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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Political Science

Why go to law school?

Law school requires a tremendous investment of time, effort, and money. The application process is time-consuming and, depending on the number of schools applied to, may cost several hundred dollars. The first year of law school is grueling, requiring students to study harder and put in more time than they likely thought possible as an undergraduate. And let's not forget tuition costs.

Before making such a leap, then, students should carefully consider whether it is the right choice for them. While there's no way to be 100% sure beforehand that law school is a good choice, some careful forethought and a bit of research might at least make it less likely that students will learn an expensive lesson in career planning. People's reasons for going to law school vary considerably. Some go so they can pursue public service or work to affect social policy. Others see a legal profession as a gateway to a higher-class lifestyle and a way to pursue high-paying jobs in corporate America. Some may be drawn into the law as a result of interest in particular subjects (e.g., the environment, intellectual property), while others may be primarily motivated by the prospect of helping people. If, however, the best answer you can come up with to the question above is "I can't figure out anything else to do" or "Because my parents are lawyers," you might want to think a little harder.

Students may find the following two articles helpful:

What can I do with a law degree?

By no means must students begin law school with a clear idea of what type of legal career they desire, but it never hurts to start thinking about such things early, and such considerations may help students make up their minds about whether they wish to attend law school.

Most, though not all, law school graduates become practicing attorneys. According to the National Association for Law Placement's Class of 2003 Employment Report and Salary Survey, about 58% of all employed law graduates find themselves in private practice within a law firm. Roughly 16% of employed graduates opt for public service--government, military, or public interest law--while fully 11% of students perform judicial clerkships before going on to more permanent positions.

Law school graduates also have opportunities in a wide variety of fields: media, public relations, public administration, management, law enforcement, and foreign service, just to name a few.