"(Students) should think foremost on why they want to be a lawyer," says Andrew J. McClurg, author of "1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School." "If their only reason was to make a whole lot of money, that was never a good reason, even when the economy was great."
Many students have unrealistic expectations about post-law school life and few have a clear picture of the daily lives of practicing attorneys, says Levin. Some don't know that they may not use their J.D. A survey by the NALP shows that 1 in 5 2012 graduates worked in a nonlegal profession or held jobs where a degree might have been an advantage or requirement, but passage of the bar was not required.
The best way to understand what attorneys do is by observing them first-hand, she says.
"Even in college, people often will get part-time jobs in law firms. They can volunteer for organizations where lawyers are working and doing public interest work. They should talk to lawyers; if they know lawyers, they can shadow lawyers," she says. "The one thing they shouldn't do is assume that what they are seeing is the entire range of what lawyers do."