What to Expect in Law School

Law school is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences a student can have. The popularity and demand on law schools has grown at a rapid pace. If you’ve ever seen the “Devil’s Advocate”, Al Pacino (during his dramatic closing monologue) says that there are more people in law school than there are actual lawyers. I’ve done some research and I haven’t been able to verify whether or not this is true, but it wouldn’t be a total shock if it was valid. Television programs like “Law & Order”, “Boston Legal” and “Shark” have glamorized the practice of law making it more attractive to young adults. Furthermore, the potential big salary one can obtain through a law career makes it even more enticing. In fact, the average starting salary for an associate at a mid-sized law firm is $93,000. But keep in mind, a career in law is usually not centered around high-drama court cases and big paychecks. In reality, it requires discipline, a lot of research, and strong written/oral skills. Let me explain…

This may shock you, but most lawyers never step foot in a courtroom. This is due to the fact that less than 10% of all motions and cases actually make it to trial. So, if you dream about being the new Denny Crane (Boston Legal) or Samantha Cabbot (Law & Order) you have to specifically focus on trial law during your tenture at law school. On the subject of salary, yes, a lawyer can make a lot of money. But keep in mind that the big-salary jobs are predominantly in the private sector working with corporate clients. Furthermore, associates and partners at law firms work, on average, 60 hours a week. So, you’ll earn that phat paycheck as a lawyer.

Here are some basic facts and guidelines that you’ll need to know if you’re serious about attending law school:

(1.) In order to get accepted to a quality law school, you must have a high GPA and a high LSAT score. Most law schools have a formula as to how they determine who they accept. Yes, your essay and letters of recommendation are important, but the combination of a high GPA and LSAT score are essential if you want applicant reviewers to even consider you. To get into a top 25 law school, you’ll need at least a 3.0 GPA (at least a 3.5 for top-10 schools) and an LSAT score of at least 152 out of 180, but much higher for a top-10, at least 165 out of 180.

(2.) Law school is expensive. Most law schools charge $20,000+ a year just in tuition and fees. Private law schools charge even more. For example, Harvard Law School charges $53,000 a year for tution…just tuition! That’s not including books, a laptop, housing, and miscellaneous expenses. So, if you’re serious about law school, you’ll probably need to obtain a good student loan. Or, try your hardest to win a scholarship or grant. Here’s a helpful resource for loans, scholarships, and grants…

(3.) Law School is 3-years in length and you’ll be working non-stop during that period. Law School is a time consuming and difficult endeavor, especially in the first year. Some law school graduates and professors have even said that the first year is specifically designed to be extremely challenging so those not truly committed will be weeded out. So, understand that if you attend law school it will not be a cakewalk. You’ll have to read hundreds of cases, write lengthy papers, do copious amounts of legal research, and argue in front of a judge in a mock trial. So if you don’t like to write or speak in public, law school is not for you.

(4.) Even after you graduate law school, you’ll still not a lawyer! That’s right, even after 3 years of hard work, you’re still not technically a lawyer. You must pass the bar exam and obtain your license in order to legally be a lawyer (nice play on words, ey).

It can be one of the most fulfilling ventures of your life. You’ll be learning, and mastering, something that is involved in all aspects of our lives: the law. Once you graduate, people will look to you for advice and counsel on important matters. And the possibility of handling a high-profile case and/or making boatloads of cash is certainly possible. But just remember, you must have a genuine interest in law, or have the inherent skills to handle the workload in order to succeed in law school.