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Mid-Career Change: Things To Think About If You Are Considering Law School
You are working in a certain field, and unfortunately, it just isn’t satisfying anymore. Perhaps you are overworked, not making enough money or simply not feeling fulfilled in your day-to-day professional life. Fortunately, you can make a mid-career switch to law if you’re thinking about going to law school.
Before applying to law school, you need to do your research and determine if this career is really right for you. Perhaps the more you look into it, you’ll want to find a different option, or you could be even more enticed to become a lawyer.
Mid-Career Switch to Law
If you’re thinking about making a career change to law at 30 or any other age, it’s totally possible. To become a lawyer, you need to first have a bachelor’s degree in any major and then pass the Law School Admission Test (also known as the LSAT), go to law school to receive your Juris Doctor, work at a law firm for experience, pass your state’s bar examination and then find a job as a lawyer.
When you’re looking into your mid-career switch to law, you’ll find that lawyers are also called counsel, attorneys and esquire. The skills they need to have include public speaking, writing, researching and people skills since they will need to interact with a number of different clients from various backgrounds.
Lawyers also need to have a great work ethic, since they typically put in much more than 40 hours a week. Some put in around 80 hours a week in order to meet their billable hours for the year at their firm.
Earnings for Lawyers
Many people make a mid-career change to be a lawyer because of the amount of money you can make in this field. In 2018, the median pay was $120,910 per year, or $58.13 per hour. Lawyers who work in the federal government make a median salary of about $139,000 per year, those who provide private legal services make $118,660 and those in the local government and state government make about $91,000 and $88,000 respectively. The lawyers who work in thriving firms and for businesses will usually make more than lawyers who have their own practice.
The job outlook for lawyers is good. Employment for lawyers is predicted to grow 9 percent over the next decade. A shift in the industry that is occurring is that companies are hiring their own in-house legal counsel instead of outsourcing to law firms. Many firms are hiring contract workers and paralegals in order to do the grunt work, which may affect lawyers’ job duties.
Keep in mind also that there are more students graduating from law school than there are positions available in law. In order to compete with other law school students, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting excellent grades and gaining experience at a firm before taking the bar exam. You must also be willing to relocate to another state and take that bar exam if that’s where you can find a job.
Taking the LSAT
Before you get into law school, you’ll first have to pass the LSAT. The LSAT will measure your critical thinking, argument evaluation, reading comprehension and information organization skills to determine if you are a good candidate for law school. The LSAT is given four times per year, usually in February, June, September or October and December. In order to be considered for law school admission the following fall, you’ll need to take the test by December.
The test is comprised of five sections that take 35 minutes each to complete. They include logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, reading comprehension and a writing sample. It has between 99 and 101 questions, and you’ll receive a raw score, a scaled score and an estimated percentile when you get your results. The lowest possible score for the LSAT is 120, the highest is 180 and the average is 150.
The fee to take the test is $180. If you want to hire an LSAT tutor, it’s going to cost you $50 to $250 per hour. Before hiring any tutor or tutoring company, make sure you ask about their success rate – for example, what previous students’ LSAT scores were – and look up online reviews of their services.
Finding a Law School
All law schools that are accredited by the American Bar Association will require you to take the LSAT. The schools will also look at your undergraduate GPA, your work experience and letters of recommendation.
When you’re looking for a law school to attend, first be realistic about the score you receive on the LSAT as well as your undergraduate GPA. Yale University is the number one law school in the U.S., and you’ll need a 170-176 on the LSAT to be considered for admission. The acceptance rate is only 6.9 percent. Stanford’s LSAT scores are in the 169-174 range, and its acceptance rate is 8.7 percent.
With a score of 165 to 171, you could be admitted to a top-tier law school like University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, which has a nearly 20 percent acceptance rate. Another possibility would be University of California – Berkeley, which is also a great law school with a 20 percent acceptance rate. Expect to spend three years in law school, and give yourself time to gain experience in the working world as well.
Paying for Law School
Before you make the mid-career switch to law, you’ll need to save up for law school or get a loan to pay for it. Law school tends to be very costly. The average cost of attending a private law school is around $43,000 per year, and a public school costs around $26,000 per year. If you’re going for one of the top 10 law schools in the U.S., look to pay about $60,000 per year.
To pay for law school, you can apply for scholarships, assistantship positions and grants. Some scholarships available to law school students include the ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship, which gives out $15,000 to students from diverse backgrounds over the course of three years, or Federal Circuit Bar Association scholarships, which range from $5,000 to $10,000. You can also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if you qualify for government aid.
Another option is to save up for law school and pay for it out of pocket. Since you’re making a career change to law at 30 or another age, you may have savings from your current job. If this is not a possibility, you can apply for a private loan, such as with Sallie Mae, which offers variable and fixed interest rates. Note, however, that you’ll need to pay back these loans as quickly as possible in order to avoid the high-interest fees.
Talking With Lawyers
Before you jump into a mid-career switch to law, make sure you talk to lawyers and ask about law school, the LSAT and their careers. Then, you can get a sense of whether or not you would like working this type of job. It’s very important that you’re satisfied with your new career so you don’t have to make a career switch all over again in another few years.
- Criminal Justice Degree Schools: Lawyer: Career Guide
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Lawyers
- GoGrad: Guide to the LSAT
- CNBC: Only 23% of Law School Grads Say Their Education Was Worth the Cost
- Magoosh LSAT Blog: LSAT Scores for the Top 100 Law Schools: Good LSAT Scores, Bad LSAT Scores & Acceptable LSAT Scores
Kylie Ora Lobell has written about careers and HR for Legal Management Magazine, LiveCareer, LegalZoom, and WeWork.