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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 September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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