Not sure if you should apply to law school? To help you make your decision, this article will answer the big question: is law school worth it?
No matter your individual circumstances or where you are in life, if you’re thinking about going to law school, you’ll need to go through a rigorous decision-making process to determine if this is the right path for you.
While some students know that they want to become lawyers at a very young age, many come to this realization in high school or throughout their undergraduate career.
Students typically begin this process as they encounter courses that spark their interest, find themselves in a pre-law major they enjoy, or go through experiences that inspire them to make a change within legal fields. While you may develop an interest in pursuing law, it can be challenging to determine the value of law school.
Because of its intensive nature, huge time commitment, and monetary investment, it’s essential to take your time and make some considerations before deciding whether law school is worth the cost.
This article will make this process a bit easier by breaking down the requirements for going to law school, considerations to make in your decision-making process, how much it will cost you, and the pros and cons of going to law school.
Let’s get started!
It’s widely understood that getting into law school is very demanding. From gathering letters of recommendation to writing personal essays and acing the LSAT, it can be challenging to know where to start.
This section will break down exactly what you’ll need to get into law school, from your undergraduate degree and general admission requirements all the way to the application process.
Reviewing these law school requirements will allow you to take the guesswork out of your application and get you one step closer to making a decision.
As a prerequisite for any type of graduate program, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree. While there is no specific program requirement, you will need to achieve a minimum GPA, depending on the schools you’ll be applying to.
While there are law schools that are easier to get into with lower GPA requirements, many high-ranking schools will require between a 3.7 to 3.9 GPA to be considered competitive.
If keeping your grades up is something you struggle with, taking the right courses might help! Enrolling in courses or a major that genuinely interests you can organically boost your GPA. Since there are no specific pre-law majors you need for law school, you’re free to explore your interests and have them work in your favor.
You can also choose to explore courses that might prepare you for law school. While they may be more challenging depending on your strengths, they’ll give you an idea of how well you’ll do in law school. Some courses that are beneficial for pre-law students are:
Although not an exhaustive list, considering majors or courses that cover similar topics as those studied in law school can assist you in determining if a career in law is the right choice for you.
The next requirement for most law schools is to take standardized tests such as the LSAT or the GRE. Which one you choose to take is ultimately dependent on the school you hope to apply to, as some schools accept both.
The content tested on the LSAT is specifically geared toward law school, including sections on logical reasoning, reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and writing. On the other hand, the GRE assesses math skills, comprehension, vocabulary, critical thinking and analytical skills, and communication skills.
In terms of standardized test scores, the rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of an LSAT score and GRE equivalent of 150 for any accredited law school, 160 or higher if you’re aiming to attend a top 25 law school, and 170 or higher if you’re aiming for a T14 law school.
Regardless of whether you take the LSAT or GRE, preparation is key to achieving your desired score. This can include enrolling in test prep courses, utilizing study materials, taking practice tests, and seeking guidance from admissions professionals or law school faculty.
Remember that standardized test scores are just one aspect of your application, so don't let them overshadow other important factors such as your undergraduate GPA, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
With dedication and a strong application package, you can increase your chances of being accepted into the law school of your choice.
Your personal statement is an essential piece of your law school application. It provides an opportunity for you to showcase yourself to the admissions committee beyond your test scores and grades. Through your personal statement, you can convey your enthusiasm, diverse experiences, and genuine personality.
It's a chance to reveal your authentic self. To make your personal statement truly stand out, focus on demonstrating your qualities rather than just stating them. Share stories and experiences that showcase your good character, such as fairness, empathy, intelligence, honesty, persuasiveness, compassion, professionalism, and maturity.
Remember to keep your writing clear and concise, aiming to stay within two pages, even if there is no word limit. The admissions committee is interested in getting to know you, but they also have limited time to review your application. So, make your essay engaging and easy to read to ensure that your true self shines through.
Having glowing letters of recommendation will play a huge role in the admissions process. They serve to reflect your performance and character from the perspective of reputable sources. As a part of your application, they have the potential to make or break an application, depending on who writes your letters and how well they know you.
These letters are a requirement for law school applicants, so it’s essential to start building strong working relationships with your undergraduate professors, supervisors, employers, and mentors as soon as you can.
When requesting a recommendation letter, it's important to choose recommenders who know you well and are willing to write an enthusiastic and detailed recommendation. To give your recommenders enough time to write your letters, approach them at least a couple of months in advance of your request.
Having a wide array of extracurricular activities is necessary to help your application stand out.
During your undergraduate degree, you’ll have to participate in activities that allow you to develop your legal skills, show leadership and teamwork, and demonstrate your commitment and dedication. The extracurricular activities you participate in should also genuinely represent your interests and passions.
