Today’s post comes to us from Gina Rowsam, the Assistant Dean at Oklahoma City University School of Law’s Professional and Career Development Center. Ms. Rowsam has been helping young lawyers define and achieve their goals and dreams for over 15 years. She has experience at both public and private institutions. She enjoys working with her colleagues in law schools and pre-law offices across the country as they endeavor to guide students to the best options possible.
Does this describe you? You have always had a dream of going to law school and it is not based on popular culture’s media depictions of what a legal professional does or someone else’s idea that this would be good for you. You have done lots of homework on this topic and have come to the conclusion that this is really the path for you. When someone asks you to describe why you believe this is what you should be doing, you are not limited to superficial or trite retorts that do not convey what your dream is based on or what the realities of being a legal professional demand. Rather, you are able to fully articulate how you see yourself using a legal education to further your own career ambitions while being a servant leader in a public and private sense. In other words, you are NOT using law school as a diversion to postpone the reality of your circumstance. You know deep down that you are destined to be a lawyer.
As you continue to do your research, you come across some information that makes you think that you will only consider certain law schools – the ones that require top GPA’s and LSAT scores. You become concerned that you do not have those, so you postpone your dream by not looking for other options. And, the opportunity clock begins ticking away.
While it may seem logical to only consider certain law schools, by not looking deeper into the “so-called tiers” of options, you may be missing out on some amazing opportunities and leave money on the table. For example, considering the cost of law school, there are many other tiered schools that offer scholarships to students with your GPA/LSAT profile. Even if you could get into a higher-ranked school, the odds of you having to pay full freight are pretty high and the ability to pay back loans that you would invariably have to incur, given current legal job market conditions, may not be the most prudent of moves. For example, at my law school we offer the prestigious Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship which includes a renewable full tuition scholarship, an annual book allowance, and a small living stipend. In addition, the law school offers other merit scholarships (not as generous as the Sumners’ options). Unfortunately, there is not a “one-stop” shopping website that lists all of these opportunities for every law school. So, students will need to know if his or her entering credentials would be sufficient at various law schools to indicate such opportunities and need to ask.
So, if you have summarily dismissed some law schools simply because of what a for-profit magazine tells you about their “worth” it might be wise to take another look and see if you can take advantage of options that may otherwise not be available. Talk to your pre-law advisor about getting the information you need on alternatives and do not be afraid to take an unconventional course.