College Advice for the Career-Minded: Law School


Published:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com/michaeljung

Welcome to installment one of College Transitions’ “So You Want to Be a….” series. Designed to help career-minded high school students think intelligently about their postsecondary journeys, these blogs will look at the financial, academic and personal factors one should consider when exploring various professions.

Does going to a prestigious undergraduate school help?

Getting into a top law school is first and foremost a numbers game. Simply put, a high GPA and sparkling LSAT score are your ticket to the country’s top law schools. So with that in mind, does a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University trump a Bachelor of Arts from Boise State?

In general, so-called Tier one law schools are looking for students with outstanding GPAs and LSAT scores in the 170s (98th percentile and above). These are, after all, the primary metrics used by "U.S. News and World Report" to rank the top law schools. Prestige is less of a factor and, in some cases, may actually hurt you if you can’t maintain a similar GPA to applicants coming from less selective institutions. For example, a student with a 3.4 from Penn State may present as less competitive than a 3.7 student from nearby Drexel University.

Harvard Law School’s 1L student body of 2014-15 comprises 560 students from 172 different undergraduate institutions. The full gamut of colleges and universities are represented on this list, from the Ivies to your good ol’ state schools; literally from Brown to, yes… the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Should I be a Pre-Law major?

The American Bar Association does not recommend a Pre-Law course of study for future barristers in college. In fact, they have decreed publicly that there is no “right” major. A look at law school admissions data reveals that History, Economics, Math, Science, and Philosophy majors all have far superior rates of admission into law school than those with a Pre-law or Criminal Justice background. Essentially, if law school is your desired next step, then you have a license to pursue whatever subject you find intellectually stimulating as an undergraduate. The operative phrase there is intellectually stimulating. To be adequately prepared to ace the LSAT and handle the rigor of law school, you’ll want to steer clear of Phys Ed, Advanced Crocheting, and most of the majors on this list.

Make sure you actually want to be a lawyer

To picture the day-to-day experience of most attorneys, start by imagining your favorite oozingly-earnest Sam Watterson closing statement from the "Law & Order" TV show…OK, ready? Now subtract all of the glamour, drama, and high-minded ideals. Substitute in 90-hour workweeks, endless mountains of paperwork, and a cutthroat and highly stressful work environment.

OK, maybe that was a bit harsh. But if you examine surveys of those currently in the field, a less-than-rosy picture of the job emerges. Almost 75 percent of those practicing law today say they wish they had chosen a different career. Equally bleak is the fact that depression, substance abuse and even suicide are more prevalent in the legal field than in any other profession. We’re not saying there aren’t lawyers who have wonderful and fulfilling careers, but you’ll want to do your research to make sure there is an area in the field that genuinely excites you.

Gain experience in the field

Jumping straight from your college graduation into law school might make you feel like the star of your five-year high school reunion (Man, that guy/gal has got direction!), but it could cost you the chance to do your due diligence. We recommend spending some time working in a legal setting before cutting that first hefty law school tuition check. Whether it’s in the summer or after graduation, there is no better method of career counseling than actually seeing the real deal up-close.

Plan the financial end

Two key things to remember here:

A) Law school is extremely expensive.

B) Not every lawyer makes a ton of money.

Just about everyone who successfully works his or her way through medical school will go on to a lucrative career. This is simply not true of law school, where, quite frankly, there will be winners and losers. Your performance relative to the rest of your class matters, and those at the bottom 50th percentile of their class rarely, if ever, waltz into six-figure jobs. Those with a passion for less lucrative sectors of the profession such as family law, civil rights, or public interest also need to be particularly thoughtful in this area.

The average law school graduate comes out over $100,000 in debt. There is, of course, good debt and bad debt. Overpaying for a high-end undergraduate education, and then, paying big bucks for a lower-end law school is likely to leave you with bad debt. If you have a choice between attending an elite college as an undergraduate or an elite law school (and not both), go with the elite law school every time.

What kind of law school should I aim for?

Unlike our approach to undergraduate admissions, College Transitions does not place as large of an emphasis on “fit” when it comes to law schools. Of course, fit matters to the extent that, for example, candidates interested in a career in government may find better prospects at a D.C.-area law school.  Yet it is important to acknowledge the reality that law school and the legal field itself are hypercompetitive, and prestige does matter.

If you’re going to go to law school, aim for a top-shelf institution. Tier 3 and 4 law school graduates too often face a chilly job market and are saddled with burdensome debts. If, after looking over your law school prospects, you conclude, like Groucho Marx, that you wouldn’t join any that would have you as a member, it may be time to explore other professions.

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Please visit our website—www.collegetransitions.com—to learn more.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Expert Advice for Successfully Navigating a College Fair

With proper planning, a college fair can provide you with newfound insight into prospective colleges.

Does Gender Give Your Child a College Admissions Edge?

Understanding the widening gender gap and its impact on college acceptance.

Moving Off the College Admissions Waitlist

The No. 1 thing students can do while on the waitlist is communicate clearly, firmly and respectfully to the admissions office that, if offered, they will accept a spot at the school.
Edit Module

About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

Read all blog posts »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

August 2019

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Experience the vibrant Latin American culture through music, entertainment, arts and food. Enjoy dancing, music, authentic Latino food, kids’ activities and much more. A two-hour outdoor...

Cost: Free

Where:
West Weaver Street
Carrboro, NC  27510


Website »

More information

Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden "caches." We will learn how to use traditional GPS units and the Geocaching App (by Groundspeak) and then...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with disabilities make spaghetti, meatballs and a salad. Register online. Choose course #1247467.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

These programs are open to students 6–12 years old. Parent/guardians are welcome to stay for the program or drop-off. Preregistration is required. Learn about predator and prey...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124969.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Unexpected NC is hosting a Mommy Meet-up at SnickerDoodles. This event is for new and experienced moms alike. Kids are more than welcome to attend and make some new friends.    ...

Cost: Free with registration

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Unexpected NC
Telephone: 99-717-7298
Contact Name: Morgan Price
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Explore the ways you can plan ahead for the heat and care for yourself while outdoors on hot days. For ages 6 and up (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. Registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Plus-Plus is one shape with endless possibility. Younger kids can build 2-D mosaics and older kids can create 3-D masterpieces. Come into Learning Express Falls Pointe for an instructional...

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

Read the story by Laura Numeroff and make brownies. Register online. Choose course #124737.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Listen to a story about Johnny Appleseed, the legendary character who's based on John Chapman, the American frontier nurseryman who planted apple trees in many states. Play the game of fruit...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy a showing of the movie as Indiana Jones himself leads an expedition into the jungle, where explorers like yourself will search for the artifact: The Ark of the Covenant.  We’re...

Cost: $2 members, $5 nonmembers

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-707-9965
Contact Name: Hugo Romero-Sanchez
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Families take part in an unconventional family adventure race on a muddy obstacle course. Spectators may watch families compete. Parking is $5/car.

Cost: $30-$40/person for race

Where:
Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Rd.
Youngsville, NC  27596
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate African-American culture and history with an art gallery walk, vendors, kids' activities, food and more. See website for hours.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville Street
, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

More information

Enjoy a charity radio controlled model flying event and fundraiser benefiting Meg's Smile Foundation. See all sizes/types of electric radio controlled aircraft and watch a drone...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Avenue
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Holly Springs Skyhawks RC Group
Telephone: 919-270-8467
Contact Name: Doug LeRoy
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.