Many of these activities will be reflected in your resume and serve the purpose of showing law admissions how you spend your time outside class. So, if you’re considering law, you’ll have to choose your activities wisely.
If you’re not sure how to stand out with your extracurriculars, consider joining organizations or clubs that promote diversity and equity, volunteering with community outreach programs, or participating in events that celebrate diverse cultures.
Admissions committees value applicants who have a strong commitment to creating a more inclusive legal community. By participating in these types of activities, you demonstrate not only your dedication to making a positive impact but also your ability to work effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Ultimately, having diverse extracurricular activities not only helps you stand out in the admissions process but also prepares you to be a more effective and empathetic lawyer.
Building up your law school resume gives admissions committees an overview of your achievements, qualifications, and work experience. They’ll be able to get an idea of your skills and capabilities as a future law student.
Knowing and understanding what is required to get into law school will give you an insight into how the admissions committee measures your potential for success.
This knowledge can help you prepare effectively so that you can present yourself in the best possible light in your application. You’ll also be able to assess your current position and identify areas where you need to improve, so you can take the necessary steps to strengthen your application.
If you are already working towards enhancing your candidacy for law school, then you won’t have to worry much about these requirements as you make your decision. However, if you have not considered them yet, it is important to assess whether you have the time, energy, and willingness to assemble these various components.
Having discussed the fundamental prerequisites for law school and what is required for a successful application, it is crucial to address some vital factors that should be taken into account before you can answer the question: is law school worth it?
The most important consideration to ask yourself is why you want to go to law school. This will be the first step in understanding what the value of law school is for you.
While most students go to law school to become practicing lawyers, there are many reasons why someone who doesn’t want to be a lawyer might pursue this path. Whether you want to work as a jury consultant, paralegal, or bailiff, there are many careers in law for you to choose from.
A different reason for attending law school may be to gain new skills or strengthen your critical thinking and analytical abilities. This can come in handy if you’d like to work in a field that requires you to go through a lot of legal paperwork, sign contracts, and settle disputes, among many other things.
Going to law school is also valuable in terms of employability. Employers may be more keen to hire you after completing a law degree—especially in business, politics, communications, and more. This is one of the major pros of law school—it looks great on your resume!
Regardless of your aspirations, you will need to consider what you’re passionate about, the employment outcomes you want, your lifestyle, what kind of change you want to make, and how you plan on making that change.
Answering these questions will ultimately lead you closer to deciding whether or not law school is the best avenue for you to pursue these passions.
After understanding your motives for going to law school and what your goals are in terms of your career, societal impact, and your personal life, it’s important to ensure you have all the requirements you need to get into law school.
This can be a deterring factor for most who decide to go to law school later on in their undergraduate career, as they might not have prepared early enough to gather sufficient requirements to be a competitive candidate.
Assess whether meeting minimum GPA requirements, maintaining good professional relationships with your professors and employers for stellar letters of recommendation, studying for and taking the LSAT, and extracurriculars or relevant work experience is something you are capable of doing as you make your decision.
If you can’t meet these requirements by the time the application season rolls in, it may be best to hold off on applying tolaw school until you can! Alternatively, you can assess whether or not you want to work extra hard to attain these requirements within a short period of time to get into law school.
It’s essential to consider the time it takes to complete your law degree. In addition to a four-year undergraduate degree, it typically takes around three years to complete your JD. Depending on your other commitments, there are also law schools that offer part-time law programs.
While three years isn’t the longest educational path out there, the law school curriculum is highly intensive and will require most of your time and energy. This will ultimately limit your capacity to take on full-time, and at times, part-time work. It can also interfere with any other commitments or endeavors you might have.
Law school is rigorous and intensive for most students and can be highly stressful. Going to law school will certainly impact your lifestyle, so ensure that you thoroughly consider this in your decision-making process.
When deciding if law school is worth it, it’s important to consider what your career goals are and what options you might have after you graduate.
As we mentioned earlier, most law students intend to work as practicing lawyers upon completing their degree. If becoming a lawyer is your ultimate goal, then law school will likely be worth the hard work, time investment, and cost.
If you’re planning to practice in other fields that don’t require a law degree, then it is worth your while to take a step back. Assess whether or not going to law school will allow you to break even, and ultimately, see if the benefits will outweigh its costs in your future career.
While the skills you develop in law school can be beneficial in any profession, it is a huge investment and commitment, so ensure you take some time to think about your overall goals and how you intend to use your degree.
Last but not least, the overall tuition costs and other expenses associated with law school can be a critical factor in deciding whether law school is worth it.
