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Alternative Careers with a Law Degree

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Making the decision on whether to go to law school will be one of the biggest decisions you make as a young adult. If you decide to go to law school, not only are you investing a large sum of money, but you are also investing three years of your life. The decision becomes even more difficult if you are not sure whether you want to be a lawyer. Although the law degree will certainly put you on track to practice law, will it help if you wish to pursue other careers? That’s the question we examine below.

Should students consider other advanced degrees instead of a J.D.?

If you do not want to be a lawyer, there are many other advanced degrees you might want to pursue as opposed to a J.D. Those looking to go directly into business, management, entrepreneurship or consulting, would be better suited to either start working after graduation, or apply for M.B.A. programs. If you know you are interested in another particular field, such as engineering, international relations, or history, graduate schools offer masters programs that specialize in each area, which would be far more relevant than law school.

What other careers can you pursue with a law degree?

 On the other hand, law students can, and DO, enter careers other than law after receiving their degrees. Although the possibilities are endless, some examples are real estate, politics and government, academia, finance, journalism, or public interest advocacy.

What skills does law school teach you in general?

Law school touches on nearly every other field, because it is relevant in almost every aspect of life. When you leave law school, you leave with a different style of reasoning and thinking than you had before you came. You will also spend time working on your writing skills, and learning how to network with other professionals.

On the other hand, law school is clearly dedicated to learning the practice of law. Each class is tailored to how to perform as a lawyer, rather than through the eyes of another career. If you are going to law school because you think it will teach you how to be a politician, you will be very disappointed.

Would there be any benefits from a dual degree program?

A dual degree program will certainly be challenging and more expensive; however, you will receive double the benefits. You will be twice as marketable in the job market and you will have an opportunity to double your network. In addition, you will be receiving an interdisciplinary education that will both diversify and specialize your training

How has earning a law degree helped you in your current profession?

Despite what you’re interested in pursuing, a law degree will help you in your profession. First, you will learn how to think logically and critically, which is an important skill to have in any field. Second, you will learn about the law, which is important to know regardless of the field you’re in. For example, business individuals often evaluate the legal risk of a deal; you will be a real asset to your company if you have the skill to conduct such analysis on your own.

What are some reasons NOT to go to law school?

There are a lot of reasons to avoid going to law school, especially with the financial and time commitment at stake. If you think you want to go to law school because you like arguing and everyone says you are good at it, then think again. Of all of the reasons to go to law school, this is the worst one because one must understand that being a lawyer has almost nothing to do with arguing in the conventional sense. In fact, very few layers ever engage in anything resembling “arguments” in their commonly understood form. The truth is you’re more likely to be crammed in a cubicle cranking out last minute memos than standing in a courtroom “arguing.”

Another terrible reason to go to law school is that you want to be like Jack McCoy from Law & Order [or insert your favorite legal TV show character here]. Think about it-the legal profession is not a Hollywood film or a television show. If this is one for your reasons, we recommend taking an internship in the legal profession to find out why.

We also recommend avoiding law school if you think it is the only way you can use your degree. First, you will be going into thinking you are trapped, which is a mistake when you encounter the law school stressors during your first year. Feeling trapped to the profession will not make it you love it any more than you did before you started law school. Be creative with your degree, seek mentorship, and advisement from career services in order to broaden your horizons, but do not go to law school if you think it is the only way you can use your degree.

Lastly, you should avoid law school at all costs if you are only going into it to make a lot of money. Being in the legal profession requires some sort of desire that goes beyond the prospect of making big bucks, especially since the extremely well paying jobs are in large corporate firms. Those jobs are not only very difficult to get, but also tend to yield low job satisfaction. No one is guaranteed a job out of law school, much less a job that pays six figures. 

What should you look for in a law school if you are planning to practice in an alternative career?

 If you are interested in pursuing an alternative career, make sure you are looking into law schools that offer diversified opportunities for networking and academic engagement. For example, you will have opportunities to attend events in law school with speakers from the legal community; be sure your school offers opportunities for you to mingle with folks in other professions as well if you would like to pursue an alternative career. Remember that you will be taking law classes during your three years in law school, but check to make sure you can take on internships for credit in professional areas your are interested in pursuing.

