Getting a law degree is a lofty goal. There is a lot of work involved between classes, papers, exams, and just learning about the law in general. Choosing the school that’s right for you is the first step on your journey to becoming a practicing lawyer. Once you have the right school, you must be sure you know how to pay for it and get the tools you need to ensure your school career is successful, preferably without going into lifelong debt. You also need to consider networking opportunities and internships, both of which will help when it comes time to graduate and land your first job. This guide can help you navigate through much of that and keep you from having to scour the internet or getting bad advice from people who mean well but might not have all the information you need.
Resources for Law Students
When it comes to getting a law degree, accreditation is important. Getting both your undergraduate and future law degrees from regionally accredited schools is not just advised, it’s mandatory. Graduating from an unaccredited four-year institution will make you ineligible to take the LSAT, the exam required for admission into law school. If you graduate from an accredited four-year school but choose a law school that isn’t regionally accredited, you cannot sit for the bar exam. That’s why making sure both schools are accredited is vital. You will have wasted a lot of time and money otherwise. When it comes to law school, an extra requirement is that the school and program must be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). You cannot take the bar exam if the program isn’t accredited.
There are six regional accreditation bodies that oversee accreditation for colleges and universities in the United States.
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
As their names suggest, these accrediting bodies oversee schools and programs located in their geographic locations. Schools with any of these accreditations will be recognized by the US Department of Education, and therefore students are eligible for grants and federal loans. A school that does not have this distinction is not, and therefore students are forced to take out private loans and cannot apply for federal grants.
Questions About Financial Aid
Getting the money together to pay for an undergraduate degree is a challenge, even with Pell grants and federal loans. But once law school comes into play, things can get complicated and expensive. Many people make it through their undergraduate degree with little to no debt, thanks to scholarships and grants like the Pell Grant. But when you consider that a year of law school can cost five to ten times what a year of undergraduate school costs, it’s easy to see how large a financial endeavor it actually is. And, unlike for undergraduates, many grants, including the Federal Pell grant are no longer available. There are grants and scholarships available for law school students, the information should be available at the law school of your choosing. Your time as an undergraduate should be easier to finance, with a plethora of grants, scholarships, and other options available to you.
Grants can be found in a variety of areas, such as a parent’s workplace, the school itself, or from an organization to which you might belong. Your school’s financial aid office should have a list of grants that you can use to find financial assistance. Another area to search is scholarships. Again your college should have information on this, but you can also search the Department of Labor’s scholarship database for possible scholarships.
If all else fails to generate enough funds to pay for your law degree, law school student loans are always an option. The federal government has several loan programs for students or their parents. Check with the financial aid counselor at your school for the best options. Federal loans are offered by the Federal government, while private loans are offered by specific banks. It’s best to compare these thoroughly, as the interest rates and payment terms can vary wildly between the two.
Like most professions, lawyers also have associations dedicated to helping those in the industry. But there are some you can join before you graduate from law school and pass the bar. Some associations offer complete membership, while others offer discounted student memberships. These organizations can help keep you in tune with changes in the industry, help with networking or set you up with possible job opportunities once you’ve graduated, even if you are only pre-law when you enter.
- ABA for Law Students
This is American Bar Asociation’s membership for law students.
- National Lawyers Association
This is another association all lawyers can join while they are still students. The National Lawyers Association offers membership to law school students. The organization allows students to network, research and interact with other students as well as working attorneys.
- Law Student Professional Development
This forum is more for those who educate law students, but the students can glean a lot from the research and articles as well.
- American Bar Association
The American Bar Association is one of the most well-known organizations for lawyers in the country. Law students can join and gain valuable networking and researching tool.
Student or Open Access Journals
Professionals recognize the importance of reading magazines and journals dedicated to their field or craft. However, a good time to start this practice is while you’re still a student. Reading professional journals helps you keep up with your profession, something that might not happen if you depend solely on your studies. It also provides different perspectives and can help you home in on a practice area or avoid areas that you aren’t suited for.
- National Jurist for pre-Law
This magazine is specifically for law students. The publication includes articles about working in the profession, study tips and other areas of interest for law students.
- Student Lawyer Magazine
This is the ABA’s magazine for law school students.
- ABA Journal
Students can also get limited access to the ABA’s journal for working lawyers. It’s more industry-focused than the student version.
- National Review
A legal journal for practicing attorneys and students.
Law Student Study Resources
Although most people think of law students running from one building to another and huddled together in a library or dorm room cramming for an exam, there are also opportunities to get a law degree online. To coincide with that, there are also a lot of online resources available to law students, regardless of how they’re pursuing their degree or where they are in the process. Unlike some resources that you have to order from a library or share with other students, online resources are available with the click of a mouse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Law School Toolbox
this site has a library of different resources a law student can utilize for help with courses, testing, and other areas where college students need assistance.
- Bloomberg Law
portal to articles and breakdown of cases heard by courts across the country including SCOTUS.
- Above the Law
a website devoted to providing resources for law students in a variety of areas, from study aids to testing prep.
