Things have changed in the legal profession, forcing the according evolution of law school scholarships. Women, once the main recipients of law school scholarships, now comprise about 25% of lawyers in the United States of America. Law is once of the last male-dominated professions to encourage women in their career pursuits and as a result there are fewer gender-specific scholarships in the area of law.

The other aspect of law school scholarships is that the legal profession has so many areas of specialty, and there are a number of cross-overs as well. For example, a small-town legal practice that has one or two lawyers may combine family law, real estate law, and perhaps even minor-level criminal law, whereas a large city practice, sometimes with hundreds of lawyers, will have entire departments dedicated to such areas of law as: corporate; mergers and acquisitions; criminal; litigation; and lobbyism.

Students in their senior year of high school who may be considering law as a profession will need to form some degree of strategy as regards their specialty or risk going in the wrong direction and having to repeat the process. But specialization does not happen in your first year of post-secondary studies, so grants and scholarships for the freshman year need not necessarily be within the framework of law school scholarships.

Generally speaking, although there are always exceptions, a student planning on a career in law will first obtain a B.A., often in English or psychology, both of which are pertinent, and then go on to law school to complete an LL.B. before articling with a law firm (more or less an apprenticeship). Grants and scholarships are available to ambitious students who know their path is college or university. But law school scholarships tend to take a different form.

Availability of Law School Scholarships

Due to the fact that there is not a paucity of lawyers in America, there are fewer incentive-based law school scholarships available. And because a law degree takes more time than a B.A., the costs are higher and endured over a longer period of time. Still, the rewards are great; the average salary for an experienced legal professional is about $115,000. Of course, major law firm partners earn far more than that, and fledgling lawyers right out of law school earn significantly less, but the wages are, on average, a lot better than most other jobs, and there is that mystique of prestige.

Here is a cool idea… Despite being the target of witty barbs as far back as Plato and Shakespeare, law is still regarded, together with medicine, as one of the noble professions, and it’s the subject of parental bragging rights. If you were unsure of your career aspirations when you entered college or university and are now seriously considering law, then approach your parents or grandparents for a “law school scholarship” that allows them the future pleasure of saying their son or daughter is a lawyer!

Finding a private source of funding for law school might be a challenge, but so is the process of unearthing official law school scholarships. They do exist, but tend to be very competitive. There are far more applicants in this area of study than there are grants and scholarships. Like teaching, law is sometimes too casually regarded as a fall-back career path when another approach, such as medicine, fails due to inadequate grades in the sciences or lack of funding to carry through eight or more years of university.

Most people who manage to get law school scholarships, which are almost all merit-based, have been able to do the following things that make them eligible and have a slight edge over others:

• exceptional grade averages in their under-graduate years

• demonstrated commitment to the community, such as volunteering

• advocacy, likely on a voluntary basis

• involvement in law, such as working part-time at a law firm or attending court regularly

• demonstrated and provable fiscal need

• commitment to the area of law chosen as a specialty

This is where law school scholarships become more available: specialization. While there are ample lawyers overall in America, some of the specialties suffer from low levels of personnel. If you pursue one of these, you may find more law school scholarships available. The less popular areas of law that need qualified lawyers tend to be those that would be regarded as less glamorous, or “grunt-work” law. Most popular these days tend to be socially conscious areas of law such as environmental and advocacy, and benevolence such as lawyers representing the wrongfully convicted. Very niche specialties, such as medical malpractice are sometimes ignored in the rush to be a heroic criminal lawyer or legal point person for a prestigious major corporation. This shifts and changes as trends and public opinion fluctuates, so to stay current and know which specialties are in highest demand, you need to engage in meticulous research and then decide if these niches are for you.

Remember that law is a profession of exacting detail and is not as glamorous as television, novels and movies depict. It’s hard work, but with the reward of a good career and upscale lifestyle. If you are seeking a law school scholarship, start by contacting the law society that governs the legal profession in your state, or contact your chosen law school directly, well in advance of your planned date of attendance. Like the motions in law, law school scholarships take time in the application and processing, and are anything but instant.

While there is fluctuation and evolution in the availability and location of law school scholarships, there are several universities that have long offered law school scholarships and likely still will well into the future. They include:

• The Washington College of Law offers a rare chance at a J.D. (Doctor of Laws) degree through its scholarship program.

• Columbia University Law School (one of the most admired in the country) has a granting program for full-time students suffering financial constraints.

• Cornell University and the University of Michigan have specialized grants for women and minorities to encourage their joining the legal profession.

Some law schools also offer scholarships that are established and managed with private donations supplied by law school alumni. Such law school scholarships sometimes have rigorous eligibility stipulations, but they are also often fairly generous, thanks to efforts in helping the next generation of lawyers.

Law School Scholarships for Unique Circumstances

The new United States of America “Stimulus Bill” contains provisions for some educational grants; while law school scholarships may not be a specific element of this stimulus package program, if you plan to study law and are in other aspects regarded as an atypical student, such as veterans, Native Americans, women and ethnic minorities, you may qualify for financial support in your pursuit of an LL.B.

Don’t forget to appeal to the federal government on a needs-based request if your financial situation dictates you may qualify. The federal government has programs for gifted, determined students who, by no fault of their own, hail from low-income roots. All such applicants must complete the standard FASA application form, and identify their plan for legal studies, and name the hoped-for law school.

You may also wish to contact the American Bar Association to find out what law school scholarships they may currently offer, or those they know about that are available from other legally based entities. Their legal bias may work to your benefit! You’ll have to prove your mettle and be convincing in your commitment to a law degree, but they do provide a range of law school scholarships, many of which are devoted to less represented individuals such as women and minorities.

The American Association of University Women issues scholarships to women breaking into more traditionally male-dominated fields, including, to some degree, law. Their mandate suggests most of their financial grants will be channeled to areas like engineering, finance and medicine, but law may still qualify. Contact them directly for their latest offerings.

Very specialized law school scholarships may be had directly from law firms with specialization in sectors like personal injury and accident, health care/medical law or criminal law, for example. The Elaine Osborne Jacobsen Award for Women Working in Health Care Law is an annual scholarship of $3,000 that is granted to an under-graduate or graduate female law student who is performing community service in health care advocacy.

As is the case with almost all scholarships, law school scholarships need to be planned for. Begin your research years in advance and stay on top of the changes in the law school scholarship programs as they happen. Be creative; come up with an ideal law school scholarship that you believe would align with your needs and the needs of other students like you, write a proposal and pitch it to the suitable firm, association, foundation or philanthropic organization. You never know who might respond positively to your ideas for law school scholarships.

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