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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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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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