law School graduate who also worked for 5 years as a law school admissions counselor for Kaplan and Harvard College before and during law school, the 3 most important things in my view that you should consider when applying to law school are:

1. Whether it makes sense to go in the first place. Answering this question requires introspection about what your long-term goals are — if you have clearly defined goals, do you really need to be a licensed attorney to achieve those goals? The reason for asking this question is simple. Outside of law itself, few professions in the world require a law degree to enter into (or succeed at) them; even if you have a JD, success isn’t guaranteed. But 3 years of your life in law school plus $150K in tuition and expenses are real costs you will incur by attending law school.

2. Assuming it makes sense for you to go — perhaps, you want to enter politics and law school will provide a great spring board, or you want to teach law — then the most important concern is the law school’s reputation. Go to the best law school you can get into, because the legal profession — from private practice to academia to government — is incredibly credential-conscious. You can undoubtedly get great opportunities as a graduate of a “non-national” law school, but it is tremendously easier to get your foot in the door having gone to an elite law school. Over time, of course, as your track record and professional reputation develop, your pedigree becomes ever less important and your professional accomplishments will increasingly speak for themselves.

3. Related to law school reputation, the network you would build at a particular law school is the third factor I would consider. Much of your success in your career, particularly later in life, can be hugely shaped and uplifted by a strong personal network of connections from your law school class. In my view, going to a law school that attracts strong networks, and making a real effort to build and develop relationships with your classmates (and keeping in touch with people after graduation), is the single biggest thing you can do in law school to open up interesting potential opportunities in your career down the road.

Be sure to check out our law school admissions guide “How to get into Harvard Law School (whether you have the highest scores or not)” for in-depth tips and strategies on admission to elite law schools!

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Andrew C.

Andrew Chen is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He was admitted to Harvard on his first attempt at applying – in the very first round of applicants. He was also admitted to the law schools at Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Chicago among others – also all in their first rounds. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.