Why law school?
Many students attribute their interest in law school to common reasons like, “I like to argue,” or “my family is full of lawyers.” While these may be legitimate reasons to begin to consider law school, they are not strong enough motivations to actually attend. As a pre-law student, it is important for you to learn about law school, legal practice, the skills it takes to be a successful lawyer, and whether you will enjoy the practice of law. You should also take time to really consider your motivations for law school. This will not only help you figure out if law school is the right path for you, but it will also aid you as you apply to law school and write your personal statement. Students who are unable to develop a strong reason should explore alternative career paths such as graduate school or full-time employment.
What does the practice of law look like?
The practice of law looks very different depending on the field you choose, but most lawyers read, write, and conduct legal research every day of their careers. There are many different law practices, so it is important to learn about the different fields to figure out which is the best fit for you. Before applying to law school, you should have an idea of the type of law you want to pursue.
Regardless of the type of law you choose to pursue, the following skills, values, knowledge, and experience are essential to succeed in law school and the practice of law, as identified by the American Bar Association.
- Problem Solving
- Critical Reading
- Writing and Editing
- Oral Communication and Listening
- Organization and Management
- Public Service and Promotion of Justice
- Relationship-Building and Collaboration
- Background Knowledge
- Exposure to the Law
What can I expect in law school?
The first-year of law school is a stimulating, stressful, and competitive experience that students often find unnerving until they adjust. There are no lectures, rather students are expected to come to class having completed the assigned readings and cases. Class time is used as an interactive forum where students must answer questions that are designed to explore the facts of the case, determine legal principles, and analyze the reasoning used. Professors will also use hypothetical scenarios to test a student’s understanding of the materials. Unlike college where students can get away with being passive observers in lectures, law students must be active participants in class discussions and be ready to defend their opinions and answers.
Another aspect of law school that first-year students find challenging is that professors typically do not provide feedback until the end of the course, and grades are determined solely by a final exam. This can make it difficult for students to gauge how well they are mastering the material as they assimilate to law school. In the second and third years of law school, students have opportunities to participate in specialized programs, judicial clerkships, legal externships, clinical programs and moot court, and more. Law school can be an intense, competitive environment, but the rewards are considerable.
Law school is an expensive investment, so it is important to consider the cost of attendance and how you will finance your education before making the decision to attend law school. Always check the financial aid page of a law school’s website to learn if there are any additional scholarship or grant opportunities available through a separate application procedure. Many of these scholarships are merit-based, so it is critical to achieve a high GPA and LSAT score. If, after subtracting grants and scholarships from the cost of attendance, you still need financial assistance, you can take out loans through the federal government. However, it is critical to calculate your projected debt and create a plan for repayment, then research employment outcomes and expected salaries for your legal specialties of interest to determine if law school is worth the projected debt.