The legal profession is a very dynamic and diverse profession. There are many different practice areas and legal specialties that you can choose from – which may seem daunting. Determining an area of law that is right for you can happen as early as selecting your undergraduate major and can continue developing through undergraduate course selection, engaging in legal internships & law school classes, utilizing the career office in law school, and beyond.
Below is a collection of some common areas of legal practice to help you begin considering where your interests may lie!
Attorneys working in the public interest take on many roles and can practice many types of law. Ultimately, a public interest attorney serves the community’s interests by ensure access to legal representation for indigent individuals, advocating for policy reform, and commitment to achieving widespread legal and social change. Different types of law public interest lawyers can practice include, but are not limited to:
- AIDS / HIV, Animal Issues, Arts / Entertainment, Bankruptcy / Debt, Business / Economic Issues, Children / Youth, Civil Rights / Liberties, Communications, Consumer, Criminal, Death Penalty, Disability, Domestic Violence, Economic Development, Education, Elderly, Environment / Energy / Utilities, Family, Farm / Migrant Worker, First Amendment, Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues, Gun Control Issues, Government Accountability / Legal Reform / Whistleblowers, Health / Medical, Homelessness / Housing, Human Rights, Immigration / Refugee, Intellectual Property / Technology, Juvenile Defense, Labor / Employment, Municipal Law, Native American / Tribal Law, Personal Injury / Medical Malpractice / Products Liability, Prosecution, Poverty, Public Defenders, Legal Services, Prisoner Issues, Property / Real Estate, Racial / Ethnic Justice / Cultural Rights, Religious Issues, Reproductive Issues, Security / Defense / Arms Control, Tax, Trade, Transitional Justice / Democratic Process, Trusts and Estates, Voting / Campaign Finance, Women’s Issues.
Criminal law involves matters regarding a person charged with a crime. Public defenders or defense attorneys (representing the person charged of a crime) and prosecutors (representing the state/government) primarily practice criminal law. An attorney can practice criminal law at all levels: local, state, or federal. The majority of an attorney’s time is spent in court, with typically a heavier litigation case load than other attorneys. It is not uncommon for an attorney practicing criminal law to be in court most days of the week handling many different clients on various criminal charges (ranging from DUIs or minor drug offenses, to homicide and trafficking).
- Specialized Areas: White Collar Defense, Private Defense, and Department of Justice-Criminal Division.
IP attorneys work to protect a client’s inventions and creations and to enforce an inventor or creator’s rights regarding their intellectual property. IP law consists of patent law, trademark law, and copyright law.
- Patent law consists of patent prosecution and patent litigation. Prosecuting patents is no easy task—one must have taken the Patent Bar (administered by the United States Patent & Trademark Office) to become a patent agent to prosecute patents. Patent prosecutors work very closely with inventors to help the inventors get patent protection on their invention—meaning the government will grant the inventor a patent for a limited time so that the patent holder (the inventor) has the right to restrict other inventors from making their inventor, or infringing on their patent. Patent litigation is the practice of patent law when patents are issued. Patent litigators will work with clients to ensure that nobody is infringing on the inventor’s patent. It is typical litigation—pre-trial, trial, the courtroom, etc.; however, it is all within the discipline and subject matter of patent law.
- Trademark law is all about the branding and marketing of one’s mark (i.e., logo, brand, etc.). Trademark attorneys work closely with clients to ensure that their product is marketed in such a way that the consumer is able to connect that such good or service that is being promoted is associated with this certain mark (or logo). Think Nike and the famous “swoosh” mark. Nike works very hard to protect its trademark from infringers and dupes.
- Copyright law is the realm of intellectual property that is closely associated with the fine arts. Creators can get their ideas copyrighted when it is in a tangible medium. Examples of copyrightable material are: literary works, musical works, graphic works, sculptural works, motion pictures, audio-visual works, derivatives of protected works (sequels), original compilations of facts, code (computer science).
- Specialized Areas: Sports & Entertainment Law, Antitrust Law.
Corporate law comes in two forms: corporate litigation or corporate transactional law. Corporate litigation, like most litigation, is your standard litigation (adversarial, plaintiff/defendant, courtroom, pre-trial, trial, etc.) regarding corporations and corporate affairs. In both situations, corporate law attorneys are practicing with the corporation’s best interest in mind. The employees of the corporation are typically represented by other parties for the matter. Additionally, corporate attorneys can be tasked with advising the corporation on legal rights responsibilities, obligations, and best practices. Corporate transactional attorneys are not in court as much. Transactional attorneys focus their practice on deal work, preparing and reviewing contracts, and negotiating with groups to ensure the corporation’s affairs are done. Much of this practice can be high stakes, as it deals with corporations.
- Specialized Areas: Mergers & Acquisitions, Bankruptcy Law, Securities, Corporate Compliance, and In-House General Counsel.
