Pre-Law Advising at Bowdoin
Pre-Law Advisor and Director of Career Advising
Career Exploration and Development
Moulton Union, First Floor
Schedule an appointment through Handshake
Explore & Prepare
People become lawyers for many different reasons. For some, a career in law allows them to use their skills in communication, writing, reasoning, critical thinking, analysis, research, problem-solving, advocacy, helping others, and persuasion on a regular basis. Some are drawn to law for the intellectual complexity of a particular practice area (type of law), or the opportunity to help people, improve the world, advocate on behalf of the underrepresented or to influence the course of events. To learn about different types of legal practice and what lawyers do, check out LSAC’s free LawHub account featuring the “I Am the Law” podcast as well as other information about legal fields, legal education, and the application process. Most importantly, talk with lawyers and law students to understand how they spend their time and whether you can see yourself on a similar path. There are many alumni lawyers and law students eager to speak with you. Find them on the Bowdoin Alumni Networking List, LinkedIn, and the Alumni Directory. Complete your Handshake profile and submit your Career Interests to receive the Law newsletter highlighting internships, jobs, and events related to law school and legal careers. Check out volunteer opportunities in the community offered by The McKeen Center and also the events and internship funding offered by CXD and the Bowdoin Public Service Initiative. To see a list of law-related internships, and find out what Bowdoin grads have done between college and law school, see the Resource tab.
Applying to law school is an expensive proposition and the investment to attend law school is substantial. A year at a private law school can cost as much or more as a year at Bowdoin. Lawyers work in a variety of setting from BigLaw (large national or global firms located in major metro areas) to smaller or medium-sized firms, government agencies, courts, public interest organizations, non-profits (like museums, universities, and hospitals) and businesses. Not all lawyers make 6-figure incomes. According to the National Association for Law Placement, “… in smaller firms, which account for about half of the jobs taken in law firms, salaries of $60,000-85,000 were typical. Likewise, public service jobs — those in government, public interest organizations, and as judicial clerks — continue to offer relatively low starting salaries, with medians of $64,000, $55,000, and $60,000, respectively for the Class of 2020.” Before committing to this path:
- Thoroughly research and reflect upon why you want to attend law school (hopefully not because you want to avoid looking for a job your senior year),
- What do you intend to do with your law degree (do you want to be licensed to practice law? If not, perhaps you can pursue a different graduate program, or take some courses without matriculating).
- Where do you want to practice? Two thirds of lawyers end up practicing in the state where they attend law school.
Many advisees have told me that the time it takes to apply to law school is equivalent to taking an additional class! That is why so many Bowdoin graduates wait to apply until after graduation when they are better able to balance the competing demands the application process places on them. Waiting one year or three will not have any noticeable effect on the trajectory of your legal career. Salaries and expected hours can vary widely and legal work requires painstaking, sometimes tedious attention to detail. The toll that law school and lawyering can take on an individual’s emotional well-being are well-documented in the literature. Although much has been done by law schools to provide support, much remains to be done. Are you ready? Take the time that you need to explore your options. Sample some of CXD’s events and offerings, and you will be able to make an informed decision about your career.
Whether you work part-time on- or off-campus, volunteer for an organization, are active in student clubs or campus organizations, athletics, or your own personal projects, law schools want to see evidence that you are engaged in your community. You don’t need to become president of 6 different organizations but do engage in one or two things per year outside of academics. If you are working 3 jobs, that may be the way you are engaged--make sure that whatever you do appears on your resume so that law schools will know what occupies your time and focus when you are not in class or studying. Schools want to see evidence of leadership, initiative, problem-solving, good communication and interpersonal skills, maturity, and good judgment. Your activities need not be law-related: choose something that interests you. If the activities are law-related, use the time to help you understand what you like and don’t like about the activity to gain insight into whether law could be a path for you.
If you are interested in pursuing law and advocacy related activities at Bowdoin, here are some to consider: Common Good Grant Committee (McKeen Center), Bowdoin Public Service Initiative (McKeen Center), Conduct Review Board, Mock Trial Peucinian Society, Debate, Model UN and any of the advocacy or political groups.
There are several pathway programs offered during the summer as well as other times of year, focused on serving college students and/or college graduates from historically underrepresented groups (some programs are open to other students, as space allows) with information and resources premised on aiding their successful matriculation into law school and the legal profession. Most of these programs are offered free of charge, including housing, and sometimes come with a stipend for attending and travel costs. A searchable directory can be found here.
MAX Estimate Your Pre-Law School Costs (You will be prompted to log in/register with AccessLex to access this document.)
Fee Waivers: Applicants may apply for a fee waiver for the cost of the LSAT and CAS registration from the Law School Admission Council. Some waivers include the price of -law school reports and test preparation resources. Many law schools will waive the application fees for LSAC fee waiver recipients. Learn about Fee Waivers for LSAC Programs and Services.
The Law School Admission Test (“LSAT”) is a half-day standardized test published by the Law School Admission Council (“LSAC”) and administered 8 times per year. Currently, the test may be taken on your own laptop, in a quiet, private space and proctored remotely, or in a testing center.
Financing a Legal Education
The cost of tuition and fees (not including rent and living expenses) per year averages about $28,500 for state residents at a public institution, approximately $42,000 for out-of-state residents at a public institution and approximately $50,000 per year at a private institution. In addition, you need to consider a law school's Cost of Attendance (COA). The American Bar Association (ABA) requires that each law school publish their COA. This is a school’s estimate of the total cost, beyond just tuition and fees, and includes cost of living, transportation, and some personal expenses for the 9-month academic year. When you compare the cost of a legal education at different schools, look at the COA, not just the tuition and fees.
- Tips for First Years and Sophomores
- Tips for Seniors and Alumni Applying to Law School
- Tips for Requesting a Letter of Recommendation for Law School
- Advice for Waitlisted Candidates
Please email Nancy Gibson for access to the following lists:
- Law Related Summer Internships
- Jobs held by Bowdoin Grads before Law School
- Law Schools Attended by Bowdoin Grads
AccessLex – an essential resource for interactive lessons, webinars, worksheets, checklists, and free one-on-one financial strategy coaching offered by a well-respected, qualified organization. And it’s all free!
Law School Wizard (home of LST on LSAC website)—the go-to site for researching schools as well as coming up with your application strategy. It will even estimate your anticipated scholarship and admissions chances based upon the info you provide. You much create a free LSAC account to use.
Law School Admissions Council – publisher of the LSAT, portal you much use to submit your application components and apply to law school, a clearinghouse for all the pieces of the application process.
LawHub account featuring the “I Am the Law” podcast as well as other information about legal fields, legal education, and the application process.