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6 Reasons You Should Consider Attending Law School

6 Reasons You Should Consider Attending Law School

Law school, as exciting and thrilling as it may sound, is all about fit and compatibility. I mean this in terms of which law school you should choose to attend (more on this later), as well as whether you should even attend law school at all. The main purpose of this article is to help you answer the latter part. If many of the points in this piece apply to you, a career in the legal world may very well be for you. However, this article, as informative as it may be, should serve merely as a guide–but hopefully will provide you some very valuable insight!

1. You want to take advantage of the less competitive law school admissions

The dog-eat-dog days of the 2000s are over (at least for now). Because of the growing surplus of law school grads, many people have been forced to accept jobs that are not law related and, even more disturbingly, many have been left unemployed.

Because of this, many law schools over the past several years have seen a plummet in applications, which, in turn, has contributed to a drop in average LSAT scores and GPAs, making law school admission, as a whole, less competitive. While Harvard’s 15.4% acceptance rate is not a laughing matter, it is nearly four percentage points higher than it was in 2009.

Consequently, because of the drop in enrollment, the number of people applying for jobs in the legal market has also declined. However, if enrollment happens to increase again within the next few years, so too will applications to firm jobs.

While application numbers have hit their lowest in 30 years, this may very well be just a phase. This means that if law school is your calling, you better apply as soon as possible.

2. You want a high-earning potential

Not all legal jobs are high paying, but if you’re looking for a six-digit starting salary in a field that is not medicine or engineering, look no further. Entry-level level attorneys at big law firms are known to earn as much as $160,000 per year. Take into account bonuses, and you have got yourself a lucrative career.

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There are a few important things to consider. The first thing is debt. With private law school debt reaching an all-time high average of $125,000, it is no wonder it often takes attorneys, even those in big law, several years to pay it off.

That being said, this alone should not deter anyone from going to law school. Even people with lower-paying jobs (e.g. government, public interest, academia) typically are able to pay off their debt in a timely manner.

Additionally, big law jobs tend to be concentrated in big cities, such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Therefore, if you don’t think you would enjoy life in a fast-paced urban environment, then it’s probably not for you.

3. You want to make a positive difference

While they do not typically pay nearly as much as large corporate law firms, public interest firms are a popular route for people looking to facilitate positive social and political change–both global and domestic.

Whether you are looking to work for a nonprofit organization, a federal government office, or as a public defender, there are a variety of ways to make a positive difference in fields ranging from human rights and environmental policy to workers’ compensation and education policy.

The types of work available are just as varied as the areas of issue. For some, litigation is the way to go, while, for others, it is trial or transactional work.

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With public interest salaries ranging from $40,000 to $70,000, money is not usually the motivating factor for pursuing this route. Rather, it is the desire to drive positive change and make a difference in the lives of others.

4. You want the intellectual challenge

Because of all the writing, reading, and critical thinking that a legal education requires, law school is challenging and, therefore, tends only to attract the brightest, most capable of college students. While most people choose to attend law school for its real-world legal training, many pursue it simply for its academics, oftentimes seeing law school as a career in and of itself.

One of the most intellectually challenging–and sometimes most exciting–law school activities is participating in Socratic debate, also known as the Socratic method. Typically, a professor will randomly call on a student, ask an open-ended question about an difficult legal topic, and expect the student to provide an answer, along with an explanation to his or her reasoning. In the process, the professor will challenge the student’s position with more open-ended questions and, by doing so, eliminate contradictions and force the student to question their own assumptions. In the end, the professor will summarize all the thoughts and ideas brought to the table during the Socratic debate.

Because the Socratic method is one of the most integral aspects of the law school experience, one should not attend law school unless they can handle grueling in-class questioning and be constantly prepared to contribute to classroom discussion.

5. You want to expand your career opportunities

While popular wisdom holds that you should not attend law school unless you plan to become an attorney, the truth is that a law degree can open doors to many fields outside the legal world. A law degree is versatile because law really is connected to virtually everything; after all, law provides the framework within which our society functions. Also, a legal education gives you the ability to think critically and logically, skills that anyone who wants to succeed should use.

Whether they started out as attorneys or headed straight to non-legal fields, plenty of people have benefited from their law degrees in various non-legal careers. Popular career paths that come to mind include journalism, politics, entrepreneurship, counseling/psychology, and academia.

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While I normally would advise against attending law school without any intention of becoming a lawyer, if you absolutely know what you want from a legal education and how it would benefit you in your career, by all means. Even if you do not know, a law degree can very well open doors that you probably would have never imagined.

6. You did well on the LSAT

The two things that matter most on a law school application are your college GPA and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score. The LSAT is a standardized test administered four times a year that allows law schools to accurately measure a student’s reading comprehension, and logical and analytical reasoning abilities, skills that are vitally important for any person’s law school success.

With the lowest possible score at 120 and the highest possible score at 180, the LSAT is a highly learnable test that, with plenty of preparation, many people can do well on. While a score of 150 is generally considered the median, a score of 164 would normally rank in the 90th percentile (top 10 percent). Oftentimes, people who score in the low 140s on a cold diagnostic practice test end up scoring above 165 on the real thing, but that takes time and practice.

Do you think you have what it takes to ace the LSAT? In that case, I have provided a link to an actual LSAC-sponsored LSAT practice exam, which you can take to gauge your ability to perform on the actual test. If you score low, do not be discouraged. Remember: the LSAT is a conquerable test–so long as you put in the time and effort.

Before I close, I would like to provide a few caveats. Since law school is extremely expensive (and increasingly so) you should probably decide against attending law school unless you have received a substantial amount of scholarship or are attending a top-ranking law school. That is not to say that getting a Juris Doctor (JD) from a top law school will guarantee success, but it is worth noting that certain schools have better employment statistics than others.

The US News & World Report (USNWR) law school rankings, while controversial, actually provide important and useful law school employment information. Since employment statistics carry significant weight in the rankings (20%), there is, unsurprisingly, a mostly positive correlation between a school’s ranking and its employment rates and starting salaries. Some of the top 20 schools, according to this source, include schools such as Yale, UC Berkeley, University of Virginia, Harvard, Northwestern, UT Austin, Vanderbilt, UCLA, and the University of Chicago.

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That being said, I would strongly advise against making the USNWR rankings the main determinant in your law school decision-making. However, it should serve, at the very least, as a general guide, just as this article should.

If you think this article may have led you in that direction, start doing as much research as you possibly can–read newspaper and magazine articles about law school and the legal world, shadow a local attorney or judge, or get in touch with current law students or professors. Be absolutely sure that this is what you want to do.

Good luck in all your future endeavors!

Featured photo credit: Woman Working On Laptop From Hotel Bed/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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