Think that law school is for you? Law school is notoriously expensive, hard, and often boring. Moreover, jobs are hard to come by, not as lucrative as depicted by TV, and certainly not as interesting. Many law students and graduates are dismayed to learn that a career in law is nothing like they imagined. How do you avoid disappointment and disillusionment? Make sure that you are going to law school for the right reasons and after seeking the right experiences.
1. You Know What You Want to Do With Your Degree
Law school is for making lawyers. Be sure that you want to practice the law. Sure, law degrees are versatile -- you do not have to be a practicing attorney. Plenty of lawyers work in other fields, but a law degree isn't needed to work in these areas. Should you seek an extraordinarily expensive degree and acquire massive loan debt to get a job that does not require your degree? Make sure that you know what you want to do and that a law degree is essential to accomplishing your career goals.
2. You Have Some Experience in Law
Too many students apply to law school without having spent even an afternoon in a legal setting. Some law students get their first taste of the law on their internships, after a year or more of law school. What's worse is that some of these inexperienced law students decide that they dislike working in legal settings -- but after investing the time and money in law school stick it out and potentially become more miserable. Make an informed decision about whether law school is for you based on having some experience in the field. Entry level work in a legal environment can help you see what a legal career is really like -- a lot of paper pushing -- and decide if it is for you.
3. You Have Sought Career Advice From Lawyers
What is a career in law like? You can spend time in legal settings and observe, but it's always useful to get the perspective of a few lawyers. Talk to experienced lawyers: What is their job like? What do they love about it? What isn't so fun? What would they do differently? Also approach more junior lawyers. Find out about their experiences transitioning from law school to a career. What was their experience on the job market? How long did it take to find a job? What do they like best about their career, and least? What would they do differently? Most importantly, if they could do it over, would they go to law school? In today's difficult market more and more young lawyers answer, “No.”
4. You Have a Scholarship
With three years of tuition and expenses running $100,000 to $200,000, deciding whether to go to law school is more than an educational and career decision, it is a financial decision with life-long repercussions. A scholarship can ease that burden. Recognize, however, that scholarships are renewed only when students maintain a given GPA -- and grades are very tough in law school. It is not uncommon for students to lose scholarships after the first year of law school, so beware.
5. You Cannot See Yourself Doing Anything Else in Life Than Practice Law
Be honest. It is easy to make this claim, but research job options and do your homework as outlined above. Whatever you do, do not go to law school because you do not know what else to do with your life. Make sure that you have an informed understanding of the field and what success in law school requires. If so, prepare your law school application and plan ahead.