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Disadvantages of Going to Law School at a Later Age – Things to Ponder

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Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea and Mike Ehline

In a sense, going to law school is a huge decision, regardless of your age. There’s a significant financial commitment involved, and it takes a lot of time to complete, as well. However, there’s no doubt that it can be worth all the sacrifice if you really want to be an attorney. The average age for a first-year law student is 24 years old. You may have been in another profession for a while and now wonder what might happen if you go back to school and earn a law degree.

While going to law school can be exciting, it can also be a challenge for older students. When you factor in the saturated job market, changing legal industry, and cut-throat competition, you may wonder if you can obtain a job once you graduate and pass the bar exam.

It’s best to make sure this is the right move for you. Michael Ehline understands the drive of wanting to be a lawyer because he did it himself through perseverance and hard work. However, being older can cause problems. Though you should have the choice, discrimination from age is never appropriate.

If you were injured and think you have a personal injury case, please call Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642 for a free initial consultation.

Are You too Old for Law School?

Pursuing a legal career at an older age can be confusing. Many people wonder if they’re too old for a law school education. While the law is there to be upheld, and lawyers must ensure it happens, it’s not all about fancy courtrooms and antics. You must understand the law thoroughly.

However, LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) claims that about 21.8 percent of all law school applicants in 1999/2000 were over 30.

While your life experience could mean the difference between getting what you want or not, this is a full-time career move and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Let’s look at some of the disadvantages of going to law school later in life:

Are You Up for It?

The jokes you might hear about searching for your glasses while they’re on your face have merit here. Age can bring many great things, but it also slows people down later in life. Depending on how long it has been since you opened a textbook, you may find it harder to get back into your study routine and retain what you’ve learned.

Attending law school often requires students to burn the midnight oil to prepare for their careers. It takes a lot of reading and hard work to get things done that weren’t required in a past career path.

You may have obligations to your family that contribute to the dilemma, too. What happens if your teenager breaks their leg while you’re cramming for a big test?

Can You Afford Law School?

An accredited Law school is expensive. In fact, the US News and World Report found that an average student in a private law school spends about $40,095 each year (2018-2019). For three years of legal education, that rounds out to roughly $120,000, which is a huge investment to make for your future. Generally, it takes student loans to go to law school.

Out-of-state law schools were a bit more manageable and cost $8,400 less, while in-state law schools were even less expensive.

However, with many years in school, supporting a family, and paying a mortgage, it can make your life harder while you work toward your career.

Plus, if you never earned a Bachelor’s degree, you must do that before you can start law school.

On top of that, you’ve got fewer years to work and repay the student loans. You may have about 30 years before retiring when graduating at 35.

If you’re around 45 years of age, you may also have children who are heading off to college around the same time you enter law school.

Age Bias

Age bias does exist in the legal profession, as with other industries. Some firms want to hire inexperienced and younger workers who demand less money. They’re often more trainable, have better career longevity, and are committed to the career.

With that, what you did between the years of graduating college and law school matters. You might have been a paralegal, police officer, former teacher, or had another law-related job. In this case, the firm isn’t getting the older worker who has no understanding of legal issues. In short, you’ve got the work and life experience to back things up and are willing to work hard.

Many law schools consider law school applicants who have work experience from an existing career. Therefore, older law school students can use that as their in and don’t have to deal with age discrimination. However, that doesn’t apply to everyone.

Career Opportunities

Statistics clearly show that it’s harder for older lawyers to find a job with large law firms, and large firms offer the best and most lucrative salaries. However, that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities out there.

The National Association for Law Placement says that 53 percent of law school graduates 36 years of age or older go into a private practice or join firms that are smaller, with 17 percent getting employed at a place with over 250 attorneys.

Examine your career goals. If you want to attend law school at age 40 or 35, you’re likely doing it because you’ve wanted to since you were younger. You may wish to open a law firm, but this does require capital. Since you’re an older student and now covering student loans, it might be a tough swing for you.

Career Longevity

Employers often hesitate to hire what they call second career lawyers because older lawyers don’t have as many working years ahead of them. In fact, many law firms seek employees who can make a long-term commitment to the firm, sticking around long enough to grow the organization.

Therefore, older law students must sell themselves if it is their second or third career. If you’ve got a passion for justice, show it. That way, after you’ve attended law school, the firms see how hard you’re willing to work. Though you’re not around as long, the younger students are fidgeting their way through interviews while you’re nailing it.

Time Commitment

Older employees often have aging parents, children, and life commitments that prevent them from working 50 to 80 hours a week. Many firms prefer or require this. You can be almost 100 percent sure that future employers are wary if you are 35, married, and have three kids. Likewise, those who are divorced with sole custody of the children might have an issue.

Take a step back right now to look at your life. Can you put in all those hours for attending law school? You might be 45 when you graduate, but your children are grown, and your spouse can take care of themselves. You can dedicate life to the firm and have a law career.

Wiser law students often find themselves upset about the significant time commitment involved. Plus, you must study long hours for the bar exam, and the school has specific requirements, as well. Therefore, it might not be wise for older students to jump into the fray, even if they have years of experience in the legal field.

However, if you do graduate law school, prospective employers can’t discuss your home life, though you may volunteer that information if you wish.


Older workers tend to be set in their ways. Therefore, employers feel they can’t be trained or molded as easily. With that, older employees find it awkward to accept direction and assignments from younger supervisors.

However, most people feel that ages are just numbers. Therefore, you might attend law school and then figure out how to tell prospective employers that you embrace new gadgets and like to learn. That way, your law career might get off the ground.

Otherwise, it might be wise to stay in your current profession later in life. Most Law schools could accept you, but you may not be hired because of trainability concerns or have a supervisor who is years younger than you.

Application Materials

Older law students must still submit all their academic records before being accepted into law school. It’s also a good idea to have a letter of recommendation from a teacher. Older applicants might find it hard to track down transcripts and professors.

With that, you might like that law school advisors put less weight on grades that were earned years ago. However, you should show your academic abilities in other ways if you want that elusive law career. Consider highlighting recent analysis and research skills or focus on taking law-related courses at a local college if you’re not from a law background.

Personal Challenges

Older students might be searching for a second chance instead of a mid-career change. Every law school has students who overcame various hardships, such as disability, addiction, imprisonment, and more. It values those people because they were motivated despite their life experiences.

Though your life and work experience could help you, the law school doesn’t have to accept you. It’s not necessarily discrimination; it might be because you’ve only applied to nearby law schools or your life is too settled.

It’s often daunting to think about heading to law school when you’re older. While it isn’t impossible, personal factors might get in the way, not letting older graduates practice what they learn as a lawyer.


Overall, the Law School Admission Council claims that about 30 percent of students haven’t started law school right after completing an undergraduate degree.

Law school admission isn’t based on age, so older students have a chance. However, they should make sure that pursuing law is what they truly want to do. Earning a degree isn’t easy for any field, but law seems to be even tougher. In a sense, you might be too old for law school.

Michael Ehline understands this because he worked in a law-related field, taking the baby bar before ever setting foot in a classroom. However, most law school students choose the more traditional route. Doing so later in life may make things harder for you and your family.

If you require an attorney’s assistance with a legal matter, please call to request a free case evaluation.