It’s not news that law school often comes with a hefty price tag, averaging approximately $84,558 for in-state students and $147,936 for out-of-state students and those wishing to attend private universities.
In addition to tuition fees, you’ll also have to consider basic living expenses, textbooks, and course materials. While there are ways to subsidize these fees through grants, scholarships, alternative funding, or simply applying for cheaper programs, most students come out of law school with large amounts of debt.
In addition to tuition fees, you’ll have to consider fees associated with getting into law schools, such as LSAT registration fees, application fees, and LSAT study materials.
With cost being one of the main factors that determines whether law is a good profession for someone, it’s important to break down different ways in which you can cut down on your monetary investment in law school.
The first thing you can do to cut down costs for law school is to apply to public law schools within your state. Generally, the costs associated with public programs, specifically for in-state students, are much lower for both tuition fees and living expenses.
When considering why you should attend law school, this option can be the most appealing, as it can significantly reduce the burden of student loan debt you may incur while pursuing your legal education!
Looking into part-time law programs can also be a great way to cut costs. While enrolling in a part-time program will increase the duration of your schooling, your yearly tuition will cost significantly less than that of a full-time program.
This is also a great option if you’re hoping to take on other commitments, such as part-time work, and may provide you with more flexibility if that’s something you value.
Just as in any other field, many scholarships and options for financial aid are available to you, so take advantage of that! Some of these options may even help you go to law school for free! Considering the typical lawyer’s student loan debt is around $150,000, financial aid is crucial to keep costs low.
You can cut down the overall cost of your law school education by applying for student loans and other types of financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
In addition to FAFSA, there are also a wide range of law school scholarships that you are able to apply for. Here is a list of general law scholarships that are open to eligible law students:
On top of the general scholarships available to law students, there are also many scholarships for women and diverse students, in-house scholarships depending on your school and program, and merit-based scholarships, which are based on your academic success and performance.
These scholarships typically offer smaller amounts, between $1,000 to $15,000, that certainly won’t cover the full cost of your tuition. Regardless, ensure that you take advantage of them. With the high costs of law school and other expenses, every penny counts!
Taking a year off is a great option to work and save towards your law school tuition. It may also be great if you’re still weighing the costs and benefits of going to law school. You can ultimately take a gap year to work in a related field, gain experience, and explore your options.
If you considered going to law school later on in your undergrad or as a mature student, this could also be a great time to take some additional courses to boost your GPA, gather law school application requirements, and prepare for law school!
Finally, choosing a law focus that yields a healthy paycheck can also make the costs of attending law school well worth your while.
While the median salary for lawyers is generally on the higher end at $126,930 per annum, your specialty, alma mater, and your location of practice can provide greater earning potential. These factors can make it easier to pay off the debts you’ve accumulated throughout law school.
The top-earning law specialties and their average annual salary are:
While this can be a viable option in terms of your finances, it’s important that you choose your specialty based on what you’re passionate about first, before your annual average income. This will increase your chances of job satisfaction, and make your career fulfilling, and your law education much more worth it in the long run!
If costs associated with law school are one of the main deterrents for you, knowing that there are options to alleviate the high costs of your education might make the idea of going to law school a bit more attainable and worth your while!
Now that you know some important considerations to keep in mind before you make your decision to go to law school, we’ll cover some pros and cons to really help you seal the deal!
Here are some pros that make going to law school a valuable experience.
In law school, you develop unparalleled skills in research, comprehension, logical reasoning, critical thinking, negotiation, investigation, and strategy, among many others. These skills ultimately serve as a full package when it comes to employability and earning potential.
In terms of salary, lawyers make an average of $126,930 per year and have the potential to earn much more depending on their area of practice, geographical location, and work environment.
With this said, regardless of whether you end up practicing as a lawyer or working in another field, those with higher education generally earn more and can more easily negotiate a higher salary due to their skills and level of education.
Depending on your ultimate goal, having a JD provides endless career paths that allow you to make a difference in the world. A deep understanding of the law can enable you to implement it in a way that makes change—regardless of whether or not you become a lawyer.
While you can make a difference as a practicing lawyer or by working in the legal field, it can also provide you with the skills and confidence to succeed in many other fields, such as politics, education, entertainment, journalism, and many more.
With such a rigorous education, it goes without saying that law school will provide you with countless transferable skills and lessons that you can apply to any profession and in your day-to-day life.
Given that our society is governed by legal principles, having a thorough understanding of the law, how to use it, and what your rights are can prove to be more than beneficial. While this might not be the primary reason you’re hoping to go to law school, you’ll surely graduate with a greater breadth of knowledge and experience.
