7 Things to Consider When Applying to Law School

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Median income and median student debt for law school grads (Image source)

I applied to law school. I got in and even received scholarships to a couple of schools, but I decided not go to this year. I spent about $545 on the law school application process (LSAT, CAS, app. fees) and also got a LSAT prep book for about $43 for a total of $588. I learned a lot through the process, so I’ll share some of the things I learned.

1. Law schools care A LOT about your LSAT score. Your LSAT score is usually the most important factor in determining whether or not a law school will grant you admission. Your GPA matters too, but I would consider it a distant second (maybe I’m wrong about this?). For law schools, granting admission to students with higher LSAT scores helps their rankings and improves their reputation.

2. You can go to most law schools for free or at least with substantial scholarship. In order to entice the best students (high LSAT/GPA), many law schools will offer scholarships up to full tuition. I didn’t do great on the LSAT, but I was offered a $75k scholarship to a second-tier school and an $80k scholarship to a third-tier school over 4 years (I applied to evening part-time programs). I’m pretty sure if I retake the LSAT and score 5-10 points higher, it may be possible to be offered close to full tuition scholarships at these schools. Of course, if your goal is to get into a T14 (top 14 ranked) school, it will be much more difficult to get a scholarship.

3. It may not be worth it to go to law school from a ROI perspective. See the figure up top? I believe those figures are from 2014. Those are median figures for income and debt coming out of law school. That means 50% of law school grads are making $62k or less and 50% of law school grads have debt of $141k or more! (not necessarily the same 50%). Only about 15 to 20% of law school grads start off with a salary around $160k. A huge chunk of law school grads make about $40-60k after graduating. The figure below shows a typical bimodal distribution of what law school grads can expect to make in their first year working. Typically, the spike at ~$160k mostly comprises graduates of T14 schools or graduates who ranked toward the top of their law school class.

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4. Earning $160k will probably take a toll on your personal life. Typically, the bigger the law firm you work for, the higher your starting salary will be. If you get a job in BigLaw where you start around $160k, you can expect to work 70-80 hours/week and bill ~2000 hours/year. This won’t always be the case, but numbers like this aren’t atypical. Working 12 hours a day, you won’t have as much time for family, friends, leisure, etc. The other option is to take a lower-paying position, but you may not need a law degree to earn a salary in the lower bump.

5. A lot of schools will offer you an application fee waiver to get you to apply. Law school applications can be expensive. Many schools will offer application fee waivers, so you just have to pay the $30 fee to LSAC to apply. Try asking for a fee waiver. Most schools outside the T14 will be happy to give you one.

6. Consider location. If you decide to attend a law school outside the T14, consider the geographic location of the school. Most law schools will have a strong alumni network concentrated in the city they are located in or in the surrounding areas. If you don’t think you want to live in the area after you graduate, it may be worth reconsidering where you attend law school.

7. Almost anyone can get into law school. Yes, almost anyone with a college degree can get into law school. There are law schools accepting students with LSAT scores in the low 140s. These students probably have no real chance of passing the bar. This is a SCAM. These students will be buried in debt with almost no chance of getting a job that pays enough to pay off their loans in a reasonable time. There are so many lawsuits from former law students suing their law schools for providing misleading information about job prospects after graduating. Read some of their stories. Law school is no cake walk.

My thoughts:

After considering everything above, I decided that it’s probably worth the investment in time to take the LSATs again and score high enough to get a full tuition scholarship somewhere if I decide for sure that I want to go to law school. Spending the time to research job prospects post-graduation and considering the time commitment required for a job as a lawyer is making me reconsider law school. I’m going to take some more time to really think about it.

3 thoughts on “7 Things to Consider When Applying to Law School

  1. That’s great that you have done your research and understand the pros and cons. I know many who went into it blindly. I went to law school back in 2003 part time graduating in 2007. Tuitions was expensive back then and has only increased. Working full time reduced the amount of loans I needed to take out. I took the max Stafford amount and I still had undergrad loans. If you are looking for a big law firm job it may be tougher if u go part time, at least that’s what I experienced. I work in government…good benefits and okay pay I guess.

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