Perhaps the most common question I am asked these days is, “Is law school right for me?” While I would love to be able to provide an earnest yes or a definitive no to all those who ask, the reality is that there is seldom a quick or easy answer. But, above all, it is a question to which each of us has to come to our own answer. What I and other law school admissions consultants can do, though, is make sure you are coming to an answer from an informed perspective and are thinking about the right things. And, of course, if the informed answer is yes, then we can help you get into the best possible law school!Thinking backwards:
For many, the hardest aspect of answering the question, “Is law school right for me?”, is that it requires long-term thinking and it requires thinking backwards. A young person in school for all or most of life has generally needed only to think in the short term about what thing or things she wants to do next, and the decision usually turns on whether she would enjoy doing that thing for its own sake, assuming she has time for it. For instance, a freshman in college considering joining the debate team generally does not decide to join based on sketching out the trajectory of her life and considering how college debate fits into it. Now, there are certainly people out there who have that personality, and if that’s you, then by all means, do your thing. But most of us don’t tend to think that way, and at that stage, we don’t need to. It is enough to know that one has time to join the debate team and would enjoy it! It’s short-term thinking, which is perfectly fine, because joining the debate team is a short-term decision. (It may not seem like it to those of you just starting college, but yes, that’s a short-term decision!)
Level of commitment:
Law school is different. The question is not, or should not be, whether you would enjoy the three years of law school itself, because what you are committing to is so much more than that. Law school costs a lot of money, in almost all cases more per year than an undergraduate institution. Attending law school is not simply a matter of whether you would enjoy the three years in and of themselves. It is a question of whether the time and money you spend on law school is worth it to you, relative to what it will allow you to do for the rest of your life. That is the real question, and what makes it such a hard one to answer is you need to have some sense of what you want the “rest of your life” to look like. It requires that you imagine yourself some ambiguous period into the future, molding a career that keeps you happy and fulfilled, and then that you work backwards to consider what will put you in the best position to live that life.
How does law school fit into your life?:
This may sound out of whack and counterintuitive but it’s true: I find that most who wonder whether law school is right for them are thinking backwards about the question, because they are thinking forward and not backwards about their own lives! To put it another way, I often encounter people who have not yet found a passion or long-term career goal, and hope that by going to law school, one will manifest. They think that law school will provide a path—go to law school, get a job at a law firm and pay off loans, and live ever after. (Notice that the word “happily” is omitted.) But, to borrow from a famous saying of former president JFK, you should ask not what law school can do for you, but what you can and WANT to do that law school will allow you to do. You should think backwards about how law school fits into your life, and not forward.
Having a clear purpose:
So, if you are asking yourself whether law school is right for you, start by thinking not about what next year might look like if you were in law school, but what you want your life to look like 20, 30, or even 40 years from now. Of course, careers now are long and multitudinous. You don’t need to have a linear path, and you in no way need to be certain of what you want to do. Even if you were, life can upturn your expectations! But in order to feel confident that law school makes sense for you, dive deep with yourself and consider some possibilities and ask yourself, “Does that seem fun and fulfilling?” If something does not seem that way, do not make the mistake of assuming that going to law school will make it so. I’ll leave you with the wise words of Dean Heather Gerken, from our Yale Law School orientation last fall. She told us, “The people who burn out are those who aren’t here with a purpose.” I really do believe she is right. Consider her message and take it to heart. And if you want to talk about any of this, I’m here and happy to do so! Life is a shared journey, not a solitary struggle. Talk to me or others!
Founded by Harvard English PhDs, Cambridge Coaching takes great care to employ law school admissions coaches, like Neil, who are authors, editors, and writing teachers with unparalleled experience. A significant share our coaches are law school students and graduates of the most distinguished law schools, primarily Harvard and Columbia. Our service is a collaborative process, with students and coaches working closely together to craft the final application.
Thinking about pursuing a career in law? Take a look at some of our previous blog posts below!