As we’ve written about before
, applying to law school is a long process that requires a great deal of thought and planning. But even before you begin the application process, there are important considerations to keep in mind. If you’re thinking about applying to law school, here are a few quick tips to help you make the best possible decisions about your academic and professional future.
Make sure you actually want to be a lawyer. Many prospective law students believe that a legal career would suit them because they “like to argue.” Similarly, students will apply to law school because their favorite show is a (highly fictionalized) courtroom drama. Others choose law school as a default option, because they don’t know what else to do after graduating from college, and law school seems like a safe option. None of these are particularly good reasons to attend law school. Law school is a demanding three-year requirement, and a career in law is not any easier. Before you attend law school, it’s important to know what you’re actually getting yourself into. Spending time interning in a law office, working as a paralegal, or otherwise getting to know the actual practice of law is vital to understanding whether you would actually enjoy a legal career. And while it’s often said that a law degree opens doors outside of the legal industry, finding those doors directly out of law school is a difficult proposition. The odds are likely that you’ll spend at least a few years working in law, so make sure that’s the type of job you’d be comfortable taking.
Build the right skills. If you want to be a litigator, courtroom skills are obviously necessary–you’ll benefit from working on your public speaking and other forms of verbal communication. But the practice of law involves so much more. You’ll need to be a good writer, researcher, and critical reader. Law schools know the value of these skills, so they’ll be looking for them in your application. While the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) tries to objectively quantify these skills, you can also show that you’ve worked to develop them independently. Working for the school newspaper or undergraduate journal can give you the opportunity to show off your writing. Being an undergraduate research assistant, or otherwise finding opportunities to work with your professors, can help you develop critical thinking skills and display your dedication to academic achievement. Not only will these experiences build up your resume, they’ll benefit you for the rest of your career by allowing you to develop necessary skills.
Assess your financial situation. Attending law school will likely be one of the biggest financial investments of your life. While many prospective students think they’ll earn enough as attorneys to easily pay off their debt, many new lawyers find themselves overwhelmed by student loans. Before you decide to go to law school, think honestly about your willingness to take on debt and how such debt might affect your day-to-day life. There are a number of options available to reduce the amount you’ll have to borrow with student loans, though it can be hard to predict just what financial aid you might be qualified to receive. The best advice here is to stay focused on achieving the highest GPA and LSAT possible so that you’ll at least be eligible for academic scholarships.
Form professional and academic relationships. Many students go through their undergraduate career without ever getting to know their professors. This is a major mistake, especially if you are planning to apply to law school. Nearly every law school requires multiple letters of recommendation, and these letters can make the difference between admission and rejection. Just as importantly, though, the relationships you build even as an undergraduate can greatly affect your career. Many law school graduates find jobs not through their law school or professional networking, but through relationships they developed earlier in life. While starting law school may feel like you’re “starting over” professionally, you never know when your undergraduate professors, internship supervisors, and classmates may be the ones to help you out.
Plan a timeline. As we’ve said, the law school application process can feel like running a marathon and reading War and Peace at the same time. To keep your sanity, you’ll need to plan out your application timeline at least a year in advance. Knowing when to register for the LSAT, acquire letters of recommendation, and seek financial aid will allow you to submit the best application possible. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are at getting accepted and receiving academic scholarships.
Deciding whether to go to law school can be a difficult choice. If you put the right amount of thought into the decision, and consider our tips, you’ll be well on your way to making a smart, informed commitment. And if you do decide to go to law school, Quimbee can help you perform your best with our best-in-class case briefs
and study aids