Leverage a Career Change in Law School Applications

Show how your previous work experience shaped your interest in attending law school.

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Use personal and professional experiences to show law schools admissions committees why you are interested in changing careers.
Use personal and professional experiences to show law schools admissions committees why you are interested in changing careers.

People of all ages and from all walks of life apply and are admitted to law school. Many prospective applicants are students right out of college, while others may be several years out of school and have established careers.

At Stratus Prep, I have worked with mothers in their 40s who had careers in finance but preferred the predictability of a career in tax law. I've also seen retirees in their 50s purse law as a second career.

No matter how many years of work experience you have, it is still feasible to pursue a career in the law if this discipline represents your true passion. Your current and previous career experience can only enhance your applications.

[Brainstorm unique topics for law school personal statements.]

There are several points that will help you maximize your job experience on your law school applications. Consider the following to help you adequately communicate the rationale behind and expected benefits of your proposed career shift.

1. Identify why a career change makes sense: If you were invested in a successful career, law school admissions committees will want to understand why you are making a professional shift. Stay positive when describing your decision-making process.

Instead of stating that your current or previous work left you unfulfilled, mention that you are seeking an even more rewarding career where you can make a palpable difference in people's lives. Demonstrate what draws you to the legal field, why you are well-suited to the specialty you plan to pursue and how you decided that law school is the best next step for you.

[Consider the pros and cons of attending law school.]

The more robust and clear examples of your thinking that you can include, the easier it will be for admissions readers to understand your professional journey.

2. Relate how lessons learned in your previous career apply to law: It is essential to demonstrate what skills and experiences you will bring to a legal career that will differentiate you from other applicants. For example, at Stratus Prep, I worked with a professional chef who spent many years in the food service industry and became passionate about the relationship between society and the environment.

He submitted a compelling – and very successful – essay demonstrating his passion for environmental law by sharing details about his life in the restaurant business, the diverse group of people with whom he worked and his concerns about the ethics involved in mass food production as well as its effects on the environment.

Your job does not need to be directly related to the legal field in order to offer you insights that will really resonate with admissions committees.

[Find law school programs that complement your learning style.]

3. Highlight what you do outside of work: It is critical to demonstrate how your unique activities and passions outside of work will add to the diversity and vitality of a law school's community.

I once worked with a client who was a nurse and who served a population of primarily undocumented immigrants as a volunteer each Saturday. After months of hearing about their plights with the Department of Homeland Security and their efforts to keep their families together in the U.S., she decided to attend law school. Today she is one of the most committed and successful immigration attorneys I know.

If you have participated in volunteer, community or mentoring activities, detail how these experiences have inspired the perspectives that you will bring to a career in law.

While applicants who are no longer in their 20s may be concerned about competing for law school admission with more recent college graduates, older applicants can bring robust and invaluable experiences and perspectives to the law. Fully leveraging your career history in your applications will allow you to make a successful career pivot.

Are you changing careers? Let me know in the comments, email me or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.