Meet Jean Kelly

Law degree

1. Explain what your major is and what the degree requirements are.

Law degree schools vary widely in their requirements, but University of Texas at Austin requires 86 credit hours. Students take basic first-year courses and three other courses required before graduation. Second- and third-year students have an open schedule and can tailor it to their specific interests and goals.

2. How did you decide to go into the field you chose?

I thought the legal field would play on my academic strengths. I was an English and history major during my undergraduate study at Rice University. These studies helped develop my research and writing skills.

3. What classes/activities/clubs did you participate in while in high school that helped prepare you for your major and for college in general?

I was active in athletics during high school, and that time commitment taught me to be organized and to budget time for getting my class work done. Learning to balance school with extracurricular activities, work, and friends is something best learned early.

4. What activities and clubs do you participate in at college that help you achieve your goals and that have been valuable?

Most, if not all, law schools have student-run law reviews and legal journals—being on a journal’s staff is one of the best means of adapting your writing style to a legal one. That has certainly been the case with me, and I’ve made many lasting friendships on the journal.

5. Have you participated in an internship/cooperative education program?

I participated in a judicial internship, which provided me an excellent opportunity to see practiced lawyers handle cases and to familiarize myself with both substantive law and procedural elements.

6. Do you have a job that pertains to your major?

I have been working as a law clerk at a firm, doing research projects, writing memos, and various other assignments. It’s been a great way to learn more about the law and what sort of practice I find appealing. The people I work with have been great resources for me and have given invaluable advice and instruction.

7. What type of compensation can a graduate in your field anticipate after graduation?

Salaries vary, depending on whether you’re going to work for a public interest law organization, going to do a postgraduate judicial clerkship, or going to work at a law firm. They also vary dramatically based upon the size of the law firm, any specialty you might be practicing, and the geographic location of the office. According to a survey conducted by the National Association for Law degree Placement, the median salary for a first-year associate in 2003 was $93,000.

8. What are the three most important pieces of advice you would give someone who is interested in the field?

  • Take some pre-law or legal history courses in college so you get a feel for the type of material you’ll be studying in law school.
  • Try to get some internship experience in the legal field before college, just to see that you like it.
  • There are many books—fiction and non-fiction—about the legal profession and various aspects of the law. Reading them would be a good way to gain familiarity with current legal issues.

9. What personality types work best in the field?

There are so many different areas of the law, from litigation to transactional, that almost any personality type will find a niche.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

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