A current Albany Law student offers her best advice:
1. Location is key
When choosing the right law school, the national rank recognition of a law school will often outweigh the importance of location. However, location is
absolutely essential. You should try to decide where you want to live after law school and aim to attend a school in that same geographic area. Note, that decision is not always an easy one, or might not even be known when you are applying to school. So don’t worry. What you should be able to determine when you are applying to law school is the type of community you want to live in and around. For instance, an urban city or a rural countryside.
After many months of searching for law schools, I chose Albany Law because it is centrally located in the urban city of Albany, the capital of New York state. Prior to my admission to law school, I worked in New York City where I constantly felt overwhelmed from all the people, combustion, and the overall fast-moving pace of city life in itself. It was chaos. Choosing Albany Law was a breath of fresh air. The school is at the heart of the Capital Region, and is large enough where I feel independent, but small enough to still feel at home.
Also, when you’re not studying, you will need something to ease your nerves and stresses. Look for a school that offers a lively scene for concerts, restaurants, and shopping, and one that is conveniently located for easy access to other major metropolitan areas.
2. Specialized programs & concentrations
If you already know what kind of law you want to practice, find a school that specializes in that subfield. If you know that you want to pursue a career in environmental law, for example, you should seek out schools with exceptional environmental law programs. Even if these schools are lower in the overall national rankings, they will likely be the better fit for you. Rank is not the only thing that matters!
When I was searching, I had no clue what type of law I wanted to pursue. I picked Albany Law because it offers concentrations in many different areas, such as: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Business Law, Civil and Constitutional Rights, Civil Litigation, Criminal Law, Cybersecurity and Law, Environmental Law, Equine, Racing, and Gaming Law, Estate Law, Family and Elder Law, Governmental Administration and Regulation, Health Law, Intellectual Property, International Law, Labor and Employment Law, Social Entrepreneurship and Law, and Tax Law.
Make sure to search for a school that offers a broad array of concentrations. This allows you the choice to take different classes, even if it is a class you thought you would never enjoy learning but might absolutely fall in love with. So, if you don’t know what kind of law you want to specialize in, don’t worry, because after your first year, you can pick and choose the classes you want to take. It’s awesome.
You can only learn so much from glossy brochures and flashy websites. Talk to students to find out more about the environment. How competitive is it? What is the social scene on weekends? You should also explore housing facilities, looking into on-campus and off-campus options.
Since I was very concerned about the campus itself, during my search I made sure to speak to students at Albany Law. From those students I learned that the school shares a 54-acre midtown campus with three other educational institutions and research facilities. There are beautiful walkways and green spaces connecting the school with The Sage Colleges, Albany Medical College, and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. More importantly, housing both on campus and off campus is only a short distance from the classroom. Convenience is key!
Additionally, make sure to research what types of amenities the school offers to its students.
Another added bonus I found during my search was that Albany Law offers all the amenities a student could ask for including a fitness center, athletic fields, gymnasiums, an art gallery and bookstore. Anytime I need anything, I can just walk a short distance to all amenities. It’s great.
In the current economy, it's essential to obtain a hands-on experience to supplement your classroom education. For each of the schools you are seriously considering, research the academic opportunities offered outside the classroom. These might include clinics, journals, or externships (with firms, companies, or judges) that you can complete during the school year.
When I was researching law schools, I did not even consider what types of hands-on experiences are offered. I luckily ended up at Albany Law, which offers both clinics and field placements that allow for the students to have a hands-on experience in the legal field. The clinics recruit more than 120 students for clinic projects, representing hundreds of clients and assisting many more individuals and organizations through technical assistance and community education activities. As a 1L I can participate in a clinic or field placement beginning my second year. I have heard from many of my 2L peers who have been involved in the field placements and clinics, and all have said that both options are worth taking because you get to act as an actual attorney, which in my opinion is the best type of learning!
Overall, take time to consider the pros and cons of the schools you are applying to. When I was applying to schools last summer, Albany Law School was my first choice because, after careful consideration, I felt that Albany Law offered the best education and lifestyle to fit my needs. Picking the right school is about picking what’s best for you. Albany Law is not just a school but a way of life and has made me feel instantly at home. I know I made the right decision and I hope you do too!