Law School or Nah: 5 Things to Know Before You Apply
Law school has thus far proven to be the most intellectually challenging endeavor of my approximate quarter century of existence. With that being said, I love law school. Talk to any attorney or current law student, and they will likely love to brag about the horrors, mental exhaustion, and anxiety that create the notorious aura of “law school life.” Truthfully, I too find myself bragging about the effort required just to survive law school. It’s never a direct brag; it’s far more shrewdly concealed. For example, “I mean, I wake up at 6 am, study for three hours, go to class, work out, eat dinner with my wife, study for four more hours, go to bed, and repeat. But it’s really not that bad. I have free time on the weekends every now and then.”
Don’t get me wrong, the difficulty of legal academics is not some conspiracy created by crafty law students; it really is challenging, extremely challenging. However, I believe the important question is your motive for obtaining a law degree. With the proper motivation, law school trials become an enjoyable obstacle course. But with the wrong “why” … run while you still can.
Thus, the focus of this post is to help you begin to determine if law school, and more importantly a legal career, is the right fit for you. In the interest of full disclosure, I have only completed one year of legal studies. I still have two more years as a full-time student—plus the dreaded bar exam. So, let’s get to it.
1. Do not choose law school as a default.
If you are considering law school just because attorneys look cool on TV and you heard they make a lot of money, do not apply. Yes, money and Tom Cruise (“You can’t handle the truth!”) have partially influenced my decision to attend law school, but they are not primary factors.
If you are pursuing law school only because your phobia of blood has ruled out med school, do not apply.
Caveat: Do not feel like you need your entire life plan mapped out to justify the monetary and time expense of law school. I definitely don’t have it all figured out.
2. The legal job market is competitive.
Do not expect for law school to be the golden ticket for a perfect career. You know this: no matter what career path you choose, you have to fight persistently to find a fulfilling and financially viable job.
Also, if you’re planning to graduate from law school and then sue your school for misrepresenting job placement data, someone already tried that.
The market for legal jobs is showing signs of recovery after The Great Recession, but competition remains tough. (Related: If you know of any good legal jobs, please email me.)
3. A law degree is versatile.
Just because you have a law degree does not mean that you must be a practicing lawyer. The skills law school engrains along with an entirely new mental methodology are beneficial and applicable to a diverse array of career types.
Law school normally requires three years of full-time study. Three years is a significant opportunity cost. In other words, by going to school for three additional years, you are missing progress that could have been made by starting a different career instead.
There is also the financial cost. Debt is not cool. However, it might be worth it in your case. Only you can make that cost/benefit analysis.
4. You must love to read and write.
If you don’t genuinely enjoy reading and writing, law school will be very painful. You can expect to read an average of 50-100 pages a day. Those 50 pages are not light and breezy; they are super dense legal text that requires looking up definitions about every other sentence.
5. Miscellaneous application tips.
Just Google “law school application tips” and you will be hit with a plethora of advice. For some reason, people attracted to legal careers like sharing their opinion.
Without getting into the minutia of how to “perfect your personal statement,” here are a few tips:
- The two main quantifiable stats for law school admissions are GPA and LSAT score. Law schools are ranked on their class stats in these categories; therefore, they care a lot about these numbers. Do a LSAT prep course, try not to freak out, and just do your best.
- The Law School Admission Council website is your home base for law school applications. There are also a lot of helpful resources for researching schools.
- It is highly advisable to attend an ABA accredited school. Going to a non-ABA accredited school will limit your options.
In sum, despite the immense challenges, law school can be extremely rewarding. Your time is well spent researching and ensuring that you have valid reasons for pursuing a legal career.