So you’re considering law school. For some of you out there, law school was your predestined path from the time you could
argue talk with your parents. And for others, you’re rounding the corner of your senior year of college without a post-grad plan in sight. Law might sound like a good default option, but given how expensive a law degree is, it’s important that you weigh your motives for attending law school carefully.
Talk to Real-Life Lawyers.
The fundamental question driving your decision to attend law school should be, “Do I want to be a lawyer?” If you really have little to no interest in law but just can’t imagine how else to spend your post-college years, a law degree is probably too pricy of a ticket to pay. (Those who borrow to finance their JDs end up in almost $141,000 in average debt.) Unless you grew up around lawyers, it might be difficult to get a real sense for what law practice looks like in real life. Premeds shadow in hospitals before applying to med school, and most aspiring business school applicants point to meaningful business internships as key reasons for following the MBA route. As a potential pre-law, it’s similarly smart to seek out opportunities to learn about the work lawyers do before investing in a law career. Find lawyers in your network and connect with them about the types of cases they work on and the environment they work in. Ask what led them to their careers in law. Seek out contacts on LinkedIn, through your alma mater’s career services center, and through friends and family.
Think About Why a Law Degree is Needed.
Some of you out there aren’t sure whether law is for you because instead of using your future degree to practice law, you have other plans for your career… plans like government, nonprofits, and business work. Keeping in mind that a number of jobs in those fields are available to non-lawyers, consider why you need a law degree for your future career. Perhaps there’s a ceiling you’d otherwise hit in your intended field without specialized legal knowledge. Or perhaps a law degree would allow you to be a stronger advocate for policies you’re committed to advancing. Identify the value of a JD to your career interests and calculate that value into your decision to attend law school.
Take Time Off.
If, after all this thinking and contemplating, you’re still not sold on a career in law, you should feel no obligation to jump into law school right away. There are always other avenues you can look into after graduation like working at a think tank, a research institute, or a large corporation. Since the average first-year law student is 24 years old, we can assume most students do take some time off to reflect and work before starting school. Use the time to really hone in on whether a law degree will be beneficial to your career interests. Working for a few years after college can sharpen your interest in law and give more clarity to your reasons for undertaking a law degree. You might see that lawyers have a pivotal role in developing policies at your think tank, or that lawyers help mediate meetings in the boardroom. There are plenty of ways to see what law looks like in real life when you give yourself the chance to step away from the classroom. And as an added bonus, the time off will let you start saving for tuition.
Has all of this thinking led you to realize that law school is the right next step? Check out our post on law school admissions requirements to get started preparing your application!