"Nationwide, only 55% of the class of 2011 had full-time, long-term jobs that required a law degree nine months after graduation." ― The Wall Street Journal
Before considering anything else, you will need to assess yourself and question your true intent behind wanting to become a lawyer. Do you truly wish to become a lawyer, or is it what your parents expect? If you are the one who is eager, ask yourself whether you are genuinely prepared to handle the pressure of this demanding career? Merely being good at arguing your point or not having anything better to do are not reasons to opt for this profession.
Things to Consider Before Entering Law School
Maintaining a Good Undergraduate GPA is Important
Your undergraduate grade point average must be good in order to be considered by any of the high-tier law schools. A strong GPA is an indicator of your academic performance in college, which can reveal a lot about how well you'll fare in law school. A student who earns a strong GPA and has a strong academic track record is more likely to be admitted. A good score will make you a strong contender―someone who can handle the grueling academic demands of law school. Only your undergraduate GPA will be considered during admission, because law schools do not give importance to graduate school grades. It would also be wise to keep in mind that neither do law schools show any leniency towards candidates who chose more difficult subjects for their major, nor do they care about the prestige and ranking of the candidate's undergraduate college.
Prepare for LSAT Seriously
This half-day test is held four times in a year, which gives aspiring law students the freedom to plan their schedule and give the test whenever they are prepared. Secondly, candidates are allowed to attempt the test only thrice within two years. Ideally, you should dedicate at least 6 months into studying for this exam. Candidates with lower GPA may need to invest a year for studying for their LSAT, in order to be able to compete for a good law school. The LSAT is merely a means to assess your reading skills, logical, analytical, and verbal reasoning, and writing skills. It is also a reflection of how much hard work you have put into studying for the test.
Your LSAT Scores Must be High
Law schools rely heavily on LSAT scores to determine whether an aspiring law student is worthy of being given admission or not. The LSAT score is considered along with the median GPA; therefore, a low GPA and an average LSAT will prevent most candidates from getting admission in any of the top schools. On the other hand, an average GPA and a high LSAT is more likely to be taken into consideration during the admission process. Thus, even though you may not have scored that well in your GPA, you can still make up for the loss and outperform yourself during the LSAT, thereby, showing that you have it in you to raise your own bar and rise above your limitations.
Law Schools Are Very Expensive
If you're really inclined towards the field of law and wish to make a career out of it, bear in mind that law schools are expensive. Expect a few lucky ones, most law students end up with their own share of debt, that is neither small nor easy to pay off. According to the 2010 U.S. News & World Report, 85% graduates from American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools were overburdened by debts amounting beyond $98,500. According to the ABA, law graduates from public law schools accrue debts that exceed $71,000, whereas graduates from private law schools end up with debts exceeding $91,000. These astounding figures do not include any undergraduate debts that the law graduates may have piled. Therefore, have a sit-down with your family and your bank, to decide whether you have the financial backing, time, security, and willingness to bear such a huge financial burden.
Apply Early in Law Schools with Rolling Admissions
Most law schools in the US conduct rolling admissions, which may seem like a great option, but it isn't really beneficial for those who apply late. The earlier you apply, the higher will be your chances of getting admission. These schools also function on a first-come-first-serve basis, which makes it more difficult to avail for housing and scholarships, since most of such privileges are already given to the candidates who applied earlier in the year.
Your Personal Statement Must be Clear
Your personal statement must explain why you wish to become a lawyer. It must be concise and you must come straight to the point. Do not cook up stories in your personal statement as that would undermine your credibility. Do not mention anything pertaining to your GPA or try to justify the reason of it being low. Try to practice what you intend to write beforehand so that you do not end up writing irrelevant things or writing more than necessary. Your law school personal statement should be used as a tool that will help you come across as a focused and driven candidate, who is truly inspired by the profession of law.
Get to Know Your Faculty Members Better
While at undergraduate college, try to interact with your faculty members as often as possible. Let them know that you're an active student. When the time comes, you will need to request your two best faculty members to write a recommendation letter for you. The task of writing such an important letter must not fall in the hands of strangers, who could not only falsify facts but also seriously undermine your chances of being selected by law schools. Thus, entrust this responsibility with due care, and give it to a faculty member who is familiar with you and appreciates you for the student you have been over the past few years.
Know Your Facts Well
You are not expected to know about the nuances of law or which section works where. However, you are expected to know as much as you can about the utility of law, the recent judgments, ongoing lawsuits that have stirred the nation's interest, etc. You should also have your own opinion on the matter, while keeping the legal aspect of the situation in mind. You must know who lawyers are, what do they do, and how they serve society. You must also find out about the various fields that may open up, after graduating from law school. You must have a basic idea about what you intend to do with your law degree and which area of practice you plan to take up. That being said, while at law school, you can always change your mind at a later stage and take up a completely different field of law. You will also need to decide in which place you plan to practice so that you can apply to the law schools in that area.
Get to Know Legal Professionals and the Profession
Even if you do not know a single legal professional, you will need to make cold calls and schedule an academic interview with them. Call a few attorneys near you, and request them to meet you. If you do manage an interview, make a questionnaire so that you neither waste their time or forget to ask pertinent questions. Ask them about the practical aspects of their profession, in order to gain deeper insight into the field of law. You must also make it a point to schedule a visit to the court and listen to live proceedings so that you are more aware of how cases are decided and the role played by the jury, attorney, the judge, and the parties involved in the case.
Try a Test Run Through an Internship
An internship with a law firm, will not only help you better understand the workings of this profession, it will also help you decide whether you wish to take up this career path or not. An internship will help you gain some hands-on experience and gage whether you're truly interested in this field of practice or not.
Along with the aforementioned requisites, you will also need to work on your leadership skills. You may need to take a more active part in your community and do some volunteer work. That being said, none of these must come in the way of building a steady GPA.