AnsweringWhy Northwestern Law Fits Into Your Career Plan

by Donald Snead and Taryn Nakamura

You’re the only one who can answer that, so make sure you have a good one. Assistant Dean Of Admissions Johann Lee says in his Top-Law-Schools.Com interview that the one of the most common mistakes of college seniors applying to Northwestern is their inability to explain why Northwestern fits into their career plan. Admissions officers are eager to weed out applicants who are just applying to law school because they’re afraid of entering the job market.

Donald Snead, 2007 graduate of Northwestern Law School and current Emerging Companies Associate at Perkins Cole LLP, speaks from his experience applying to Northwestern Law School. He now conduct off-campus interviews and can provide perspective from the other side of the admissions process. In this chapter, we’ve woven in his reasons for choosing Northwestern Law School.

Here are some reasons others have chosen Northwestern. What are your reasons for applying?


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You’re the only one who can answer that, so make sure you have a good one. Assistant Dean Of Admissions Johann Lee says in his Top-Law-Schools.Com interview that the one of the most common mistakes of college seniors applying to Northwestern is their inability to explain why Northwestern fits into their career plan. Admissions officers are eager to weed out applicants who are just applying to law school because they’re afraid of entering the job market.

Donald Snead, 2007 graduate of Northwestern Law School and current Emerging Companies Associate at Perkins Cole LLP, speaks from his experience applying to Northwestern Law School. He now conduct off-campus interviews and can provide perspective from the other side of the admissions process. In this chapter, we’ve woven in his reasons for choosing Northwestern Law School.

Here are some reasons others have chosen Northwestern. What are your reasons for applying?

“360 Degree” Learning

In a 2009 interview with Top-Law-Schools.Com, Johann Lee describes Northwestern’s “360 degree” philosophy. Students learn from professors, students teach other students, and professors learn from students.

Northwestern Law admissions looks for students candidates who can bring interesting opinions to the discussion. Where do candidates cultivate the maturity Northwestern Law seeks? Through work experience. 95% of entering students have worked at least one year, and 60% have at least three years of work experience.

With a class that enters with work experience, you’ll be sure to find classmates from many fields of expertise.

Non-Competitive Atmosphere

Students report that there is a team-oriented approach to learning. Northwestern doesn’t rank its students, as other top law schools do, and Northwestern Law School students don’t keep tabs on classmates’ grades. Students share notes and collaborate outside of class. Students interviewed by Top-Law-Schools.Com also say that law school classes and anxiety don’t entirely consume their lives. Many students have families and busy lives outside of school.

According to Northwestern, the average age of the 2011 entering class at Northwestern University Law School was 26 in 2011. The slightly older, more mature student body at Northwestern gives the school a business-like feel. Northwestern students feel that work experience and age make their peers more confident and have little need need to show off, have better work ethic, and are more interested in learning than in tearing others down in class discussion.

Good Job Placement

According to U.S. News & World Report, 92.7% of Northwestern Law graduates in 2009 were employed at graduation.

Northwestern Law School’s curriculum stresses practical application of law over theory. Former Dean, David Van Zandt, said in a Top-Law-Schools.Com interview that communication, teamwork, and project management are some of the skills that Northwestern emphasizes and that are prized by future employers. When people say that Northwestern has a business-school feel, Van Zandt doesn’t take it as criticism.

Student-Teacher Relationships

At Northwestern Law School, you won’t feel lost in a sea of anonymous faces. The student-faculty ratio is a remarkably low 8.5:1. Northwestern University Law students interviewed by Top-Law-Schools.Com report that professors are easy to get in touch with after class and over email. The small class sizes allow professors to know their students individually.

Location

Northwestern’s location in downtown Chicago was a big draw for Donald. He had been living in New York and wanted to move on, but he still wanted an urban setting. Chicago has all the offerings of a big city: bars, restaurants, sports games, museums, and more.

In addition, Chicago is the second largest legal market after New York City. Although Donald ultimately chose a job in the West, Northwestern’s reputation in Chicago and the Midwest helps many students find jobs there. If Northwestern Law graduates stay in Chicago after graduation, it’s by choice, not necessity.

Emphasis On Legal Writing

Northwestern has one of the top legal writing programs in the country. Most schools only offer legal writing for one semester in the first year. Northwestern requires students to take a legal writing course for both semesters. In addition, Northwestern grades the course, putting more pressure on students to work hard and succeed in the class.

Donald knew how important legal writing is to lawyers, and he wanted a school that would best teach him this skill:

“Knowing that legal writing was strong at Northwestern was really appealing to me. I had options at other top schools. They all pretty much offer the same classes and have top professors, but it came down to differentiating on the small things.”

Northwestern needs to be a good fit for you. Not all students will adapt to the learning environment at Northwestern. Take some time defining your career goals and thinking about the type of experience you’d like to have. The next chapter will discuss career vision and how Northwestern may or may not fit into yours.

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