Law School Advice For Older Students
by Troy J.
What advice would you give a 45 year old considering attending law school?
There are many different things you have to consider if you are an older person who is considering attending law school and becoming a lawyer.
Law Career Background
I once read an article that stated that a person throughout their entire “working life” will change careers approximately every ten (10) years. It is not surprising that law school and becoming a lawyer is a question on many people’s minds. As in most major decisions in life the answer to this question will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your own life, however if you apply the following principles and really think about how they fit into your own life you will definitely know whether or not law school as an older student is the proper choice for you.
Principles For Older Law Students
The first and most important consideration is whether or not you can pay for law school. As discussed elsewhere on this website law school is very expensive. Average cost is approximately $100,000 and the top schools charge up to $150,000 for three years of education, and this does not include food and other ancillary living expenses.
You can choose to obtain a student loan, but this of course needs to be paid back with interest, and this may lead you into the trap of accepting a job merely based on high salary vs. a legal job you want to do. Such decision-making can often lead to someone who is unsatisfied with their career… These are the people who you usually hear or see on the Internet talking about how much they regret going to law school.
If you are independently wealthy and merely want to go to law school because it seems interesting to you, then go for it! Unfortunately this is not a reality for most people.
However, many companies offer to pay for employees to obtain advanced degrees such as a law degree. It would be advisable for you to address this issue with your human resources department at your current job. If your company agrees to pay for your law degree, your schedule will certainly be very difficult in working during the day and going to school at night, but because the cost of law school is the biggest problem for most people you would be wise to take advantage of the offer.
2) Pre Law School Experience.
Are you considering law school to advance your current career, or to start completely fresh? If you want to go to law school to advance your current career and build on your current experience in a certain industry then it may be a very good logical decision to pursue law school. Or if you want to pursue a certain type of law related to your current career then it may also be a very good decision to obtain a law degree. The benefit here is that you know the industry, you know the important people in industry and you will not be starting at the bottom rung.
For example, let's say for the past 20 years you worked in the technology industry, and your plan is to obtain a law degree and negotiate technology licensing agreements and other intellectual property tech matters. This is a good example of someone building upon their career, but going in a slightly different direction. In this example going to law school could take this person's career to the next level.
On the flipside of the coin, let's say the past 20 years you worked in the technology industry, you hate it and your plan is to go to law school so that you can practice criminal law because it looks interesting on TV, and without any other solid knowledge regarding what criminal lawyers actually do. This would be an example of an older person who should probably not go to law school.
3) Family & Law School.
What is your current family situation right now? Do you have children? If so are they old enough to take care of themselves, or are they very young and still require most of your attention? The reason why these questions are important is because law school takes up a considerable amount of time. In order to be successful at anything you have to make your goal a priority in your life. This is extremely true when it comes to law school and doing well in law school. You have to realize that obtaining employment as a lawyer depends almost entirely on your grades in law school. Thus, if you don't have the time to devote to studying, your grades will suffer and it could be a realistic possibility that you are not able to obtain work after law school. Further studying for the bar requires at least two months of time where you do nothing but study the bar. If you have young children or are a single-parent accomplishing, graduating from law school with good grades is very difficult.
4) Full time or law school at night.
Do you plan to quit your job and go to law school full time, or do you plan to get your law degree at night? As previously mentioned, financing law school is a very important factor, and if your plan includes quitting your current job and attending law school full-time your finances MUST be in order. An important option to consider is to work during the day and attend law school classes at night. Of course this is very difficult to do and eliminates all leisure time, but you'll still have positive cash flow. However there's a downside to night school; most of the top law schools do not have night programs. This does not mean you can't get an excellent education from another school, but if you plan on attending one of the top 20 law schools be advised that most do not have night programs.
5) It is important to put yourself in the shoes of the law firm and think about how they would perceive an older person graduating from law school and becoming a first year associate. Of course all law firms are different, but generally the larger law firms who pay the highest salaries are looking for a specific type of candidate in their first year hires. Remember law firms base their business model on an hourly model, the more hours a first year associate bills, the more profitable they are for the firm. That's why many of the larger law firms prefer to hire younger Associates who are not married, do not have any children and have not worked in another type career. This is important because firms want the new hires to dedicate a significant part of their lives to working at the firm. If as in older candidate you have just graduated from law school and are not seeking a position that is based on your previous work career, larger law firms will most likely be less willing to hire you. Further, as an experienced person in the workforce you will most likely not put up with the same treatment as a younger person who has never held a job before.
In conclusion, you must consider the facts and situation of your own personal life. The first and most important thing to consider is whether or not you can afford law school. As an older student it would be wise to go to law school to expand on your current career, and probably unadvisable to start fresh in a completely unrelated aspect of law. Further, if your employer agrees to pay for law school go for it! You should also consider keeping your job and going to law school at night. Finally, don't forget to consider your responsibilities to your family as law school will have to become your priority. Thus, if you have small children it would not be recommended to attend law school unless you have a support system of other people to help you with your children.
So let’s do a quick review of the important questions you must consider:
1) What is your family situation?
2) Are you going to law school to further your career in your industry? (Good.) Or are you trying to make a completely fresh start? (Possibly bad.)
3) Can you afford law school?
4) Can you give up your leisure time and attend night school?
I hope this was helpful!