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Deciding Whether to Attend Law School

While some students have been interested in law since their youth, perhaps due to exposure to the law from relatives or family friends, most lawyers struggle with the decision of whether to attend law school and practice law, often even after they have already entered the profession. As mentioned earlier, the decision of whether to attend law school, if considered carefully, should not be an easy one. For this reason, it is essential that undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing legal studies gain substantial exposure to law school, and more importantly, the practice of law before making this important decision.

Students can gain such exposure in various ways: consult with Career Services and/or a pre-law advisor; take or shadow law-related undergraduate courses or law school courses (the latter option is available to seniors under certain circumstances); participate in the undergraduate Mock Trial Team; subscribe to and read legal periodicals or e-newsletters; join GILS; attend law-related speaking events and/or pre-law conferences; read law-related blogs; speak or intern with practicing attorneys and/or legal organizations, such as a legal aid society; peruse law firm and law school websites; obtain a Law School Liaison mentor; befriend a law student; and/or attend a trial. These activities are invaluable because they provide insight into the life of a law student and/or practicing attorney and will hopefully debunk the superficial (and often misleading) view of the legal profession perpetuated by novels, films, and television shows.

The decision to enter law school and practice law is further complicated by the realization that there is no stereotypical lawyer. A lawyer's day-to-day activities significantly differ from one lawyer to the next. Such variance is due to a myriad of factors, including but not limited to geography, practice area, firm size, and length of service. But daily routine is not the only notable difference from one attorney to the next. Attorneys' lifestyles also differ markedly in other ways from quality-of-life to compensation.

A law degree prepares you for more than just the practice of law.  Some lawyers enter academia, while others run for political office.  A law degree is useful in many fields, such as business and legal journalism.

Also ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to get out of my profession?
  • What kinds of activities fulfill me?
  • Do I enjoy serving others?
  • Do I enjoy educating people about complex subject matter?
  • Do people often come to me for advice?
  • Am I a gifted problem-solver?
  • Am I articulate?
  • Am I creative?
  • Am I diplomatic?
  • Am I a natural leader?
  • Am I capable of being simultaneously empathetic to human concerns without losing my objectivity?
  • Is it easy for me to persuade people to see things from my point of view?
  • Do I work well under pressure?
  • Do I I think well "on my feet"?
  • Am I a good listener?
  • Am I confident?
  • Am I willing to have unpredictable work hours?
  • Do I have a good work ethic?
  • Do I enjoy a good debate?
  • Do I embrace healthy conflict?
  • Am I talented public speaker?
  • Am I good at keeping confidences?
  • Do I work well under authority?
  • Am I self-motivated?
  • Am I detail-oriented?
  • Am I a "people person"?
  • Do I like to read?
  • Do I like to write?
  • Do I like to edit?
  • Do I like to research?
  • Do I like to travel?
  • Do I enjoy meeting new people?
  • Do I embrace challenges?
  • When things don't go as planned, do I panic or keep my cool?
  • Can I receive criticism without getting bent out of shape?
  • Do I often lose my temper with others?

Other websites, such as www.lsac.org, are also helpful in determining whether law school is right for you.