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I'm thinking about enrolling in law school, but I haven't taken the LSAT yet or done any serious research regarding schools, career tracks, etc.

My question is: what are some resources I should be looking into?

It's worth noting I'm 29 years old and not currently enrolled in college (though I do have a bachelor's and master's).

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The first thing you need to know is that if you go to law school, you will hate your life for at least those three years. Law school is not like other graduate school programs. If you do reasonably well, it will almost certainly consume your life. Law school students (and lawyers) experience substantially higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and depression. And student debt, of course.

The second thing you need to know is that the legal jobs that most people seem to dream of are in very short supply. I haven't looked at the latest market research, but I'd be comfortable betting that the vast majority of work that is available is in criminal law and defending businesses.

Upon graduation, you will probably not be: a lawyer at a large firm, a lawyer at a firm that will pay you more than $100,000, a constitutional lawyer or an environmental lawyer. There are great odds that you will never argue before the Supreme Court, or even your state supreme court. There are really good odds that you will argue in front of a jury no more than six times in your life.

So don't go in blind.

Resource 1: Students at nearby law schools.

My experience is that a powerful majority of law school students go in for the wrong reasons, hate law school, and graduate with more regrets and debt than anything else. I think this is because they usually go in for the wrong reasons: they didn't know what else to do, their mom was a lawyer, they like to argue, their uncle said they should.

There is only one reason that anyone should go to law school, and that is because they enjoy doing legal work. "Legal work" means two things: research and writing. It does not mean arguing. If you don't like research and writing, you will not like law school, and you will not be a successful lawyer.

So the first resource you should be looking into is students of nearby law schools. Ask them why they went, if they're glad they did, and what their career prospects are like as a result. If their pre-law experiences and motivations sound like yours, consider whether their law-school and career experiences might be the same, as well.

If they don't talk you out of this, move on to...

Resource 2: The career offices at nearby law schools

Ask for an appointment to talk about where the legal market is headed, how their schools prepare people for it, and how their graduates are doing. If the market is headed in directions that you don't like, think about whether law school is really a smart decision, at least at this point. You are already entering later than other people, but there's also still time to wait. I went in at 34.

Ask them to put you in touch with recent graduates, as well. They can give you a better idea of what it's like to find a job as an attorney and what it's like to spend three years in law school.

If they don't talk you out of this, move on to...

Resource 3: The cesspool of the online pre-law websites

You'll get more good (and bad) information from the ugly, ugly world of pre-law chat. If you want more information about specific law schools, the admissions process, the implications of any criminal, civil, or academic misconduct on your candidacy, or almost anything else, you should take a look at:

There's more out there. It's all awful. If they don't talk you out of it...

Resource 4: Your LSAT score

Do not take your LSAT without preparing. Take an a formal LSAT prep course. They can be expensive, but they are worth it. I spent roughly $1,000 on mine and went from the 50th percentile to the 90th. Given my terrible GPA, that was the difference between being rejected by everyone and a $120,000 in scholarship.

If you prepare for the LSAT and get a low score (under the 50th percentile) anyway, DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL. There are law schools that will take you, but there are decent odds that they are basically not real law schools. The ABA is currently targeting law schools admitting underqualified candidates and revoking their certification.

If you get a decent score, and you have a decent undergraduate GPA, the odds are good that you'll get into a decent school and perform reasonably well. That does not, however, mean that you'll enjoy yourself. So I recommend that throughout all of this, you also take advantage of....

Resource 5: Reading about the law

To get a feel for whether law school will be an enjoyable experience or a painful slog, I recommend starting to read the law now. Start getting a feel for whether the people you'd be spending your education and career with are doing anything you find remotely interesting. Do you enjoy reading Supreme Court decisions? Do you get off on the idea of writing a really good contract?

Maybe you can find an area where you might like to carve a niche. But maybe you'd rather carve your eyes out with a spoon. Take a look around to find out:

Bad resources:

You should not base your decision to go to law school on:

  • 1L, by Scott Turow
  • Legally Blonde
  • The Paper Chase
  • My Cousin Vinny
  • Law & Order

If you decide to go to law school, however, you should familiarize with all of these, as they are subcultural touchstones.

A final word

If this sounds like I'm trying to talk you out of it, it's because I'm guessing that you're a lot like the vast majority of the law students and lawyers I have ever known, and I've known a lot.

But there is a small group of people who enjoy law school and enjoy the law. I enjoyed the first year of law school, if not the last two, and I really love the legal work that I do. But I came to law school only after about 10 years in a job doing work that was already pretty intensively law-related and having really committed to the idea for reasons that were purely internal and had nothing to do with making anyone happy other than myself.

If you can get to that point, I'd say go for it. If you can't, I promise you that you can find a more fulfilling way to spend three years of your life.

  • I agree with most of this with the absolute exception of directing someone potentially interested in law school to the sites listed under resource 3. That's akin to an extra-terrestrial arriving on Earth, wondering about humanity and you start him off with Mussollini, Charles Manson, and Martin Shkreli. Those are more appropriate for a question like "Am I the worst?" and to which you like to answer with, "Of course not, look at these people..." – A.fm. Apr 16 '18 at 17:31
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    I now see you acknowledged their awfulness. Sorry. Yeah, too-law-schools may as well be an Onion-like parody of a site like that, but, sadly, it's real. – A.fm. Apr 16 '18 at 17:35
  • I struggled to find the right disclaimer. I think "cesspool" gets it about right. – bdb484 Apr 16 '18 at 18:36
  • Law school is the fun part. It's awesome and entertaining and not very hard work. It is the practice of law that is a rude shock, because law school trains you to be a policy scholar and in real life lawyers are mostly super-bureaucrats. – ohwilleke Apr 17 '18 at 2:16
  • I don't know which law school you went to that was not very hard work, but I wish I had been notified about it before I matriculated. – bdb484 Apr 17 '18 at 3:06

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