Making the choice to attend law school can be a daunting one, especially with the time and financial commitment involved. But what if you decide later on in life that practicing law is your true calling? Or that earning your J.D. could bring an advantage to your career?
Some people fear that they may be too old to attend law school, but that is simply not the case. In reality, there isn’t a perfect age to attend law school, so don’t hold yourself back. Learn about some of the reasons it could benefit you to attend law school later in life.
Benefits of Attending Law School Later in Life
While most law school candidates are under the age of 25, about 20 percent are 30 or older, according to U.S. News & World Report. This means you may be in the minority if you’re attending law school after 40, but you’re certainly not alone. Career changers, and others seeking a legal education, apply to law school quite often, despite any worries that they may be too old.
Opting to go to law school later in your career can come with many advantages, so don’t be scared off by the fact that you may be older than some of your fellow students. In fact, you may end up having an easier time than other classmates for a few reasons:
You generally have more career experience. By the time you apply to law school—depending on your current stage of life—you may have quite a bit of work experience under your belt. That professional experience could lend itself to helping you succeed in law school assignments or internships.
Your life experience may also help you. After earning an undergraduate degree, you will gain some life experience in the time between undergraduate and when decide to enter law school. That experience could give you an advantage as you work through course material, especially if you’ve had direct experience with how legal certain concepts are applied in the real world.
You’ll be able to expand your network. While you may already have an extensive professional network, going to law school can give you a fresh opportunity to expand your network and meet more people.
Things to Consider Before Going to Law School
There are numerous factors to consider before attending law school, so before you jump in with both feet, make sure you have a plan. You have the chance to create a great second career or advance on your current path, but there will be some challenges to plan for along the way.
Preparing for the LSAT
Studying for the LSAT will take up a good deal of time, so it’s a good idea to consider this even before you begin your application process. In some cases, schools may accept–but not require–LSAT scores. At St. Francis School of Law, we accept both LSAT and GRE scores, although neither standardized test is required to apply. So, while preparing for the LSAT is an option if you think it will strengthen your application, it’s not needed if you are applying to St. Francis.
Gathering application materials
Ensure that you have everything you need before you start to apply. If you’re attending law school after 40, it may be more difficult to track down past college professors to write recommendation letters or to locate your college transcripts. While letters of recommendation at St. Francis are optional and can come from professional, academic, or personal contacts, we do request that you submit only one letter per category. Prepare well ahead of time so that you have time to procure what you need.
Consider your career goals
If you’re looking to earn your J.D. in order to switch careers, it can be helpful to map out your ideal career path before applying. There’s no need to think through every small detail, but law schools will want to see that you have a career goal in mind. Older law school students often have an advantage here, because of life experience. You may have a clear idea of why you want to attend law school and how it will benefit your career, or allow you to use work experience that younger law students do not have. When you submit your application essay, make sure to outline those goals clearly so that the admissions staff knows exactly what you want to gain from this experience.
Create a financial plan
You may find it helpful to come up with a plan to manage your finances while you’re in school. You may need to make that plan with your spouse or life partner so that they know how much you can contribute to monthly expenses as well as how much you’ll be paying for school, or how much debt you may incur. It’s a good idea to look at both public and private law school options to determine which one may be the most feasible for you and your family. While planning, make sure to look at our tuition at St. Francis. As the first not-for-profit online law school, we have always been committed to providing an affordable, accessible online J.D.
Establish a support system
Make sure to have a plan in place so that you can still fulfill your other obligations. Once you’re in law school, studying will take up a large part of each week, so sit down with your family and make sure they know exactly what you’ll be doing, when you’ll need to get it done, and how they can help you succeed. Doing this helped St. Francis grad Frederick Chernoff immensely:
“Part of why I’ve done so well in law school is that I’ve got my wife’s parents and my parents living in the same city and I’ve got siblings here, and then on top of that, I have a huge social network of support. It’s not like they were doing my homework for me or my reading for me, but if they were having a family event and I couldn’t go, they always respected that — they always backed off if they could see that I was just too stressed out. When they could see I wasn’t, they still invited me to things. I think sharing your experience with the people around you in your life, it’ll make it a lot easier.”
It’s important to know your own limits as well. If you aren’t wired to stay up late studying, then plan in a way that doesn’t force you to burn the midnight oil each night. After all, trying to absorb material when you’re tired isn’t an effective way to study.
Consider Earning Your J.D. Online
If you’re considering going to law school later in life, and don’t want to stop working, you may want to consider an online J.D. program. Many students find the online format to be a more efficient option without sacrificing the quality of the academic experience.
Fully online programs offer a level of flexibility that’s virtually impossible to replicate in a traditional setting. Campus-based programs will require you to be on-site at certain times of the day, which may not work if you have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations. While online law schools do have deadlines and regular class times, fully online law schools like St. Francis School of Law are designed with working professionals in mind and afford students a greater level of flexibility.
That level of flexibility may prove to be invaluable to you as you progress through your courses and eventually prepare to take the bar exam in your state. You can use that flexibility to study when you want and still be there for the important events in your life. As long as you make a plan and stick to it, then the flexibility of online school can benefit you.
Diverse student body
Law school can be a fantastic opportunity to meet and interact with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Over 60 percent of students attending St. Francis typically have a Ph.D. or master’s degree, and over half typically hold other professional licenses. Most of our students also have over 15 years of work experience and come from a range of backgrounds and industries. You’ll network with a student body of dedicated professionals and industry experts.
One of the things that makes the St. Francis online J.D. experience special is our high level of faculty interaction. With a low student-faculty ratio, all of our students receive tailored instruction and personalized attention. According to Chernoff, “St. Francis has really high-quality professors that will put in the extra mile. I’ve never had a single professor that didn’t get back to me the same day. Some of them say they’ll take longer than that but they never did. They’ll talk to you on the phone. They’ll text you if that’s what you prefer. They’ll do whatever it takes to get your understanding there.”
Learn More About St. Francis School of Law
If you’re ready to start the process of applying to law school, our team is ready to help you. Contact us today to learn more about St. Francis and how you can get started on your J.D. Remember, you’re never too old to start law school.