Law School: Getting Started


Getting Started | Timeline | Applying | LSAT | Selecting | Contacts


Deciding

Only you can decide whether law school is right for you, but you should make an informed decision, which means acquiring as much information as possible about law school and law practice. Law school is not a good option if you don't know what else to do. Nor should you be pressured to choose law school by well-meaning family members, friends or advisors. Parents and others ultimately want you to be happy and successful, so choose the right career for the right reasons and you will make everyone happy.

If you want to be a lawyer, can you articulate reasons? It's not enough to say you have always wanted to be a lawyer. Law practice isn't always fascinating and intellectually stimulating. In fact, it can be boring, stressful and even unfulfilling at times. You need to know what you are getting into. Yes, if you are a graduate of a top law school who goes to a top law firm in a large city, you can make very good money, but you will have to put in 2000 billable hours per year. You do the math. If you are a good debater and like to argue, that doesn't necessarily mean you will make a good litigator or enjoy it -- litigating is ultimately an adversarial process. For those of you who want to change the world and think law is the venue, think again. Many other professions offer opportunities to make change and may also allow you some spare time aside from your job to do good things. Some people choose law school because they see it as versatile and a stepping stone to something else, like business. Law schools train lawyers. If you want your law degree to be multi-purpose, you will be the person that will bear the responsibility for turning it into a multi-purpose degree.

So, why go to law school? Because you want to be a lawyer. And if you don't know what that means, you need to find out. Talk to lawyers. Ask them if they like their jobs and why. Find out what they do. The Career Center can give you access to the Oberlin alumni directory and alumni career mentors. Read books, legal journals, and newspapers, and figure out the pros and cons of the legal professions, current trends in hiring, and current salary scales. There is also a library of resources in Career Services that will be helpful to you. Our resources can be checked out, so you can review them at your leisure. Get some exposure. Nothing can substitute for experiencing first-hand what the practice of law is like. Do an internship in a law office, or take some time after college to work as a paralegal. The Office of Career Services has a number of ways to assist you with winter term or summer internships. Please note that these experiences don't necessarily improve your chances of getting accepted into law school, but they will help you decide if law is for you.

Preparing

Wondering what major or minor you should have? There is no right major or minor for someone planning to go to law school. You should choose a major that will help you develop the reading, writing, and analytical skills needed for law school. Your major should be something you are interested in and that challenges you to become a better student. If you choose a major you enjoy, you will more likely excel at it. Double majors with minors aren't required; it's the quality, not the quantity that counts. In some cases, the type of law you are interested in can help determine the best major or minor for you, e.g., environmental law or intellectual property. Don't choose a major such as Politics or Law and Society because you think it will help you get into law school. It won't. However, if you don't major or minor in Politics, take at least one course in Politics to gain a better understanding of the American legal system. Choose the major or minor because you love the subject , regardless of whether it is Philosophy, Physics, Biology, English, Psychology, or Politics. Choose specific classes that test your logical reasoning and your ability to present and defend an argument. A pre-law advisor can help you with major/minor and specific class decisions. As far as preparing to apply to law school, you need to start the process 18 to 24 months prior to when you desire to matriculate.