Deposit deadline season is upon us. This will be a brief post, as there is no way I can possibly cover the range of choices facing all of you. For every one student who has a clear and easy choice about where to attend law school (and whether to attend at all), there are a bunch who have hard choices to make. Picking a law school is serious business. One thing that might quell your anxiety is that you’ll never know if you made the right or wrong choice. Being unable to split yourself in half and attend two places, you can’t A/B test law schools.
The more important thing is to double-check that you really want to go law school, and by “double-check” I mean do absolutely everything in your power to make sure this is the right career for you. The seat deposit is not a binding contract to attend law school, and should not be treated as such. After all the effort of taking the LSAT and applying, I know it’s tempting to stop thinking and say “I’m committed, I’m definitely going,” but I encourage you not to. Instead, try to make the same dispassionate analysis of your options that you would expect of a judge. Here are some things to think about:
How Do You Feel About The Average Outcome At Your School?
Though you should strive to be at the top of your class 1L year, you should never expect to be. By and large, 1L year determines your hiring outcomes, especially at the top schools. Statistically, you are very likely to have grades somewhere near the median for your school, as that’s how bell-curve grading is designed.
Plan accordingly. You should never attend a school if you wouldn’t be happy with the outcome of the average student there.
Waiting Another Year Is Probably Less Of A Big Deal Than You Think
I hear people say “I’m in my late twenties already, so I don’t want to hold off another year on going to law school.” Fair, but if you think you can get yourself into a better position by waiting another year, it’s almost always a good decision to do so. This goes double for those who applied late (January or later). If you aren’t psyched on your admissions cycle outcomes, you may be best off trying again and applying early next year.
Brian Leiter just reported that an unusual number of potential students have applied late this year. While outcomes for those applying late are probably better now than at any other time in law school history, for a given individual your results might not be as good as if you applied early. Do research about how those with similar stats fared. If you think you got a bad draw this cycle, consider re-rolling the dice early next fall.
The legal profession does not reward youth. A firm will look at your credentials, not your age, so don’t worry about getting a somewhat later start in the law.
If you can get on a higher trajectory by holding off, do so. The most common reason to wait is if you don’t think you have maxed out your potential on the LSAT. You have to listen to your gut to some extent on this one, but please, let us know in the comments if you are having trouble deciding to retake, and we’ll help you through the decision. Our general advice on retaking is here.
For those coming straight from undergrad, I think it’s most often a good idea to take a year off just for the sake of it. Here is some more specific advice on whether you should wait until next year to apply.
The Law Is A Profession, Not A Job
Law school melds you. To some extent, you go in as an individual and come out as a something much more specific. It may not be the career for the free and easy type. While there are perhaps some exceptions, you generally can’t have purple streaks in your hair while working for a law firm.
Particularly in litigation, part of arguing for a position is to dress it up with as much “main-streamness” as possible. This is why you see GW’s former counsel arguing for same-sex marriage. In law, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Make sure you are okay with being an unobtrusive nail, or face the possibility of undue turbulence in your professional life. I wish it were otherwise, but the law profession does not change apace with the outside world. Powdered wigs are about the only feature to go in the last hundred years.
There are a wealth of resources out there to help acquaint you with what practice is like for various members of the legal profession. Here’s our list of The Best Pre-Law Reading and The Best Books To Prepare You For Law School. Some of these books can help you be really sure that this is the career for you. Also see this piece: Why Do You Want To Be A Lawyer?
Also, if you are having any anxiety or trouble with anything about your decision to attend law school, reach out to us. Comments can be anonymous. We are happy to do a full post analysis of your decision, as we have done for several others here, and here.