Is Going to Law School a Good Idea?

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Sending Applications

RoBeDoRo / Getty Images.

Make no mistake: going to law school will change your life. In deciding whether you should pursue this path, you should both follow your instincts and consider the following questions:

Why are you considering going to law school?

Analyzing your hopes and needs before applying will help you decide whether pursuing a law degree is worth your time, effort, and money, can help choose the right school, and may also keep you on track during law school and beyond.

So ask yourself what you plan to do with your law degree. Yes, law degrees are more versatile than ever these days, which means that you don't have to be a full-time attorney with your degree. Before you start law school with an alternative career path in mind, though, make sure that a law degree will actually be helpful in achieving your career goals.

Be sure to talk to people in your chosen field, especially management, to get a feel for whether a law degree will open or close doors for you. These are known as “informational interviews.” If you're pursuing law as a second graduate degree, talk to others who have done this and learn from their experiences. Thinking ahead to your career after law school will help you decide whether or not to start law school.

Have you tried out your chosen profession?

Whether you're considering a traditional or non-traditional legal career, have you spent some time researching and, even better, experiencing that profession?

Even working on an entry-level can give you a better idea of whether you want to commit yourself to a particular career path-and whether or not a law degree will help you get where you want to go. Try to find work or an internship somewhere in the legal or court system to get a feel for the practice of law instead of relying on what you've seen lawyers do on television.

Nothing can beat first-hand experience in your chosen field.

Can you afford law school?

Law school is expensive - in both time and money. Don't underestimate the time commitment that law school entails. Besides attending classes, there is an amazing amount of outside reading and research required, so don't assume that just because the classes fit into your schedule, you'll have plenty of time otherwise. Through effective time management, of course, you can have a healthy school/life balance, but you still won't have tons of free time.

Regarding money, assess your financial situation honestly and consider that law school may require taking out tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans - which in turn may mean that you have to take a job once you graduate from law school because it pays well towards your debt and not because your heart is in it. “BigLaw” is notorious for the latter.

This financial analysis is especially important, of course, if you are married and/or have children.

For all the reasons above, finding out more about law school financial aid is a crucial step in your application process.

Where do you want to go to law school?

This question isn’t just about geography, but also about the kind of law school you want to go to.

Big or small? Private or public? Part-time or full-time? There are many things to consider when choosing a law school, especially deciding where you want to practice afterwards. Looking into different types of law schools and their programs might help you decide whether or not to go to any law school. It is also important to research the outcomes of students at different law schools. What did they do afterwards? What were their starting salaries? All this information can be easily found online. Finally, if you’re wondering what makes law school “hard,” read this post.

If you are questioning the need for lawyers in today’s world, read this post on the subject.