Bad news, like the majority of the population, you did not get into Harvard or Yale Law. Worse news, you did not get into a school ranked in the top 20 schools in the country. Should you still go to law school? Depending on what you want to do, and where you want to practice, all is not lost.

Envision your career before school

You probably do not know exactly what you want to do after law school, but I bet you have some idea. Figuring out what type of lawyer you want to be (big firm, solo, government) and where you want to practice (locally, somewhere else) are extremely important in helping pick which law school you attend.

Do you want to be a big firm lawyer?

If the answer is yes, you can still go to a lesser-known law school. It will be more difficult to get a big firm job, but it is still possible. You will need awesome grades and probably need to write for law review too. Not impossible, but your work is cut out for you.

A good rule of thumb, based on an informal poll, is that going to a top 20 school is the equivalent of going to a lower ranked school and finishing in the top 10%. For big firms, if you are at a lower ranked school, you need to excel.

Do you want to go solo?

Many lower ranked schools place a higher emphasis on practical training. Some of the bigger schools focus on policy and the bigger picture. In other words, if you want to jump right in and practice, a lower ranked school might be better for you.

Many of the professors at lower ranked schools have years of experience in their practice area and they might also teach a clinic in that area. This is a great chance to get some real experience from someone who knows what they are doing.

Where are the school’s alumni?

Some of the lower ranked schools might not be known nationally, but they are well regarded in their region, and the alumni stay in town. In that case, that lower ranked school might give you the best shot to get a job in that city.

Alumni tend to help their own and many prefer hiring graduates from their alma matter. Because the alumni are already in the same city, you can network during school to help enhance your chances after school.

For some of the top 20 schools, the alumni spread out across the country, which can make networking in town rather difficult.

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