Related Links:

http://www.law.georgetown.edu/careers/career-planning/private-sector-settings/alternative.cfm

http://www.nalp.org/assets/296_alternativecareerswebsite.pdf

http://jdcareersoutthere.com/jd-refugee/

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/law-admissions-lowdown/2014/03/11/pros-cons-of-pursuing-a-law-degree-if-you-dont-plan-to-practice

How to Enhance Your Law School Application

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Enhancing your law school application with involvement in extra-curricular activities, studying abroad, internships, and work experience are opportunities for you to distinguish yourself from another applicant who may have a similar academic profile as you. There are some general things to note regarding activities, involvement, and work experience that can enhance your application:

  • These enhancements will likely not turn an applicant with a low LSAT and low GPA score into a highly competitive applicant for Harvard Law School, for example. Remember that your LSAT and GPA are the most heavily weighted components of your application. Involvement in extra-curricular activities are meant to enhance the academic portion of your application, not to replace your academic statistics.
  • Application enhancements can sometimes turn into a personal statement topic. It can be helpful to reflect on these enhancements when brainstorming for your personal statement since these enhancements are another chance for you to show a non-academic and a more personal, passionate side of you to the admissions committee.
  • Focus on the quality of your involvement, not quantity. Schools are likely more interested in an applicant who is deeply involved and committed to a pursuit, rather than an applicant who merely signs up for countless organizations and doesn’t commit time or effort to those varied pursuits.
  • Keep track of your involvement outside of school, so you can easily recall them when you are applying to school. You can even create your own USC Student Involvement Transcript

Enhancements During Your Time at USC

If you choose to go straight through to law school, it is important to focus on enhancing your application while you are a student at USC. Here are some ways to enhance your application while you are a student at USC:

  • Take an active role in a student organization to show your leadership and organizational skills. Being an officer in an organization is much more impressive than simply being a member with no responsibility.
  • Pursue internships during the school year and/or summer in an area that interests you. You do not have to have a legal internship by any means in order for your internship to be meaningful. Regardless of the field in which you intern, you will gain interpersonal and communication skills, hopefully learn to enhance your analytical thinking and writing, and gain professional work experience, which are all valuable traits to possess.
  • Volunteering, like an internship, can also provide you with great experience before applying to law school.
  • Take advantage of research opportunities, writing contests, and other chances to showcase your writing and analytical thinking skills. Law schools are interested in students who possess strong critical thinking and clear and concise writing skills.

Gap Year(s)

One consideration you might have to make before applying to law school is whether you want to take time off before law school to work, travel, or to pursue other opportunities, or whether you want to go straight through to law school. If you choose to take time off before law school, it is important to do something constructive with your time, whether if it is taking an entry-level job in the legal industry to gain work experience, volunteer, or travel, for example. Students have taken time off before law school to work, travel, join the military, participate in Teach for America, teach English abroad, and join the Peace Corps. Your gap year(s) can provide a prime personal statement topic in which you can describe what you gained and learned during your time off before law school.

Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is a great way to experience a different culture and enhance your law school resume at the same time. Living abroad can provide you with a unique perspective and a backdrop to contrast the US legal system with those abroad. Of course, you should not study abroad solely because you think it will boost your application and you should not waste valuable time and space in your personal statement discussing how your time abroad was “life changing” because that will NOT enhance your application. If you are interested in studying abroad, however, and want to know if it can have the ability to enhance your application, here are some things you should consider:

  • The institution. When choosing a study abroad program, consider whether you would be directly enrolled in a foreign university with a foreign language component. Speaking a foreign language is always an asset and attending a foreign university (as opposed to a US University with a campus in a foreign country) allows you to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and language more fully.
  • Course options. What types of courses you would have the opportunity to take while studying abroad should be part of something you consider when deciding if and where to study abroad. Whether the program offers classes on political and legal systems in other nations, for example, could be enhance your interest and knowledge of various legal systems.
  • Internship opportunities, volunteer work, service-learning. What other types of opportunities can studying abroad provide for you besides merely enrolling in classes? A hands-on experience through an internship or volunteer work can provide you with more substantive material to discuss in your personal statement and resume.
  • Research. Does the opportunity allow you to engage in direct or independent research while you are there? Engaging in academic research will build your reading and writing skills, which are the basis of the legal profession. Problems Without Passports and SIT Nicaragua are some examples of research opportunity.

