I am sure if you are contemplating law school you are wondering if it is really worth the financial investment. You hear and read stories about the debt graduates face and how hard it is to get a good-paying job. You also hear success stories about lawyers who help make a difference in the lives of others.
How do you decide if going to law school is the best professional pathway to achieving your goals? Is it worth the cost? You have to do your research and be honest with yourself.
Fortunately, we live in a time where there is an abundance of information online on all types of careers. Review fact-based sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to learn about job growth and salary data, for example, and opinion-centric sites like Above the Law where you can read articles on law schools and firm hiring practices.
There are also plenty of people willing to share their experiences. If you don’t know a lawyer, ask the career service office at your college to help make an introduction and see about securing an internship at a firm or courthouse. If you happen to know a lawyer, ask them if you can “pick their brain.” It will take effort on your part to answer these important questions. No one can make this decision for you. But know this — a JD has a great deal of utility to it — transferable problem solving skills, whether you want to practice law or run for public office, be an advocate for an organization that you trust in their mission, or own your own business — the education can open up career opportunities, in law or otherwise, in many disciplines over a lifetime.
Examine your own motivators
Why do you want to be a lawyer? Imagine your law school personal statement asks you to write an essay about why you want to be a lawyer in 500 words or less. What would you say? We often talk with students about their reasons for pursuing law school when they come to visit us at Stetson University College of Law. Here are a few reasons that worry us and make us think that law school may not be the best path right now, and certainly not a wise investment:
My family member(s) is a lawyer and hopes I will follow in their footsteps.
I like to argue and that is what lawyers do, so why not?
I have no idea what to do with my major and my friend is going to law school. I think I would be good at it.
I want to make a lot of money.
If you go to law school to please someone else or because you don’t know what else to do after college, you may find out quickly that law school is not worth the cost.
Avoid the Naysayers
Perhaps you have done detailed research and you know for sure that you want to be a litigator who defends the rights of the individual or in-house counsel for a large multinational firm. Be wary of attorneys and others who go out of their way to steer you away from law school. They’ll tell you exam horror stories or talk about the difficulty finding a job that requires a law degree. Some will even make you anxious about debt and student loans. Stop them in their tracks.
Thank them for their time and get out of there. If you know this is what you want then why allow anyone to make you doubt yourself. The world needs good lawyers.
Do your best to reduce the cost: Take the LSAT again
The LSAT can be a financial and emotional burden. Some students cannot afford a preparation course or the cost of taking the test several times. We see students who experience severe anxiety when it comes to standardized tests, but are fantastic college students. By the time you are a senior, or if you have already graduated, there is not much you can do to “move the needle” on your GPA. Earning a higher LSAT score is the best way to increase your merit award. Schools report the highest collective LSAT scores to the American Bar Association (ABA) and to the ranking agencies. Now that the LSAT is offered six times a year with no cap on the number of times you can take it, schools are seeing a high volume of repeat testers. Finally, the cost to prep is free! The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has partnered with the Khan Academy to offer FREE test prep. No more excuses! That small investment in a second or third test could translate to thousands of dollars a year in scholarship funds.
Choose the right law school
If, after your assessment, you determine law school is the best way to achieve your dreams, then you know your investment will be well worth it in the end. The LSAC has a great tool for prospective students on their site to help you evaluate law schools to find the right home for the next three or four years of your life. At Stetson University College of Law, we believe that fit is key. That is why we encourage all prospective law students to visit their law schools for a tour, class visit and a meeting with students, faculty and career development. We encourage you to visit us here at Florida’s oldest law school and learn more about the Stetson Law community. We welcome you and look forward to learning more about your goals!