As for the soft factors there really isn't much you can do. Law school is basically about the numbers this website does a better job showing your chances than LSAC in my opinion. lawschoolnumbers.com (you can scholarship money and so forth when decisions came). When I applied I got into Marquette with a 3.2 159 I didn't end up going, but I had roughly the same GPA granted that was years ago. Also like you I took a raw test with no concept of what was going on and got a 145 (I studied pretty regularly no class, but I got it up 14 points and I was working full-time while studying it, but any spare moment I had I would take a practice test. A course might be helpful I never took one maybe I could have done better, but whether you take a score or not you can certainly improve your score. I think most people improve my 10-15 points based on just a blanket practice test like you did.
SPORTS LAW AND REALITY OF LEGAL EDUCATION
As Roald suggested the specialty programs are a factor to consider, but the reality of legal education is that you learn the same thing everywhere.
At any ABA school from Harvard to X school your first year courses will be Property, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, Con Law, and LRW, or at least some variation on that. In Civil Procedure you will read Pennoyer v. Neff, Contracts Hadley v. Baxendale, Torts Palsgraff, the first year curriculum is simply the same at every school you read Supreme Court cases that is law school and you learn the same thing school to school. Those are the MBE subjects, which is National Bar Exam Multiple Choice test, which I think all 50 states use on their state bars so everybody learns in.
In year 2 and 3 you will have some leeway in your course schedule, but I can't imagine to many sports law classes will be offered. Although I think Bud Selig teaches a class at Marquetee, which is awesome. However, I am sure it is extremely difficult to get into the class and Bud Selig's schedule will control he might teach the same time your internship wants you in or some required class for 2L's. Also even if you enroll in Bud Selig's class and get an A+ you probably won't get a job in Sports law or at least not right out of the gate. I personally got the Book Award in Sports Law at my school 2nd highest grade in the class, which is great. However, I was not immediately recruited by NFL, NBA, or MLB teams and I have still never worked a sports law case even though I graduated some time ago.
These are really the most important factors to consider in your education. It sounds like your from Wisconsin and therefore Marquette is a great choice. No matter where you end up the reality is that where you live will play a bigger role in your law school and legal career than anything else. In law school you will have time to be a human being and you miss family, friends, and so forth. I imagine your experiencing that right now being Active Duty. Those emotions will be there during law school and it looks like you are looking at schools in a general location. Many incoming OL's don't think that through, but military service has probably opened your eyes a little bit.
Scholarships are plentiful if your above the numbers at certain schools. Lawschoolnumbers.com will give you some insight on what you need to get for scholarships at particular schools. Your military service might help you in that department as well, but I am not an admissions officer so I can't say. Pay attention to the amount your incurring I know my friends in undergrad that served got a lot of tuition you could probably figure out if that applies for law school. (If so that would be phenomenal the outrageous costs are one of the few things I did not enjoy about law school.
PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT THE SCHOOL:
Also visit the schools your interested in. When I was a OL I visited a lot of schools and doing mock trial competitions I went to schools I never even heard of or considered and each place had a culture to it. Some I liked and some I did not. Those were my own personal feelings and you will have your own opinions. What I liked about school X you may have hated Vice Versa. To figure out if a school is for you visit obviously, schedule office hours with a professor, sit in on their class, talk to admins, and see how students interact with eachother. Remember it will be a three year commitment if your turned off by a place during a day visit it will be a long three years.
GREAT THING ABOUT MARQUETTE DEGREE PRIVILEGE
Marquette and Wisconsin boast a 100% degree bar passage rate in Wisconsin. I am sure the faculty would like to say it is due to their tireless efforts, but the Wisconsin State Bar allows you to pass Wisconsin bar without taking it if you graduate from those two schools. This is the only state that does this I believe and when I was shelling out thousands of dollars for ruining an entire summer studying for BarBri I was really kicking myself for not going to Marquette. That is just a real pro about Marquette specifically ( I am almost positive this still exists, but again check it out the law school knows better than I do.)
ONE WAY TO SAVE 1,000 OR SO DOLLAR ON APPLICATION FEES WHEN YOU GET BACK:
I remember when I was applying LSAC held forums that each law school attended. I honestly just went to about every booth the Harvard, Yale, Stanford booths were packed full of people, but the other 197 or so booths were wide open and having a 3.2/159 I knew Harvard, Yale, Stanford were out of the question I talked to a bunch of schools Marquette included and many gave me fee waivers there, or sent me an e-mail (mass generated to anyone taht wrote their LSAC number down on the sign-in sheet) and I applied to 25 schools and didn't pay for a single application. I also wrote down that I visited their school at the forum in their applications, which may have given me a brownie point (and I got into almost all the schools I applied to even a few that were slightly above my range, but I was realistic with my applications.) If those are still around they are great way to save money on application fees. (Maybe the military will pay for those though and no need to worry just some extra advice)
With a 3.2, military service, and a 144 (raw test) you can probably get into Marquette if you prepare for the LSAT. I am also pretty sure they have done away with averaging LSAT scores and even if you don't do as well as you want when you get back you can re-take even while your application is pending. Check with Marquette and the other schools you listed.
Hopefully some of this info was helpful, but everything I said could be 100% wrong my intent on here is good, but I can't possibly know all the variables in your life or what is best for you and neither can any other anonymous internet poster. Furthermore, anyone posting on this board or others (myself included) could be full of it (there are no repercussions for making stuff up on this board or others, or giving horrible advice, etc, etc. Always remember your law school decision is 3 years of YOUR LIFE, 100k or more of YOUR MONEY, and YOUR LEGAL CAREER. Use your gut and common sense when making this decision.
Good luck and thank you for your service.
Thanks for the great and detailed reply legend. I'll stay objective about the advice I'm getting, and make my own choices in the end.
As far as tuition and cost consideration go, I'm extremely conscious of that. I have a wife (no kids), and I do not under any circumstances want to saddle us with 100K or more in debt. 60-70K is pretty much my cut off when it comes to how much debt I'm willing to incur. Marquette is the exception simply because it's in the state I want to practice in, AND has the program I'd like to study (regardless of career relevance).
I'm less concerned about regional considerations. I absolutely would prefer to stay in the Wisconsin/Michigan/Minnesota/Illinois area, but I'd definitely consider a different area if the tutition and program were right. I very much want to be a lawyer, but I'm probably not going to allow myself to incur 100K in debt or attend a bottom feeder school like Cooley to do it. I'm not going to be super picky, but I do have certain standards I won't drop. More and more I'm leaning toward the University of Kansas. The admission standards are roughly the same as Marquette, Michigan St, Wayne State, etc...but the tuition is insanely reasonable. I believe it's something like 15-17K a year for resistents. Since I'm stationed at Fort Riley, KS when I'm not deployed, Lawrence is only 45 minutes away. I could be insanely familiar and comfortable with the school by the time I'd actually attend, and would only have to move myself and my wife a few miles down the road. Kansas is almost neck and neck with Marquette as far as where I'd prefer to go.
That being said, would you recommend my traveling to Kansas and meeting with any staff/admissions people, etc? It seems like it would be easy to do and may even increase my chance of admission if I turn out to be a marginal candidate.