There are currently 203 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, meaning if all that matters to you is getting a J.D. and sitting for the bar exam, there are plenty of options for you to choose from.

With that said, some educational investments are better than others. Going to a top-20 ranked school with the goal of landing a Big Law position is a no-brainer, but what if your grades and test scores could realistically only get you into a lower-ranked school?

You would obviously need to conduct thorough research, but there are some red flags to look out for when considering your law school options.

Beware of unaccredited law schools. Most states only allow alumni of ABA-accredited law schools to sit for the bar exam. Some states – California first and foremost – will allow graduates from unaccredited law schools to take the exam, but the pass rate is discouraging.

California is already notorious for its low bar exam pass rate – only 19.5 percent of alumni of unaccredited schools passed the July 2017 exam, and 48.9 percent of all takers.

Obviously, there are other factors in play; for example, landing in an unaccredited school suggests that the student doesn’t excel in standardized testing, which affects that student’s chances of passing the bar exam. Nevertheless, it’s safe to assume that the level of teaching in such schools has some bearing on the bar pass rate.

Even assuming one passes the bar, securing employment can prove to be an uphill battle. The legal field is extremely competitive, doubly so in states allowing unaccredited schools, simply because more schools means more lawyers.

Law firms of all sizes certainly care about your performance in school, but ranking at the top of your class in a lesser-known school still won’t be as impressive as being in the top 10 percent of an accredited, more selective school.

Watch for declining admissions standards. If you’re applying to law school now, that means you likely won’t have your degree in hand before 2022. Therefore, you should care not only where the school is now, but also where it’s headed.While […]

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