Going to law school opens up a rewarding career path as a lawyer or in many other legal professions. There are several compelling reasons why attending law school is a worthwhile investment for many people.
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Become a Lawyer
The most obvious reason to go to law school is to pursue a career as a lawyer. Lawyers serve vital roles in society from defending the accused in criminal cases to drafting contracts and advising businesses. Lawyers advocate on behalf of clients to protect their interests. There are two main types of lawyers:
- Barristers – Argue court cases, draft legal pleadings, and give expert legal opinions. Barristers wear wigs and gowns in certain courts.
- Solicitors – Provide legal advice directly to clients and prepare legal paperwork like wills, contracts, and lawsuits. Solicitors have direct contact with clients.
Lawyers work in various settings like private law firms, in-house corporate legal departments, government agencies, and nonprofits. They must excel in research, analysis, writing, and public speaking to succeed. Key skills needed include:
- Superb analytical thinking and reasoning
- Meticulous attention to detail
- Ability to argue persuasively
- Excellent written and oral communication
- In-depth legal knowledge
Lawyers can specialize in diverse legal practice areas from tax law to family law depending on their interests and talents. Overall, a law degree provides the essential theoretical knowledge and practical skills to competently and ethically practice law. Going to law school is a major commitment but opens many doors.
Open Doors to Many Legal Careers
Beyond just being a lawyer, a law degree qualifies graduates to pursue a wide range of legal professions. With a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, your career opportunities expand exponentially. A law degree is extremely versatile and opens doors across many industries. Here are some examples of careers accessible with a law degree:
- Paralegal – Assist lawyers with researching cases, drafting contracts and legal documents, corresponding with clients
- Legal consultant – Provide advice to businesses and organizations on legal compliance, policies, and risk reduction
- Alternative dispute resolution specialist – Facilitate mediation and arbitration to help parties resolve disputes out of court
- Politician – Run for political office and create legislation
- Government advisor – Advise elected officials on policy, legislation, and legal matters
- FBI/DEA agent – Conduct complex investigations for federal law enforcement
- Judge – Preside over trials and hearings in courts at local, state, and federal levels
- Law professor – Teach at a law school and publish legal research
- Legal journalist – Report on court cases and laws for news organizations
So, if you want to maximize your chances of getting a superb education at one of the top schools in the United States, consider working with an expert admissions counselor.
The analytical thinking, research, writing, and public speaking skills gained in law school are transferable across many fields and attractive to a range of employers. Your career possibilities expand exponentially with a law degree.
Develop Key Skills
Pursuing legal education enables you to cultivate core skills that drive career success. Law school teaches specific abilities beyond gaining legal knowledge. You will sharpen your analytical thinking and learn to dissect complex issues methodically. Coursework involves analyzing intricate real-world cases and breaking them down into key components and legal issues.
Extensive reading assignments hone your ability to identify and comprehend key information. Writing legal briefs, arguments, motions, and memos throughout law school significantly builds your written communication skills. You will learn how to write concisely while including all salient points and precise legal citations. Oral advocacy skills are honed through classes that use the Socratic questioning method. Activities like moot court and debate allow you to gain confidence as a public speaker and present arguments persuasively.
Meticulous attention to detail is paramount when handling legal matters. Law school teaches you to approach problems methodically, conduct thorough research, make logical connections, argue persuasively, and pay attention to nuances when applying legal rules. Mastering these abilities creates a strong foundation for legal practice.
Potential for High Earnings
The hard work of law school pays off financially for many graduates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers as of 2020 was $126,930. This exceeds the median for all occupations of $41,950. Within the legal field, lawyers specializing in tax law, corporate law, patent law, and other business-related practice areas tend to earn the highest salaries. Partners at elite “Big Law” firms in major cities can make well over $1 million annually. Senior lawyers with leadership roles as managing partners or general counsels of corporations command some of the profession’s top salaries. The potential to earn a six-figure income within a few years attracts many ambitious students to law school and the rigors of private practice.
Opportunity to Specialize
Law is a broad and complex field with opportunities to specialize in particular practice areas based on your passions and talents. In law school, you can tailor your education through elective courses related to your interests. For example, common legal specialties you may choose to study include:
- Environmental law
- Healthcare law
- Intellectual property and patent law
- International law
- Tax law
- Human rights law
- Criminal law
- Family law
Many schools also have clinical programs that allow you to gain hands-on legal experience with real clients in a specialty like immigration law or securities law. Joining student organizations focused on specific types of law provides networking and leadership opportunities. Specializing equips you to distinguish yourself in the job market and excel in a preferred practice area. Developing an expertise makes you more attractive to potential employers.
Chance to Help People and Communities
Working in the legal field allows you to make a real difference and give back to society. Lawyers have the power to profoundly impact clients’ lives in a positive way. For instance, lawyers can help families through emotional adoptions, win justice for victims of discrimination, spare defendants from excessively harsh sentences, or protect employees from unlawful termination. Many law schools have clinical programs where students provide pro bono legal services under faculty supervision for low-income clients who otherwise lack access. This hands-on experience promotes social justice and gives law students the chance to work directly with people in need.
