Now that federal tax day has passed, many accountants and bookkeepers can finally have some free time to think about the next steps in their careers. Law school may be particularly attractive to accountants who hope to work on legal or policy issues, or leverage their experience to start lucrative careers in business, corporate finance, compliance, or tax law.
A background in accounting can help you stand out from other law school applicants. However, there are some things you should do when preparing to apply:
- Assess your relevant skills.
- Review your resume.
- Look for volunteer opportunities.
- Explain any outliers.
Assess your relevant skills
Law schools are increasingly interested in applicants with work experience. Even if your work isn’t directly related to law, look for ways to show how it makes you a stronger candidate than someone straight out of college.
Although it may not seem obvious, working in accounting is a job that prepares candidates well for the challenges of law school. Accountants must be thorough, performing research and analysis both alone and with a small team. They have experience serving clients in stressful situations, sometimes including assuming fiduciary responsibilities or other positions of trust. And, of course, they have expertise relevant to common law courses like tax law, corporate law, and nonprofit law.
Revise your CV
Because finance positions are so specialized, many accountants have resumes filled with technical jargon and very specific skills. For example, they can list the types of software, common forms, different accounting methods, or sections of tax code they have worked with.
This makes sense for a job search, where hiring agents may be looking for a specific fit. Law school admissions officers, however, are more interested in the soft skills and translatable experiences you bring to the table.
A resume for law school applications should be written succinctly in plain English, organized with a strong hierarchy of information so that the most important entries stand out. Be clear about your roles and responsibilities and the results you have achieved.
Search for volunteer opportunities
If your career is highly specialized, explore volunteer activities to broaden your skills. You may be able to take on additional responsibilities at work. Or, you can put your skills to good use within your community, helping low-income taxpayers or helping small businesses keep their financial records in order.
Not only will such activities look great on your resume, but they will also show you as someone who will contribute to a law school’s clinics, student groups, and campus life.
Like law school applicants with a STEM background, students who majored in subjects such as finance or accounting in college bring an uncommon mastery of data and quantitative reasoning. However, such rigorous programs of study are difficult to complete with consistently high grades.
Undergraduate grades are one of the most important factors in law school admissions, as they are statistically correlated with doing well in law school. If you have a low overall GPA, it is very important to score high on the LSAT or GRE or take additional courses to show your academic potential.
If you only have a few embarrassing outliers on your transcript, or even a difficult semester, consider writing a transcript addendum to explain and take responsibility for your poor performance. Note that this may not be necessary if these lower grades were in your first semesters; few students started running.
Whether you’re still early in your career or an older candidate looking for a new career, it’s best to frame law school as a natural next step in your career rather than a drastic change. Even if you feel more than ready for a change of pace, focus on how the experience you bring to the table will boost your career path after law school.