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Survey: Public service key for students considering law school

September 20, 2018

A landmark study of undergraduate students considering law school finds public service factors are key motivators, far ahead of the ability to qualify for a high-paying job or the prestige of the profession. 

The Association of American Law Schools released key findings from a Gallup survey Thursday. The report, “Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School,” is the result of surveys taken by more than 22,000 college students and 2,700 law students, detailing their career aspirations, sources of information and advice, and academic backgrounds. The report also explores demographic differences in survey respondents by gender, parental education, race/ethnicity, and academic achievement.

The survey found undergraduates considering law school report their top reason is to pursue a career in politics, government, or public service. Other top factors include being passionate about the work, an opportunity to give back to society, and to advocate for social change. The ability to qualify for a high-paying job and the prestige of being a lawyer both rank lower on the list of 15 factors.

Other key findings released by AALS include:

• Of students considering and advanced degree, just 15 percent are considering a JD, compared with 63 percent considering a master’s of arts or sciences degree.

• More than half of law students first considered law school before college, and one-third before high school.

• Only one-fifth of undergraduates considering law school are first-generation college students.

• Half of all undergraduates considering law school have at least one parent with an advanced degree. By contrast, only 12 percent of people in the typical age range to have college-aged children have advanced degrees.

The report concludes, “… it will take deliberate effort on the part of law schools to level the playing field for qualified applicants, particularly if they are the first generation in their family to graduate from college.”

Additional report highlights, details and ordering information is available here.

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