Don’t forget that the most important part of your law school application is your academic credentials, your LSAT and GPA. These enhancements can boost your application profile to show the schools that you are bringing various experience, skill, and color to their newly admitted class!

You Received Your LSAT Score…Now What?

In #INTHEKNOW, PreLaw Blog on October 23, 2014 at 10:22 am

Breaking Down Your LSAT Score
LSAC gives you your LSAT score percentile, this will give you a better idea of how you did in comparison to other students who took the test. Log into LSAC. Click on the LSAT tab then the LSAT Status link. The IRR Additional Information has percentiles from past 3 years and the Conversion Table has a number of questions right for your score.

Applying Smartly
Before receiving your score you probably had a pretty good idea of what schools you wanted to apply to based on your GPA and what you were scoring on practice tests. Now that you have an ACTUAL LSAT score, you can better assess at which schools you are competitive. You should still consider applying to schools that would be considered a “reach” and of course schools that would be a “safety.” Look up law school rankings (http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html) and on each law school admission page; they will provide you with a nice breakdown of LSAT and GPA ranges for each school. Make sure you know your LSAC GPA since it may be different from your GPA listed on your transcript. Now you can assess what schools you should apply to:

• “Safety” schools: BOTH your numbers are above the school’s 75th percentile. This is a good way to get scholarship opportunities.
• Competitive Schools: BOTH your numbers are within the school’s 25th and 75th percentiles. **Not a guarantee of outright admission**
• Schools where you are on the fence: one of your numbers is within the school’s 25th and 75th percentiles (or above) and the other number is below the 25th percentile. Look at the ranges of each number, a tighter range means they put more weight on that number. Hopefully the better of your two numbers is the one they weigh more and if not, you become less competitive. This does not mean that you are not competitive but you may need to compensate with other factors such as resume, personal statement, etc. If there is a reason that one of your numbers is significantly lower than the other consider writing an addenda (see below).
• Reach schools: BOTH your numbers are below the school’s 25th percentile.

When to Retake
In reality, most people see very little improvement in their score after retaking. Remember that many schools will also average your two scores so really think about how much you would be likely to improve. Also keep in mind that most people score a few points worse (or on the lower end of the range they had been scoring) on the day of the actual test than in practice tests. Make an honest assessment of your efforts the first time around and determine you should retake based on the following considerations:

• Did you study hard the first time? Did you underestimate the test and prep for it like the SAT? Or did you really dedicate yourself to studying? If you underestimated the test, consider retaking.
• Did you have a “bad day” on exam day? Recognize that a complete disasters is much more severe than a mild disaster. A complete disaster is something like showing up late to the test, being deathly ill, dealing with a motorcycle gang outside the test center. Hopefully you cancelled your score, but consider retaking if you didn’t. A mild disaster, on the other hand, is where maybe you were just distracted or normal test anxiety. Mild disasters might just repeat themselves the next time you take the test and then it is probably not worth retaking.
• Did you prepare enough? Did you prepare LONG enough? And were you smart about how you prepared? The LSAT is one of the harder, if not hardest standardized tests. Preparation may take some people longer than 3-4 months to get their best score. If you didn’t devote the requisite time to it, consider retaking it.
• Admissions Policies of Target Law School(s). Do they average or take the higher score? If they average, any improvement you see will effectively be cut in half, so think seriously about whether retaking is worth it.

When to Write an Addendum
This is not a time to make excuses just give the facts! Consider writing an addendum to your application with respect to your LSAT score if:

• You only have 1 score and something terrible happens on test day. If you are just a bad standardized test taker, be careful. But if you are normally a good test taker and can provide evidence of this (i.e. old tests), consider writing an addendum about the disaster.
• You retake and there is more than a 3 point difference between the scores.

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