Should I go to law school?
This is the single most important and difficult question every pre-law student should address. It is important to not wait until you are in law school to figure out the answer. By then, you will likely have taken on an enormous amount of debt that will take a very long time to pay off. The time to figure out if law school is right for you is now, before you apply or at least before you pay tuition. Some students are able to figure it out while they are still undergraduates, but many others are not able to decide until after going out and getting real-world professional work experience after graduation. Still others find pursuing a graduate (e.g., M.A.) degree is a fruitful and affordable way to buy themselves time to figure out if law school makes sense for them. But, for most students, law school is simply too expensive to “find yourself” while there.
A member of GSU’s pre-law advising network, Professor Perry Binder (Robinson College of Business / Legal Studies), published a short article in Huffington Post entitled “10 Tips for Picking a Career Path in College.” This is a worthwhile read for any student deciding whether to pursue a law career.
There are really three separate questions that you must answer in order to know whether law school makes sense for you:
- Do I actually want to be a lawyer?
- Do I have (or can I develop) what it takes to be a successful lawyer?
- Would law school be a good financial investment for me?
In order to adequately address these questions, you need to get informed about the realities of the legal profession and, probably more importantly, you need to learn more about yourself–your passions, interests, values, strengths and weaknesses. (It was with good reason that the ancient Greeks considered “Know thyself” to be the wisest of maxims.)
Know Thyself? How to find out if a law career is right for you
To find out if you want to be a lawyer, the best thing you can do is to learn as much as you can about the realities of the legal profession and gain experiences conducting as many different law-related tasks as possible. (This can also help with yet another question you should answer before sending out law school applications: “What kind of law do I want to practice?”) How will you learn these things and gain these experiences? Here are four things you can (and should) begin doing as early as possible–preferably during your freshman year–to discover if you will actually like being a lawyer and if you have (or can develop) the talents and abilities necessary for excelling as a lawyer:
- Try to meet and listen to as many different practicing attorneys as you can. A great vehicle for doing this is to join one of the pre-law student organizations that regularly bring in lawyers and judges to give guest talks. Three organizations in particular do this on a regular basis: Pre-Law Society (formerly Pre-Law Club), National Black Law Student Association, and Criminal Justice Student Association. To learn about other advantages to joining these and other student organizations, see the page called “Get Involved.”
- Try to get an internship in a law office or court. These opportunities are often scarce and highly sought-after; thus, you have to be aggressive about finding out about them and applying. The best way to find out about them is to be connected to pre-law community on campus. To do this, it helps (once again) to be active in a pre-law student organization, to join the Pre-Law Email List (using the widget on the top left column of the pages of this website), to take pre-law courses, and to get to know members of the pre-law advising network on campus.
- Take law-related courses to gauge how well you will do, and how much you will enjoy, the sorts of courses you will take in law school. The “Get Prepared” page lists departments on campus that offer pre-law courses. The links on that page will take you to listings of pre-law courses offered by those departments.
- Join GSU’s Mock Trial Team to get extensive experience litigating realistic cases.
- Contact Professor Ryan Grelecki to discuss his LawWhys? pre-law discovery program.
For more advice on discovering whether law school makes sense for you, check out the article entitled “Is Law School for You?” published by Top-Law-Schools.com. And for considering whether law school is a good financial investment for you, consider the information provided by this blog post.