Environmental law concerns laws and regulations at local, state, and federal levels that affect wildlife, land, water, air quality, and business practices in relation to the environment. Environmental attorneys can focus their practice in preservation, litigation, and advocacy and can work in the private sector, the public sector, or even for the government. However, environmental lawyers can also work for the other side—meaning environmental lawyers can work to defend corporations and various business practices that may offend best environmental practices.
- Specialized Areas: Energy Law, Oil & Gas, Regulatory Law, Administrative Law
Attorneys who practice in the area of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties are committed to ensuring the preservation of individual rights derived for the Constitution. Civil Rights attorneys will represent individual clients to preserve individual rights and advocate for changes to policy and laws that threaten individual rights. Civil Rights attorneys examine issues related to discrimination (based on race, gender, age, disability, sexuality), free speech, freedom of religion, due process, privacy, voting, incarceration, education and beyond. Civil Rights attorney may practice in a public or private setting – for non-profits, private firms or the government.
This area of law concerns the relationship between employers and employees and/or independent contractors. There is federal employment & labor law and regulations, as well as state-specific laws and regulations. Labor & Employment attorneys can work at all levels: local, state, or federal. Attorneys can work for the employer, spending most of their practice being proactive and advising the client employer on what to do to avoid legal trouble, plaintiffs, or the government.
- Specialized Areas: Employment Discrimination, Title VII, Worker’s Compensation, Labor Unions, Employee Benefits, Retaliatory Discharge, and Federal Employment Acts.
Personal Injury (PI) attorneys are among some of the most common tort lawyers representing individuals who have suffered a physical or psychological injury. Personal Injury law covers intentional or unintentional matters that have affected their client. Attorneys typically will represent the individual who has suffered a harm, but may also defend a client who has been accused of the harm (whether it is a person, business, or organization).
- Specialized Areas: Personal Injury, Mass Torts, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, Wrongful Death, Insurance, and Worker’s Compensation.
Tax attorneys primarily focus on tax legislation and helping their clients maneuver the Tax Code. This is a specialized practice, requiring attorneys to have a good understanding of Tax Law and staying informed and up to date with frequent modifications to the local, state, and federal tax codes.
Attorneys handling trusts and estates focus on financial planning, creation of trusts, and managing (whether it be planning or seeing through) estates. It can involve setting up trusts and estates for the future, probate process, tax implications, or handling the matters as they arise—in connection to a client’s trust or a client’s estate—in the present.
This focuses on all matters property and real estate. Attorneys can focus on residential or commercial real estate, but ultimately can handle matters involving land, construction, development, acquisition of real estate, tenant rights, or landlord disputes.
Elder Law focuses on specialized issues that affect the aging population. Typically, this consists of an older clientele and the various and diverse matters presented with an elder client including health care, finances, guardianships, public benefits, and estates. An elder law practice may also examine issues of elder abuse or crimes against elderly populations.
This area of the law focuses in the context of the family and the various legal matters that may arise in this context. This can include child welfare, adoption, emancipation, child abuse, domestic partnerships, marriage, civil unions, parental rights and paternity, and divorce.
Immigration attorneys work with clients navigating the naturalization process. Additionally, attorneys work with clients facing threats to their naturalization process or potential deportation, individuals seeking asylum, or refugees. Immigrational Law attorneys may work in the private or public sector and may also focus on special intersection of immigration laws and other areas of practice such as family law or criminal law.
Health Law is a very diverse and dynamic practice. Healthcare laws are always evolving, so health care attorneys must be adaptable. Attorneys in this field may represent patients, clinics, hospitals, insurance companies, or individual health practitioners navigate health care legislation, rules, and regulations.
International Law is a broad category that includes many diverse, specialized areas of law. Inherently, international lawyers will practice in an area of law that intersects with the laws of another sovereign entity, international treaty, international organizations, or international policy.
- Specialized Areas: Criminal Law, Human Rights, Corporate/Business Law, Litigation, Economics, Foreign Service, International Governance and Organizations, Family Law, Environmental Law, Technology, Health Law, and Security/Armed Conflict.
For more information on different practice areas in the law, see
- American Bar Association
- The Official Guide to Legal Specialties by Lisa Abrams
Still looking to explore what interests you? Take the quiz!
Where Lawyers Practice…
Attorneys may practice in a wide-variety of settings. A legal career provides a dynamic and diverse set of options. Below is an overview of some of the most common practice settings available to attorneys.
Attorneys working in public interest take on many roles. Typically, public interest attorneys represent indigent clients, with little resources. The role of a public interest lawyer is to serve the community’s interests. In addition to indigent and low-income clients, public interest lawyers will also litigate and represent bigger interests permeating society. Examples of this are attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union, public defenders, and nonprofit organizations.
- Public interest lawyers can also practice in private public interest firms. These types of private law firms take on clients, but practice cases relating to public interest issues.
- Public interest lawyers can also focus their practice in criminal law, representing people who are facing criminal charges. Public defenders work in offices across the country, serving as many criminally charged or incarcerated clients’ lawyers. They represent clients in court, fighting for the client’s best interest.
