Going to law school is a life-changing decision — meaning it will affect every aspect of your life as you know it. Before sending off those applications, you should both follow your instincts and consider the questions below.
Why are you considering going to law school?
Analyzing your hopes and needs before applying will help you decide whether pursuing a law degree is worth your time, effort, and money, can help choose the right school, and may also keep you on track during law school and beyond.
So ask yourself what you plan to do with your law degree. Yes, law degrees are more versatile than ever these days, which means that you don’t have to be a full-time attorney with your J.D. Before you start law school with an alternative career path in mind, though, make sure that a law degree will actually be helpful in achieving your career goals.
Be sure to talk to people in your chosen field, especially management, to get a feel for whether a law degree will open or close doors for you; some employers may be weary to hire you in fear that you may leave to practice law full-time. If you’re pursuing law as a second graduate degree, talk to others who have done this and learn from their experiences.
Do you have the time to commit to law school?
Don’t underestimate the time commitment that law school entails. Besides attending classes, there is an amazing amount of outside reading and research required, so don’t assume that just because the classes fit into your schedule, you’ll have plenty of time otherwise.
Through effective time management, of course, you can have a healthy school/life balance, but law school is famous for wreaking havoc on personal relationships; if you’re in a relationship, you have to have an extremely understanding, supportive partner if they will still be by your side as a graduating 3L.
Can you afford law school?
Law school is expensive, and sometimes it just isn’t worth the cost.
Assess your financial situation honestly and consider that law school may require taking out tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans, which in turn may mean that you have to take a job once you graduate from law school because it pays well and not because your heart is in it.
This analysis is especially important, of course, if you are married and/or have children, but even if you’re single, please consider how dire the job market is and has been for the past several years. The market is saturated with lawyers and many young lawyers are finding it increasingly difficult to find work.
There are several layers to the analysis of cost, including why some schools cost so much more than others and whether they’re “worth” it, which I will write about, but for now, I highly recommend you check out the following resources:
- Is Law School a Losing Game?: New York Times article by David Segal (January 8, 2011)
- Law School Undercover by Professor X
Please note that although I offer personal statement review and editing services for those who have already decided to pursue law school, I am not necessarily endorsing such decision. Please think long and hard about whether law school is the right choice for you before leaping in.
*Image via David Ortez (Flickr) CC license.