Non-Trad Law Applicants: Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

    Law School Admissions

    8375235460_79f5ebb9b5_zOlder (or "non-traditional") applicants to law school may face challenges that are somewhat different from those typically encountered by recent college graduates. Your worldly possessions amount to a bit more than a laptop, a duffel bag, and a Bob Marley poster. You may be able to convice yourself that moving from Marin County to New Haven is a "smart move," but try convincing your spouse (and kids) to do the same.

    Law school is expensive, and the debt burden would be especially onerous for someone who may end up paying off student loans after they retire. Don't be that guy! Do whatever you can to get scholarship money (which is doable provided you have the numbers for it) and cover the remaining balance with savings, which you should have plenty of at your age. Also, don't bank on a firm job to pay back your loans, unless you go to a top-14 school; even then, older applicants have a harder time convincing employers that they are committed to the process of making partner. Your prior work experience might have cultivated a strong work ethic, but it probably won't significantly enhance your employment prospects upon graduation: all BIGLAW associates start at the same level, whether they are 25 or 45.

    With all that in mind, here are a few pieces of advice:

    • Know exactly why you are going, and look beyond the traditional BIGLAW route to achieve that goal.
    • Know where you'd like to practice, and consider attending a regional/lower-ranked law school in that region, rather than a more prestigious national school (especially if the regional school offers you a significant amount of merit aid). At the same time, remember that the very best schools in the country also have some of the most generous loan forgiveness programs.
    • Leverage your prior work experience to carve out a niche in a specific field of law. For instance, if you worked in biotech before law school, consider Intellectual Property/Patent law.
    • Look beyond the rankings to find the school with the right "fit" for you.

    Law school can be a scary place for anyone, especially if you forgot what it feels like to be graded on a curve. But, as someone who has been playing a long game (for awhile), you should find it easier to stay above the fray.

    Image courtesy of Artur Staszewski