What You Need to Know Before Law School
Law school is a dream for many, but it is a challenging, rigorous process. Understanding what law school requires from you, as well as what type of work you will do after graduation is important before making your decision. Attending because you haven’t come up with a better idea for a career is likely to lead to stress and dissatisfaction. The good news is, there are many different career paths you can choose.
You aren’t limited to trial work, and in fact, many lawyers never do this type of work. Businesses and nonprofits need attorneys to help them make smart business decisions, negotiate transactions, and remain in compliance with regulatory issues. So, if you are detail-oriented, like to learn, and want a job that promises something new every day, this choice makes sense. Once you are in school, you can gain exposure to different fields through internships and career fairs.
Work and Law School Don’t Often Mix
Working while you earn your graduate degree ranges from difficult to impossible. Often, the school specifically forbids working during the school year. Even if your school doesn't have specific rules against the practice, you will find juggling the two stressful. Something will suffer from trying to create a balancing act, and often it is coursework. Taking out private student loans to pay for your graduate law degree allows you to cover the cost of tuition as well as rent and other living expenses. This frees you up to spend time on your schoolwork.
If you are tempted to take on an outside job while attending school, dedicate that time to studying and participating in clubs and organizations related to your major. You will see the results, as a strong GPA and experience in a law review or other organization will help you land the job you want after graduation. You may be able to earn money to cover some costs by working over the summer. Prioritize internships, which are typically paid in the legal field, over convenience.
Your Schedule Isn’t Your Own
If you made it through your undergraduate years with minimal stress, you may feel continuing your education will be an extension of that. Instead, you will face a different set of expectations and pressures. You must attend class, as gone are the days where you could slack off all semester and finish strong to secure a passing grade. Even if your professors do not specifically give credit for attendance, the work covered in the classroom is impossible to replicate through course notes and studying your book. A huge part of your education is learning to present your arguments powerfully and gaining confidence speaking extemporaneously. These are skills you miss out on by not attending class.
Plan Your Coursework So It Works for You
In your first year, you will be back to where you were in the first year of college. You won’t have much say over the classes you take. After that first year, you have more control over the courses you take and should plan accordingly. Take classes that contribute to the field or fields you are interested in, but look at scheduling as well. Scheduling your classes in blocks may seem overwhelming, but it also gives you blocks of free time. There is a lot of pressure that goes along with attending law school. Arrange your schedule so that you have ample time outside of class to study as well as time to decompress.
- Written by James Hills
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