by Doretta Katzter Goldberg, Esq., College Directions, Great Neck, New York
Is becomming a lawyer your dream career? If so, here are five things to keep in mind as you plan for college.
There is no such thing as pre-law. Unlike medicine, there is no prescribed course of study for entering law school. Legal matters touch on diverse areas like real estate and the environment, business, the arts, technology, and family matters like divorce and adoption. In our increasingly complicated world, you’ll be most useful as a lawyer if you use your undergraduate years to solidify a broad range of knowledge as well as develop expertise in a particular academic field.
Choose a college with rigorous academics, but one where you can earn high grades without being overwhelmed. Remember wondering whether it would be better to get A’s in regular high school classes or B’s in AP’s? The same considerations apply when choosing a college, particularly if applying to law school is part of your plan. Law school admission, more so than college, is largely a numbers game. They look for high grades from a competitive college. In addition, law school is an intense academic experience. Your undergraduate classes must be challenging if you are going to be prepared. However, just like too many AP courses, too rigorous a college experience can be counterproductive to your plans. You want to be challenged but not overwhelmed. Pick the level of difficulty that is right for you.
Look into the availability of internship, employment and service learning experiences. Hands-on experience is important for anyone contemplating a legal career. First, involvement in these types of activities will show that you have made the effort to familiarize yourself with the field. Second, employers or mentors can be great sources of recommendations for your law school applications. Finally, these activities are your best chance to find out if you have the skills for and interest in a legal career. In large urban areas, finding jobs and internships is generally not a problem. If you are looking at colleges in more remote locations though, make sure that the career office, academic departments and student organizations have networks to assist in finding these opportunities.
Make sure you will have the chance to hone your test-taking skills. Though a lawyer must be able to speak, write and think, getting to a legal career is based largely on success in taking tests. From the LSAT through the state bar exams, students must master both essay questions and multiple choice. Since law school is heavily weighted in favor of those who hit the ground running, with selection for law review and other honors being based on first year grades, you need to arrive with your test-taking skills already sharpened. Regardless of your major, make sure you take at least a few courses each year that require not just that you submit a paper but that you also sit for a rigorous and comprehensive exam.
Always keep your options open and don’t let the tail wag the dog. Most students change their academic and/or career direction at least once during their undergraduate years. Thus, regardless of your original plans, you want to choose a college where there are sufficient other options if you decide to make a change. Remember also not to let the tail wag the dog. This means that, just as high school should be more than a time to prepare for college, your undergraduate years should not focus solely on becoming a lawyer. Find a college where you can follow your passions, where you will learn to write, think, speak and study. Ultimately these are the skills that will ensure your success in whatever profession you may choose.
About the Author: Doretta Katzter Goldberg, Esq., an educational consultant on Long Island, focuses on providing a personalized and common sense approach to college and graduate school admissions.
© Doretta Katzter Goldberg,College Directions, LLC, Great Neck, NY. Used by the Higher Education Consultants Association with permission. May not be copied or distributed without the permission of the author.