It is common for prospective law students to waver when making their decision regarding whether to apply to and attend law school.
Many students wonder if they will enjoy being a lawyer, while others ask themselves if law school is worth the investment of both time and tuition.
Prospective law students should ask themselves the following four questions as they consider this life-altering decision. I recommend you make a list of the pros and cons of attending law school and ultimately becoming a lawyer, then discuss this list with trusted advisers, such as practicing lawyers, professors, family and friends.
Law school can be a tremendously rewarding intellectual experience that can create abundant professional opportunities, but it is certainly not the right path for everyone.
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1. Is money your main motivator? Many prospective law students are drawn to the profession by the promise of potentially high salaries. As with any career path, you should not base your decision on whether to attend law school solely on salary prospects.
Going to law school does not guarantee a high standard of living postgraduation. Though many lawyers enjoy high salaries, not all recent law school graduates immediately secure a job requiring a legal degree.
A way to help determine your employment prospects after graduating is to evaluate the type of school you are likely to get into based on your GPA and LSAT – if you have taken it – and research the employment statistics and average salary for students coming out of those schools.
Factor the specialty you are interested in and the region in which you wish to practice into your research, as the market is uneven by school, specialty and region.
Keep in mind that even if you obtain an attractive salary, you may find that the work is not the right fit for you, and thus, may leave the profession.
2. Do you have any legal experience? Gaining hands-on experience is the best way to determine if a particular career path is right for you. If you have done internships or have worked for a law firm and you really enjoyed the work, then taking the next step and applying to law school is very likely the right choice for you.
You should also consider conducting informational interviews to get a feel for what being a lawyer is really like day-to-day. Check out your university's alumni network; many alumni are happy to chat with students and fellow graduates about their careers.
Remember, the daily activities of a securities lawyer and a public defender are quite different. If you decide to pursue law, be sure to find the niche that is right for you.
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3. What hours are you willing to work? The work of a lawyer can be very personally and professionally fulfilling, but it does require a significant time commitment, which varies from one subspecialty to another.
You will find few successful lawyers who work 40-hour weeks. If you require substantial time to focus on other projects or interests, you may wish to consider a career with a more flexible schedule.
This is not to say that you will not have time for recreation and hobbies; it merely means that for individuals who are happiest with significant down time, the life of a lawyer may not prove to be the best fit
A law firm is a great environment for those seeking a fast-paced professional environment and for those willing to put in the extra time to achieve exemplary results.
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4. Are you interested in a particular field that lends itself to law? Many future lawyers are first drawn to law school by an interest or passion that may not immediately appear traditionally legal. Those who may have experience or a strong interest in the environment, health care, immigration, education, public policy or sports and entertainment may be well-suited to law school and the legal profession as much of the most complex work in these arenas is legal in nature.
It is crucial to evaluate your desire to pursue a career in the legal field because law students must make a substantial commitment of time and money just to prepare for and apply to law school, let alone to attend.
I worked with a student on law school prep who ultimately realized her passion was in business and entrepreneurship. She decided not to attend law school, and instead opened a surf shop in Malibu.
She sends me a holiday card each year describing how much she enjoyed my Stratus Prep classes, but affirming that she is certain she found the right place for her.
If you are unsure if law is right for you, hopefully these four questions will prove helpful. Speaking with current law students, professors and practicing attorneys will provide you with invaluable insights from those with direct experience in the law and in legal academia so that you can fully understand this important life decision.