The average age of first-year law students is 24, so if you’re older than that (say, 30 or even 40 years old), you might think you’re simply too old to go to law school and start a second career. How old is too old for law school—and are you too old? Here are some facts about starting law school as a non-traditional student.
Schools Welcome Students with Experience.
While it’s true that law schools look closely at the GPAs and LSAT scores in students’ applications, relevant experience can carry a lot of weight with admissions committees, too:
- Older students bring plenty of transferable skills to law school, and to the law profession.
- Some students have already been working in the justice system, as police officers, paralegals, secretaries, etc. and have direct, working knowledge of the law.
- Life experience is valuable, too. Older students may have direct experience with many types of law. They also have lived through disappointments and successes that can have relevance to law school.
- Students with experience bring their knowledge into the classroom, which helps all students.
- Many law schools have added evening and part-time programs to accommodate older students.
Older Students Are Focused.
Many younger law students later admit that they attended law school because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves once they completed their undergraduate educations. Older students have some advantages:
- They are typically embarking on second, or even third, careers.
- They have had a chance to explore other fields and have a better idea of what they want to do.
- They often begin law school in order to do what they love; not because they think they’ll make a lot of money.
- They have reasonable expectations of the career and its requirements.
- They have contacts outside of school, which allows them to find job placements quickly.
- They may have more stable personal lives, which allows them more time to study.
Older Students May Struggle with Learning Issues.
Students who enter law school after a long gap may find that learning is more difficult than it was when they were in their early 20’s.
- Older students struggle more with memorization skills.
- Older students may find it harder to spend long evenings studying.
- Older students may have children, who can be distracting during study sessions.
- Older students may need to learn new technology skills, which can be daunting.
- Older students may not be available to participate in study groups, due to obligations at home.
- Older students may not feel as if they fit in with the younger, more traditional students, and may miss out on learning and collaboration opportunities as a result.
The Investment May Not Be Worth It.
Law school is expensive—some students graduate with well over $150,000 in student loans. Is law school a good, or bad investment for older students? It depends.
- If you’re taking out loans for the full tuition and living expenses, you may not be able to recoup your investment.
- Older students have a shorter span of years to work in the legal field and pay back loans, or enjoy large salaries.
- Older students may find that an age bias exists; they may have trouble getting a job.
- Many older students want to work in the public sector, which doesn’t pay well.
- Some students will be able to work at existing careers during law school, avoiding excessive student loans.
- Older students bring diversity to law programs, and may be able to attain scholarships and financial aid to mitigate the financial sacrifice involved.