You are wondering, should I go to law school, and is law school worth it? And, just how hard is law school? There are 6 key questions to think about to help you make up your mind.
1. Why are you interested in the law?
You have some interest in the law to say the least. But are you really interested in a legal career? Ask yourself what has shaped your view of the law and lawyers, etc. Was it TV or popular media? You may have to challenge some of you assumptions.
Speak with real lawyers. Ask them about what they normally do day-to-day, why they got into law, and what they don’t like about their legal careers. Taking this step is so important.
It’s helpful to think about the wrong reasons to go to law school, too! Think about your personality fit and aptitude. Attention to detail and stamina may be far more important qualities than how well you argue.
2. What do you want to do with a law degree?
Traditionally, people obtain a law degree to become a lawyer. Lawyers may work in a law firm or in-house in a company, or in the government / public sector. But increasingly, law school graduates and lawyers end up in non-legal careers.
If you were set on practising as a lawyer, what kind of law do you want to practise? USNews.com has outlined 15 common legal practice areas. New England Law in Boston has a page to help you think about what type of law you should practice.
3. How long does it take to get a law degree?
To practise law, you will need to obtain a law degree, typically a Juris Doctor (“JD“), and pass a set of bar exams (or pre-admission exams) in the jurisdiction where you would like to practice. The JD is typically a 3-year postgraduate program. There are 2-year programs, too.
In some jurisdictions, like the U.K., you will also need to serve an articled clerkship, traineeship, or graduate program after obtaining your law degree and passing your pre-admission exams but before you obtain the license to practise law. This program usually last 1 to 2 years.
In the U.K., Australia, and many other jurisdictions, you may study the law degree at the undergraduate level, and the degree is typically called the Bachelor of Laws (“LLB“). This may be a 3 to 4-year program, and maybe longer if undertaken with other degrees in a dual-degree program.
5. How much does law school cost?
Law school can be expensive, especially in North America, and it also takes a long time to become a lawyer. So, do crunch the numbers.
How would you pay for law school? Is your family able to support you? If you have to take a loan, how much interest do you have to pay on the loan?
You should also think about what the market is like.
4. What is the pay-off?
You should work out whether your investment in time and money is really worth it. Have you considered what would be the return on investment of a law degree? How much would you likely earn if you could get a job as a graduate in a practice specializing in criminal law vs. family law?
But it’s not just a financial question.
It is definitely a deeply personal question about career and life planning generally -and seeking a fulfilling vocation.
6. How to get into law school?
Once you have answered the questions above, you should consider which law schools you should aim to apply to, and how they rank. Prepare for your applications early. There may be an entrance or admission exam like the LSAT. Get an internship or work as a paralegal in a law firm to help you better understand the profession. Relevant work experiences would also help you write your application essays.
It all boils down to developing the requisite skill set to get admitted to and succeed in law school. Consider in your life, how good you are at solving logic problems and how good your verbal skills are. And, you should like to read. There’s a lot of readings every week in law school!
Pay attention to coverage from legal news websites. See if the cases and transactions covered in the news are something interesting to you.
There are plenty of myths around how versatile a law degree is and how much money you could make with one. The answer, as with many legal issues, is it depends. And, you should not decide to go to law school on intellectual curiosity or family expectations alone.
Think carefully, and always ask a real lawyer!