Tips and Tools for Researching Law Schools

Researching law schools is a critical part of the prelaw journey. Through this process, applicants will begin to understand all the available options. With approximately 200 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, it can feel challenging to know where to start!

In this post, applicants will learn the different criteria used to explore potential law schools and learn about some of the best tools available to assist with the process.

Let’s begin!

Criteria for Exploring Law Schools

Deciding what to look for in a potential law school requires an assessment of your individual goals and priorities.  As you consider your options for law school you should include the following in your list of potential goals:

  • Geographic Location Present & Future
  • Tuition and Other Costs of Attendance
  • Your Career Goals
  • Employment Outcomes and Career Support
  • Bar Passage Rates
  • Educational and Personality Fit
  • Admission Criteria
  • Other Variables – You Decide!

Tools for Researching Law Schools

Every school has its unique strengths and characteristics.  Learning about different law schools is an excellent place to start in developing a list of goals that are important to you.

Consider the following tools to help you explore and learn about different schools.

ABA 509 Disclosure Reports

Law schools must report data to the American Bar Association (ABA) each year which is then compiled into what are known as the “509 Reports“.  This data includes information regarding career placement, bar passage, admissions, scholarship and financial aid, academics, and student body profile information.  These are some of the best resources for reaching schools.  We encourage you to look up 509 Reports on any school you are interested in. 

Please note profile data for students beginning in Fall 2024 will be reported by October 5 and published publicly in the following weeks.

Below is an example of a 509 report. Click the button below to see Employment and Bar Passage Outcomes examples.

AccessLex – Xplore JD

Access Lex provides many resources for aspiring law students, including Xplore JD! Xplore JD is a free online database that allows users to search for potential law schools based on five primary factors/goals: Location, Cost, Academic and Student Experience, Diversity, and Outcomes. XploreJD offers 24 questions on factors to consider when selecting a law school.

Your answers to the 24 questions will be assessed and matched with potential law schools that match your goals! This is an excellent tool to discover new law schools and assess how suited certain schools are to your goals and needs. Remember, this tool cannot guarantee that you will be admitted to any particular school. It is a way to customize a list based on your unique goals and perspectives.

Make sure to watch the video on the homepage to learn how to navigate this tool. Below are some examples of the questions you will be asked as you research law schools!

LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools:

The LSAC Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools is a wonderful database that allows you to search for law schools based on several criteria including location, your GPA/LSAT, and program.  Remember, this is not a guarantee that you will be admitted to the school. It is also important to put the provided “likelihood of admission” percentages into context of the school’s overall admit rate and the wholistic review that takes place for all applicants. It is a tool to help you learn about schools based on your individual criteria.

LSAC also offers a few specifically targeted resources to help students in their research:

Law School Transparency

Law School Transparency (LST) compiles publicly available data on law schools to assist applicants with researching schools. LST is available for free through LSAC. Through LST you can browse law schools, build a personal report, compare law schools, and plan your budget. Your personal report will provide suggestions on law schools and also allow you to do quick comparisons amongst your top choice institutions on data related to the cost of attendance, job placement, bar passage, and more!

Please note you must log in to your LSAC account to utilize the personal search options.

Ranking Lists

U.S. News & World Report is one of the most common annual law school ranking lists, however, you may find other entities that provide rankings on overall law programs, or specific aspects of law programs. Ranking lists can be a good way to get a broad perspective on schools or quickly find more specific details about programs. However, there is so much more to a law school than ranking alone!  Use these resources with caution and be sure to understand the basis for the conclusions that ranking lists make. With nearly 200 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, keep in mind that many schools can support your success. That’s why it is important to understand what your goals and unique needs are and use that information as you decide what schools to apply to.

Connect at a Virtual or In-Person Law Fair!

Law fairs can provide one of the best ways to begin your exploration and research into law schools.  It provides you the opportunity to gather information and insights from a large number of diverse schools, from across the country, in a short amount of time!

There are many options to attend law fairs each year in both in-person and virtual formats!  UIUC students and alumni can attend the Illinois Law Fair on October 1, 2024, at the Illini Union!

LSAC hosts both in-person and virtual forums each year at locations around the country. Check out the list of 2024-2025 dates online.

TIP:  Research a few schools you know nothing about, never heard of, or that are located in a completely different region than you think you would like to be.  Even if you may not ultimately apply to these school, challenging yourself to explore something different is an excellent way to discover different options and possibilities that law schools may offer!