How Should I Prepare for Law School?

Unlike in many countries, law is not typically taught as an undergraduate degree in the United States. Most lawyers in the U.S. spent four years studying something other than law before they go to law school. They might also spend a few years after college working before returning to law school. If you aspire to become a lawyer, you may wonder what you should do with that time.

Here is my advice. Do. Something. Different.

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The Pursuit of Gold Stars

Last post, I talked about how law schools and the legal market encourage students to abandon their public interest dreams. Today, I will talk about how our individual personalities may lead to that result as well.

Law school attracts certain kinds of people. To get in, you have to have a fairly strong undergraduate record. Unsurprisingly then, many aspiring lawyers are hard-working, ambitious, and achievement-driven. People who go to law school also tend not to be rule-breakers. Law is quite literally a system of rules that govern society, and lawyers become representatives of this system. Rebels and revolutionaries are unlikely to find the legal profession a compelling career path.

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The Moving Walkway

In the last post, I set up a dilemma. Why do a majority of prospective law students say they want to go into public interest law, but only a tiny sliver do after law school? I posited that there were three factors at play – culture, personality, and financial necessity.

Today, I’ll discuss law school culture and how it encourages students to give up on their public interest dreams. I liken it to a moving walkway that students step on as soon as they enter their first year that leads them to take certain jobs after law school. Students step on the moving walkway for several reasons – everyone else is stepping on, the school is encouraging it, and, well, it’s easier than forging your own path.

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I Want to Be a Public Interest Lawyer – How Should I Decide Where to Go to Law School? (Part 2)

In my last post, I talked about some of the factors that might cause you to choose a lower-ranked law school over a higher-ranked one: specialized curricula and a strong public interest program. Two additional factors you might want to consider are geography and financial aid.

Geography

Let’s say that you are from St. Louis and you want to move back there after graduation, The two schools you are choosing between are St. Louis University and Emory University, a better-ranked law school in Atlanta, Georgia, a place you have no interest in living after graduation. Which law school should you chose? How much does geography matter?

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I Want to Be a Public Interest Lawyer. How Do I Decide Where to Go to Law School? (Part 1)

I get this question a lot, and to some extent the answer is the same as the one I would give to anyone deciding where to go to law school. The legal profession is very focused on status, prestige, and credentialing. The law school you attend matters. This is true no matter whether you want to work for the U.S. government, a big law firm, or legal aid. In general, the higher ranked your law school is, the more opportunities you will have after law school. No, I do not think this is how it should work, but it will not help anyone to pretend this is not the case. The rankings that almost everyone uses are those published each year by U.S. News and World Report. Everyone recognizes that these rankings are flawed, but that does not stop employers from making hiring decisions based on them.

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