When you’re going through the process of applying to something as important as law school, you might be surprised to find the first question you need to consider is: do I really want to be a lawyer? The law profession is one that requires much time, money and effort, so it’s crucial for you to consider several things before and during this next step in your academic and professional career. Here’s what some experts in the field had to say:
1. Do some sole searching
“Talk to some practicing lawyers to have some sense of why they went to law school and decided being a lawyer was the right career path for them,” said Joe Libertelli, director of alumni relations and former career services director at the University of D.C.’s law school. “If you investigate carefully, you might realize it’s not what you thought.” Libertelli said it’s extremely important to know for sure that you want to be a lawyer before deciding to apply to law school because it is a demanding (and not to mention expensive) four years of your life. “In order to maintain motivation it helps to have a goal and know why you’re taking this next step toward a career in law. It may be a romantic notion to get a law degree, but it’s a very complex undertaking,” he said.
2. What will you DO with your law degree?
“It’s very important to determine what type of lawyer you want to be because that will dictate what law schools you should apply to,” Libertelli said. For example, if you want to be a corporate lawyer, you need to go to a law school that places students in those firms, he said. He added those law schools probably look for applicants with past work experience or internships at corporate law firms. However, maybe you’re more interested in being a public defender, which includes representing a cause or a person that can not afford an attorney. Libertelli said UDC’s law school specializes in public interest law, so something they look for when reading applications are students who have a lot of community service and activism to show they are really passionate about helping others. “It would be a waste to spend all this money for a law school that doesn’t necessarily focus on the type of law you’re interested in,” he said.
3. LSATs, LSATs, LSATs
Did I mention the LSATs? Obviously, a major part of applying to law school is taking this dreaded test. One tip Bianca Mack, director of diversity services at George Mason’s law school, had is to prepare. A lot. “It’s important to start studying for the LSATs early on, and maybe even take a test prep course, so you’re not overwhelmed when the date of your test gets closer,” she said. Libertelli added that the LSATs can often be a barrier for you to get into schools you might want, so it’s important to not just wing it. He also mentioned to look at how different law schools weigh the LSAT scores. “Some might average scores, some schools will look at your worst scores, and some will look at your best scores. If you have a school in mind, you should know their attitude toward the LSAT,” he said.
4. Social Networking Clean-Up
A recent study by Kaplan Test Prep showed 41 percent of admissions officers at the top law schools in the U.S. “Googled” an applicant and 37 percent visited an applicant’s Facebook page or another social networking site, said Todd William, founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino, an online service that offers online reputation management and repair such as removing negative content off Google searches of your name. If an admissions counselor or potential employer finds something negative that you posted or was posted about you on the Internet, it could definitely affect your chances as a candidate, Williams said. “Standing in the shoes of an admissions officer or potential employer, is there anything on Google or any social networking site that is a potential problem?” he asked. In more relatable words, Williams gave this tip: “Remove those embarrassing spring break photographs and delete the picture of you with a beer pong championship trophy.” Williams and Libertelli also pointed out you could add positive content to your online presence that could actually help your chances of admission or acceptance to an internship; highlighting any achievements as well as any volunteer work can help you if this kind of content appears online.
“Internships are great to have because they not only give you experience but also provide good sources for recommendation letters to law school,” Mack said. She added, internship experience shows admissions counselors that you can work and handle such a demanding job. We all know getting an internship can be difficult, so Libertelli recommends researching an organization or firm you’re interested in, and including information in your cover letter that shows you put in the effort and enthusiasm to learn more about the specific position. He added that good recommendation letters are a must, for both law school and internships. “Nothing is worse that receiving a generic letter. It is best to get a recommendation from someone who has seen you in the trenches because they’ll have a more holistic view of you and will show that you can handle challenging circumstances.”