Finding Best Value and Fit

September 30, 2020 | by Dean Margaret Sova McCabe

What does it mean to be a “Best Value” law school? First and foremost, it is a ranking devised by preLaw magazine to measure important attributes of law schools that the publication has identified as allowing students to graduate, pass the bar, and get a bar required position, and to do so while incurring as little debt as possible.

The formula is straightforward. As reported in the Fall 2019 preLaw ranking: ultimate bar pass rate and two-year pass rate (15% of ranking); employment rate (35%); tuition (25%); cost of living (10%); and average indebtedness upon graduation (15%). With the exception of indebtedness, which comes from the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings survey, the remainder of the data is found in the information reported on the ABA Standard 509 report, available on every law school’s website.

Thinking about a law school as a best value is something all students should do.

For the dollars and cents of it, you need to know what net tuition you’ll be paying (tuition less your scholarship) and how much you’ll spend on living expenses. Don’t be blinded by a large scholarship if the tuition is high. Similarly, terrific tuition and scholarships in an expensive city might not be the best financial choice.

Beyond cost, most law schools embrace the idea that students need to find the right “fit.” Before identifying fit considerations, let me also suggest that law school is a journey and often what you planned to pursue during the application process is not where you end up. Thinking about best value can provide flexibility and freedom that you might not otherwise have if you commit too early to certain ideas about your legal career. With that in mind, here are some considerations beyond best value to help you choose the best law school for you:

  • Does the school offer a good mix of classroom and hands-on courses?
  • Does it have programs that allow you to pursue areas you’re interested in? This could be law reviews, moot courts, student organizations, or pro bono opportunities.
  • Do the faculty and staff seem accessible and committed to student success? How do you know?
  • Is the school in an area that you can see yourself starting your career? If not, does it have alumni in markets that you are interested in?
  • From what you experience during the admissions process, does the student culture seem welcoming and open to you?

Here at the University of Arkansas we’re proud to be included in preLaw’s best value ranking. More than that, we believe that we offer great programming, accessible faculty, a welcoming student culture, and affordability that make us a great fit for many students. That noted, our primary goal is to provide the information you need to make an informed decision -- financially and professionally. Please reach out if you’re interested in learning more.