Lately there has been an increase in the number of individuals taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to go to law school. In fact, in September 2009 a greater number of people sat for the LSAT than ever before. But as the number of LSAT takers rises, the legal employment market has been deflating. There are still good law jobs available, but they aren't as plentiful as pre-recession opportunities. With more competition for the LSAT and a flattening job market on the other end, it's important to ask yourself why you want to take the test.
Below are some of the most common explanations our Blueprint LSAT students give for deciding to take the LSAT, as well as an evaluation of whether or not it's a "good" reason given the current job market.
The economic crisis inspired you to go to law school
The collective state of the economy and the legal job market is most likely the primary reason behind the increase in LSAT test takers. Whenever the economy flounders, graduate school applications historically swell. By going to law school, the thinking goes, you'll not only have the greater earning power afforded by a JD, but you can also shelter from the recession while earning that degree. The hope is that within the three years it takes to graduate from law school, the economy and job market will have improved.
To be fair, the state of the economy can be a good reason to initiate your entrance into law school. If you've thought about starting your legal education for a while, it could be just the motivation for which you've been waiting. However, if you're diving in simply because you don't know what else to do, you need to take the time to learn about what being a lawyer actually entails. You don't want to graduate from law school with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, only to discover law isn't your true calling. Make sure you really want to be a lawyer, first.
You can do anything with a law degree
Many students take the LSAT because, while they do not want to be lawyers, they've heard that a law degree can be versatile. The idea is that a JD can still help you get a job at a nonprofit organization, or come in handy in your real estate business.
And a law degree can indeed be helpful in different positions. Having a JD so you can write your own cease and desist letter as a business owner, for instance, can be useful and save time as well as money. However, because legal degrees can be quite expensive (tuition for Columbia for 2010-2011 is over $48,000), it's best if you actually have an understanding of the job you want and whether it will be able to pay your loans. You don't want to end up trying to service loans on a nonprofit salary because of a vague idea that a law degree might come in handy at some unspecified point in the future.
The time is right to take the LSAT
There are a considerable number of people who are unsure if they want to go to law school, but for whom the current time is convenient to take the LSAT. These are often students who have a particularly light course load in a given semester or are on summer break, or recent college graduates who can afford to spend a lot of time studying. The LSAT is a very difficult test and you need an ample amount of time to prepare for it, so having a convenient window of study time can be a good reason to take the LSAT.
Even if you're unsure about whether or not you want to go to law school, LSAT scores do not expire for five years. Most schools will accept scores going back this far, so timing is actually a great reason to take the LSAT. If and when you apply at a later point, all you will have to worry about will be the "soft" aspects of your application (the personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc.). Having already taken care of the LSAT will make this later process considerably less daunting.
One risk associated with taking this route has to do with motivation. Some students who study for the LSAT without strong convictions about going to law school find it difficult to stay on task. While many of these people do attain good scores, they sometimes do not do as well as they could have. The LSAT is just too important in the law school admissions process to be studied for in a lackluster manner. So if you're planning on taking the test but aren't sure about whether you're going to law school, it's important that you don't let your uncertainty impact your motivation to study.
You've always dreams of being a lawyer
This, of course, is the reason why most people take the LSAT. If you want to practice law, then going to law school is the route you must take. It is often the case that people who actually want to be lawyers and who have a good idea of what that entails tend to do the best on the LSAT. This is because such people are set in their convictions; they have a tangible goal and they're willing to do the work to reach it.
Wanting to become a lawyer because you have an understanding of what the job entails and know that it is the career you want to pursue is the paradigmatic good reason to take the LSAT. If you're unsure as to whether or not you want to be a lawyer, spend some time investigating this career path. If you have any connections to lawyers, ask if you can speak with them candidly about what they do and do not like about their chosen profession. You might also consider shadowing a lawyer for a day, or getting an internship so you can see what the day-to-day life of a lawyer looks like.
There are many different reasons to take the LSAT and go to law school, and becoming a lawyer remains a great career path in America today. Once you're ready, be sure to start mapping out your LSAT study plan because it's a difficult (but very learnable) test.
Article by Blueprint founders Jodi Triplett and Trent Teti. Blueprint offers live LSAT classes and its newest online prep option, Blueprint: The Movie 2.0.
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