- Non-profit organizations and Legal Aid organizations also have lawyers who are helping fight their cause, while also ensuring that the non-profit’s mission is being served. Legal Aid organizations provide legal services for low-income and need-based individuals in the community seeking legal help.
- Public interest organizations may focus on litigation to achieve legal and social change, develop public policy, engage in community development, or specialize in international affairs focusing on activism or diplomacy.
Think of the traditional law firm setting. Whether it’s a big law firm with many different legal teams and hundreds of attorneys, or a small firm with a specialized practice group and a few attorneys, attorneys in private practice will represent clients (individuals, organizations, or business entities) that seek their assistance. The private practice setting provides flexibility. If you are interested in a general practice area, or want to practice a niche and specific field of law, you will be able to find a practice in the private sector.
- Big law firms. Big Law firms will typically have hundreds (possibly thousands) of lawyers in the firm and will offer representation in many different practice areas. The biggest law firms will have offices in multiple cities and potentially even in international locations. Law firms organize attorneys into specific practice areas with partners and associates in each group. Bigger law firms tend to have bigger client portfolios, representing many clients in a variety of industries and in areas of law.
- Medium law firms. Depending on the location medium size firms may consist of 10 – 50 attorneys, or even a few hundred. Similar to big firms they will function with a hierarchal structure (Senior Partners, Partners, Associations). Medium size firms may specialize their practice on a limited number of areas of law or may have a variety of practice areas similar to a large law firm.
- Small or Boutique law firms. Small or boutique law firms may host as few as 10 or less attorneys and will typically offer services in very specific practice areas. Boutique firms will tend to highly-specialize in one area of the law. A common example is Intellectual Property boutique firms. As IP is a highly-specialized field, there are firms that will only focus on a very specific aspect of IP and will take on client matters relating only to that specific, niche area of the law.
Local, State, and Federal government provide many options for individuals with a JD degree. Government attorneys practice at the federal, state, and local level. Many attorneys at the Federal level work at the Department of Justice, but also in Congress and the Executive Branch. Government attorneys also represent the United States, such as prosecutors. A government attorney’s client is the government (state, federal, or local) and by extension the citizens. Government attorneys may also work for the various administrative agencies such as the Department of Labor or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The attorneys help ensure compliance with agency rules and policy, including enforcement. The U.S. Military also has its own unique military system through the JAG Corps.
- Prosecutors – found at federal and state level.
- Department of Justice – criminal and civil division, there are many different sections in the DOJ, and attorneys are found in all sections.
- “The Hill” – Legislative directors in members of Congress’ offices, attorneys for specific committees, JDs drafting bills for a congressperson.
- City, State, Federal level of Government – They can work across almost every discipline of the law, however their “client” or whose interest they are advocating for are constituents or larger groups of people, or the government entity itself rather than an individual client or private entities. At the local level, attorneys will work in various aspects of the local government and municipality. At the state and federal level exist assistant attorney generals that litigate for the state’s interest.
- Executive Agencies – Attorneys work in all executive agencies in the Executive Branch working on legal matters and keeping both the United States’, and the agency’s, best interest at hand.
In-house attorneys work in companies—large corporations to start ups. In-house counsel manage the corporation’s legal matters, manage outside counsel, and collaborate with a law firm to advance a corporation’s needs. They represent the interests of the organization, and will require expertise in various disciplines of the law–including corporate, real estate, intellectual property, administrative, and litigation.
Law graduates can pursue public careers in nontraditional settings as well some law graduate may pursue opportunities in teaching, business, higher education, human resources, foreign-service, or policy. Some may pursue legal research opportunities, work for legal organizations such a state bar associations or organizations that provide continuing legal education for attorneys – while others may pursue opportunities in politics.
Attorneys can also work in the judiciary, as law clerks. Law clerks will work for a judge and collaborate with the judge to write opinions and handle matters in chambers. Clerks work with a judge with on-going trials, and spend time researching case law and writing. Clerking may occur as a short term position immediately following graduation, or early in a career. Some judges employee permanent clerks or staff attorneys who work in their chambers on a permanent basis.
Next week! Alumni Attorney Talks
Check back next week as we explore legal practice areas in Edition 3 of our career series! We will also be posting the inaugural addition of our new Alumni Attorney Talks series featuring Jason Emmanuel and a highlight of his work as an Assistant State’s Attorney…
A career in law can be very versatile. The juris doctor degree provides the tools for law graduates to pursue one of many careers, whether it is in private practice or the public sector. This three-part series will give an overview of the law as a career, focus in on different types of practice, and highlight specific practice areas.
What Lawyers Do. Lawyers are advocates, advisors, and problem solvers. Though lawyers practice in a vast variety of settings, ultimately, there are core skills that lawyers all practice.
- Represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters, ensuring their clients have their opportunity to be heard.
- Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case to work towards a desired outcome.
- Research and analyze complex legal problems, and apply the law to a client’s case at hand.
- Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for their clients.
- Advise and present facts in writing and verbally to their clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, and the court.
- Draft, revise, and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, appeals, wills, contracts, and deeds.
The law can be an incredibly rewarding profession which provides vast opportunities to develop, change, and evolve your career. At its best, legal practice challenges the intellect and provides rewarding opportunities to exercise leadership, judgement, and advocacy skills. It provides unique avenues to not only assist clients in significant and impactful ways, but to also help shape legal doctrine and processes. The ethics of the profession require attorneys to promote justice, fairness, and morality; thus, legal employment can also bring satisfaction to those who seek to work, within the law, to rectify social injustice.
As stated, pursuing a career in law offers vast and diverse career choices, from public interest law and government law to private practice in a firm. As significant as the rewards in a law career can be, it is also a challenging and highly competitive career. An important step in exploring legal careers is to distinguish between commonly held expectations (especially based on media portrayals of lawyers) and the reality of legal practice. Hours can be very long and often include weekends. The differences among starting salaries can exceed $100,000 depending on the type of legal practice. Legal work can require spending considerable time in tedious, painstaking research. Legal practice can be stressful and present challenges for individuals who seek well portioned work-life balance.
The good news is the diversity of career choices available through law can provide many options for individuals to select career paths that are best suited for their individual goals. Not all pre-law students will know the area of law they want to practice, but it is advisable to explore the various career options of a lawyer as part of your decision-making process. In the upcoming blog series, we will explore different types of practice settings and different fields of law to help you begin determining if a law career is right for you.
Learn More about the Legal Profession and Careers:
- LSAC Discover Law
- National Association of Law Placement (NALP) Prelaw Resources
- ABA Law Career Quiz
- LSAC Legal Career Quiz
- Com (Sign-Up for FREE law publications)
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, discussing the different types of practice lawyers have!
Dear Current Pre-Law Students,
We hope you’re having a great week and staying healthy. With recent changes of the November LSAT administration to the LSAT-Flex format, we wanted to let you know of a resource available through the Pre-Law Advising Services Office!
The LSAT-Flex exam requires students to take the exam in a quiet, private room with reliable internet access. For students on campus who may be having difficulty in identifying an appropriate space, Pre-Law Advising will make private rooms available for you to reserve for your LSAT-Flex exam.
How it works: Students can request to reserve a private room to take the LSAT-Flex exam. To help maximize the use of space, reservations are available in three-hour time-blocks, with the expectation that students will have 30 minutes before and after their exam to set up, get comfortable, and sanitize the room after the exam. Rooms will be located in the Armory building. Students will receive a more detailed email prior to their exam date outlining the protocol and expectations.
Reservation blocks are available at the following times:
7am – 10am | 10am – 1pm | 1pm – 4pm | 4pm – 7pm | 7pm – 10pm
A few quick notes:
- Be mindful when signing up to ensure the Armory reservation overlaps your LSAT-Flex testing time. (i.e., if your exam is at 7:30am, you would reserve the 7am-10am time-block).
- If none of the Armory reservations work with your LSAT-Flex time, please indicate that in the sign-up form. We will do our best to accommodate but cannot guarantee there will be an available private room outside of the pre-determined time-blocks.
- Per campus policy, you will be required to have a current negative COVID-Test to enter the building.
- We have limited space, all reservations are on a first come, first served basis.
How to Sign Up: To sign up for a space for the October LSAT-Flex, please register at the following link by OCTOBER 30: https://surveys.illinois.edu/sec/409812863
For more information and guidance on where to take the LSAT-Flex, check out our blogpost: http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2020/08/22/where-to-take-the-lsat-flex/. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
NOTE: this is only available to CURRENT U of I students, as only current students can have access to the Armory building, as well as other buildings, on campus. For alumni or off-campus students, please check out THIS blog post for more information on productive exam spaces to take your LSAT-Flex!
Hello, Illini! We are 1 DAY away from our Law Fair! We cant to highlight a few reminders before the big day.
Before the Fair:
- Register now! Registration is free and easy: https://go.illinois.edu/2020GLPFair
- Have questions prepared. Check out our T-Minus 3 Days post for sample questions.
- Research the law schools you are interested in beforehand. You can visit the CareerEco site to see the schools’ profile pages or visit the schools’ websites.
- Visit CareerEco and pay attention to the chat room schedule so you can plan your day strategically and get a chance to speak with your top schools. The designated law school hours are 10am-2pm, but some schools will have shorter or longer hours.
- See our T-Minus 7 Days post to see all the law schools that are attending. There are schools from all over the United States!
During the Fair:
- Set Your Schedule, You can Come and Go! Feel free to visit the fair throughout the day as your schedule allows. Remember law schools have set their own chat hours so building your own schedule in advance will be key!
- Dress appropriately as some schools will have video chat available. We recommend business casual attire.
- Be professional, take initiative, and engage—this is a great way to make a first impression on admissions deans.
