So, you’ve been notified of your acceptance into law school. Congratulations! Next on your list (aside from figuring out how to pay for it), is attending your school’s Admitted Students Day. Here’s some solid advice to make your campus visit a truly worthwhile experience.
You Actually Need To Go, Yes Seriously.
Law school is a huge investment. Not only will you spend upwards of $150k over the next three years, but there are other costs you’ll be incurring as well. I don’t care how busy you think you are, before making that kind of investment you need to visit the campus and make sure the school not only meets your expectations, but that it also is a place you can see yourself thriving over the next three years.
Visit The Registrar’s Office
Until you begin finally enroll, you’re still a consumer who’s deciding how to best spend your money. As such, you want to get the inside scoop from law school administrators about what it takes to get a return on your law school investment.
At some point during the day, break away from the herd and visit the Registrar’s Office. Explain that you are a prospective student and would like to know the process for getting onto Law Review at school.
Some schools rely solely on 1L grades (e.g., Law Review invitations are sent to the top 10% of the class). Others rely on a mix of 1L grades and a writing competition. You should find out now what it takes to get on Law Review (a coveted resume item for all law students). Defining what it means to be a “successful” law student will help you set clear academic goals prior to the start of your fall semester.
Visit the Career Services Office
Also plan to make some time to speak with the Dean of Career Services (the person charged with helping law students find employment). You’ll want to talk to this person now, because once you start classes in the fall guidelines issued by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP.org) will prohibit you from contacting them for most of the fall semester. During your conversation with the Dean of Career Services, you’ll want to find out how many employers conduct On-Campus Interviews (OCI) and what they look for when recruiting students.
The number of firms that spend the time and money to visit a campus and recruit students directly correlates to the number of employment opportunities available upon graduation. Many of the most elite law schools may have 600+ employers visit for OCIs, while many of the smaller, more regional schools may have as few as twenty. Whatever the case, once you determine how many (and which) potential employers actively recruit on campus, you’ll be able to surmise not only the reputation the school has in the legal market but also your likely options for future employment.
Also, ask the Dean what employers look for when deciding which students to interview. The answer will be some combination of 1L grades/class rank and journal participation. But, what you want to know is the “cut off” that most firms use when deciding who to interview. So, for example, if you learn that your dream employer is only interested in interviewing students in the top 10% of the class with Law Review experience then that information will come in handy when defining your 1L goals.
Talk With Current Students
This is not a time for you to be shy – the world never rewards passive people. Put yourself out there and talk with students who are currently attending the law school you’re visiting. Ask them what the professors are like, what the atmosphere on campus is like (e.g., cutthroat, moderately competitive, etc.) and, most importantly, what they wished they knew before they enrolled and started classes. Again, you only have one chance to make an informed decision about which law school to attend. You’ll want to get an idea of the pros/cons from current students, and not mindlessly absorb the talking points from Admissions officers who are trying to recruit you.
Listen (and Talk) To Other Applicants
Look to your left; now look to your right. These people will likely represent the student body at your school for the next three years. Talk to them, but also listen closely to the questions they ask your tour guide and/or event speakers. These will be the people who you’ll be spending the next three years with. Take this time to not only assess your future competition, but also to determine if these are the folks with whom you’ll want to share your law school journey. If not, it’s better to know this now instead of in September.