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Department of Political and Global Affairs

Law School Info

Many students are interested in pursuing a career in the law. Law offers many benefits, but law school also demands time, effort, and money. Use available resources to learn about legal careers, prepare for law school, and succeeding in law school.

How can you tell if you really want to be a lawyer?
  • Think about what you want out of your career.
  • What are your long and short-term goals?
  • Is a law degree necessary for you to accomplish your goals?
  • Talk to lawyers who enjoy practicing, and to those who don’t.
  • Talk to criminal lawyers, corporate lawyers, solo-practitioners, public service lawyers.
  • Talk to lawyers who have gone into business, journalism or academia.
  • Visit a law school and sit in on some classes. Do you find the subject matter interesting?
  • Do you find the professors intimidating, or challenging? Could you imagine being one of the students?
  • Explore legal employment opportunities
  • Consider landing a PS 4040: Pre-Law Internship to further evaluate the profession
FAQs and Handbooks

Being an attorney—like any career– offers both satisfying aspects and frustrating aspects. Bowdoin College reports results from interviews of practicing attorneys about what they love and hate about their jobs.


Challenging Work

Both inexperienced and experienced attorneys report that they love the frequent challenges that arise and change daily.


Working in law can be a lucrative profession or it can provide moderate income depending upon the employment sector you choose. Most law students are willing to shoulder three years of expensive law school tuition in hopes of high return upon passage of the bar and employment. The median salary of law school graduates 9 months after graduation in 2006 was around $62,000; in 2004, $55,000. Salary highs range from $80,000 for those in private practice to a low around $40,000 for those working academia, according to the National Association of Law Placement (NALP). NALP employment analyses for the graduating class of 2008 found that for the first time since 2003, the employment rate of known graduates shrank to 89.9%, compared to a rate of 92% employment in 2007, and 90% in 2006 and 2005.

Helping People

People Lawyers state over and over again how much satisfaction it gives them to serve people by representing them in court or educating them about their legal rights. Many attorneys who move into the non-profit and government sectors say that fighting for social justice is their primary reason for being in law. Prestige Law is one of the most well-respected professions in the country. Paradoxically, lawyers also have a bad image in the collective consciousness. Enduring the slings and arrows of bad attorney comes with the territory.


Many entry-level employees in other industries find that they have to pay their dues in clerical work. Law employers will expect you to hit the ground running. Seniors rely heavily on associates for research and preparation, and associates reported that a great deal of their personal satisfaction came from their high level of responsibility and the challenge of seeing a project through from start to finish.


Billable Hours

If you work in a private firm, you will inevitably face the monster named “billable.” Private firms make their money by billing clients by the hour, and every person in a private firm is required to fulfill a quota.

Hierarchical Structure

One of the most unappealing aspects of beginning a career in law is paying homage to those who have gone before you. Law is a very hierarchical industry where the juniors must show proper respect to the seniors. And the seniors are allowed to expect and demand that associates produce…and produce…and produce. This doesn’t mean that vertical relationships have to be unpleasant. Many law firms have mentoring programs where senior lawyers will take fledglings under their wings and teach them the ropes.

Long Hours

Though hours vary by geographical area and the kind of law practiced, entry-level lawyers working for the state or federal government report that an average workday is around nine hours long. If you’re working at a private firm, make that a 60-hour workweek (as well as the occasional weekend). If you decide to work in New York City, don’t make plans with friends for a few years.

No Balance

Most lawyers report that the hardest thing about their job is choosing between their personal lives and their careers on a daily basis. For most, this means that family, friends, and significant others may feel overlooked. And newcomers are expected to pay their dues with many long hours and inflexible deadlines.


Deadlines are often set in stone. Some types of law like litigation or corporate law are particularly inflexible. This means that associates must work as long as it takes to finish researching and preparing their work for a meeting with a client or another lawyer.

Tedious Research

Associates spend a lot of time doing the groundwork for their supervisors. This can mean hours of research, writing and proofreading, drafting and re-drafting documents, and waiting for approval. This kind of attention to detail and clarity is an essential skill for lawyers to develop; it will involve hours of concentration and dedication to a single task.

Legal careers can involve courtroom argumentation, legal theory and advocacy, or mediation of disputes. The Department offers skills/activity courses in each area, where you can gain knowledge, practical experience, and tremendous friendships. In all three cases, students work with faculty members to prepare and compete in state and national competitions. 

PS 2100 Legal Courtroom Procedure. (EXL)
For students interested in developing trial advocacy skills; practical course offering preparation for mock trial competition. One credit, but may be repeated up to three times.

PS 2110.Moot Court. (EXL)
Students conduct research of legal controversies, prepare briefs, and argue cases before a mock judicial panel. One credit, but may be repeated up to four times.

PS 2120. Mediation Procedure. (EXL)
For students interested in developing skills as a mediator and an advocate in mediation settings. Practical application of theories, methods, and ethical components of mediation. Participation in intercollegiate mediation competition. May be repeated for up to four hours of credit. Pass/Fail.

It is an absolute necessity to get some serious advice on law school financing. Major debt can be a serious impediment to getting on with life after law school, and thus it is essential to get clear information and a sound plan before starting. The resources below are a start, but are not a substitute for discussions with professionals.

Law School Finance Resources

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