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Thinking About Law?

While other parts of this site provide introductory information on some common questions about law school, the most valuable thing that you can take away is a mindset or general approach to thinking not only about law school but about your career and professional interests in general.

The decision to apply is only one piece of pursuing a legal career. Getting an early start on thinking about your career interests will help you to get the most out of your law school experience. It will also help you to submit a law school application that is more compelling and appealing to law school admissions officials.

Take Ownership

The earlier that you adopt a proactive orientation to pursuing your professional interests, the better off you will be. In short, you need to take ownership of your own career exploration.

Most college students have been students almost all of their lives. The mindset of a student is to follow instructions from a single source of authority and information: the teacher. As you enter into the arena of career exploration, you will be best off if you leave that teacher-student mindset at the door. It will not serve you well in the transition from college student to professional.

You and each of your classmates are unique, with your own interests, goals, inclinations, and personal circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all syllabus for developing your career. When it comes to your professional life after college, there will not be a teacher there to score your decisions or to give you a final grade at the end. You are the one who will be living the outcomes of your choices on a daily basis. Others can offer resources and suggestions, but you set the agenda and make the choices.

Explore Your Interests

Although teachers like to think of their own areas of expertise as extremely significant, the most important thing that you can learn about in college is what interests you. Take a broad, holistic approach to exploring your career interests. Do not begin with the question: “Yes or no on law school?” Begin with bigger picture questions: “What do I find intriguing?” “What kinds of challenges do I find engaging and worthwhile?” “In what kinds of work environments do I thrive?” Work from those answers to more specific questions about how to pursue your aims.

The University of Richmond is teeming with opportunities for exploring your interests. Watch for speakers or events on campus; is there one that piques your curiosity? Attend it. If it holds your interest, then take the cue to pursue the topic further. If you find it boring, it has not been a waste of time. Learning about what does not interest you can be just as important as learning about what does.    

Do the Research

Exploring career options will require research, something you have built skills in during your studies. Call on that expertise in the context of exploring your career interests. If there is a field or subject that intrigues you, then find out everything you can about it. Be a detective both in discerning which fields interest you and in locating information regarding those fields.

There is no one authoritative source of information on legal education. Sources of information about applying to law school necessarily are written in general terms. Use general sources of information (including this one) as starting points, but follow up by doing your own research geared towards your particular circumstances. Talk to people with different perspectives.

Note that Career Services has an excellent collection of books and resources on law school and law-related careers, which are very useful in getting an overview of key topics relating to law school and law-related careers.

Invest the Time

Exploring your career interests will require a significant investment of time. Rather than leaving it as something to do all at once near the end of your time in college, view it as an integral part of your college education (and workload) from this point forward.

If you are leaning towards law school, keep in mind that applying to law school involves many time-consuming components, including: researching and selecting schools, preparing for the LSAT, writing personal essays, and managing multiple applications. Plan ahead by learning about the process early on and making sure that you have the lead time to put forth your best effort.