While there are many things that you should know before attending law school, I'd argue that one of the most important things to know is whether attending law school is the best way to fulfill your career goals.
It’s easy to think of law school as a “backup plan” if you’re unsure of what you want to do after college. Even though this feeling is quite common, I’d argue that it’s a dangerous starting point. If you don’t have a good idea of what you want to do, you may veer into a job that may not speak to your interests or passions. Inertia may lead to career dissatisfaction.
As just one example, students at prestigious law schools are often drawn to positions at “Big Law” firms. They see their 1L classmates talking about upcoming on-campus interviews. They hear about the prestige of Big Law firms and recognize that Big Law firms provide generous compensation to law school graduates.
Before they know it, peer pressure takes over, and these students think about at least interviewing with Big Law firms. What’s the worst that could happen?
However, the simple fact is that law students without a career vision may end up pursuing a position that may not be the best fit for them. Granted, Big Law firms provide tremendous opportunities for graduating law students. Having said that, it’s not for everyone.
This is why you need to think long and hard about why you’re thinking about law school in the first place. What is your ultimate goal? Is it to make a lot of money? Perhaps make a difference in the world? Or maybe even to fulfill some subtle pressure from friends or family? Dig deep and don’t hold anything back.
After doing this self-analysis, I would highly encourage working in the legal industry before attending law school. It’s something I didn’t do and something a lot of prospective attorneys don’t do. Ideally, you’d work in your dream office, but I think any office in the legal industry will do, so long as your job doesn’t entail extremely simple administrative tasks.
Ultimately, by getting some real world experience—whether it’s through an internship or full-time job—you’ll be able to observe practicing attorneys in their natural environment. You’ll see the day-to-day grind of practicing law and will have a better idea of whether it interests you. It may either confirm or question your initial interest in law school and the legal industry.