- Take notes and remember who you speak with. This is a great way to keep organized and will make things easier if you would like to follow up with certain schools.
- Questions? If you have any questions throughout the fair, Pre-Law Advising will have a chatroom where you can come speak with us from 9am-3pm! Simple search for “Pre-Law” under the chat room schedule!
Happy Monday, Illini!
We are just 10 DAYS away from the annual Illinois Law School Fair…
- What: The Law School Fair will feature over 100 law schools from across the country. Illinois students & alumni will be able to interact with law school deans one-on-one to learn more about the law school and ask any questions they have! Law Schools will also host various chat room sessions to interact with interested students. The Law School Fair this year is being held in conjunction with the annual Graduate & Professional School Fair for a combined Graduate, Law & Professional School Fair.
- When: October 15, 10 AM – 2PM
- Where: Virtual!
- Registration: Register Online Today!
Why Should I Attend a Law School Fair?
- Learn more about law schools. This is a great opportunity to learn more about law schools that you are interested in applying to, as well as explore new law schools that were not on your radar.
- Interact. You will be able to speak directly with representatives and admissions deans from the law school, as well as have a chance to make a great first impression! This is prime face time with admissions representatives and an opportunity to make a positive impact as a candidate, as well as network. Also a great opportunity to express interest about the law school.
- Answers. Get your questions about the law school and law school programs answered first hand.
- Careers. The Law School Fair is a great way to learn more about a career in the law.
- Fee Waivers. This even might be an opportunity for law schools to grant application fee waivers to interested applicants.
Check back in the upcoming days for more Pre-Law Advising Services Law School Fair countdown highlights!
Now that the semester is on its way (and hopefully running smoothly), it’s time to think about different ways to bolster your forthcoming law school applications. Internships are a great way to gain experience and exposure to the legal world outside the classroom. Getting experience is important for a number of reasons: demonstrating work and interest to law schools, building connections with mentors (hint: letters of recommendation), and confirming your interest in pursuing a legal career, to name a few. Towards the end of this semester, Pre-Law Advising will provide more information and opportunities regarding summer internships, so keep an eye out!
- Stay Organized. Hiring for summer internships typically happens in the spring; however, the key to landing a summer internship is to do your research, find opportunities, and stay organized when applying and reaching out. Plan early by compiling a list of places you could potentially apply to and get some organizations on your radar!
- Winter Break. After taking a much needed break after finals, winter break is the perfect time to start researching various internships and potentially even reaching out to some organizations to learn more about a summer opportunity.
- Deadlines. ALWAYS keep an eye out for deadlines. Though we advise you to apply no earlier than the spring semester, some organizations might be looking to fill out their spots as early as right now. Some organizations may even have a rolling deadline, meaning the positions stay open until they are filled. Stay organized, be cognizant of any deadlines, and work according to the specific organization’s timeline.
- Be strategic. When approaching different organizations for an internship, you’ll want to consider which types of organizations will welcome undergraduate interns. Unfortunately, many legal employers look to law students as interns who have obtained a basic understanding of legal researching and legal writing. However, that does not mean there are not organizations who readily welcome undergraduate interns.
- Target organizations that would need the help. Reach out to public interest organizations, legal aid clinics, non-profit organizations, or smaller firms. Although the internships are typically unpaid, you will be receiving first-hand knowledge and early exposure to a legal setting. The skills and connections interns get are priceless!
- Think creatively. If you can’t find something “legal,” try finding an internship that will still provide you with the transferable skills law schools look for in successful applicants! When considering different opportunities ask yourself: will this internship allow me to develop my critical thinking skills? Researching skills? Writing skills? Analytical skills? Collaborating?
- Interested in politics? Consider an internship on the Hill! Or a position in your congressperson or Senator’s office. There are opportunities in your hometown, surrounding area, and even Washington, D.C. if that is of interest. There are campaigns popping up all over that might be of interest as well!
- Government. You may find various opportunities in local, state, or the federal government! Think Department of Justice, State Attorney Generals Offices, and more. Though some of these may be restricted to law students, or might not provide an opportunity in a legal role, they are still of interest and provide plenty of transferable and relatable skills.
- Credit-Earning. What does your academic program offer in terms of internships? Can you earn academic credit? These internships are a great opportunity to further explore your undergraduate major and career opportunities—while also potentially identifying ways to merge your interest in law and your undergraduate field.
- Think virtual. Unfortunately, we are in “unprecedented times,” however, that shouldn’t discourage you from internships. Many internships across the country have moved virtual! Internships that would be difficult because of relocation are now accessible from a home office. Use this time to expand your horizon, apply for positions in locations that seemed unfeasible, and think bigger than before!
- Pick up the phone. If you don’t find any internship opportunities on an organization’s website—call them! You would be surprised how far a simple phone call can take you. Calling to inquire about an internship can provide very helpful information on an opportunity that might not be broadcasted on their website, or even allow you to connect with an organization who wasn’t thinking about an intern but is intrigued to help. You could be surprised…
- Email. Nevertheless, always reach out to various organizations or individuals to inquire about potential internships for undergraduate, pre-law students if you can’t find any information. Any information you can get is helpful.
