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So You Think You Want to Go to Law School?

I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. My parents often remind me that at the ripe age of five, I would walk around proclaiming, to literally anyone who would listen, that I was going to go be an attorney one day.

I’m proud to say that I eventually achieved that goal, graduating from University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law with a Juris Doctorate (JD) in 2014, after three grueling (but gratifying!) years. While I’m not practicing anymore, I am a California licensed attorney. But as a first-generation student, getting there wasn’t easy. I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the application process, let alone give me advice about how to select which law school to apply to in the first place—which is why I’m here to give you the tips I wish someone had given me back then.

Ask yourself the hard questions

Take the time to consider these big questions first: “Do I actually want to be a lawyer?” or “Do I need that law degree to do X, Y or Z job?”

This step truly matters because law school is a big investment, both in time and money. While going to law school can open many doors, it’s not always the most prudent choice. Some careers in the industry don’t require a JD to be successful, and success in other related fields, like public policy, can be achieved through different, and considerably less expensive, graduate degrees.

It’s important to know that what you see on TV, courtroom lawyers furiously gesticulating at a jury, isn’t necessarily the full picture and not everyone gets that high-powered big firm job immediately upon graduation, so think about it carefully.

Consider a location that will make sense for your goals

If the answers to the above questions are yes, or even maybe yes, then next you should consider where it makes sense to spend the three years of law school (and potentially many years after that)!

It’s important to think about where you want to live and practice. As someone potentially interested in policy and legislation, I chose McGeorge because of the proximity to the California State Capitol. In addition, as an American Bar Association accredited school (as opposed to California Bar Association), it meant that if I ever decided to leave California to practice elsewhere, I could. Lastly, the network. While I have many friends leading successful careers elsewhere in California, I found that the network I built in Sacramento while in law school proved to be invaluable to landing a post-grad job. The connections made during law school, through jobs, internships, and networking events made joining the workforce so much easier. It isn’t a make or break, of course, but it is something to think about!

Think about compatibility

Finally, take the time to do your research. Spend time understanding what the law school’s strengths are - which faculty and programs is it known for? Does it have concentrations you find exciting? What are the experiential learning requirements - do you have to participate in internships or externships or clinics? How does the school promote and support diversity and inclusion? These are all very important questions to ask yourself as you consider where to spend the next three intense, but hopefully incredible years.

I hope these tips help guide you at the onset of your law school journey - we’ll have more advice for you about applying to and navigating through law school in future articles. Stay tuned!