If You Want To Go To Law School, Go Now
As much as I tell people not to go to law school because I think there are so many other things you can do with your life, now is the best possible time you could go to school and here’s three major reasons why:
1. Law school applications are way down. In a recent survey of law schools, the rates of applications are down 30%. There is a combination of reasons as to why applications are down. Many blame the economy, claiming that it hasn’t recovered as much as many say it has. Others claim that it’s all the news coverage of cases. But, regardless, applications have tanked an average of about 30%. At some schools, the average is far higher. Schools are fighting hard for good students to the point they are poaching students from each other by offering huge scholarships, housing, etc. So if you have a good LSAT score, a good undergraduate GPA, etc. you could be a hot commodity amongst law schools.
2. There is a graying generation of attorneys out there. I feel awful even writing about this but it’s true and a lot of us have noticed this. One of the reasons that the legal market has suffered the last ten or so years is because there has been no job movement. The Baby Boomers have refused to retire resulting in no jobs opening up. The Baby Boomers are a huge generation that consumed a lot of the job market for many fields, including law. Many Baby Boomers run some of the largest law firms in the country. But, as they age, they are going to have to either retire or, unfortunately, they may just pass away thus causing a sudden opening in the market for new attorneys. Keep in mind, there might also be issues because of this because the greying attorneys, since they didn’t want to pass on the business, didn’t train newer attorneys, businesses might suffer. So there is going to be a bit of a flux but it could work out for everyone.
3. The bar exam is only getting harder. This isn’t a common reason you hear as to why you should go to law school now. But as a bar exam tutor and seeing the changes coming with the bar exam, to me this is one of the biggest reasons to go to law school now rather than later. In Florida, the bar examiners just added an additional five subjects to the bar exam in 2013. In 2015, the National Conference of Bar Examiners will be including an additional subject on the Multistate Bar Exam. Rumor has it other states are re-evaluating their bar exams to determine whether additional subjects should be tested. Why are the states making the bar exam harder? Well, the underlying theory is that that there are too many attorneys and, therefore, this will prevent there from being too many more added into the mix. So if you want to become an attorney and practice, you’re going to have to take the bar exam. The sooner you take it, the less you risk there being even more subjects added to your bar exam and the greater your chance of passing.
How I Knew I Wanted To Be An Attorney
It’s a question I often ask of my own students but for once I decided to expose my own reason for having decided to go to law school.
It was 2009. I was working for a Medicare subcontractor back at home in Pennsylvania. It was another long day and I was sitting inside my office with my head on my desk. Another three hundred cases with errors had been wheeled into my office. It meant I wasn’t going to be leaving early any time soon and there was nothing I really could do about it.
Somehow my new job became fixing everyone else’s errors although I had been in Operations and supposedly promoted to Appeals. It was all because I had discovered the initial errors. Even though I tried my hardest to get management to have the individuals making the mistakes correct them but apparently that would take too much work so it became my full time job.
And it sucked. I felt like I had been screwed all because I tried to do the right thing. I felt robbed and ignored. I felt like I was being punished.
And as I lay on my desk I kept thinking about how every day I came to the office and saw the attorneys on the floor I worked on. They weren’t treated the same way I was. In fact, they were treated with respect. People listened to them and heeded their advice. Me? I was nothing because I didn’t have letters behind my name.
That’s when I decided to go to law school.
That’s right. It wasn’t because I wanted to be rich. It wasn’t because I wanted to save the world. I wanted to go to law school because I was so tired of being screwed and having no one listen to me.
I have never forgotten that. That reason is what pushed me through law school. It’s what got me through the hard times and the days when I wanted nothing more than to quit. It got me through the bar exam and keeps me from regretting my decision to go to law school. And it also is what drives me to help law students in my every day life because I don’t want students going through the struggles I did.
Holding on to the reason you decided to go to law school is vital to your survival in law. So write it down or share it with others because you never know when it will help you.
Writing a Law School Personal Statement
For almost every law school application, you will be asked to write a personal statement. I remember sitting at work in the middle of another day of over time mindlessly debating how to go about writing a personal statement. Sure, there are books out there on the market that could potential help you to write a statement that may or may not get you into law school. But here’s my advice on how to write an admission worthy essay:
1. Just start writing. There is nothing more terrifying to a person than a blank page. Many students will put off writing things because they are afraid of messing up or failure. But if you let that fear stop you, then you might as well not apply to law school. You will do many scary things during your years trying to become an attorney. So if you can’t do this, you won’t be able to handle anything else. So, instead, consider this the first step in your career. Just put something on the page. Even if it is terrible. You can revise later.
