Law school, in case you haven’t heard, is not for the faint of heart. To really confound matters, once you’ve graduated, you still have to pass the state bar exam, you’re not assured job stability and on top of all that, even if you’ve found a full-time position at a firm, you might end up going back to school again (for instance, in addition to your weekly work schedule, your firm could ask you to start looking into taxation LL.M. programs and while they might hold your job for you, it’s also unlikely they’ll pay for the tuition). It’s a rough field to get into and law school is only the start, so if you’re thinking about applying, there are definitely some things you should know right off the bat.
Two Very Important Scores
Some will argue that it takes more than just two numbers to determine who gets in where, but the fact remains that your LSAT and your undergraduate GPA are the two most important numbers for any law school applicant. Your scores determine in an almost linear fashion how successful you can expect to be in the future. If you didn’t make the grade (or get the outstanding score) the odds are stacked against you getting into a Top 20 law school, from which only the top 10 percent of graduates will likely go on to work for the six-figure salaries that can even begin to chip away at the student loan debt they’ve accrued.
You Are Going To Pay
If you come from a gloriously wealthy family, then $100,000 might not be such a big deal – pocket change. If the thought of owing someone $100,000 makes you sick to your stomach though, then proceed with caution. While it’s true that most schools offer some kind of merit-based scholarship to at least half of each new class, it usually comes with some fine print, namely that the student maintain a certain GPA or risk losing their full or partial tuition remission. And while a 3.0 GPA might have been a breeze in undergrad, law school is – ah – different. (Different = more rigorous, challenging, unrepentant and exhausting.) Plus, tuition remission, full or partial, does nothing to help with living expenses. So while you might have a full-ride to Columbia or NYU, you’d still end up requiring at least $1,500 a month for an apartment you’ll share with four other people and a room the size of a broom closet. And you plan on eating while you’re there, too, right? Plus, it only will get pricier as you make plans to climb up the ranks, pursuing perhaps a master’s degree down the line. Enrolling in tax llm programs can be highly beneficial to you and your ability to get ahead, but at the same time, they can also weigh down your wallet, too.
Law School is a No-Coddling Zone
A prestigious, private New York City law school admitted roughly 450 students one year. One 1L section contained 90 students. Instead of free discourse and debate, as you enjoyed in undergrad, each student over the course of the semester was called upon once to answer a question posed to them; the professor simply picked a name at random and crossed them off after they responded. That response, alone with the final exam, determined each student’s entire grade for the semester.
No one is going to hold your hand in law school. It’s up to you to show up prepared for class and you can expect a certain level of disdain if you do not acquit yourself well before your peers. The fact is thousands of law school grads, including you, are going to be competing for the same number of dwindling jobs come graduation. It’s unlikely outside your group of friends that anyone will lift a finger to help get you ahead. No matter what you are studying, from tax laws to real estate, be sure to keep abreast of the latest information and developments in that field. Knowing the most up-to-date news will give you a fighting edge.
So Who Should Go?
It kind of sound likes only a super-rich genius should go to law school, but that’s not the case at all. If you’ve done your homework and have no illusions about what the practice of law entails; if you are accepted with a scholarship and you have the work ethic to maintain it and if you’re not in it for the money or the prestige or to please your parents, then go! Only you can control your own personal efforts that will make law school worth the risky job market and massive costs.
This article was written by Jason Evans. Jason is currently taking tax LLM programs in school and is looking forward to getting his degree in tax laws next year.