- Think Creatively & Network. Cast a wide net with your network to see if anybody can help or has any ideas on potential internships. Look at legal organizations to see if they offer internship opportunities for undergraduate students—for instance, the ABA Practice groups regularly offer opportunities for undergraduate students!
- Resume. Continue updating, editing, and finalizing your resume during the Fall semester so that you are ready to apply when the time comes. Get it done sooner rather than later!
Stay tuned! Keep an eye out later this semester for more information about internships and potential opportunities. In the meantime, happy searching!
Resources to get started:
Perspectives from an Admissions Dean: This week’s guest blogger is
Dean Rebecca Ray, Assistant Dean for Admissions & Financial Aid at the University of Illinois College of Law!
University of Illinois College of Law Snapshot*:
- Total JD Enrollment: 399
- First Year Class Size: 130
- Median LSAT/GPA: 162/3.7
- Application Deadline: March 15, 2021
- Website: www.law.illinois.edu
*The enrollment and profile data given above are as of October 5, 2019. Data for Fall 2020 will be finalized October 5, 2020.
Why did you decide to attend law school?
I grew up knowing that I wanted to go to law school. My father and uncle are both lawyers, so I had plenty of exposure to the practice of law before deciding to go to law school. I worked in my father’s law office during the summers while in undergrad. In undergrad, I considered a number of other careers, including teaching, higher ed, and psychology. Ultimately, however, I felt if I didn’t go to law school, I would regret it, given that it had been such a long-held goal.
Why did you decide to make a role in law school admissions part of your career?
I get asked this question a lot! I loved the practice of law, but my heart has always been in higher education. I really value the energy that undergraduate and graduate students bring to their education, and I love playing even a small role in that.
During my undergrad years, I worked in my university’s registrar’s office. I thoroughly enjoyed that job. The registrar at that time had a JD. I strongly considered going on to get a master’s in higher education, as opposed to law school. Given that one of my mentors worked in higher education with a JD, however, it seemed like a natural fit to continue on my original path to go to law school. You can be in higher ed with a JD; you cannot practice law with a masters in higher education. The JD seemed to allow me more flexibility if/when my career goals evolved. My personal statement was actually about wanting to eventually work in higher ed!
When the job at Illinois Law became available, the timing was honestly perfect. Both professionally and personally, I was ready for a change and the opportunity to work for my alma mater was too good to pass up.
What are the hallmark qualities of a legal education from the University of Illinois College of Law?
There are four words/phrases I would immediately ascribe to an Illinois Law education: Flexible, Practical, Community, and Outstanding Teaching.
Flexible: While the first year curriculum at Illinois Law is prescribed, almost everything beyond that is entirely up to the student. Illinois Law students are encouraged to explore their legal interests and are not pigeon-holed into a practical area of law (unless, of course, they want to be!). I sometimes describe this as “traditional, broad-based legal education,” but that implies stodginess. It’s not stodgy at all. Students can take traditional larger courses like Bankruptcy Law or Federal Income Tax, while also taking small seminars on Judicial Opinion Writing or Race and Policing. The flexible nature of our curriculum allows our students to hone all facets of their legal interests and become well-rounded attorneys.
Practical: Illinois Law students are trained to be ready to practice. What that looks like may vary from student to student, but ultimately, you will leave the law school with the skills to be a successful lawyer. That includes externship and clinical opportunities, learning about the business of law firms in Fundamentals of Legal Practice, or participating in a number of networking and mock interview programs with our outstanding alumni.
Community: While I placed this third on the list, it’s probably the word I hear the most about Illinois Law. There are many tropes about the competitive nature of law school, but our students treat each other with respect — as future colleagues — and form life-long friendships. Our students want to be successful and they are driven, but not at the expense of their future classmates.
Outstanding Teaching: I had to cheat and make this a phrase, not one word. The faculty at Illinois Law truly care about teaching and it shows. It is difficult to convey in a blog post, but the care and attention the Illinois Law faculty puts into both their scholarship and teaching creates a dynamic and energetic learning environment for the students. There is a purpose behind everything they do in the classroom.
How do students learn more about professional development and career resources, academic programs, and alumni mentorship opportunities at your school?
Our website, law.illinois.edu, has a lot of information about all of these topics. Additionally, we are hosting a virtual event on September 24 at 1:30 pm CST to answer prospective students’ questions. Our Executive Assistant Dean for Career Planning will be present for this event starting at 4:00 pm CST to specifically discuss career planning and professional development. We will be doing a series of similar events, so stay tuned to the events section of our website. I will be sure to let Pre-Law Advising Services know about these events, as well. Law fairs (yes, even virtual ones) are also a great place to get answers to your questions about particular law schools. Finally, prospective students are always welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions and/or schedule a time to speak with either myself or our Associate Director, Suzanne Rogers. You can also make an appointment to speak with a current student or a member of the Career Planning team. During non-pandemic times, we love to have prospective students visit the College to take a tour of the building and to sit in on a first-year class.