Additionally, public interest law groups and legal aid nonprofits always have a need for talented, socially-minded law graduates who want to change lives. If you aspire to change society and people’s lives for the better, pursuing a law degree can empower you with the skills and platform to do so as a legal professional. The ability to give back adds great meaning and fulfillment to legal careers.
Before applying to law school, make sure you fully understand the significant time commitment involved in undertaking three years of rigorous legal training. Legal education typically takes three full years of full-time intensive study and hard work to complete. First-year law students usually take 15 to 17 credit hours per semester with staple classes that cover foundational legal concepts and analysis.
The reading assignments are extensive, often hundreds of pages per week across different cases and texts. Briefing dozens of court decisions, synthesizing concepts, and preparing for cold-calls under the Socratic teaching method also consume many hours. Outlining detailed notes for exams is crucial given the high stakes. In addition to time spent on classes, law journals, moot court competitions, clinics, and other activities keep students busy and engaged. Successful law students quickly learn disciplined time management skills.
After graduation, passing the bar exam and being admitted to the bar in your state requires at least two additional months of intense study and preparation. Lawyers must also meet continuing legal education requirements throughout their careers. So if you are considering law school, be ready to devote three highly demanding years plus bar prep to your legal training.
The cost of law school tuition has risen sharply in recent years, so prospective students should understand the substantial financial investment required. At top private law schools, total annual costs including tuition, fees, books, housing, and other living expenses often exceed $80,000 per year. The average student debt load for law school graduates as of 2020 was over $170,000, creating a huge financial burden.
Also consider that you will lose three years of income by attending law school full-time instead of working. Opportunity costs add up. However, law schools do offer some scholarships and financial aid based on need and merit to help offset costs, especially for top applicants. Income-based repayment plans on federal student loans are also available to ease payment burdens. Still, expect law school to involve major financial obligations that will impact your budget for years.
Stress and Pressure
The high-pressure law school experience is renowned for being intensely demanding and competitive. You will face immense pressure between tackling the heavy workload, keeping up with reading, excelling under cold-calling, studying long hours, competing for grades and status, and trying to stay mentally and physically healthy. The grading system in most law programs is strict and based on a curve – only a small percentage of students achieve the top honors. Contributing to the pressure, landing coveted internships and positions on the law review often depends heavily on your first year grades. The ultra-competitive culture often brings out perfectionism, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and burnout. If you dislike constant stress, the realities of law school will be challenging. Developing resilience along with self-care habits to find balance helps. Understanding the pressures ahead of time allows you to prepare.
While certainly demanding, pursuing a legal education opens doors to rewarding and well-compensated careers where you can make a real impact on clients, communities, companies, and the world. Law school teaches you to think analytically, conduct research effectively, communicate persuasively, and develop expertise. The professional versatility, lucrative earning potential, chance to specialize your skills, and opportunity to help people and society make law school a worthwhile investment for many applicants. Do your research and understand the costs and pressure. Overall, investing three years in law school can pay dividends over the course of your career with limitless opportunities.
What undergraduate major is best for law school?
Any major can prepare you for law school, though common choices are political science, history, English, philosophy, economics, and business. The best preparation is taking an undergraduate curriculum with extensive reading, research, and writing. Law schools value and seek out students that demonstrate excellent analytical thinking and communication skills over a specific major.
Do I need work experience before applying to law school?
Direct legal experience like interning at a law firm is very helpful but not an absolute requirement. Any work experience that shows responsibility, intellectual ability, maturity, and other transferable skills can demonstrate your readiness for the rigors of law school and legal practice. Leadership experience like managing a team also strengthens your law school application profile.
How long does law school take?
The standard Juris Doctor (J.D.) law degree typically takes 3 full academic years of study to complete as a full-time student. Many schools also offer part-time programs that allow working students to earn a J.D. law degree in 4-5 years. The first year focuses on core classes that establish a foundation in legal reasoning, writing, research, civil procedure, torts, contracts, etc. The second and third years allow more flexibility to specialize through electives and experiential learning.
What is the LSAT?
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all American Bar Association-approved law schools. It aims to evaluate skills like reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical thinking that are vital to succeeding in law school. The LSAT consists of 5 multiple choice sections and an unscored writing sample. LSAT scores range from 120 to 180, with high scores helping admission chances.
What are typical law school tuition costs?
Tuition varies significantly by school. Private law schools cost between $40,000-$70,000+ per year. In-state public law school tuition ranges from $20,000-$40,000 per year on average. Additional costs like books, housing, and fees are also considerable. Scholarships and need-based financial aid can reduce the tuition burden. The Law School Transparency organization provides comprehensive law school cost data.