As the end of senior year is within glimpse, many Columbia students have no idea what they will do after their sojourn at the sanatorium on 116th. Many decide further education might be the best bet… including law school. Senior Staff Bwogger Gabrielle Kloppers explains some factors that may impact that decision. Disclaimer: Kloppers is not an admissions consultant or affiliated with any law school. She’s just going through this right now and has done a prodigious amount of research.
Should I go to law school, you ask me. Here’s the rundown on it.
Law school is a huge investment, in terms of time, money, and mental health. Lawyers are statistically more likely to suffer from depression and addiction than people in other careers. If that doesn’t turn you off completely, or if it sounds like your average Columbia student, so you’re accustomed to it, the next step is to gain some experience, perhaps over the summers, in the legal field.
Experience is incredibly important in making this decision. You’re potentially going to shell out $180,000, much of it financed in loans, and that isn’t a decision to take lightly. Not only will experience give you some indication of whether or not the law is a good choice for you, but it will also benefit you in the application process should you decide law school is the correct path. Having legal experience can heighten the authenticity of your applications to law school. Think of it this way: it may look a little strange to admissions officers when you’re going off on how amazing the law is, and why you want to dedicate your life to it, but you’ve never actually been involved in any work that is associated with the law.
How do I get legal experience, you ask? Top-tier legal internships just aren’t as common as those for investment banking or consultancy, so this part is going to take a little more legwork on your behalf. You can get involved in so many ways. If you’re passionate about corporate law, you can reach out to family members or friends in corporate law firms and ask them if you can shadow them or intern for free. This is a great option but doesn’t really help you if you don’t know anyone in the legal field. Another way to gain corporate legal experience is to simply cold call every firm in whatever area you’ll be in over the summer and ask the same thing: if you can intern for free because you’re highly interested in the legal sphere and want to see if it’s right for you. Although not many firms will go for this, if you call enough places, the power of numbers suggests you may get lucky.
If you’re more interested in non-profit legal work, or just something less corporate, there are plenty of amazing non-profit legal centers around New York that need volunteers and hands. You can search up legal aid societies or nonprofits to get some idea of how the law can be used for good.
In all of these instances, it is highly unlikely you’re going to be doing actual legal work. That’s what people go to law school for, or obtain paralegal certification for. However, you will get hands-on experience in the grey area around it, to try and hone in on what you like about the law, what type of environment or discipline you’d want to work in, and you’ll be able to see from those around you what lawyers actually do. Hint: it isn’t like Suits. It isn’t even like Legally Blonde (although that movie is amazing).
Another thing to keep in mind when considering law school is thinking about what you actually want out of it and how this impacts your financial goals. Law school, as I have mentioned, is extremely expensive. Even applying to law schools already has me out around $1,000. So the payoff needs to be worth the cost, or, the cost must be low enough that a payoff that doesn’t give you a huge salary isn’t going to kill you and leave you in an astounding quantity of debt.
The legal field generally has two tiers, in terms of salary, from what I understand, and there’s a gigantic gap in the middle. You can be paid $200,000 per year for big law or $60,000 a year for family law and the like. Big Law is work in a large firm, usually to do with corporate law. Getting Big Law employment is incredibly difficult if you don’t attend one of the top law schools, but it is possible if you’re ranked incredibly high in your law school class. So, be realistic about what your goals and loan repayment schedule is like.
This is the first of many articles about the beautiful process of applying to Law School and what it entails. Stay tuned for more information, coming soon. #careersatbwog
Law library via Wikipedia