What type of experiential opportunities do your students have during law school?
Our students have many opportunities for experiential learning, both during their summers and during the academic year. Illinois Law offers few, if any, traditional courses over the summer term, so that students can get practical legal experience. In addition to paid legal positions, summer experiences include externships for credit and our Corporate Counsel Practicum. During externships, students do legal work for a government or non-profit entity. We have had students work for the City of Chicago, Champaign State’s Attorney’s Office, just to name two common placements. The summer presents a nice opportunity for students who wish to practice outside of Illinois to get an externship in their desired legal market. The Corporate Counsel Practicum includes a ten-day course before students work in in-house legal departments at major corporations.
During the academic year, students can also do an externship for credit or participate in one of our legal clinics. We have a Family Advocacy Clinic, Federal Civil Rights Clinic, Veterans Legal Clinic, and Immigration Law Clinic. Any one of these clinics presents an opportunity to do real legal work for real people with real problems. You are helping the community and gaining important experience.
What is one of the greatest pitfalls or mistakes that you see in student applications?
Applying on March 15. I say this because the timing of the application is the one thing entirely within the applicant’s control that can absolutely have an effect on the outcome of the decision. By the time you are submitting your application, to a certain extent your GPA and LSAT are fixed quantities, as are the personal experiences that will form the basis of your personal statement and resume. There is very little that someone in September of their senior year of college can do to change these things. However, every year, there are people who apply to Illinois in February or March (or even later), who do not get in, but would have had they submitted their application in November or December. That’s not to say that we do not admit people who apply in February or March, but it becomes more competitive at that point in the cycle.
Are there any traits, experiences, or accomplishments that are common among the most successful applicants?
What stands out about one applicant is going to be different from what stands out about the next applicant. We want to build a class that comes from different backgrounds and has had different life experiences. It enriches the classroom experience. That being said, successful applicants fairly uniformly follow the directions given in the application and it is obvious that time and attention was given to the personal statement and resume. We can tell when a personal statement was written at the last minute or the applicant was otherwise rushed. Take your time, start your application earlier than you think you need to, review it, ask others to review it for you, make any necessary changes, make sure you have given the Committee everything they have asked for, and then submit it. Also, from the personal statements in particular, the most successful applicants can demonstrate that they are passionate about something and that their passion is what is driving them to law school. Law school is too hard and too expensive to not have a reason to want to go.
What are some of the best aspects of living in the Champaign-Urbana community?
It really is the best of both worlds. It’s not a big city, but we have the culture, dining, and other amenities that make big cities attractive, without the hefty price tags. For students in particular, Champaign-Urbana is a great place to study in an enclave, while still having easy access to Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis for both career and recreational purposes. During this COVID time, I have been struck by how fortunate we are to live in a community with a major research institution. The advancements that University researchers have made in such a small amount of time and the global implications of those advancements are truly impressive. We get to benefit from that research right here in the cornfields.
What is something unique about your law school that many people don’t know?
The ability to attend law school in a college town with a research university AND have access to the third largest legal market in the country (Chicago) is relatively unique among US law schools. Our Chicago Program is a new innovation that plays to our strength in the Chicago legal market. Second semester 3L students can take their classes in Chicago, while doing an externship for credit or working for a law firm. It’s a wonderful bridge between academic life here in Champaign-Urbana and professional life in an urban setting.
Many students are worried about Covid-19 and how it has affected legal education, the application process, and their own personal circumstances. What would you tell a student concerned about applying to law school this fall?
First, know that admissions professionals are well-aware of the hurdles in the application process due to COVID. At Illinois Law, we will not view an LSAT-Flex score differently than a traditional LSAT administration, particularly for students applying to start law school Fall 2021. Similarly, most universities went to some variation of pass/fail for the spring 2020 semester, so that also will not be held against you when you apply to Illinois Law. Second, if you have concerns about online or hybrid legal education, ask to speak to a current law student (preferably a 2L or 3L who has been through more than one semester and has experienced both in-person and virtual learning). You should get a good sense of how well the process worked for a particular school. Finally, only the applicant can decide whether their personal circumstances would warrant waiting to apply once the pandemic is over. We have worked very hard to continue offering a first-rate legal education, but for some students it may not be the right time to go to law school and that’s okay. Take the time to get some professional work experience and round out your application.
Given the restrictions on events, traveling, and in-person interactions due to Covid-19, how can students continue to connect with law schools and determine if a school is the right fit for them? Are there any special programs at your school students should know about?
