The decision about whether to attend law school is a personal one, but one that requires careful consideration of the relevant factors. You should be aware that lawyers have one of the lowest job satisfaction ratings of all professional careers. At the same time, many lawyers love what they do. One major reason for the low job satisfaction rating is that students in law school too rarely know what they are getting into. What do lawyers do? What is the day-to-day life like? For those who make informed decisions, practicing law can be tremendously rewarding. The purpose of this page is to assemble some of the common issues that arise and help guide you in making your own decision.
After reading the sections below, the best place to go for more detailed information is the Law School Admissions Council’s website. At lsac.org, you will find a tab called “Future JD Students” that contains important information about law school including the application process, information about the LSAT, the costs of law school, and almost anything else you need to know. You should read all of the information that they have to offer, and plan to spend a significant amount of time on LSAC’s website.
What questions should I ask myself?
The first question to ask yourself is why do you want to go to law school? Is it because you have a passion for the law? Is it because you enjoy debating others? Is it because you want to make a lot of money? Is it because your parents expect you to go to law school? Answering this question honestly to yourself is a very important first step. As a general rule, if you get into a career just because you want to make a lot of money or because of family expectations you will likely end up discontent. Many lawyers work extremely long hours- if you don’t enjoy the job, those hours will seem extra long!
Another question to ask yourself is how much you know about what lawyers do in a typical day. Having a J.D. opens up many doors and there are numerous careers that lawyers pursue. Most lawyers never enter a courthouse. Some work for big firms, some work for small firms, some work for themselves, some work for companies, some work for the government. Familiarize yourself with what it means to practice law to determine if it is the right fit for you.
What do lawyers do?
Lawyers engage in an incredibly wide variety of activities. For most lawyers, litigating is not that common. Most of the time is spent negotiating on behalf of your clients with other parties, drafting documents such as contracts, wills, and deeds, and counseling clients about which course of action they should take to remain within the law.
What kinds of skills are important?
Lawyers in all areas of practice need to be able to write well. Briefs, contracts, and memos are just some of the documents that lawyers produce regularly. Analytical abilities are also important. The law is predicated on an understanding of logic and reasoning. Good lawyers are able to put together compelling arguments and respond to counterarguments. An ability to communicate with others clearly and effectively is also of great value, especially for those lawyers who spend time in court or interact frequently with clients.