Law school is a must if you intend to advocate for the rights of parties as a lawyer. However, significant mythology has arisen about legal education, particularly in the United States. Following is a view of law school from a person who has gone through the full three years followed by articles on specific topics you may be interested in when considering your future.
At last count, students can choose from 237 law schools in the United States for their educational needs. Of this number, 205 are ABA-approved, and 32 are not. The ABA is the American Bar Association. The ABA has many missions, but one is to work to maintain a high level of quality instruction in law schools. To be accredited, a law school will go through a three-year process wherein the ABA determines if the law school meets specified educational requirements.
Why should you care whether a particular institution has passed ABA muster or not? Because a degree from a non-ABA accredited law school is not worth much. Most states will not let you sit for the bar exam unless you've graduated from a school meeting the ABA requirements. The one exception is California. While you can sit for the bar in California if you went to a non-ABA institution, keep in mind you may want to move to another state in the future where you would be ineligible to take the bar exam.
Put another way - go ABA or probably don't go at all.
How Long Is Law School?
The traditional legal education takes three years if you are seeking the standard Juris Doctorate. The old adage about law school is they scare you to death in year one, work you to death in the second year, and bore you to death in the third year. As with many cliches, this one is based on a kernel of truth.
Year one is a bit nerve-racking as people wonder who will and will not fail out of the class. Failure rates in law school range from one to twenty-five percent. Generally, the lower the average LSAT score at a school, the higher the failure rate.
If you make it to year two, and most do, expect to lose weight in your hind area because you will be working your rear off. Not only will you be taking classes, but many students pick up clerking and internship jobs outside of law school to gain real-world experience and position themselves for future employment. Clerking and internship jobs tend to be mostly grunt work, but give one a seat to watch the legal system work with real cases versus the endless hypotheticals one experiences in law school. The keys to succeeding in year two are stress management, exercise, eating well, and discipline.
Year three of law school tends to carry a slightly less hectic workload. The average student has completed most of the required classes and is not taking courses on areas of interest - environmental law, family law, etc. These classes tend to align with the student's job at a firm outside of school, which enhances the classes given the lessons taught can be pursued in a real-world environment. As a law school student, I found the third year of law school to be the most enjoyable.
What Is Law School Like?
Law school is a bit of everything - enjoyable, frustrating, emotional, tedious, exciting, stressful, etc. I found many of the foundational classes to be so dull that I had difficulty staying awake. Property law? Eh, not interested. However, I found other courses such as secured transactions fascinating despite the fact the subject matter sounds slightly dry.
On a day-to-day basis, law school is what you make of it. Expect to work much harder than you did as an undergraduate. The gloves are off as far as the professors are concerned. The topics you learn in law school are not particularly difficult. What is difficult is the sheer mass of information and assignments. Most people entering law school assume cases are won because of incredibly talented lawyers. Yes, this can occur. However, the attorney who can grind through thousands of documents is often the one who seizes the day.
Let me give you an example. I was once a member of a team that was defending a multi-million dollar bad faith insurance case. The underlying disputed matters involved tens of thousands of construction documents generated over twenty years. We successfully defended the case not because we had tremendously talented lawyers on the team - we did - but because a law clerk found a single sheet of paper in the mass of documents that contained a statement that destroyed the plaintiff's case. The grunt work won the day. Oh, and the clerk was guaranteed a position as an associate once she passed the bar a year down the road after she graduated law school.
Don't get me wrong. You need to be intelligent to get accepted to and work your way through law school. But intelligence isn't getting you far if you can't pound out ten to twelve hours of intense mental though and focus a day.
Can You Do It?
Yes. I did!
Thinking back, most of the people who did not make it through the full three years in my law school class were individuals who decided they didn't want to be lawyers and voluntarily quit. My best recollection is there were two or three individuals who were ejected involuntarily, and they shared the same trait - an unwillingness to grind through the work. I don't recall a single person the school forced out because they didn't have the intelligence to handle the subject matters taught.
So, it would help if you were honest with yourself. How badly do you want to be a lawyer, and do you have the discipline to grind? If you do, then I don't see any reason why you shouldn't have a go at law school. Take a look at these law school articles for more information.