Now that we’ve covered some reasons why you’ll benefit from going to law school, we’ll share some cons for you to consider.
Law school takes up a lot of your time—-from your undergraduate degree to preparing your law school application, studying for your standardized tests, and the three-year commitment of law school itself.
Additionally, law school can be exhaustive. Students are met with a heavy course load and a fast-paced, high-stress environment. It can be challenging if your heart’s not fully in it.
Law students sacrifice much of their free time, social life, and other obligations to succeed, so it’s essential that you take this into consideration as you make your decision.
As mentioned earlier, a huge deterrent for students hoping to pursue higher education, especially for highly specialized practices such as law and medicine, is the overall cost of attendance.
While there are ways to subsidize some law school-related costs, most students leave law school with a large amount of debt.
Additionally, the nature of law school also presents some earning limitations for students, since most are unable to take on full-time or part-time jobs due to its demanding nature.
Finally, it’s essential to consider the dropout rates for law school students. According to Forbes, dropout rates for law students reach as high as 38%.
These rates can often be attributed to overconfidence, underestimating the difficulty, stress, and workload that come with law school, and simply a mismatch between the student and the program.
It’s important that you truly prepare yourself for law school and anticipate the challenges that come with it. Failing to do so may drastically impact your life, especially if you’ve already invested your time, money, and energy into law school with a half-hearted commitment.
The T14 law schools are widely regarded as the nation's top institutions, providing the best education and opportunities to aspiring attorneys:
These schools are also the hardest to get into!
Now that we’ve gone over law school requirements, some essential considerations to make before applying, and the pros and cons of going to law school, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions about law school.
Ultimately, whether law school is worth it is up to you. Depending on your circumstances, attending law school may be more worth it. For instance, you might have the financial means and the time to attend law school. If this is the case, then it may be an easier decision to make!
However, if factors like a huge financial investment, time commitment, and day-to-day obligations are major factors influencing your hesitation to attend law school, it may be best to hold off or reconsider your options.
While it can help you develop essential skills and provide greater opportunities in various fields and in terms of earning potential, law school isn’t necessary unless you want to be a lawyer or end up in a profession that requires a JD. Regardless of what you decide, ensure that you make a choice that ultimately benefits you in the long run.
While a law degree is necessary to become a lawyer, a law school professor, and more, it can also be extremely valuable to have a law degree for other professions as well.
Holding a JD allows one to develop valuable skill sets that are sought after by employers in many fields, such as business, politics, and education, among others. Recruiters would be more inclined to hire law school graduates as it shows an ability to handle high-stress situations and grasp new concepts.
Additionally, having a law school education or even just securing an acceptance to a law program means that you are a hard worker who possesses a strong work ethic, commitment, and reliability, which adds a lot of value to your resume.
Law school also proves its value apart from your professional life. It provides you with lifelong skills, knowledge, and a deep understanding of the law, justice, and ethics. It allows you to diversify your perspectives and think critically in your everyday life.
If you’re planning on becoming a lawyer after receiving your JD, you’ll have a plethora of areas you can specialize in. If you’re hoping to enter a different field, however, your options are virtually endless!
Your law degree will allow you to work seamlessly in any position within the legal field and provide you with higher earning potential due to your level of education and expertise. Law degrees are also highly beneficial and sought after in other fields, such as business, politics, banking, mediation, data analysis, journalism, and many more.
With the skills you learn in law school and the stature that comes with it, you’ll definitely be a competitive candidate once you enter the workforce, regardless of field.
Whether or not law school is worth the cost will depend on multiple factors, such as your current financial situation, the law school you hope to attend, your career goals after law school, and your lifestyle.
Before law school, you’ll have to assess whether or not you’re in a position to cover the costs of tuition and personal expenses. Depending on where you choose to go to law school—in-state or out-of-state, private or public—there will be a drastic difference in your tuition costs.
While there are many means to cover part of your tuition through loans, grants, scholarships, and other employment income, some may still find it challenging to pay for the remainder of the costs, depending on their financial situation.
Ensure you do your research and get the closest estimate of your out-of-pocket costs before you make your final call.
While there is no simple answer to whether or not law school is worth it, you now have the tools to guide you through your decision-making process.
As you determine whether law school is worth it for you, remember to ask yourself whether you’re in a position to apply for and go to law school based on your timeline and intended application cycle. Ensure you have the time to complete your application requirements and ultimately create a competitive application profile.
Remember not to underestimate the challenges that law school brings for every student, regardless of their background and motive for attending. Law school is certainly not for everyone, but depending on your goals and willingness to work hard, commit, and apply your degree, it can be very well worth the hard work and investment!
Best of luck!