Some people decide from a young age what they want to be when they grow up, and if they're interested in making a lot of money, then they may choose to go into a prestigious field like medicine or law. Sometimes, people decide to change their career path later on in life, and may decide that it's not too late to apply to law school, even years after graduating from college.
No matter how long you've known that you wanted to become a lawyer, the fact that you're making the decision to go to law school is no small feat, and the decision shouldn't be made lightly. Attending law school is a long journey that requires dedication, a strong work ethic, a tough skin and more often than not, a lot of money that you'll have to pay now or once you graduate.
Law school is a major time and financial investment, yet the rewards are definitely worth it. The amount of money that lawyers get paid, and the type of work they get to do, can be very meaningful and really make a difference in the lives of others. If this is you, then you're probably aware that there are many other students around the country who want to pursue a career in law, just like you. Because of this, there are some huge schools in the United States that can support a large number of students interested in becoming lawyers. However, if you're looking to have a more close-knit learning experience that won't make you feel overwhelmed, then you can have this by choosing to attend a smaller law school.
Why Choose a Small Law School?
When people think about applying to law school, it's not unheard of to shoot high. Harvard, for instance, is probably considered the best university for law and is a school that many people dream of going to, and students will work extremely hard from the time they're in middle school to try and get accepted to this Ivy League school. There are certainly many benefits to having a degree in law from a school like Harvard, but there might be aspects about it that don't appeal to you as a student.
For instance, schools like Harvard are known to have large class sizes, a lack of individual attention and lots of competition among its students. While a degree from a large law school like Harvard can certainly help a person get a job pretty much anywhere, another person may have his or her own reasons for wanting to attend a smaller school. Perhaps he or she prefers the individual attention that can take place due to the small class sizes, the ability to really get to know his or her professors and merely the fact that the school itself feels smaller.
Small Law Schools vs. Large Law Schools
If you're wondering what's better, a small law school or a large law school, well, that's really up to you. Bigger law schools tend to get more recognition and attention simply because there are more students attending, but that doesn't always make it better. The same goes for small law schools. Just because it's small and more affordable, doesn't mean that it's a bad school.
The point is, if you're thinking of becoming a lawyer, what's more important is to know what kind of lawyer you want to be, where you'd want to work and what kind of services you hope to offer to your future clients. Do you want to work for a firm for a few years, or open up your own practice shortly after graduating? Just like there are no two schools that are the same, there are no two lawyers that are the same, either. At the end of the day, you're the one who is going to bring your skills and experiences to the table. While one school may be able to equip you with the tools and resources necessary to be an amazing lawyer better than another school, a lot of that is up to you and the amount of work you're willing to put in.
What Defines a Small Law School
Before determining what's considered a small law school or what's considered a small school in general, it's necessary to know what's considered "small." In general, the word "small" in terms of higher education institutions, simply refers to schools with smaller class sizes. To get an idea of what this means, know that the largest universities in the country can sometimes have close to 50,000 students. Small colleges and universities, on the other hand, are typically those defined as schools that have less than 5,000 students.
But, "small" can also refer to a school that has a tuition cost that's significantly lower than other schools. It can refer to the number of programs available on campus, whether they be academic or extracurricular activities, the existence or lack thereof of Greek life, the number of students living on campus versus off campus, how many academic papers the school has published, etc. "Small" could also refer to a private school. With that being said, there isn't really a set criterion of which to evaluate whether or not a school is considered "small" because in most cases, it's all relative. However, just evaluating the class size is a good place to start.
The Price of a Small Law School
Although the price of a school is sometimes used to determine whether or not the school is considered "small," there is no direct correlation. It just so happens that some smaller schools charge less money, maybe because they are located in a small city or a state with a low population. While some people may look for a school that's just considered small by the number of students enrolled, others may just look to see whether or not a school is within their price range.
According to Student Loan Hero, when you compare the 20 most affordable law schools in the country to the 20 least affordable law schools in the country, the price difference is remarkable. An expensive law school can cost anywhere around $43,000 for annual tuition, while an inexpensive law school can cost around $25,000 for annual tuition. Also, remember that if you're a resident of the state where the school is, you'll usually pay less than an out-of-state resident.
The Best Small Law Schools in the United States
If the term "small school" is used solely to describe the number of students enrolled, then there are quite a lot of these law schools in the United States that you can choose from. When it comes time to apply to school, take your time to compare the best small law schools you're thinking of, and if you can, take a tour of the schools to see which one really is the best fit for you. Just because a law school is considered small, doesn't necessarily mean it has everything that you want to make sure you take the time to explore your options. According to U.S. News, there are several law schools throughout the United States that are considered both small and some of the best in the country:
- American University
- Loyola University
- Drake University
- Fordham University
- New York University
- Temple University
- University of Texas-Austin
- Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School
- Clarke School of Law
- George Washington University
- John Marshall Law School
Most of these schools you've probably heard of before, and you might be wondering how they could be on the list. Know that just because the school itself is considered large, there may be law programs within the school that are significantly smaller than other programs at the school. These schools have multiple classes with less than 25 students. Of course, some of these schools also have expensive tuition rates, which is a reminder that just because a school is considered "small" size-wise, doesn't mean it's going to be cheaper.
The Most Affordable Law Schools
If the price is the most critical thing to you when choosing a law school, then you can conduct your search based on price first, then narrow it down based on class size. Those who attend a more affordable law school will, most of the time, graduate with less student debt than those who attend a more expensive school, and will, therefore, have more flexibility when it comes to their job search after graduation. With less student loan debt to pay back, students won't have such an urgency to get a high-paying job right away. They can take the time to work within the law realm in different industries and offices, making decent money until they find what they enjoy. And according to Student Loan Hero, there are quite a few that are the best value law schools as far as tuition, size and ranking:
- Brigham Young (Clark)
- Rutgers Law School
- Georgia State University's College of Law
- University of Iowa
- University of Houston
- Louisiana State University
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Boston College
- Wayne State University
- University of Arkansas-Little Rock
The Pros and Cons of Attending a Small Law School
When it comes to choosing a law school, there are many pros and cons to consider. A lot of the decision has to do with the school's ranking and location. Though it's not always the case, sometimes larger law schools (or law programs within larger universities) tend to rank better than smaller schools. But just because a school is small doesn't necessarily mean that it's lower ranked, however, it's definitely worth looking into.
While it could be harder to get the dream job with a degree from a small law school, there are other benefits. Depending on the community you plan on working, or in what industry, it might be easier to get an "in" after attending a smaller law school. At a smaller school, it's sometimes easier to network with people and make meaningful connections when it comes time to find a job.
Things to Consider
There are many perks to choosing a small law school, as there are many perks to choosing a large law school. If you're thinking of attending a school based on the size or price, then you can also check the school's ranking and how many students are able to get jobs after graduating. Although a lot of it has to do with the work ethic of the student, the school that you choose can really make a difference as to where you'll end up after graduation.
For instance, sometimes it's better to attend school in the same place you plan on living after graduation because that'll give you plenty of time to make connections or work in internships around the area. Whatever you do decide, just make sure you take your time with that decision. No matter which way you look at it, law school is a long and expensive journey, and even though it certainly will pay off in the end, it's a good idea to go into the situation completely aware of everything that may come your way.