Am I Too Late In Life To Apply To Law School?

The short answer is “no.” It’s never too late to go to law school. You can have a great experience, have fun, and succeed as an attorney regardless of age. You’ll find you need to approach the application process a little differently than you would if you were younger because you have different obligations and experiences than younger applicants. However, your age will not hurt your law school application. In many cases, life experiences strengthen an application, especially when other aspects of the application might be weak, such as mediocre grades during your undergraduate studies or a slightly lower LSAT score than your chosen school typically wants.

Don’t let your age stop you from pursuing your passion. We have worked with law school applicants restarting careers in their 60s when many people of a similar age are looking toward retirement. Yet, we frequently hear questions about age. At the 2023 Break Into Law Conference, Isabelle Hazar asked: Is there a sweet spot regarding when we should be applying to law school in our lives?

Below we’ll take a closer look at the ways age can and likely will impact your decision to apply and attend law school, so you know what to expect and how to leverage your wisdom and experience to enhance your application and learning experience while you attend law school.

Work-Life Balance

Older law school applicants have spent time in the workforce. Many have had successful careers in other fields. Regardless of whether someone has young or grown children, they have had experience balancing their personal and professional lives. This means meeting work deadlines while trying to have healthy family relationships that may or may not involve changing diapers and driver’s education. Those who have spent time working or owning their own business before attending law school have been forced to learn how to prioritize work obligations and deadlines with family responsibilities.

Younger students coming right from college or grad school often do not have family members relying on them to pay the bills or care for young children. In turn, they sometimes struggle to have a healthy work-life balance, pulling all-night study and writing sessions that older students cannot usually mentally or physically handle. At the very least older applicants typically are less afraid to ask for help and know how to get organized even if they struggle with balancing work and family.

Non-traditional students are often in the same age bracket as their professors and sometimes older, so they have their own struggles with work-life balance. When urgent situations arise, most professors meet requests for extending deadlines or other accommodations with empathy and understanding as long as you communicate with them.

Attending Law School Part-Time

Sometimes older law school applicants have familial obligations and other responsibilities that prevent them from attending law school full-time. Attending part-time slows the time it takes to finish, which becomes more important as age increases. However, in situations where a full-time commitment is not an option, many law schools have part-time programs or online programs that cater to non-traditional students.

Regardless of age, if you really want to attend law school, you can find a way and a program that fits your needs. Some schools even offer JD programs that are fully online! Others offer hybrid programs that require limited time on campus, making law school a reality for those who could not otherwise make the commitment. These programs allow non-traditional students to keep working to support their families while attending law school.

More Life Experience

Your valuable life experiences set you apart from younger law school applicants. It’s likely you’ve done some interesting things since you finished your undergraduate studies. Maybe you started your own business or had a military career. Or, maybe you’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively or volunteer abroad. Your personal story is valuable and interesting for the admissions team reading your application and in the classroom. Your experiences form the narrative you want the admissions team to see when they review your package.

Older applicants have likely had multiple legal interactions through a specific case or because of regulations. As you learn about different areas of law, it will be helpful for you to connect your experiences. Your real-life experiences offer valuable insight that your peers can learn from too.

Application Differences

If you aren’t going straight from college to law school, your application package will be a little different. First, know that the admissions committee WILL know your age becuase your birthdate is on your application. And, they will take your age into consideration, even if that only means weighing aspects of your application differently than they would for a younger applicant.

Older law school applicants benefit from the holistic approach to reviewing applications that many law schools take. For example, if your GPA and/or LSAT score is slightly below the median for the school where you apply, but you have been running a business you started for over a decade, your lower scores may not impact admission. Your success demonstrates leadership and various other life skills that admissions committees often value more than a few points on the LSAT.

Academic letters of recommendation are a large part of many law school applications. However, law school admissions committees know that older applicants may have a more difficult time obtaining letters, especially if they have been out of college for more than a decade. In fact, some schools eliminate the requirement altogether. Check the application for specific instructions that allow you to ignore the academic letter of recommendation requirement if you completed your undergrad “X” number of years ago.

Connecting on Campus

Whether you already live in the city where you’re attending law school or you are moving to a new city, make an effort to connect with your campus community. It’s easy to retreat to your home and stay in your comfort zone with your family and friends in your age bracket, but you will miss out on potentially valuable friendships and connections.

If you are an older law student, you will likely find that most in your cohort will be much younger than you. Being around young students can be motivating, and fun, and you can learn from each other. You’ll find that some younger students might treat you like a parent, aunt, uncle, or other older family member. They might even look to you for advice because they know that you know things they don’t because of your age. You won’t be completely alone. Law school is full of students from all different age brackets.

You don’t have to shy away from going to parties, but if you aren’t careful, you will quickly be reminded that once you leave your 20s, hangovers are no fun. Additionally, if you have young children, you will find some younger students willing to babysit for you, giving you extra help during law school. This is especially valuable if you are a single parent. The connections your kids make with members of your cohort can easily turn into lifelong friendships.

Once you start classes, make sure to investigate student organizations. You will find at least one or two organizations dedicated to non-traditional students. You might also find parent groups. In both cases, you can find others closer to your age who have some of the same challenges and life experiences you have had. They can also offer insight on how to navigate law school as a “non-traditional” student.

Financial Considerations for Older Law School Applicants

Money is not everything and it’s unlikely you’re making a career change later in life without understanding the financial aspects of your decisions. Most people gain some level of financial stability as they age. However, we want to make sure you consider all the aspects of applying to law school as an older student. Regardless of where you choose to attend law school, it will be a large expense.

Depending on your age, it’s likely you have other student loans paid off and you might even have sizeable savings to rely on, especially important if you have a family to support. Most importantly, unless you scoop up a starting position in big law, you will likely take a huge pay cut from what you’re making now. Fortunately, many financial aid programs are available for law students, even those applying later in life.

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