As college students approach the end of their undergraduate career, they often consider graduate and professional education. Students with interest in issues of justice and public discourse are often drawn to law school.
Before you decide to go to law school, there are many different things to take into consideration. Law school is rightly known as one of the most demanding professional schools, along with medical school. If you are not going into law for the right reasons, you could find yourself with expensive college loans and no high-paying job to help you pay them off.
Rachel Mosser, a law school graduate, explains the steps that every prospective student should follow before deciding to go to law school.
Examine Your Reasoning
Based on books and television, you may have the impression that law is a glamorous, high-paying profession. This surface appearance hides the incredible amount of work that goes into being a lawyer. From the extensive study of state and federal statutes to vast amounts of paperwork, lawyers earn their above-average salaries and frequently work much more than 40 hours a week.
It may take years before lawyers can even set foot in a courtroom. Relatively high-profile positions such as prosecutors and corporate counsel require many years of experience at lower levels.
If the long hours and hard work do not dissuade you from becoming a lawyer, you may be making the right decision by going to law school.
Ask Yourself What You Want to Do With Your Degree
You should have a clear career path in mind before you go to law school. Talk with people in the profession you would like to take part in and discover whether a law degree is genuinely needed. Just because many people in the profession have law degrees doesn’t mean that they are truly needed. If your chosen field does need an advanced degree, you may be able to get by with a one-year master’s degree instead of a three-year law degree. You may do just as well with an MBA.
As a prospective law student, you should decide whether you want to work in the private or public sector. You may be interested in either trial work or research. One should also consider which part of the country may benefit from their services—thus researching which law schools in the area where they would like to work, and where you should go to law school.
Choosing Highly Ranked Law Schools
You may find that it is harder for students who have not gone to one of the top 25 schools, like Harvard or Stanford, to get prominent positions. Higher-paying corporate law jobs often rely on alumni networks from these prestigious universities to find new employees.
Suppose you can’t get into one of the top law schools or can’t afford it. In that case, Rachel Mosser suggests that you can make a good name for yourself at a lower-tier school by participating in extracurricular activities like clinics and journals. It is also a great idea to practice in the area where you went to school so that you will be able to rely on local networking to find a job.
Law school is expensive. In 2017, the average cost of tuition and fees at the top 10 law schools was $60,293 per year. This can mean up to $180,000 in student loans. Students should carefully consider whether they can afford to take out these loans based on their future job prospects. You will also need to take living and moving expenses into account. Also, it may not be possible to work in the legal field for at least a few years after graduation depending on the job market. You will get a better deal financially if you go to a less well-known school, but you will lose the benefit of having a prestigious school on your resume.
Practice Where You Went to School
It is best to practice law in the state where you went to school. The local law school will prepare you to take the state’s bar exam, eliminating the need to study for multiple bar exams before you can start working. If you want to work in a different area of the country, you should move there for law school.
Your Future in the Law
If none of these caveats have dissuaded you, you may do very well in the field of law. Understanding the risks and benefits associated with an expensive professional degree is necessary for success. Rachel Mosser credits her legal education with her success, but she wants prospective students to understand what they might be getting into.
Success in the law is associated with a great deal of hard work and long hours. If you are prepared to work for it, you can build a prosperous future in the law.