I mentioned this in response to a question above, but take advantage of the virtual events. The University of Illinois is having a virtual graduate and professional fair, which will include law schools. The LSAC virtual forums should also be a wonderful way to learn about schools from across the country. The LSAC virtual forums will feature resource “rooms,” where you can ask questions regarding financial aid, diversity, or general applications questions. Don’t be bashful about emailing the law schools you are interested in (don’t just cc all law schools on a message, though) and asking to speak with a student or an admissions professional, if they have any virtual events coming up, or if you can view a virtual class. We have all learned to be flexible in this time and can find a creative way for you to get to know us!
This year the Pre-Law Advising Office will be featuring law students, admission deans, and attorneys as guest bloggers to help provide unique and valuable perspectives on law school, the application process, and the legal profession. Stay tuned throughout the year for our Guest Blogger Spotlights!
Guest Blogger: Courtney Koenig
This week’s guest blogger is Pre-Law Advising’s very own, Courtney Koenig! Courtney is the Pre-Law Advising Services Graduate Assistant and a current 2L student at the University of Illinois College of Law.
- Law School: University of Illinois College of Law
- Class Year: 2L
- Undergraduate Institution: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Hometown: Lebanon, Illinois
- Undergraduate Major/Minor: I have a Political Science major and a History minor.
Why did you decide to attend law school and pursue a legal career?
When I was narrowing down my career goals, I focused in on what I enjoyed doing. I love to read, write, analyze, and critically think. These are all things that lawyers do every day. I wanted a challenging career with the possibility of great success and that led me to pursuing a legal career.
Do you know what type of law you will practice?
I am not sure which type of law I want to practice. I am interested in being a litigator and working in a firm. Currently, I am interested in health law, tort law, and commercial litigation, but am open to exploring other legal fields.
What were the most important goals in choosing a law school?
One important goal for me was to obtain a respectable scholarship. I did not want to be constantly thinking about financial stressors on top of all the stress of being in law school. I mostly applied to schools that my GPA and LSAT score fit neatly into, but I wish I applied to more aspirational schools.
Why did you choose the University of Illinois College of Law?
I choose the University of Illinois College of Law because of the environment. I narrowed my top three schools down and personally visited each one. It was not an automatic decision for me. I ended up visiting the College of Law twice and it was not until my second visit that it clicked for me. I received a good scholarship, the school has a great reputation, and I loved the environment and the people when I visited.
What surprised you the most about law school?
I was really surprised with the people throughout the law school. I have become super close with many of my classmates and we have been able to support and help each other as much as possible. The professors are phenomenal, always willing to help. The administration also does everything they can to help you succeed and learn the ropes.
What has been your favorite class in law school?
My favorite class so far has been criminal law. My teacher was amazing, and I enjoyed learning about the different aspects of the crimes. It was interesting to learn about the different mental states that certain crimes require for a conviction.
What type of experiential opportunities have you had in law school?
I have participated in an expungement clinic where we helped people get rid of some charges on their records to help them obtain jobs and housing. I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana with the Student Legal Relief organization and worked with the Justice and Accountability Center. I did research and participated in their expungement clinic.
What type of activities, programs, internships, or extracurricular activities did you participate in prior to law school?
Before law school, I was involved in the Pre-Law Society and the Political Science Association. I volunteered at my local food pantry and was a volunteer volleyball coach.
What is the most unique thing you have done during law school?
My criminal law professor took us on a tour of a prison a few towns over. He wanted us to see the lives that prisoners live. It was important to him because he wanted to illustrate that our actions as lawyers have real consequences on people. Our jobs truly impact people’s lives.
What do you like best about being a law student?
I like being challenged when it comes to the material. It is different from undergrad, there are no tests and no written assignments throughout the semester besides your final exam. You do the reading and you have to analyze it and figure out how it applies. Each class is like a puzzle. Every new concept is a piece to the puzzle and you have to put all the pieces together for the final exam.
How did you prepare for the LSAT?
I strongly relied on free prep for the LSAT. I used LSAC for practice problems and tests. I bought Kaplan LSAT prep books to guide me through the questions and problems. I was recommended by my Pre-Law advisor to use varsity tutors which is another free prep resource that was useful.
How did you manage your time and tasks during the application process?
I took the LSAT over the summer to give myself plenty of time to focus on the other aspects of the application. I typically use check lists and to do lists to keep myself organized and I found that to be extremely useful during the process. It was also important to make sure I was paying attention to my school schedule to avoid being in a position where I had many assignments due for school while also approaching application deadlines.
Is there anything you wish you would have done differently during the application process?
I wish that I had taken the LSAT a second time. The first time I took it, the fire alarm went off at the location and I managed to mess up my scantron. I wanted to wait to see how I did on my first LSAT before I scheduled a second test, but by the time I got my results back, they had closed the registration for the next LSAT. I also wish I would have asked the people who wrote my letters of recommendation to do so earlier. I ended up in a position where the letters were the only thing that needed to be done, and I found myself waiting for those to be completed before I could be completely done.
What is the best piece of advice you would offer someone applying to law school?
Pick the law school that is right for you. It is such a personal decision and it is important to identify what is important to you. Take the time now to determine what you want in a law school.