If your dream is becoming a lawyer, there are things you need to know before starting law school. There are a lot of misconceptions about going to law school.
The things you need to know before starting law school can help you to stay on track and reach your goals. Having the right information will get you to law school and make sure you are successful.
Your Undergraduate Degree
A lot of people mistakenly believe that you have to have an undergraduate degree in a specific subject to even apply to law school, the fact is you do not. You can have an undergraduate degree in any subject and still be admitted to law school.
Many potential law school scholars believe that a degree in criminal justice will help their case of being accepted into law school, and the fact is that is simply not true. As a matter of fact, being a stand out candidate to the admitting committee may mean that you have a degree in English or Psychology.
Oh you do not think that a degree in English or Psychology is relevant to the study of law? You are mistaken. As an attorney you will be doing a lot of writing, you also will be working with a diverse bunch of people. Understanding human behavior with a psychology degree can be a big plus as a candidate for law school.
Lawyers are not just experts at the law they have to have a full set of skills to be successful which can include:
- Writing skills
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Debate skills, public speaking skills, and research skills
Your undergraduate degree can be in a wide range of subjects that further any of the skills above. Many law schools would prefer if you come to them with a skill set that can complement a legal practice. For example, if you got a degree in Sociology, that could help you to be a better divorce lawyer because you would have an insider’s view of society and how individuals move within society.
You can parlay any undergraduate degree into a law degree. A civics degree or public administration would be a great jumping-off point for civil rights lawyers because you would already have the knowledge of how government works as a foundation.
A business degree is an excellent starting point for a commercial litigation lawyer. You would come to law school with enough background to understand the working process of how businesses are run. There is a litany of undergraduate degrees that can get you prepared for law school. One of the most important things you need to know before starting law school is that you should pursue an undergraduate degree in something you are passionate about because it will help you keep your grades up.
While the subject of your degree is not important, your grades are very important. Law schools will look at your transcripts when you apply to see how well you did in your undergraduate studies to determine if you will be able to manage the rigors of law school.
One of the things you need to know before starting law school, is that the grades you get in your undergraduate studies can greatly affect whether you ever get to start law school or not. The closer you can get to the top of your class in grades the better your odds are of being accepted to the law school or your choice.
Get Professors Behind You
One of the things you need to know before starting law school during your undergraduate days is that you should be working to endear yourself to a couple of professors. You will need their recommendation when you apply to law school.
The more initials a professor has after their name, the more you want to get on their good side. Work toward becoming a memorable student by going the extra mile and engaging in discussions. This is particularly important if your undergrad university is a large university. Find the professor in your department that offers the most classes in your curriculum and sit front and center in every class you take so they will remember you.
A stellar letter of recommendation from a highly regarded professor can take your application up a notch in the eyes of the admitting committee. It is worth the effort to get to know some of your professors so they can write those letters.
Do You Know What Type of Lawyer You Want to Be? No? That’s Okay
One of the things you need to know before starting law school is that you do not have to make immediate decisions about what type of lawyer you plan on becoming. There is no need to jump to decisions. Whether you are thinking of becoming a criminal defense lawyer, or you are still up in the air, it is okay.
It is not unusual for law school students to start out with one path in mind like focusing on estate law, then switching gears the next semester. Everyone regardless of what part of the law they plan on focusing on starts out with the same classes and the same requirements.
You have time to decide if you have it in you to become a medical malpractice lawyer or if your goal is to become a prosecutor and put the bad people away. Don’t overstress yourself, in the beginning, trying to make decisions.
Another one of the things you need to know before starting law school is that everyone starts out in the same boat. Even the students that are 100% positive that they want to be injury attorneys and work for their family’s law firm, change their mind somewhere along the line sometimes.
