When people think about law school and lawyers, their thoughts tend to drift towards glamorous mainstream media such as “Law & Order” or “Legally Blonde.” While these pieces of entertainment are amusing and give some insight into what legal careers encompass, they fall short on the reality of pursuing such a difficult profession. ‘Forget Everything You Think You Know About Law School’ is a helpful series for current and prospective law students who want a perspective of a fresh law student. As a first-generation, working-class college student, I was clueless when beginning my law school application journey.
Even though I had extensively researched law school and made the decision to become a lawyer during the sixth grade, I was shocked by how little I actually knew about the process of getting into law school. There are several surprising factors that go into admissions that I had never even imagined! This is why the ‘Forget Everything You Think You Know About Law School’ series was created, so that other students can be informed and feel more comfortable throughout the application process and in turn, their legal education and career. Over the next few pieces, I will go in depth about different ‘hot topics” for law school and the application process in order to help you on your legal career journey.
Should You Even Apply to Law School ?
Deciding to go to law school is one of the biggest career decisions someone can make. Not only do you have to consider obvious questions such as, ‘Do I actually want to become a lawyer?’, but there are several underlying factors to understand before committing yourself to a legal education.
The Time Commitment Required to Apply to Law School ?
One of these elements is time. Consider that, after spending four or more years pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you now must take at least three years to complete your law degree, not to mention the effort you will have to put into studying, classes, summer externships, extracurriculars, and networking. If you plan to become a practicing attorney, you will have to study for, take, and pass the bar exam. This does not even include the application process and the time spent trying to get into law school! In order to apply to law school, you will have to study for and take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), get letters of recommendation, write a personal statement, and compose the best resume you can. While the reward for spending countless hours preparing and going through law school is well worth the effort, it is important to consider the time required for this endeavor before it is too late.
Applying to Law School is Expensive
Not only is time a major factor, but the cost of law school is a serious consideration when applying. Prior to starting your first year, there are several expenditures that are typically not well-known until after you have to pay them. First, the LSAT costs more than one hundred dollars each time you take it. This does not include any extra fees, cancellations, or travel costs. Most people choose to purchase preparation courses and/or utilize prep books to help prepare for the exam.
When beginning the actual application, there is an almost two hundred dollar fee called the ‘Credential Assembly Service (CAS)’ that is associated with compiling all of your application documents safely on the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)’s website.
After completing and uploading your application, many schools have individual application fees that are not associated with the LSAC. On top of the application fees, there is a law school report fee for each completed application in order to send your law report to the individual schools.
After successfully getting into a school, there are also seat deposits, activity fees, books, and other expenses in addition to tuition. While there are waivers available for certain fees based on income and merit, the amount of money that actually goes into the application and start of law school is a very important factor to consider. If you are truly passionate about going but cannot afford to apply, there are avenues to pursue to assist you in your application process, so don’t give up.
Applying to Law School Requires a Lot of Effort
Another factor to consider is the effort that goes into law school. It takes a lot of initiative and drive to maneuver through your first year or even construct a successful application. As previously discussed, it takes a large amount of time to apply and go to law school. Similarly, the effort must match the amount of time you put into your career in order to be successful.
Anyone can show up to class or barely finish their application, however, if someone wants to ensure they will be successful in law school, they must strive to make extra effort and put in additional time. There are pre- and post-admission events that students are invited to attend, webinars/seminars that provide helpful advice, and even networking opportunities that are beneficial to students’ future careers. While in law school, there are organizations to attend, more networking opportunities, internships, externships, interviews, and events that take additional time beyond attending classes. Many students put in the effort for class and studying, however, it takes a truly exceptional person to go above and beyond the call of duty.
While there is a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to go to law school, it is a decision that can change your life positively forever. If you are willing to put in the time, money, and effort into applying and attending law school, the reward can outweigh the cost. If you stay confident, organized, and driven, then obtaining your law degree will be a much easier feat. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to go to law school is completely yours, so you have to do what you think is right for your life at its current point in time and have faith in your abilities. Just be sure you understand the reality of what you’re signing up for! Stay tuned for more practical advice in my next articles.
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Other helpful pre-1L posts:
- Pre-1L Summer Checklist
- How to Get The Most out of Law School with Extracurricular Activities
- How Being a Law Student and a Functional Human Being Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive
- How to Start Law School Right
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