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3 Key Things to Think about When Choosing a Law School

Sarah Coleman


  • There are three things that you should consider once you have made the choice to go to law school: finances, school location, and practice areas and settings.
3 Key Things to Think about When Choosing a Law School

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There are three things that you should consider once you have made the choice to go to law school: finances, school location, and practice areas and settings.*


I strongly believe in graduating from law school with minimal debt, even if you plan on going into BigLaw and getting a great salary right out of the gate. I graduated with a low debt load (about $30,000) and paid it off relatively quickly (within three years). I could do that by thinking about debt load and management before I set foot in law school.

I chose to go to a lower-ranked school because it made the most financial sense for me (I went to the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and got a fantastic legal education, and I do not regret it one bit). I started with a half scholarship and was able to pick up additional scholarships after the first year. I did about one-quarter loans and about one-quarter out of pocket. My husband and I made an aggressive plan for paying off my loans, and we stuck to the plan.

When planning for law school, start thinking about debt management and its impact on your career and personal life choices. You will have more options and flexibility if you keep your debt load low. For example, I took a two-year career break to be a stay-at-home mom after the birth of my second child, something I always knew I wanted to do. I have since returned to practicing law, but I do so on a part-time basis so I can still care for my young children. Neither would have been feasible options if I hadn’t already paid off my student loans. So, that is my pitch for choosing a law school that gives you a healthy scholarship package or in-state tuition.


For most students, going to school where you want to practice makes sense. Consider that something like 75 percent of lawyers in Colorado went to either CU or DU for law school--that may be an urban legend, but it holds up in my experience. That’s a tight legal market to try to break into.

You might have compelling reasons for choosing to go to law school somewhere outside of the area you anticipate practicing in. That is fine, and I will certainly not tell you that you’ll never get a job. But, if you know that you’ll live and work in one state or region, the local contacts you’ll make through law school will be invaluable in your job search and networking. I still call up law school classmates practicing in-state to discuss a legal theory, brainstorm, or pick their brains.

Practice Setting

If you want a SCOTUS clerkship or a BigLaw practice, going to a T14 school is probably important. If you plan on having a solo family law practice, a T14 law school education is probably not so important. I am not making a value judgment about either option. Remember that law school is a vehicle to help you reach your professional goals, and some schools may be better suited for your goals and plans. I am here to say that you should not believe anyone who tells you that you must attend the most prestigious law school you can get into.

Finally, remember that life plans and professional goals change, and you’ll want a broad base of professional experiences to draw from. Clinics, law reviews/journals, internships, moot court, and other activities will help round you out as a student and future lawyer. Law schools will offer various extracurricular options, most with a substantive focus or practice-readiness component. Although I don’t think these should be primary considerations in selecting a law school, they are important.

*This post started off as a thread on my professional Twitter page, @COfreelancelaw. Thanks to everyone who commented on, liked, and retweeted the thread. I love the growing legal community on Twitter. If you're not on Twitter as a lawyer, you're really missing out!

This post originally appeared on the Coleman Law blog.