Whether you’re going to law school for the very first time or you’re considering transferring to a new law school, the possibility of relocation may be something at the forefront of your mind.
Depending on your current lifestyle and your future life goals, there are many factors that could impact your decision to relocate; Do I want to relocate and uproot my family? What if I move and I absolutely hate it? Will I be able to afford relocating? Regardless of the question that may be causing your anxiety, making the decision to relocate for the next few years of your life, or possibly indefinitely, is not one that should be taken lightly. I remember when I made this decision five years ago. I was very confused about whether I should relocate. In fact, even after relocating I constantly questioned this decision during my first year of law school. However, I ultimately came to the realization that I made the right decision as I now call this new location my home.
So how did I ultimately make this decision? I wish I could say that I had a set of guidelines that helped me decide, but that for sure was not the case. However, over the past few years I’ve come across some factors that in retrospect would have made my decision much easier. Fortunately for you I’ve laid out three of these factors in the form of questions you should ask yourself as you make this very difficult decision.
If you’re unsure about whether you should relocate ask yourself:
1. Will Relocating have a Major Impact on my Family?
If you’re considering relocation as a first time law student or as a prospective transfer, one factor that may be impacting your decision is how this will affect your family. The more ties you have to your hometown, the more you may feel justified in wanting to stay put. Now if you’re single or if you have a family that’s willing and able to follow you, this decision won’t be much of an issue. However, if the alternative is true, if you have a partner or children who are unable to make the move due to school or work ties, relocation could still be a possibility but may not necessarily be the best option.
If you fall in the latter category, consider relocation if: you get accepted into a top law school or if you get a good scholarship at one of your top pick schools. If you get into a top law school, relocating for three years may be worth it in the long run. If you excel in your courses, you will likely gain access to an excellent legal network and have the flexibility of securing a great post grad job back in your hometown. Receiving a scholarship from a top school out of state school can also be a strong factor. A scholarship could drastically reduce the debt you owe after graduation and could work out being more beneficial to your family’s finances in the long run. However, at the end of the day your family should come first so make these considerations carefully with them in mind.
2. Where do you want to Practice after Law School?
Where do you want to practice after law school? Do you want to practice in your hometown, do you want to practice in another state or possibly overseas? Do you want to practice in BigLaw or would you want to work in a small firm or in the public sector? Considering your post law school job prospects is an excellent way to come to a decision on relocation. If you know for sure that you want to practice in your hometown, then to be honest, relocation may not be the best option for you. Spending the next few years building your legal network in your hometown and saving some money, is probably the best decision. Staying in your hometown may also be beneficial if you already live in a big city or a city/state in which you will have access to many job opportunities.
Now, if you’re unsure about your post law school job prospects, that’s ok! That simply means that relocating may be a good option for you if you don’t currently live in a city/state with many job opportunities. Relocating to a city with a more active legal market may be helpful in assisting you to mold your legal career game plan. This also applies if you know for sure that you want to practice in BigLaw. Relocating to attend a top tier law school or relocating to access the network in a bigger city may be helpful.
As you make this decision, I recommend meeting with a career mentor or career coach who can help you to trail the beginnings of a post law school career plan. Putting this factor into perspective may help a ton with making this decision.
3. Can you Afford to Relocate?
If you’re considering relocation, it’s extremely important to consider whether you can actually afford it. When I refer to cost here, I mean both the short term and long term cost. Short term in the sense of costs to actually move you to your new law school location, but long term cost in the sense of law school debt and limited job prospects. If you attend law school in your home state, chances are you may qualify for in-state tuition and possibly access to additional financial benefits. However, attending out of state means the possibility of higher tuition costs and higher living costs overall. As you reflect on this question, ask yourself whether taking out additional loans to cover this cost is worth it. Now it may be worth it if you’re attending a top tier school or if you’re attending a school that you know will ultimately provide you with a network needed to launch you into your career. However, if you’re considering taking on more costs, debt etc. to relocate to a smaller city with a limited network, to attend a school that’s lower ranked than a school that you could attend in your home state, relocation may not necessarily be the best option.
I hope these questions will help you in making this major decision.
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