Consider this scenario: you’re sitting around the dinner table at a holiday feast with your extended family, and your grandfather/aunt/uncle/cousin asks, “I heard you are pre-law, so why do you want to go to law school?”
And then you hem and haw about how you like to argue and debate, have majored in political science, and enjoy writing, but you can’t really come up with a concrete answer on why you want to go to law school.
Years ago, I found myself in this exact same scenario. I thought I had done my due diligence by researching law school on the internet, taking a Business Law class, and interning at a law firm, but I just couldn’t vocalize why I wanted to spend time and money to go to law school to become a lawyer.
Addressing this all-important question will not only help you throughout your law school application process (i.e. writing a strong personal statement), but it will also aid you in coming to terms with why you really do want to pursue this profession.
Let’s take a deep dive into some ways you can fully investigate (and articulate) if this is the right career path for you.
You’re planning to enter a profession where you will need to hone your communication skills. Law school and law practice require a lot more than sticking your nose in a large legal book and writing lengthy briefs. Becoming a lawyer will force you to stand up in front of a courtroom and express your case to a jury. It also entails representing and speaking to your client in a matter-of-fact way or communicating to a partner or legal team in a meeting debrief.
There are two ways that you can investigate the legal profession by talking to people:
Like it or not, networking is how you can get ahead in life. The earlier you learn this skill, the more doors you will open within your undergraduate years and your career. Ever heard the saying, “It’s all about who you know?” Well, this is where that adage comes into play.
Not sure how to network? Try and attend as many Career Center events as you can at your undergraduate institution. Most likely, they will put together workshops or hold alumni events to teach you the art of networking. Trust me, it gets easier the more that you do it.
Once you’re at an event, try and speak with as many people as you can about their career and life path. If you end up hitting it off with them, follow up and ask for their business card or if they have any internship opportunities within their workplace. If they don’t know of any opportunities within their organization, then ask them if they might know of anyone they could put you in touch with.
And that’s how the art of networking works in a nutshell.
Another way to find out about the legal profession or different specialities is to set up informational interviews with professionals in the legal field.
Not exactly sure what those are? They are short meetings (about 30 minutes) where you can have a conversation with a lawyer/judge/law clerk/law student, etc. in person over coffee, by phone, or even by Zoom. The goal is to ask them about their profession and learn more about their career to see if it would be something you would like to do as well. Some questions that you may want to consider asking:
Another great way to find out about a profession is to actually get hands-on experience within the field. The only true way to figure out if you want to be a lawyer is to surround yourself with like-minded people in the field.
Internships build skills, offer insight into the industry, form connections, and help you determine which type of law is right for you. Not sure how to find an internship? See the above passage on how to network or hold informational interviews.
Also take advantage of your Career Center at your undergraduate college or university. They will have an array of opportunities that you can pursue throughout the school year or during your summers.
Your summers during college should not just be about catching up with your high school friends or working at your local ice cream shop. Your summers should be used to investigate careers. How will you know that you want to attend law school if you don’t get hands-on experience? You may even decide that law school isn’t right for you (and that’s perfectly fine, too).
So you’ve done all that you can during your undergraduate years: you held informational interviews, got hands-on experience with an internship, networked with everyone possible, but you still aren’t sure if law is right for you. That’s okay!
Everyone is on a different timeline in life. It may seem like every one of your friends knows what they want to do after graduation and that you’re the only one without direction. Yet again, that’s okay! This is your chance to really confirm that law school is right for you. You don’t want to regret starting law school too early, only to find out that it’s not exactly what you hoped for.
Law school will always be there. In fact, law schools have been around for the past 100 years, and they will most likely be around for the next 100 years. So if you need a couple of years to figure out your next steps after college, don’t sweat it.
The average age of a first-year law student is 22-24 years old, so take the time to really live your life before law school.
Want to teach English in Italy? Go for it! Have an opportunity to work in an art museum? Apply! Interested in consulting for a year or two? Now is your chance! Live it up a little before law school, because once you’re on the law school train, there is no turning back. So make sure you’re truly ready for the next phase of your life.
Another thing to think about is that law schools like to build a diverse class. They don’t want to enroll an entire class with graduates from XYZ types of schools, with majors in political science/English/philosophy that have all interned at a big firm law firm. That would build a fairly dull class.
Law schools are looking for applicants with diverse backgrounds that make them stand out from the crowd. Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes, so take a minute to think about what makes you and your experiences stand out in an application.
Have questions about law school or how to answer “why law” in your admissions essays? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll respond to you personally as soon as I can.