Law School Discussion

High School Student with an Interest in Law

High School Student with an Interest in Law
« on: March 10, 2014, 06:06:46 PM »
Judging by the patterns on this website, I doubt I'll receive a reply anytime soon, but that's fine. Any feedback is encouraged and welcomed. I know this is obnoxiously lengthy, sorry. I just don't want to have to clarify things at a later point. The important parts are in bold.

My circumstance is this: I'm a graduating high school senior with an acute interest in studying law. My plight is this: the internet has serious discouraged me from attempting a JD. I am curious if I should ignore the general trend or if I should become intimate with a different field that isn't labeled as "dying." I would hate to be the remorseful person who ruled herself "above" getting duped by a broken system as much as I would hate to be the naive imbecile who plunged herself waist deep into unnecessary debt for a bad job.

As far as demographics are concerned, I am a white female from a low-income background. My performance in high school was certainly not anything to boast about, but I would like to think that I have proven in the past four years that I have a particular aptitude for oral/written communication skills and critical reasoning (both of which have led me to contemplating the pursuit of law).

Though I have not really achieved anything worth mentioning, I'll still attend an Honors College at a Tier-1 state university in the fall and graduate without having to take out any loans (as a commuter, my scholarship and Pell Grant cover my tuition/fees with a decent surplus). Because I live in a huge, yet inexpensive, city with good interning prospects (and all that jazz), I know that I can build a good resume and sustain a considerable amount of volunteer hours on top of engaging in collegiate organizations. My biggest concern is maintaining a solid GPA (as that was my weak point in high school), but surely enough effort can guarantee me a 3.8 in a non-math/science degree.

Clearly no one can estimate their LSAT score, but I've been told that scoring a 700 on the SAT Critical Reasoning usually correlates with a 169-173 on the LSAT (and I scored a 730 in the SAT CR, a 750 in the writing with minimum studying and no classes). So, let's say with enough preparation, I am probably capable of scoring around a 170 or maybe just within the aforementioned range.

I'm currently considering a major in either Political Science or Chinese studies (with language concentrations in Mandarin and Vietnamese). But honestly, I'm not sure if they're really bad course studies or not, so I'm open to switching. I'm in a bad position for undergrad because I can't major in anything useful (like science or math). I think the highest level math class I'm capable of making an 'A' in is College Algebra. Yeah, and though I'm suited for it, I'm averse to majors in Business related fields.

With all that said, does anyone have any recommendations or words of warning? Like, what should I major in as an undergraduate? If law is a bad idea for someone with no familial connections? Would I get good financial aid packages on the basis of need at top schools (esp. considering my family will almost certainly never make over $40,000/year in the next 4 years and that I will be a full-time student working jobs for minimum wage)? What about niches in law? What law schools should I be preparing for?

Again, if you take the time out of your day to advise me, I am very grateful. Thank you.

Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2014, 10:05:01 AM »
1) This is a lot. :) I'll try to get through this as concise as possible.

2) Law is not as bad as people claim. What is bad are people's expectations. People expect that by going into $200k worth of debt at a low tier school they will automatically start making $160k and have all the money and time in the world to spend it on fine wine and cured meats... or something like that. The reality is law is just another profession, weather you like it or not is probably more so dependant on you and your attitude.

3) That said, do your homework before you enroll. Find out employment statistics, debt repayment, what is the best case, worst case, and realistic case for you right after graduation, 5 years out, and even, to some extent, 10 years out of law school. The reality is that, unless you are in a top 6 school, the $160k jobs are not really a sure thing.

4) The LSAT is unlike any other test you have ever taken. Speculation is pointless. When the time comes, study your butt off and score as highly as possible. After that, let the chips fall where they will.

5) As far as majors are conerned, just do somethign that you really really enjoy. If you really wanted to just focus on something that is going to help you get into law school, it prob. wont work. That said, I would certainly reccomend coursework heavy in logic, reading, writing, and research. I would then augment that with interesting things like the arts, languages, etc. The LSAT heavily tests your logic and reading comprehension fyi.

6) The strong majority of financial aid comes from merit, not need based. The exceptions are harvard/yale/stanford where they only give out need aid. Other than that, you may get an extra few k for need, maybe.

I think that covers most of it. Anything else?

Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2014, 10:13:18 AM »
And by
the $160k jobs are not really a sure thing.
I mean "fat chance." Certainly outside of the T20 you will need to be the top top top top top of your class - and even then you need to be lucky and well connected. As a loose general guide, here are the general minimum class ranks you will need in order to have some shot at a big law job...

Top 6 - Basically everyone has a real shot to some extent...
T14 - 25-50%
T20 - 50-75%

After T20, you will need to be either in the top 25% of your class if not valedictorian.

Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2014, 04:09:41 PM »
As Miami88 has already pointed out, your GPA/LSAT is pure speculation at this point. I'm not trying to be negative, but the reality is that most people do NOT achieve the high GPA and high LSAT that they think they will.

I've never seen any data which suggests a correlation between LSAT scores and SAT scores. They are very, very different tests. I mean, it makes sense that someone smart enough to score very well on the SAT would possibly do well on the LSAT too, but I'm suspicious of any point for point correlations.

At this early stage the best thing you can do is focus on getting the highest GPA possible. Your actual major won't make too much difference (unless it's in a hard science) as long as you have good grades. A history major might get a slight bump over, say, an art major, but most liberal arts majors will be viewed as roughly equivalent.

As far as the future of law, it depends on what you want to do. If your goal is to be an international policy development lawyer at the U.N., good luck. If your goal is to be a successful partner at a midsized firm, however, that's entirely possible. Think about your long term goals, be realistic, and let that guide your decision making process.

Hope that helps! Good Luck!

Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2014, 07:09:02 PM »
Thank you all very much for your responses.

I'm just as annoyed with myself for resorting to silly speculations as any onlooker would be; most of that elaboration was (perhaps) mapping out my goals for myself. What I mean to say is that I have a history of doing fairly well on standardized tests and general measurements of logic skills (verbal reasoning, speech and general critical thinking are the two areas in which I would like to think above the curve). From what I understand, the LSAT is heavily concentrated in those areas and features no arithmetic (hallelujah). People may argue that mathematics is purely logic, but I'm specifically incapable of conceptualizing numbers. However, that applies strictly to numbers. But again, I'm prone to ranting on pointless things, ignore my speculations.

I believe my goals will formulate more in the next two years (and college will probably do a fine job of revealing my capabilities). I know to people who are experienced lawyers/in law school, it's a bit ridiculous for a 17-year-old to actively seek advice on law school, but from what I understand, it was probably smart of me to do so. Many of the available fellowships I've come across begin their screening processes as early as sophomore year and awareness generally breeds readiness.

I really could not care less about making above the median salary in law. If I could find a job that guaranteed a comfy $60,000 annual salary, I would be more than pleased with my income. I'm mostly interested by taxation policies and human rights, I would think my expectations would be met if I was successful enough in either of those concentrations. Personal success, job security and the opportunity for charitable work mean more to me than elitist titles/accolades.

At this point, it feels nice to be given time by any in the profession on the topic, so I thank you again. If anyone has any specific information they know about summer internships, fellowships and grants for grad school, I would love to hear it.

Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 10:15:11 AM »
1) Don't be annoyed with yourself, ever. You are obviously a passionate, driven, intelligent individual. The whole reason you posted on here, I hope, is to get different perspectives than your own. Be proud of this farsightedness, it, sadly, is a rare attribute in the majority of 0Ls.

2) Hope for the best, plan for the worst, expect something in between.

3) At this point, just kick major butt in your undergrad. Get the strongest GPA you possibly can, do some internships, part-time work, participate in community service and other extra curricular things that interest you. If you want, go to grad school and broaden your knowledge about a given field you hope to practice law in, even take a few years to work in it as a non-lawyer if you want. Study your butt off for the LSAT. Get strong letter of recommendations, write killer essays, etc. This is all - and in many ways, more than - it takes to get into even the best law schools. But, it sounds like you are already planning on doing this.

Good luck and enjoy college! :)


Re: High School Student with an Interest in Law
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2014, 08:38:51 PM »
Just focus on undergrad. Remember ANY major is of equal value getting into a JD in America. "Pre-Law" is not required, so I would recommend that you get a major in something that you enjoy and would be ok doing as a career if you later decide not to go to law school (or don't get in, etc)

Honestly I'd recommend taking a few medical courses since you are good at math. If you enjoy that and are good at it, then sit the MCAT and see how that goes. Most lawyers will tell you they are bad at math and that played a role in their career choice.