Blog 16 – Considering Law School or a Career in Criminal Justice? What Should You Know?
What Careers Require a Law Degree?
Typically, legal careers are divided into those within the courtroom and those outside (Haidar, 2021). Legal jobs in the courtroom include, but are not limited to, chief court clerk, court administrator, court interpreter, judge, jury commissioner, and mediation coordinator (also called arbitrator or conciliator).
Rather than working in a courtroom, law school graduates can also enter a law firm. These firms can be public or private, serving corporates or individuals. Depending on the specific company, the options for careers in a law firm are plentiful and include, but are not limited to, plaintiff attorneys (also known as personal injury lawyers), corporate lawyers, contract negotiators, claims examiners, title examiners, and university attorneys. (Haidar, 2021)
All of the above careers would require you to have a Law degree and pass an intensive bar exam.
Entering a Law School
You cannot enter Canadian or US law schools directly from high school. After finishing high school, continue on to higher education (post-secondary) studies. Any undergraduate degree is good preparation for law school, e.g. BA, BSc, BBA, BComm, BEng., even BMus (Locatelli, 2020).
There is always a misconception that only Arts undergraduate degrees are good preparation for Law schools. This is false! Students should understand that there are numerous types of lawyers and a variety of ways to practice law.
As we mentioned, when people imagine careers related to law, the typical jobs that come to mind are ones that involve public speaking in courtrooms, such as positions as judges and trial lawyers. However, there are also law jobs where public speaking is rare and which don’t require showing up for court, such as transactional attorney positions that involve negotiating business deals, writing contracts, and filling out legal paperwork (Kowarski, 2019).
Therefore, these prospective attorneys who want to focus on the legal compliance of a corporation may want to consider a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce as preparation for law school.
In theory, you can enter a law school without completing your undergraduate degree. However, it is fairly rare, and you need to be an exceptional applicant to enter law school without completing a four-year undergraduate degree.
Additionally, nearly all Canadian and US law schools require students to take the standard LSAT as the entrance exam. The LSAT exam is held online and is held up to eight times a test cycle in the months of June, August/September, October, November, January, February, March, and April.
Students must complete both portions of the LSAT exam including multiple-choice questions and an essay. You may write the test more than once. However, you should check with each desired law school to see how it treats multiple writings of the test since some law schools average the scores while others take the highest score. Many applicants tend to write the test in the summer after the third year or during the first term of their fourth year of the undergraduate degree (Locatelli, 2020).
The Bar Exam
In Canada and US, completion of a law degree alone is not sufficient to permit a candidate to practice law (that is, work as a lawyer). You must also write and pass the bar exam for the province or state in which you intend to practice.
Is Law School Right for You?
With TV shows, movies, novels, the promised pay, and the pride it brings to the family, becoming a lawyer seems like a great decision. But you shouldn’t be ignorant of the realities when deciding to go to a law school.
Students should be introspective and ask themselves why they should or should not go to law school.
There are some questions for you to consider:
- What are your academic strengths and desires? Law students do a lot of research, reading, and writing. They must possess stellar reasoning skills. It is ok if these are not your strengths, but you want to be determined that you’re willing to strengthen such academic areas; otherwise, think about your decision one more time.
- Can I afford law school? Similar to medical schools, going to a law school is a big investment in both time and money.
- What’s your plan with your law degree? Do I know the career path that I want to pursue? If you intend to graduate from law school to hang your JD diploma on the wall, why bother?
Your decision makes more sense if you are clear about the specific law career you want to pursue in the future. If not, how about pausing the decision-making and seeking advice from experts? A piece of good advice is to book a consulting meeting with a Giraffe expert or conduct a career path selection questionnaire. Getting advice from experienced lawyers in various fields is also highly valuable. Doing so will help you select your law school wisely and ensure you get the experience you need to achieve your long-term goal.
Haidar, H. (2021, April 18). What can you do with a law degree?: A lawyer’s guide to career alternatives inside, outside & around the law. QS Top Universities. https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/what-can-you-do-law-degree
Kowarski, I. (2019, May 28). What J.D. Hopefuls Should Know About Areas of Law. USNews.com. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/articles/2019-05-28/what-law-school-applicants-should-know-about-the-many-types-of-lawyers
Locatelli, L. (2020). So, You want to become a lawyer. Cultura e Diritti, 1, 39–49. https://doi.org/10.12871/97888331806944