After students have decided when they are going to apply to law school, they must decide which schools they would like to attend. Law schools are number-driven; that is, grade-point-average and test scores are the best indicators for applicants who are trying to determine which schools are within their application range. The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools and the Search for Schools Based on UGPA and LSAT Score, are good resources. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools is also available for perusal in the Office of Pre-professional Advising. Students may also purchase the guide from the Law School Admissions Council or any other textbook store. Additionally, individual law school websites are excellent resources for applicants.
There is no limit to the number of schools an applicant may apply to, though most people apply to fewer than ten schools. A sensible applicant would direct most of their effort towards applying to schools in their competitive range, and then apply to a couple of reaches, or "dream schools", as well as a couple safety-schools.
Most schools accept the LSAC common application, which, like the registration form for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is available on-line. The common application is also available in CD-ROM format and can be ordered through the LSAC Web site. Applicants who prefer to complete paper applications must directly request paper applications from individual schools.
Although most applications are due between January and April, deadlines vary considerably. The Office of Preprofessional Advising advises applicants to apply by no later than mid-November. Many law schools define a completed application as receipt of the application, recommendations, the LSDAS Report, and if required, the dean's certification. Allow two to three weeks for a school to request and receive an LSDAS report.
Several law schools offer Early Access or Early Assurance programs for applicants who are willing to complete their applications between mid-October and the beginning of December. Students who are granted admission under one of these programs will receive a non-binding offer of admission and may accept another school's offer. Students should be aware that applying under early access or early assurance does not necessarily increase their chances of being admitted to a school.
Many schools tell the Office of Preprofessional Advising that the early access programs allow law school admissions committees to read applications more closely, since it provides them with more time to discuss applicants before making offers of admission. Early access may prove most convenient to students who want to know very early on in the application process whether or not they've been accepted to their first-choice school.
Some schools, such as Columbia Law School, offer Early Decision programs to their applicants. Early Decision programs are binding, which means that an accepted student must accept an offer of admission and withdraw their applications to other schools.