If you’ve found your way to this blog post, I’m going to venture to guess that someone told you you’d make a good lawyer. Or you are one of a small sect of people who want to go to law school because they have always dreamed of being a lawyer and helping people.
Whichever path brought you to this blog, welcome.
When I decided to go to law school, it was because I fell into the first category. My parents were convinced I’d make an excellent lawyer because I liked to argue my point, and I loved to read and write. Which to me were characteristics of an excellent novelist, but they were adamant that I needed to give up on that dream and find a career. Now, while I don’t agree, I did put writing on the back burner and go to law school – which turned out to be a blessing because it taught me how to be a better writer and be more resilient. But I wish I had chosen to go to law school because I wanted to be a lawyer – not because someone else had wanted it for me.
If you are thinking about going to law school, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before taking such an expensive and time-consuming step:
1. Do you know how much Law School Costs?
One of the least expensive programs is out of Southern University Law Center in Louisiana, with an out of state tuition rate of $14,838, and one of the most expensive is Columbia Law School, with a tuition rate of $65,260 for the year. That puts the most expensive bill at nearly $200,000. That is a lot of money. And for most people, that is a very large loan.
2. Can you Dedicate the Time it’s going to take to Finish this Program?
Law school is tedious and time consuming. But before you even get to law school, you have to have completed a bachelor’s degree, taken the LSATs, mailed out applications, and gotten into a program. Then, when you get to law school you spend your time learning hundreds of black and white rules of law and being trained to argue either way given a certain set of facts. You spend around 14 hours a week in class, and then have to add in the time it takes you to read for class, study to keep up in classes, and prepare to be called on. It’s basically a 40-hour work week.
I remember when I started school, I thought I’d have time to continue writing. I was so wrong. Not only did I have no time to write, but any time I wasn’t paying attention to school work, I was instead having a panic attack thinking about all the work I had to do. I ultimately developed a study schedule that helped me plan fun things and not feel overwhelmed.
3. Do you like to be Competitive?
Part of the law school experience is vying for the top grades. Most schools are on a curve grading platform – that is, there are only a certain number of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, to go around. The person who gets the highest score on the exam will get an A, and everyone else’s tests will fall accordingly. This type of grading creates quite the competition – with some students taking it too far.
In my school, one student offered to share his outline before the exam and then handed out a fake one to whoever took him up on it. Another classmate accused a friend of cheating during oral arguments because he was afraid she’d be awarded an honor. It tanked her confidence and while she managed to win her oral argument, she felt like she could have done better without the false allegations and investigation into her character that preceded her argument.
4. Do you like Public Speaking?
Probably one of the scarier parts of law school is the idea that you are going to be cold called. “Cold Calling” is an age-old game of survival of the fittest where professors will randomly call on a particular student and ask them a question about the case being discussed. Now, for most classes, the professors have a specific list and they go in order – so you can usually tell when you’ll be on call. Other professors are kind enough to let you know the schedule ahead of time. But there are some who will march you to the front of the class, put a mic pack on you, and ask you to defend your thoughts in front of everyone.
Cold calling is scary for everyone. The key, I found, is to answer questions before they start calling for volunteers. The more you raise your hand at the beginning of class, the less likely they are to cold call on you.
5. Do you want to be a Lawyer?
Not does your mom or your dad or your English teacher from high school think you should be a lawyer, but do you actually want to be one? If you hesitate at that question, I have a follow up: are you afraid of the work but ultimately would love to be a lawyer? Yes? Then try it out. Are you not afraid of the time and money, but have no desire to call yourself a lawyer? Then maybe reconsider your options.
When making the decision to go to law school, you need to really think about how much time you are prepared to allocate to the goal. There is a bureaucratic tediousness to the profession that can become overwhelming if you aren’t on top of it from the get-go. But, if you started reading this article with the intention of going to law school no matter what, because you want to help people, and you’ve made it to the end with an unwavering belief in your future, then I say go for it. You are the type of person who should be in law school; the type of person I’d want for an attorney.
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