It is far better to go to law school with an open mind and give yourself the time to discover what part of the law you love, then end up focusing on an area that you feel obligated to focus on. For example, your father works for one of the most successful workers compensation law firms, and you have been groomed your whole life to specialize in workers compensation law. The subject may come easy for you, but your real interest is in civil rights. Learn all you can about civil rights in law school. It is far more important to do what you love than stick with something you do not because you feel obligated.
One of the things you need to know before starting law school is you can change your path at any time, and you should until you find a field of the law that peaks your passion. Doing what you love is one of the easiest ways to be successful at what you do.
Earning your Juris doctorate (JD) is tough like any graduate studies. Things you need to know before starting law school that can make the path a bit easier include:
- This is not a sprint it is a marathon. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to getting into law school and seeing it through. Do not inflict imaginary timelines on your law school career. It is far better to take fewer classes and learn more, than pile those lectures on and overextend yourself.
- Recognize the struggle and get help. Don’t let yourself become burnt out by struggling and not asking for help. There are plenty of resources that can help you to cope with the stress of being in law school, use them.
- Find balance. While anything worth having is worth working for, do not make your law school experience all work and no play. Find a balance so that you do not resent the time you have to spend studying.
It is a good idea to keep in mind that many people before you were able to get through law school and they felt the same level of being overwhelmed that you do. You do have to work hard, and you will feel stressed a lot, but it is the steps that you need to take to reach your goal of becoming an attorney. Keep it all in perspective.
One of the things you need to know before starting law school is that you should focus on your health and self-care. Getting yourself into a place of good health before you start law school can ensure that your body is up to the challenge.
You have followed the advice and you have maintained a great GPA during your undergraduate studies, and you have a couple of professors that are ready to write glowing recommendations, but that is not all the things you need to know before starting law school. You need to do well on your LSAT.
The LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) is a tough exam that carries a lot of weight with the admissions committee. Preparing for this test should take on the form of a boot camp approach. Luckily there preparatory courses that you can take that will get you ready for the LSAT and help you to score well.
Some of the things you need to know before starting law school about the LSAT include:
- A score of at least 160 is considered good by most law schools.
- The average LSAT score is about 150 points which is about the 50th percentile.
- It is a 6 hour exam.
Like the GRE or the MCATS, the LSAT is a seriously long exam that addresses a wide range of topics. The LSAT is broken down into five sections, reading comprehension (how well you can understand a passage you just read), logical reasoning (there are two sections), a variable section, and a section on analytical reasoning. You will also have to provide a writing sample.
A lot of students assume that the LSAT because it is the admissions exam for law school focuses on the legal jargon, case law, and other legal topics, but it does not. It is an exam that tests you on your ability to comprehend situations, write, and figure things out through analyzing situations.
Much of the skill sets you have developed in your undergraduate work will be addressed in the LSAT. It is highly recommended that you spend the money and take a course that is focused on teaching you how to do well on the LSAT.
Many potential law school students worry about the cost of attending law school. The cost of attending law school is highly relative to what type of institution you attend. For example, a public institution like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be a lot less expensive than attending a private institution like Harvard Law School.
The difference in cost can be in the tens of thousands per year. On average the cost of attending law school can range from about $21,000 to about $70,000 a year. Student loans are typically the way most students pay for their law degree.
Ultimately if you are very conservative during your undergraduate years when it comes to money and taking loans, you will be able to more easily afford the cost of law school. Here are some ways to offset the costs of law school:
- Work your way through law school. It may take you longer to complete but if you put your undergraduate degree to work and go to school part-time, you can pay for your degree outright and forgo the student loans.
- Apply for every single scholarship that is out there. There is a lot of scholarship money that goes unclaimed because people do not apply. Apply.
- Apply for work-study programs at the law school. You can gain some experience while reducing your tuition costs.
One of the things you need to know before starting law school is that it is not cheap to attend law school, but a little financial sacrificing now can pay off with big returns for your future. If you really want it, you will find a way to make it happen.
The last of the things you need to know before starting law school is if you have a passion for the law you should follow your dream and stay the course. You can do it.