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5 Questions To Determine If A Juris Doctor Is A Good Choice

  • Career Goals
  • The State of the Market
  • The Cost
  • Skills and Natural Ability
  • Undergraduate Experience

Law school is not right for everyone, even though being an attorney can be a highly rewarding career. Because many students pursue a law degree when they truly do not need one, it is important for prospective students to do some soul-searching before making this decision. Below are five questions students should consider when determining whether law school is the correct path for them.

See our ranking of the 30 Best Value Schools for Pre-Law.

1. Career Goals

The end goal should be the main consideration for any educational path. Students should strongly consider what, exactly, they plan to do with a JD (Juris Doctor, or law degree) upon graduation. It is not as versatile a degree as many believe it to be and unless a student wants to become a lawyer, they are best off pursuing other education options. Law school should only be seriously considered by students who want to become legal professionals.

2. The State of the Market

It may surprise many students to learn this, but recent JD graduates often have a difficult time finding jobs. There are two reasons for this. One is that there are more JD graduates than there are jobs available. The other is because many firms are replacing lawyers with paralegals and other support staff to do more of the grunt work and cut costs. These challenges should be understood by prospective law students. Fortunately, the profession isn't expected to lose any ground: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a steady 8% increase.

3. The Cost

As with any college program, cost plays an important role. Taking a brief amount of time off from school to work and save up money is a viable option. Cost varies depending on the school a student chooses to attend. More prestigious schools typically cost more. A student's ability to pay, work and get financial aid such as loans and scholarships should be considered when the question of law school comes up.

4. Skills and Natural Ability

Lawyers need to be comfortable interacting with people, whether they are members of juries or clients. They also must have excellent reading and critical thinking skills. When attending law school, students commonly spend a significant amount of their time reading, and this continues into a professional career as a lawyer. Students who have difficulty reading or do not enjoy it should think long and hard about whether they are capable of succeeding in a law program. Another thing to consider is that just being smart won't cut it. Successful law students must also have an ironclad work ethic.

5. Undergraduate Experience

Some schools do offer pre-law programs, although unlike medical school, there are no specific degrees that are typically chosen by students hoping to attend law school. Students can pursue undergraduate degrees in a number of subjects. Degrees in English, communications and history are good choices. Students wishing to go into a certain kind of law might consider degrees in that field, such as environmental studies. In some cases, law schools like to see more unconventional choices during admissions for diversity's sake. Undergraduate GPA plays a significant role in law school applications as well. Many programs do not accept students that graduated with a GPA below a certain number.

The decision of whether or not to apply for and attend law school is a major one. Students who have carefully considered this decision and decided to pursue a JD will be better prepared to succeed in law school and as legal professionals.

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