How to Decide Whether to Go to Law School As a Nontraditional Student

Tips On How to Make the Tough Decision to Return to School After Years Out

Studying law
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Do you think you’d be a great lawyer and wish you had pursued that line of education right after college? Going to law school is a big commitment, so you want to make sure it’s for you. Nontraditional law students have some unique challenges, so you want to make sure you are ready before deciding to go back after several years away from school. After assessing whether you have the skill set necessary to attend law school, here are some questions you should ask yourself.

Do I Want to Be a Lawyer?

While this seems like an obvious question, you should take some time to truly think about this one. A law degree isn’t a multipurpose degree. You shouldn’t spend the time and money on law school if you don’t want to practice law. Read some cases and look at the different kinds of law specializations. Are you still interested? If you’re even a little bit hesitant, you should rethink law school, especially as a non-traditional student.

Do I Have Time to Study for the LSAT?

As a nontraditional student, you likely already have a life carved out for you. Whether you’ve been working or going to school for something else, you have to be able to fit studying for the LSAT into your daily routine. The LSAT is an exam unlike anything else you’ll have taken in your lifetime, so you will need to find the time to commit to preparing for it.

Do I Have Relationships With Former Professors Who Could Write Letters of Recommendation?

This is something a lot of people don’t think of, but law school applications usually require at least three letters of recommendation.

While it may be beneficial to include a recommendation from your current boss, that is not always the case. It depends on what field you’re coming from. The whole point of the letters of recommendation is to show that other people can see that you’ll do well in law school and as a lawyer. Since law school requires a large amount of intense study, former professors are usually your best bet.

If you are thinking of law school, you should start reconnecting with people early in the process so the relationship can be rebuilt.

Will I Be Able to Give up My Income for Three Years?

Law school is a full-time job. Between attending classes and studying, you’ll be lucky if you have the time to eat all of your meals and get a healthy amount of sleep. Therefore, there is no room for holding a job in addition to law school, and many law schools don’t allow it. Going through the three years of law school without an income outside of your inevitable student loans is something that you should think long and hard about, especially if you have begun building a life and there are other people who would be affected by your decision. Attending part-time for a longer period of time might allow you to keep working at least part-time, but that further delays your plans and is definitely a stressful existence!

Am I Secure in Knowing That Getting a Job May Be Difficult After Law School?

This may very well be the most difficult part of being a nontraditional student in law school. You’ve been out of college for a few years. You’ve likely already worked and you know what kinds of salaries your friends are making.

But you’ll be competing with fresh, young law school graduates who have never worked before, and in all likelihood, they’ll be willing to take a lower salary than you’ll want to. Or, even worse, they might be prioritized because they’ve seen less of the world and law practices can mold them into their ideal attorneys. Is this fair? Not even a little bit. But it is a reality for anyone who is entering law school as a nontraditional student. You need to ask yourself if you’d be okay with the possibility that finding a job after law school will be more difficult for you than for other new (and, ahem, younger) graduates.

Will Law School Throw a Wrench in My Plans?

Are you planning on taking a yearly big trip in the winter? Are you planning on attending a law school far from home, where you’ll miss out on the milestone events in your loved ones’ lives, like weddings and the birth of children?

Were you hoping to start your own family in the near future? These are some of the things that law school will affect. You may have to miss out on events. You may have to postpone your plans. You may have to rearrange the plan you had for your life. Factor these thoughts into your decision-making process, because your life is important, too.

If you answered yes to all of those questions (except for the last one, where a “no” would be the more law-school-positive answer), law school is likely the best decision that you could make for your career. You will have to shape your application in a way that shows what you gained in your years away from school. If a career as a lawyer makes you excited and you’ve been looking for a change, this may be the path for you. You can do it!

Good luck!