Here is what you should know before deciding about law school.
Getting into and through law school typically requires years of hard work and lots of money. Many grads embark on successful careers, but some struggle to find employment and pay off student loan debt, making the decision to go a very important one. If you’re considering applying to a J.D. program, here are 10 questions that can guide your research.
Do I need to take the LSAT to apply?
The LSAT has traditionally been the standardized test used to help determine if an applicant will be accepted into law school. As legal education has changed, however, some schools have started to allow J.D. applicants to submit a GMAT or GRE score in lieu of an LSAT score and, in rare cases, may admit someone who doesn’t submit a score from any graduate admissions test if he or she has received exceptional grades in college courses.
If I get a high score on the LSAT, am I guaranteed to pass a bar exam?
After getting a J.D., law graduates must pass the bar to become licensed practitioners — and passing the bar will expand a lawyer’s job opportunities. Some state bar examinations are considered harder than others, however, and experts say a competitive LSAT score won’t always translate to success on a bar exam.
Do I need to go to law school to work in the legal field?
Numerous jobs intersect with law but don’t require employees to have a J.D. Legal enthusiasts can work in legal organizations as a communications manager or chief marketing officer, for example, says one expert. They can also work in functional roles in market research or pricing strategy.
Should I attend law school if I’m interested in public policy?
A J.D. can lead to work in a various industries, such as health care or real estate. But for those interested in policy, a master’s in public administration or public policy may be a better fit, experts say. That type of master’s degree can prepare someone to work as a city manager in a local government, policy analyst, budget analyst, program evaluator or program manager. However, some law school graduates use their law degree to pursue law-focused policy careers, so it is possible to find work in that field if you have a J.D. degree.
Will I need to specialize in a specific area of law as a student?
Many law students begin school without realizing what type of law they’d like to practice, but those who know which areas of law they prefer can use that as an advantage in the admissions process. Experts say applicants can tailor their search to schools that focus on the areas of law they like. And once they enroll at one of these schools, an in-depth focus on a specific area of law can make them more competitive job applicants.
How much will a law degree cost?
School tuition and fees can vary depending on several factors, such as an institution’s status as public or private and whether a student attends full time or part time. Negotiating financial aid packages and applying for scholarships can greatly reduce the cost, and it’s worthwhile to find out which law schools offer the most significant tuition help, experts say. Exceptional J.D. candidates may be able to go to law school for free if they receive generous scholarships.
Will I get a six-figure salary with a law degree?
On everything from “Scandal” to “The Good Wife,” TV lawyers typically appear to be well paid. In reality, though, many new J.D.s make less than $100,000. The median annual private sector salary among J.D. recipients in 2018 was $75,000, while the median annual salary within the public sector was $58,000, according to U.S. News data.
Will classes be ethnically diverse?
Some institutions have high percentages of underrepresented minorities. Law school experts recommend minority applicants speak with minority law students to learn about the environment at different campuses and identify themselves as minorities in their law school applications since minority status is viewed as a plus in the J.D. admissions process. Minority applicants should strongly consider submitting a diversity statement, experts say.
How competitive is the admissions process?
Admission to the nation’s most selective and prestigious law schools is extraordinarily competitive, so much so that near-perfect college grades and impressive LSAT scores are the norm at these places. Experts say that J.D. candidates applying to top law schools can distinguish themselves via academics, life experiences or recommendation letters. They should also present a compelling argument for law schoool and describe whatever notable academic projects or extracurricular activities they are involved with, experts suggest.
How much does location matter when it comes to choosing a school?
Students who attend law school in the region where they’d like to work can build their network sooner, experts say. And a strong network can be critical to finding employment after graduation. J.D. candidates who attend highly ranked schools with a national reputation may have an easier time finding work outside of their school’s region.
Here are 10 questions to ask before submitting a law school application.
— Do I need to take the LSAT to apply?
— If I get a high score on the LSAT, am I guaranteed to pass a bar exam?
— Do I need to go to law school to work in the legal field?
— Should I attend law school if I’m interested in public policy?
— Will I need to specialize in a specific area of law as a student?
— How much will a law degree cost?
— Will I get a six-figure salary with a law degree?
— Will classes be ethnically diverse?
— How competitive is the admissions process?
— How much does location matter when it comes to choosing a school?
Learn more about making a law school decision.
Find out how to gauge if law school fits your career goals, and get our complete rankings of the Best Law School. For additional advice and information on how to get accepted into law school, connect with U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter.
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Update 08/25/20: This slideshow has been updated with new information.