College Advice for the Career-Minded: Law School


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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.

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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

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Calendar

September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Embrace your inner rebel and celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: $10 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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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
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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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: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Experience a full day of outdoor experiences, nature adventures and family-friendly activities to kick off Take a Child Outside Week.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Take part in a 5K race, a kid’s dash and family activities to raise awareness in the fight against lung cancer in North Carolina. 

Cost: Free-$30

Where:
Midtown Park
4011 Cardinal at North Hills
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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Discover Historic Yates Mill – a place of business, community and exciting local history! Explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water as it turns the milling...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675

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Pepper Fest heats up with a fresh array of pepper-themed dishes and brews, family activities, a kid chef competition and zesty live music.

Cost: $5-$30

Where:
The Great Meadow, Briar Chapel
161 Salt Cedar Ln.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Monday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m.–noon Let’s celebrate the arrival of Fall! Make a craft inspired by the leaves’ changing colors. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all...

Cost: free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Search the meadow for katydid, cicadas, crickets and other incredible insects that make up approximately 80% of the world’s species of animals. All ages. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2–3:30 p.m. The harvest season was a busy time for Laura Ingalls Wilder's pioneer family. Put on your straw hat or sun bonnet and head to the park to try out the types of farm...

Cost: $6/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Advance registration required.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy croquet, bocci, corn hole, ladder ball and more. Register online. Choose course #117149.

Cost: $4/resident, $5/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Play giant board games and special activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Enjoy nature-themed books followed by a hands-on activity or garden exploration. Ages 3-5 with adult. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Apple Day features fresh North Carolina apples, an apple dessert and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy trivia about sports, music, movies and more. Register online. Choose course #116583.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Welcome fall's arrival with a food truck rodeo, car show, face painting, a craft show and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
125 U.S. 1-A
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Enjoy national and regional professional dancers from the Wake Forest dance community and beyond, as well locally rising advanced dance performers. 

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
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Take part in a 1.4-mile walk for inclusiveness. Registration and activities begin at 10 a.m.; walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Enjoy refreshments, games, raffle and a decorating station. All ages and...

Cost: $15/family, $5/individual

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks, inflatables, hayrides and vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

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Take the family for a celebration of Orange County’s heritage and culture. Enjoy local food, music, cooking demonstrations, local artists and crafters, and kids’ activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Blackwood Farm Park
4215 NC Hwy 86
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Government
Telephone: 919-245-2063
Contact Name: Mike Lanier
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Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Matthew Cordell's upcoming tour for his next book, "King Alice," will make a stop at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Cordell most recently won the Caldecott Medal for his picture book,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Enjoy a day at the park and listen to stories from professional storytellers in an event presented in partnership with Wake County Public Libraries. Enjoy a wagon shuttle, activity tents, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space
Telephone: 919-212-7695
Contact Name: Abby Jones
Website »

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Take the family for pony rides, riding demonstrations, miniature horses and a petting area, hayrides, games, food trucks and an appearance by Woody and Jesse from Toy Story. Purchase activity bands...

Cost: Admission is free. Some activities charge a fee.

Where:
Horses for Hope
2909 Banks Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Celebrate Morrisville, Wake County’s most diverse community, with a day of food, culture and music from around the world. Kids can enjoy face painting and a bounce house.

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Website »

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Snakes are very misunderstood and feared, yet are so important to the ecosystem. Meet some friendly snakes up close and learn about common snakes found in this area. All ages. Meet at the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Be part of the 2017 Harvest Festival, organized by St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church Raleigh, where authentic freshly cooked food, stage performances, music, live auction,...

Cost: Free

Where:
St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church
225 Bashford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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