How top legal educators chose their law schools

Today, prospective law school students have all sorts of methods to help them decide which law school would fit them best. They can reach out to pre-law advisers, alumni, current students or a bevy of social media sites. In our current issue of preLaw magazine, we ran a story on that very subject, called "How to Choose a Law School."

But how did some of today's leading legal educators decide?

We asked them.  


Frank Wu, former dean and current professor of law, UC Hastings:

I went to law school down the road, literally, from where I grew up. I am from Detroit. My family lived on a dirt road just past the suburbs; when I was in high school, there were still cornfields surrounding our house. If you continued along the two-lane state highway a few minutes, you would reach Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. I didn’t consider any other law school. I was lucky to be admitted. It would have been irrational to choose any other place. In-state tuition still made a difference back in the day. U of M is part of my upbringing. I grew up whistling the fight song. So I remain loyal. A highlight of my career was being a visiting professor there in 2002-2003. Go Blue!


Kellye Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council 

I went to Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, Ind.  I applied to exactly one law school – IU!  I am a first-generation college graduate in my family and I grew up in Bloomington. I also went to undergrad there, and while I worked for about five years in California before applying to law school, I wanted to go back to IU. Also, I really did not know much about applying to law school and so did not even consider applying elsewhere.  One and done!  And I loved every minute of my time there. That’s not to say that I advise others to follow my method.  I really admire students who understand that fit really matters and take the time to visit schools and think hard about what may be right for them.  I feel very fortunate to have attended law school, to have attended IU, and now to be able to work with all of the candidates for law school as we work hard to build the future of justice at LSAC!


Aaron N. Taylor, Executive Director – AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence:

I chose Howard Law for two main reasons: cost and fit. I was seeking the best education I could get, at the lowest possible price. I was fortunate to receive several scholarship offers. The most generous ones were comparable to each other; Howard being among that group. The process of choosing between those schools centered on where I thought I had the best chance of thriving. I considered things like class size, diversity, and location. I also had some familiarity with, and admiration for, Howard’s reputation for training social justice lawyers. My deliberations aside, I knew that in the end selecting a law school was a leap of faith. So, with seat deposit deadlines looming, I jumped headfirst and committed to making my experience at Howard a great one. And indeed it was.


Wendy Purdue, president of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) and dean and professor of law, University of Richmond School of Law

I was applying to law school in the mid-1970s and the amount of information that was available was relatively limited compared to today. Reputation certainly played a role but in that pre-U.S. News age, we relied more on advisors and word of mouth to assess the strength and reputation of a particular school. In addition, “fit” mattered a lot to me.  My brother was an undergrad at Duke at the time, so I had visited the school and been impressed with the people I met. In particular, I recall meeting several female law students — and at that time there weren’t yet a lot of women in law school. They certainly factored positively into my decision to attend Duke.


Michael Simkovic, professor of law and accounting, USC Gould School of Law and author of highly cited papers including, “The Economic Value of a Law Degree.”

I knew going into law school that: I was interested in business and business law; I wanted to come back to New York after graduation (My family is from New York); and there was a possibility that I might want to eventually become a professor Given my goals, Harvard seemed like a great choice. Many law schools are relatively light on business law and private law faculty, considering where their graduates work. Harvard had an exceptionally deep bench of talent and didn’t rely on adjuncts to teach what, to my mind, were among the most important courses. I had also read books and articles by some members of the Harvard faculty and was impressed. I hoped to have an opportunity to study with them.


Blake Morant, dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School. He’s a former president of the AALS. 

My quest for a law school focused on cost and reputation. The University of Virginia satisfied both of these requisites. Having attended the college at the university, I had some idea of the law school's atmosphere. My decision to attend there has proven to be most wise.


Ajay K. Mehrotra, executive director & research professor, American Bar Foundation; professor of law, Northwestern University

I attended Georgetown Law mainly because of its D.C. location. I was interested in using a law degree to work in government or research, and D.C. seemed to provide the ideal location for those two career paths.