How Future Private Sector Lawyers Can Present Themselves to Law Schools | Education

One myth of law school admissions is that law schools most desire applicants with bold and noble ambitions to solve intractable world problems.

While some law schools are more oriented towards public interest careers than others, it’s most common for law graduates to work in private practice. Not only do these alumni compose the bulk of the legal market – helping clients resolve issues ranging from corporate acquisitions to medical malpractice to intellectual property – but their donations and professional connections help law schools flourish.

Just like law applicants interested in civic-minded careers like social justice or environmental law, those interested in private sector careers should not shy away from expressing this interest. Such applicants may find the following advice helpful as they put together their applications:

  • Research potential career paths.
  • Showcase your work experience.
  • Target schools with relevant programs.
  • Look beyond major markets.

Research Potential Career Paths

Media portrayals of lawyers skew toward contentious trials and political dramas. It can be hard to see the wide range of legal fields related to the private sector, from maritime law to securities law.

It is not essential to choose a legal career path before law school, but it can help you select the right law school, express your goals and stay motivated throughout the admissions process.

Showcase Your Work Experience

Law schools do not expect applicants to have experience in the field they want to work in, but experience working in business can be helpful to show why you want to become a private sector lawyer.

Think carefully about how to articulate your work experience through materials such as your resume and personal statement. Even entry-level work may demonstrate relevant skills that will be useful serving clients in private practice.

Target Schools With Relevant Programs

Virtually every law school offers courses relevant to private sector work, like a class on contracts, corporations and taxation. When it comes to narrower fields like entertainment law or real estate law, schools may vary widely in the opportunities they offer.

Like a good lawyer, buckle down and do your research. Drill down into law school websites to find unique programs and offerings like technology law or energy law. Look for relevant programs and clinics. Read professors’ biographies to find potential mentors.

If you hope to join a large law firm, extend your online sleuthing to the ranks of top law firms in the city where you plan to practice. Alumni connections can open doors during interview season.

Look Beyond Major Markets

Applicants looking for a career in corporate law often gravitate toward a handful of high-profile cities. There is no doubt that firm jobs are concentrated in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Overall, however, private sector law jobs are much more broadly dispersed nationwide than public interest law jobs.

It may be easier to get a job in a fast-growing region with a booming private sector than in large established markets. Furthermore, many burgeoning legal markets have relatively few law schools, reducing competition.

In practice, the distinction between private and public sector lawyers is blurry, and many lawyers straddle the dividing line over the course of their career. Indeed, many law jobs combine elements of both sectors, like working for a public interest law firm or coordinating pro bono work for corporate law firms.

So, while clarity on your goals can simplify the admissions process, anticipate that your mind may change down the road as you start your legal career.

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