- West Law
the website is chock-full of resources on how to research law cases and search for the best case to match a statute or argument you’re assigned to argue or defend.
For students who are studying either at home, school. or on the go; having apps accessible on a phone or tablet can make the process easier. Most students have note-taking, word processing, and calendar apps on their phones, but for law or pre-law students there are specific apps that you can install that can help you navigate the challenges of school. Now, even with a half-hour commute by bus or train, you can study, quiz yourself, or make sure you have all the definitions you need when you sit down to write that paper or take an exam. These apps make time management easier and enable you to better use your resources.
- Law School Dojo
an app with games, flashcards, and other resources to make studying for exams ad preparing for mock trials easier.
- Hein Online
portal for searching of legal documents. The app is for iPhone and iPads.
- West Law App
this is the West Law library condensed into an app; available for iPhone and iPad. You can access the law dictionary and pull up legal briefs.
- Black’s Law Dictionary
One of the more popular law dictionaries in an app. This app is expensive with a price of $60, but it’s worth considering because it is well-regarded and popular.
- NOLOS English Law Dictionary
also a popular dictionary and a free resource.
- Camera to PDF and JotNot
These are apps that allow you to take a picture and convert the picture into a PDF file; ideal for multiple pages of legal briefs that need to be read. This way, you can snap the photos of the pages, convert them to PDFs and read them anywhere. Available on the App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android.
Internships can be found in every area of law. If there’s a law firm or a court system, there’s a chance to intern. But just because there are law firms in the area doesn’t mean they are the right fit for you. Seeking out a firm that specializes in your area of interest, or just sounds interesting, is ideal. Most internships are submitted to law schools across the country, but you can also use websites such as the ABA for resources.
- Travelers Summer Internships
These internships match law students with lawyers in their particular areas of interest. The summer internships are conducted in law firms and students will be tasked with first-year law graduate duties.
- Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline Judicial Clerkship Program
This program encourages judges to consider minority or otherwise disadvantaged law students for clerkships. In return, this is also an opportunity for disadvantaged or minority law students to have a chance to clerk for judges around the country.
- ABA Prudential Summer Internship
Internship for law students who want to work closely with Prudential lawyers and get a better understanding regarding insurance law.
- ABA-Microsoft Summer Internship
Law students will intern at the Redwood, Washington office in the legal, external and corporate departments. They will work closely with attorneys in these departments and gain valuable knowledge and experience.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Here is a listing of job boards law students can use when it’s time to start searching for that first job.
Sometimes landing that first job fresh out of law school can be a challenge, especially if you’re in a smaller market or want to work in a specific area of law. For those struggling to land a job, temp agencies can be of assistance. There are several temp agencies that either specialize in law, or work with clients large enough to need people in a variety of areas including their legal departments. Here is a list of some of the more popular and successful temp agencies for those seeking positions in the legal field.
Resources for Law Professionals
Professional Legal Associations
Once you’ve finished school and have entered the workforce, professional associations become even more important. Most lawyers automatically join the American Bar Association as well as the organization attached to their state bar association, but there are other organizations that should be considered as well. It’s through these organizations that you’ll keep track of what’s going on in your industry, learn about new employment when it opens up, and keep track of any educational opportunities that might be available. Some employers might require you to be a member of some organizations but, even without that requirement, being a member of professional organizations is still a good idea. If you joined organizations when you were still a student, professional membership is generally easy, provided you meet the guidelines for professional membership, which is usually graduating and passing the bar exam for your state.
Along with professional organizations, law journals are an important part of a lawyer’s career. These publications are a wealth of information about the industry itself, along with providing information about recent rulings, interesting cases, and the political arena. Reading these publications, as well as possibly writing for one or more of them is a part of a lawyer’s career path and will help new lawyers progress and move up in a firm. Being informed is an important part of being a lawyer, so subscribing to a few professional journals is never a bad thing.
- Above the Law
Published by Breaking Media, Above the Law is an online legal publication covering news, commentary, and financial issues from a legal standpoint.
- National Jurist is a publication for law students and practicing lawyers.
- ABA Journal
The magazine of the American Bar Association
- National Review
Industry Conferences for Law Professionals
Conferences and conventions are part of the norm for certain professions, including lawyers. They are ideal places for lawyers to learn new technology to assist with client management, keep up with what’s going on in the industry, and complete any new training that might be required to keep a license or certification current. Conferences are held around the country and throughout the year, so finding one that suits your needs and busy schedule shouldn’t be an issue. Several of the larger and more popular conventions are listed below.
- ABA Tech Show
Sponsored by the American Bar Association, this convention is for lawyers and smaller law firms that are interested in incorporating more tech into their practices.
- LMA Annual Conference
The Legal Marketing Association sponsors this conference to help lawyers learn new and innovative marketing techniques to help grow their practices.
- Small Firm Bootcamp
Just as the name describes, this conference helps lawyers start and grow their firms. At the end of the conference, attendees will be fully equipped to run their own businesses.
- AILA Annual Conference
A yearly conference for immigration attorneys. It is sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.