Considering Law School?

What is Your Why?

When you are thinking about applying to law school, it is important to know what you hope to get out of earning a law degree. Is there a particular impact that you want to make? Are you primarily motivated by the prospect of financial stability? Are there family expectations you are trying to meet? Law school requires a substantial investment of time, effort, and money, and knowing what you hope to get out of that investment is an important part of successfully applying to and completing law school.

Once you know what you hope to get out of your law degree, it is important to do your research to figure out whether your hopes are realistic. It helps to get information about the realities of practicing law from a variety of reliable sources. If you have friends or family who practice law or have attended law school, they may be able to give valuable insights. However, individual experiences should not be your only source of information. You may have very different interests and strengths from your friends and family, and what was a good fit for them may or may not be a good fit for you. One of the best ways to know whether a career in law is right for you is through firsthand experience, which can include shadowing lawyers, interning at a court or law firm, or volunteering with a legal clinic. 

While it is good to start gathering information about different areas of law, it is completely fine for a law school applicant not to know for sure what kind of law they want to practice. Gaining experience and exposure to different areas of law is part of what law school is intended to do. So if you are stressed because you are not sure whether you prefer immigration or family law, don’t be - you will have plenty of time in which to make that decision.

Is Law School a Good Fit?

The skills and personal qualities that help students to successfully apply to and complete law school go beyond simply being smart and working hard. The American Bar Association (ABA) lists the following as core skills and experiences for prospective law students:1

  • Problem solving
  • Critical reading
  • Writing and editing
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Research
  • Organization and management
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Relationship-building and collaboration
  • Background knowledge
  • Exposure to law

Students who are thinking about applying to law school should consider how well their natural abilities match this list and how to strengthen their skills and gain experience in these areas.  For example, if you feel that your writing skills are an area of weakness, taking a more advanced composition class and working with the Writing Center could be a great way to grow those skills. If you feel that there is an area in which you would like to improve but you are not sure how to do it, there are lots of campus resources, including your Academic Advisor and Academic Success staff, that can help point you in the right direction.


 1Pre-law. American Bar Association. (n.d.).

Law School is an Investment

Attending law school involves a significant investment of time, effort, and money. More than 70% of law students pay for their education at least partly through loans.2 For students who take out loans, the average amount borrowed exceeds $100,000.3 These numbers may vary significantly from one law school to another. However, with full tuition scholarships being very rare and need-based aid increasingly difficult to obtain, most students should expect to take out substantial loans in order to attend law school.

In addition to the financial investment, law school requires a large investment of time. Most J.D. programs are three years in length, and the American Bar Association (ABA) recommends that students should expect to spend at least two hours studying outside of class for every hour they spend in class.5 This is substantially different from the demands of undergraduate coursework. This means that, between class time and study time, attending law school really is a full-time job. As a result, some law schools place restrictions on the number of hours that law students can work while school is in session.6 This leads to many students taking out loans to cover their cost of living as well as their tuition. 

Some law schools do offer part-time programs, which can allow for greater flexibility for students who plan to work while attending school. The trade-off with these programs is that students typically invest more than three years into earning their degree.


2 Law school debt in the United States. Law School Transparency. (n.d.). 

3 Ibid.

4 Net tuition for U.S. law schools. Law School Transparency. (n.d.). 

5  American Bar Association. (2023). Determination of credit hours for coursework (Standard 310)

6 Kuris, G. (2020, November 16). How to decide whether to work during Law School. U.S. News & World Report. 


Advising and Academic Success

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