Applying to law school is scary – there’s no way around it. The process is arduous, the LSAT is a behemoth, and the end-game is expensive and rigorous. But law school is wonderful – challenging, meaningful, and exciting. Reminding yourself of why you are applying, what is motivating you to apply, can help you get through the year(s)-long process. Below is a brief, though hopefully comprehensive, guide to all things LSAT.
Part 1: Before even beginning to study…
Ask yourself – is law school right for me?
Really dig deep – what is motivating me to apply? Is it that I majored in history and don’t know what else to do? (No knocks on the humanities – I majored in Social Studies). Do you “love to argue” and don’t know any other means to apply this skillset? Have you fantasized about being America’s next Atticus Finch, or our contemporary one, Bryan Stevenson? Did you binge SVU in middle school?
This process can take months, and the truth is, you’re never going to be able punch every factor (time, money, professional goals, passion) into a machine learning algorithm and it will spit out the exact right decision for your life. That’s sadly just not how decisions work. But taking the time to weigh the various factors carefully will make you feel more confident in your decision, and will help get you through the lowest moments of the process. It will also help you feel okay if it turned out to be the wrong decision – it feels better to recalibrate when you’ve really thought something through, rather than just following a well-trodden path that you know isn’t actually right for you.
Some key things to consider
- Cost – is the likely investment, and long-term loan repayment, worth it for me?
- Research the various loan repayment options various schools offer. What kind of debt load are you looking at? What are the average debt loads coming out of law school? The sooner you are realistic with yourself about money the better.
- Research the types of merit-based scholarship opportunities available at schools you are interested in.
- Some schools have competitive based scholarship programs, meaning that your scholarship is dependent on your grades in law school. This can lead to a very competitive campus culture. Is this something you’re comfortable with?
- Motivation for going
- Really dig deep – do you want to be a lawyer? I am not of the school of thought that says the only reason for going to law school is to become a lawyer. There are too many impressive and happy people with JDs who do not work as full-time, day to day lawyers that we know the degree is valuable. But anyone with a “cool job,” who has a JD but is not a practicing lawyer, benefitted from being at the right place at the right time, and possessing a unique skill set. Only go to law school if you can imagine being happy being a very traditional type of lawyer, even if that’s not plan A. For example, if you want to manage a large human rights NGO, a JD would be helpful. But you can’t guarantee that job. Would you be happy being a corporate lawyer if the NGO plan doesn’t work out? That can be a really helpful way of thinking through the decision.
- Long-term goals
- What kind of hours am I comfortable with? What is my dream job? And how does law school fit into that? Researching people with various legal jobs, and studying their trajectories, can be helpful on this front.
- Geographic/lifestyle limitations
- Is there a reason I need to be in a specific place (family, weather, etc.), and how much am I willing to sacrifice to attend law school?
- Intellectual interests
- Do I enjoy reading cases and legal argumentation styles? Try reading a few Supreme Court cases from a recent terms. SCOTUS cases are typically the richest source lawyers have – if you’re not enjoying them, that might be a reason to reconsider your decision.
- Desire to spend three years in school
- Are you many years out of college and dreading the prospect of returning to an academic calendar? Or are you eager to leave the work-force and have more control over your time?
Some to-dos for this stage:
- Learn as much as you can about the various types of law out there – corporate law, prosecution, criminal defense – and see which might appeal to you. My most important piece of advice: there are a lot of routes to both wealth and public service. Law is a very specific one. Make sure to ask yourself – why do I want to do what I want to do via the legal profession, versus business, social work, humanitarian work, etc.?
- Talk to as many lawyers as you can. All lawyers have something to add – talk to them about their careers! What do they like about their jobs? Dislike? How do their day-to-day lives align with your preferences?
- Think about getting some professional experience in a legal setting. Nothing will give you better exposure to the actual work of lawyers than working for one. Some options:
- Investigative work in a prosecutor or public defender office
- Paralegaling for a firm
- Legal analyst at a technology company
- Policy work in local, state, or federal government
- Legal work for a non-profit
Some good legal sources
- SCOTUS Blog
- The Court Listener
- Harvard Law School Admissions Blog
- OneL by Scott Turow
- Getting to Maybe by Jeremy R. Paul and Richard Michael Fischl
Be sure to read part 2 of the law school admissions guide by Jimmy, and contact us if you need support!