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To find the best law school as an older student, you need to think even farther ahead. Where are you going to work when you get out?
No law firm or business will admit age discrimination in its hiring practices, but they all want young up-and-comers. Older students have to know that before they head down that long road.
So if you want a job when you are even older, plan on going to a law school based on its placement resources or be prepared to make your own. With your life experience, that can be a good thing. After all, you weren't born yesterday.
Law schools that prepare students for government and public interest work offer practical options. Harvard Law School advises "experienced" law students to market to public interest employers.
"Prior work experience is often marketable to a public interest employer, and in many cases can be considered an asset," it teaches. "Public interest employers often do not have the resources private firms do, so having someone with prior work experience who is able to step in and handle a great deal of responsibility without a great deal of supervision can be advantageous."
Harvard, Yale, Columbia and other top schools offer government, policy and public interest programs that may intrigue older students who want to make a difference in a second career. Military veterans, for example, have special access to government resources in law school and beyond.
Demanding courses and big-time student loans can be daunting for older law students, however. They may find full-time programs too heavy, especially if they have later-life obligations like child-rearing and mortgage payments.
Part-time, night time, weekend and online programs are a boon to older students and others. Mitchell Hamline School of Law offers all of them.
The American Bar Association granted William Mitchell College of Law -- a Mitchell Hamline predecessor -- the first accreditation for an online hybrid for coursework. Many other schools also offer flexible schedules that accommodate older students.
But in addition to choosing the best law school program, older students should consider the best location for their future practice. It helps, when looking for a job, to interview at local firms with alumni from your school of choice.
And if that doesn't work out, that law school diploma can be used for a law practice shingle. And with your pre-law school experience, that may make you the best new lawyer in town.
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