2. Write something from the heart. Obviously, this is a personal statement. It has to be personal. So many people will write about their struggles and about how hard they have had to work. You’ll see the same generic language in each one: “perseverance”, “dedication”, “passion”, etc. That’s all well and good. But a reader will be able to tell if you really mean what you are saying or if you just followed a format in a book. Instead, really write from the heart. Law is raw. It’s about people’s lives. So show the reader that you can be raw and expose your true self through writing. Dig deep and tell your real story.
3. Revise, revise, revise. You will never write anything perfectly the first time. Every good writer understands that a good work takes multiple revisions. So after your first write your statement, take a break from it for a day or so and come back to it with fresh eyes. Also, read the paper line by line backwards. This will help you discover errors. Then repeat. Do this as many times as you have to until you get a statement you can be proud of.
4. Have someone proofread your essay. I am amazed when I work with 1L’s as to their lack of ability to write. Often I get essays with all kinds of grammatical errors and missing punctuation. Before you click submit, have someone else review your essay for errors. Also, have that person give you an honest evaluation of your essay. See if it moved them. If it did, it’s likely to move the admissions recruiter.
5. Actually submit it. You will always have doubt because you don’t know what the admissions recruiter is specifically looking for. But in order to have a chance to get into law school, you have to submit the personal statement. Once you get it to a point where you are proud or even just comfortable with it, submit it. It will never be perfect. But it’s you. And that should be enough.
Hopefully, you find these tips helpful. I can tell you that this is what I did with my personal statement and I am now an attorney. That should tell you something.
How to Prepare for the LSAT
Ah, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). I don’t know a single person who enjoyed it. Many say it is a predictor of how well you’ll do in law school and how well you will do on the bar exam, but I completely disagree. It’s just a mandatory four-hour, five-part exam you must take and suffer through in order to be admitted to law school. The higher your score, the more law schools (and the better the law schools) you can probably get into.
So how do you get that all important high score? Well, there’s several ways:
1. Take a commercial prep course. There are several companies who have designed programs for students to enroll in to improve their scores on the LSAT, such as Kaplan. The courses can range in length and price. It’s a good idea if you need the additional help or have difficulties knowing how to approach preparation for the exam to take these courses. Further, they often offer a mock exam to see how prepared you really are for the actual exam. Be sure to research the various courses and explore every option. This is your chance to get into law school and you want to have the best chance possible. Ask if you can demo the course to see if it is a good fit for you. But these are typically good investments.
2. Buy LSAT prep books. Almost every Barnes and Noble has LSAT books in stock. They are also available on Amazon. The books vary in price and size. Some have CD’s or DVD’s included. But each will contain practice questions for you to do. They are good as stand alone study materials if you are disciplined enough to study without a set schedule or as a supplement to a course. The Law School Admissions Counsel (lsac.org) also offers books for sale. Since the LSAC is involved in Law School Admissions, I would recommend their books to anyone.
3. Maybe you should hire a tutor. If you don’t want a classroom and you are not comfortable studying alone, consider hiring a tutor. Tutors can work with you one-on-one. Almost every tutor (and it should be every tutor) who teaches the LSAT has taken the LSAT so they are able to understand what you need. Tutors are available through commercial preparation companies or independently. A simple Google search with reveal and endless amount of tutors who might be right for you. Be sure to investigate each one and make sure they have the qualifications you want.
4. Practice. Most students avoid practicing actual questions because they feel like it is a waste of time. This actually damages their scores. By practicing the questions you will better be able to discover trends, traps, and tricks that could help you get the highest score possible. Also, you need to practice in order to be able to complete the exam in the time allotted.
5. Practice Exams. Like I said, some commercial courses offer practice exams and some of the prep books have the exams. But the best tool you can use is The Official LSAT PrepTests available on LSAC.org for purchase. These are actual LSAT exams with answers. If you are going to practice for the exam, you should practice with an old exam. Practice exams also are great because it will help ease your fears and help you work through testing phobias. They also help you hone in on areas you may be struggling with.
6. Do not get hung up on practice scores. Practice scores do not mean that you aren’t going to get a good score on the LSAT. It’s a hard exam and many students don’t get the scores they want when they first begin to practice. But the best advice I ever got during law school is to get as many questions wrong as you can when studying. This way, you never get them wrong on exam day. Just learn from your mistakes and move on.
7. Read every answer to every practice question you do. It doesn’t matter if you got the answer right or wrong. Review the answer. This is a form of kinetic learning. It will help you learn and memorize.
8. Know the rules. So many students walk into exams unprepared. As a result, they are not able to take the exam. Rather than waste your money and time, be sure to review the rules of the exam thoroughly. Know what you can and cannot take in with you. Know what you have to have on exam day. This will help not just ensure you are permitted to take the exam, but that you have no unnecessary stress on exam day.
9. Remember that you can take the exam again. So maybe you took the exam and didn’t score as well as you wanted to. That’s OK. You aren’t prohibited from taking the LSAT more than once. Just change your approach and try again.