Now that federal tax day has passed, many accountants and bookkeepers may finally have some time on their hands to think about next steps for their career. Law school may be especially appealing for accountants who hope to work on legal or policy issues, or leverage their experience to start lucrative careers in business, corporate finance, compliance or tax law.
A background in accounting can help set you apart from other law school applicants. However, there are some things you should do as you prepare to apply:
— Assess your relevant skills.
— Review your resume.
— Look for volunteer opportunities.
— Explain any outlying grades.
Assess Your Relevant Skills
Law schools are increasingly interested in applicants with work experience. Even if your job does not relate directly to law, look for ways to show how it makes you a stronger candidate than someone coming straight out of college.
While it may not seem obvious, working in accounting is a job that prepares applicants well for the challenges of law school. Accountants need to be detail-oriented, performing research and analysis both on their own and with a small team. They have experience serving clients in stressful situations, sometimes including taking on fiduciary responsibilities or other positions of trust. And, of course, they have expertise relevant to common law courses like tax law, corporate law and nonprofit law.
Review Your Resume
Because financial positions are so specialized, many accountants have resumes replete with technical jargon and very specific competencies. For example, they might list the kinds of software, common forms, different accounting methods or sections of tax code they have worked with.
This makes sense for a job search, where hiring officers may be looking for a precise fit. Law school admissions officers, however, are more interested in the general skills and translatable experiences you bring to the table.
A resume for law school applications should be written succinctly in plain English, organized with a strong hierarchy of information so that the most important entries are unmissable. Be clear about your roles and responsibilities and the results you have achieved.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities
If your career is highly specialized, explore volunteer activities to broaden your skill set. Perhaps you can take on additional responsibilities at work. Or, you may put your skills to good use within your community, assisting low-income taxpayers or helping small businesses keep their financial records in order.
Not only will such activities look good on your resume, but they will also show you as someone who will contribute to a law school’s clinics, student groups and campus life.
Explain Any Outlying Grades
Like law school applicants with STEM backgrounds, students who majored in subjects like finance or accounting in college bring an uncommon fluency with data and quantitative reasoning. However, such rigorous courses of study are hard to complete with consistently high marks.
Undergraduate grades are one of the most important factors in law school admissions, because they statistically correlate with strong performance in law school. If you have a low overall GPA, it is very important to get a high score on the LSAT or GRE or take extra classes to show your academic potential.
If you have just a couple of embarrassing outliers on your transcript, or even a rough semester, consider writing a transcript addendum to explain and take responsibility for your poor performance. Note that this may not be needed if those lower grades were in your first few semesters; few college students hit the ground running.
Whether you are still early in your career or an older applicant seeking a new line of work, it is better to portray law school as a natural next step for your career than as a radical change. Even if you feel more than ready for a change of pace, focus on how the experience you bring to the table will boost your career path after law school.
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Tips for Aspiring Attorneys with Accounting Backgrounds originally appeared on usnews.com