Thanks to TV, movies, novels, and the promised pay becoming a lawyer seems like a great decision. But most people are probably ignorant of the realities involved when deciding to go to law school.
We don’t want you to fall within this category of people. So here we will present the questions you need to ask yourself before making your decision. We’ll also be looking at the right and wrong reasons to choose to go to law school.
Questions to Ask Before Applying to Law School
1. Why Do I want to go to Law School?
Many people in law school are there for the wrong reasons. And when this is the case, they will likely wind up hating the legal profession—or dissatisfied, at the very least.
Before you decide to attend law school, find a genuine reason that justifies the financial cost and the sacrifices required. If not, your decision to attend will likely result in regret.
2. Can I Afford Law School?
No matter which law school you choose, it’s not going to be cheap. The higher the school’s ranking, the more it’s going to cost—in both time and money.
The average cost of the top 10 law schools in the US is about $60,000 a year. The lower-priced run about $20,000 a year. And that doesn’t include the cost of books and other expenses.
If you are attending law school for the right reasons, then the cost is a worthwhile investment. But if not, you might find yourself stuck with lifelong student loan debts that you can’t justify.
3. Can I Get into a Well-ranked School?
You have better opportunities in the job market if you graduate from one of the higher-ranked law schools – specifically the top 15 ones. Some of these require an LSAT score of at least 170.
So, what are your chances of getting in? And if money is an issue, what are your chances of getting in on a partial or full scholarship?
Note that if you can graduate at the top of your class from a lower-ranked law school, your chances in the job market are still pretty good. But this takes a lot of hard work and commitment. Are you ready for that?
4. What’s your Plan for Your Law Degree?
If you intend to graduate from law school and simply hang your JD on the wall, why bother? It makes more sense if there’s a specific niche or industry you hope to start a law career in.
Get advice from experienced lawyers in various fields to find which resonates with you. Doing so will help you tailor your law school experience and ensure you get the knowledge you need to achieve your long-term goal.
5. Have you Ever Tried Being a Lawyer?
It’s unfair to yourself to apply to law school without getting some real-world experience of what practicing law might involve. Regardless of what the movies show, most law firms in the real world are far from glitzy and glamorous—especially when you are a newcomer.
Get some life experience at least one law firm, so you’ll have realistic expectations about what a legal career has to offer—and to know if it’s something you want.
6. Can you handle it?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and succeeding in law school requires a unique set of capabilities. Even after you graduate from law school, you are still going to be doing a lot of studying and researching.
Is this you? Do you enjoy spending hours poring over hundreds of pages of case laws? Are you willing to sacrifice hours of your life looking for answers and loopholes, and drafting legal documents?
If this excites you, then yes—maybe you should go to law school.
The Right Reasons to Attend Law School
When you ask yourself, “Should I go to law school?” you should have solid reasons to back up your answer if your reply is “yes.” If your reason appears below, you’re probably making the right decision.
1. I want to be a lawyer—nothing else will do.
You can only have this as your reason if you genuinely know what it means to be a lawyer—and love it. Hence, our advice that you get some experience in a law firm before choosing to go to law school is crucial.
Many are more focused on getting in and out of law school rather than what comes after. Graduating from law school is merely opening the door to a legal career. You aren’t even in the room yet until you start practicing law.
Know as much as you can about being a lawyer in the real world. If you like what you see, then you can confidently say that you know what you are getting into and are ready to become a lawyer.
2. I’m looking for a challenge.
If this is your main reason, then perhaps the cost of attending law school isn’t a factor, and you’re simply looking for something worthy of your intellectual strengths. If you choose to opt for law school and legal practice, you’ll surely find the unfair grading curves, excess work, and everything else the legal industry can throw at you worthy challenges.
3. I have the skills and realistic goals.
You know that your innate skills will serve you well in the legal field. You also know that getting a highly-paid job in the legal profession is highly competitive and that you’ll have to work extra hard and make huge sacrifices.
You know what obstacles stand in the way of achieving success in the legal industry and you are ready to face them. Clearly, you have an idea about what you are getting into and are thus mentally prepared to overcome and succeed.
Wrong Reasons to Attend Law School
If your reason for choosing law school is included below, you probably should reconsider and forge a different career path.
1. I come from a family of lawyers, and my parents want me to be a lawyer.
Others’ experience of law school will likely not be the same as yours. So, don’t make your decision to attend law school based on the pressure or expectations of your family. Make the choice because you believe it’s the right one for you, and not because others insist that it is.
2. I don’t know what else to do with my undergrad degree.
People in this category are actually more common than you think. Choosing to go to law school for this reason means potentially losing tens of thousands of dollars, incurring student loans, and wasting three years of your life for a degree that you might never use. Don’t do it!
If you want to use your undergrad degree in the legal industry but don’t necessarily want to be a lawyer, consider becoming a paralegal or legal assistant. Neither requires that you go to law school and can lead to interesting career opportunities within the legal profession.
3. The legal profession is fascinating.
This is a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t justify the cost and effort of attending law school. In fact, by the time you start law school and face the stress and other difficulties, your fascination with the profession will probably wither away quickly.
4. I want to change the world.
In truth, practicing law rarely changes the world. If you want to truly change the world and make it a better place, there are far more effective ways to accomplish it, including volunteer work and teaching.
Instead of being a lawyer, consider pursuing a career that gives you the spare time to do other things that can positively change the lives of those around you.
5. I like to argue and debate, and I did well on the LSAT.
Your ability to argue and being a good test-taker doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find fulfillment with a legal career.
Go to any bar, and you’ll find people who like to argue and debate. Being able to argue and pass the LSAT doesn’t necessarily mean that you should attend law school. It simply means that you are intelligent, and there’s a lot you can do with that intelligence besides attending law school.
Before you apply, here’s our advice.
If you are a forward-thinking graduate with the right mindset, attending law school might be the right choice for you. As long as you know what you are going to do after leaving law school and that you’ll find fulfillment in it, you should be fine.
You don’t necessarily have to practice in a law firm after graduating law school. In fact, almost 50 percent of law school students have no intention of practicing law. Instead, they follow a career path in politics, public services, or government.
This means that as long as you have realistic career goals in mind and a plan to manage school loan debt, attending law school just might be the right choice for you.