A recent Bloomberg Law survey reported students value location over any other factor when choosing a law school. And ranking, the second most important factor, wasn’t even close.
Seventy-one percent of respondents to the Law School Preparedness Survey reported that location factored into their decision where to attend law school. Location was the most popular choice across the more than 1,000 practicing attorneys, law students, law school faculty, and law librarians surveyed.
The second most popular response was law school ranking (50% of respondents), followed by the cost of tuition and board and scholarships/financial aid, which were both chosen by 41% of respondents.
In contrast, location is not a criterion for the “U.S. News and World Report” top law school ranking, which has historically determined the T-14 law schools. These schools also tend to align with the top schools leading to big law job placements after graduation.
Why is location important when choosing a law school?
T-14 law schools are considered “national” law schools because their prestige is widely known and can assist with job placement anywhere in the country. “Regional” schools, on the other hand, tend to attract those who intend to remain in that location post-graduation.
Why are these law schools gaining popularity?
Planning to settle in the location of your law school gives students a head start on finding local internships, experiential learning opportunities, professional networks, and post-grad job opportunities. Certain locations may be more conducive to the type of law students would like to practice once they’ve passed the bar, such as New York City for financial law and San Francisco for tech law.
Diverse pool of applicants
The number of law school applicants surged 13% in 2020, the largest increase in almost a decade. With this influx of applicants creating some of the largest and most diverse 1L classes ever recorded, these diverse groups have different needs for their law schools.
Diversity and inclusion in the location surrounding the law school, physical accessibility, or proximity to home for caretaking purposes, for example, may be important to the diverse communities interested in law school.
The pandemic affected both the economic and social atmosphere of law school locations differently.
The cost of living in a certain location or a student’s financial situation may have fluctuated due to the pandemic. Thirty-one percent of students graduated with $100,000 to $200,000 in debt after law school, also according to the Bloomberg Law survey, and may have factored their student loans into post-grad cost of living in their law school’s location.
Students may also be attracted to locations where they have an existing support system and social circle, with social opportunities potentially limited by COVID-19 restrictions.
Other law school trends
Following 2020’s record-breaking increase in applicants, 2021 saw a similarly historic year-over-year decrease in applicants—the first since 2018.
This decrease is expected to continue before 2022 fall 1L classes are finalized.