Dreaming of Law School as a Rural Student
I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer at a very young age. My mother was a police officer, so my childhood was filled with stories of cases she dealt with or witnessed firsthand. I think that was likely what sparked my interest. That being said, I never really knew how one became a lawyer until my later high school years. I took two law classes in my grade 11 and 12 years, learning about the legal processes in Canada and some of the more high-profile cases. The law teachers described the process of becoming a lawyer and I remember feeling tremendously overwhelmed. Not only is it a long process to become a practicing lawyer in Canada, it is an expensive one. Coming from a small rural community, this was a daunting dream that I had chosen for myself. Nevertheless, I was filled with this drive that I refused to let anything stand in my way of achieving this goal.
So what do you have to do to become a lawyer? Well for starters, you have to go to a law school. Depending on where you want to practice or go to law school, nearly every school requires you to take something called the LSAT. This is a standardized test that tests you on three different sections and ranges from 120-180 in scores. The highest score you can achieve on the LSAT is 180, and the lowest is 120. Generally, anything above 157 is a good score that can be competitive enough to get you into a Canadian law school. The three sections are; Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Logical Reasoning. Different sections are more challenging for some people than others. For myself, I found Logical Reasoning to be the hardest because you have to learn a new way of reading and examining arguments based on the structure and not necessarily the content. To prepare for this test, they generally recommend studying for at least 6-8 months. In this period of time, it is best if you take multiple practice tests to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that they will be asking you. It is important to review every single question you get wrong after each test so that you can understand which question type is tripping you up and why you are falling for the wrong answer. The good news is that there are many free LSAT practice tests that you can find on the Internet. You can also buy textbooks that explain every type of question and how to get them right. I personally bought two textbooks from Indigo, but there are also many textbooks available on Amazon for anywhere from $30-$100. Additionally, there is the option of hiring a LSAT tutor or taking a class to prepare you for the exam. Both of these options can be extremely pricey, ranging anywhere from $800-$3,000.
The other requirement for Canadian law schools is that you must have completed at least three years of an undergraduate degree. They prefer if you complete the full four to five years required to attain your Bachelor’s degree, but if you have really great marks and a high LSAT score, you can absolutely be accepted during your third year of your undergraduate degree. In terms of what degrees are the best suited for law school, they typically just recommend majoring in something you are truly passionate about because your marks will likely be better for it. What I will say is that it is highly beneficial to take a philosophy elective in “Critical Thinking” because it teaches you how to evaluate an argument in the same manner that the LSAT will require. Many of my peers who took this elective were very successful on their LSAT.
When filling out your law school applications, the schools often ask you to fill out a section detailing your extracurriculars, volunteer, and work involvement. Again, there is no specific extracurricular or volunteer position that they are looking for you to have, the schools just want to see that you have values outside of schoolwork, and that you are efficient at time management. The only thing that I would truly advise if it is possible for you, is to volunteer with a local political party. Every single application that I filled out advised discussing experience volunteering with a local community group like a political party or a religious body. Try to join at least one club or volunteer position in your first year of university. After your first year, you can evaluate how much time you have in your schedule that you can dedicate to clubs and/or volunteering.
The last section of your application to law school includes something called a personal statement. The schools provide a list of criteria they want you to meet with your personal statement which is super helpful once you make it to the editing process. In general, they usually want you to talk about what it is that makes you want to go to their law school in particular, relevant volunteer or work experience, your cultural/religious background, and a challenge that you faced. I personally wrote about my experience with chronic illness, how that experience made me a really strong advocate for myself, and how those skills would be useful in law school. In the process of writing my personal statements, I read several articles that provided advice on how to make your paper stand out from others.
If you do not get the grade you were hoping for on your first or second LSAT attempt, it is nothing to feel ashamed about. Many people write the LSAT multiple times, it is designed to be challenging. It’s also completely okay if you do not get accepted into law school the first time that you apply. Again, it is a competitive process and there is always room to improve your LSAT mark, your application, or even your knowledge. Many people go to grad school first and then attend law school as mature students afterwards. You don’t need to place a timeline on your goals, that just adds unnecessary pressure. While it is by no means an easy journey, it is a possible one, and I wish you the best of luck and success.