Welcome to Reuters Legal News beta. Please enjoy and provide us with your feedback as we continue to improve the Reuters Legal News experience.

Skip to main content
Skip to floating mini video

Law school as a teen? These aspiring lawyers are on the fast track

3 minute read

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
  • A few students each year start law school before they can legally vote
  • Students say being so young brings extra challenges-and opportunities

(Reuters) - Haley Taylor Schlitz is on track to graduate from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in May. But she won't be able to celebrate at the bar with her classmates—at least not legally.

Schlitz started college at 13, entered law school at 16 and will be 19 when she gets her J.D., placing her among the small group of ultra-young law students who graduate as teens.

Journalist Ronan Farrow—the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen—enrolled at Yale Law School at 16 and graduated in 2009. Seth Harding graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law last year at 19. Braxton Moral, also 19, will get his J.D. from Washburn University School of Law later this month. And Charmaine Chui, 16, is in her first semester at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on a full-ride scholarship.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

These teens encounter skepticism and surprise from some lawyers and classmates about their age. And they make career decisions and may take on significant student debt before their peers have even applied to college. But several who recently spoke to Reuters said they have no regrets, and that their unusual path can open doors in the legal profession.

“I’ve had a few attorneys who have said, ‘Well, I don’t understand what the rush is, and there’s no way that you are going to fit in,’” Schlitz said. “But I’ve also had a lot of opportunities offered to me because people are impressed with my accomplishments and resume.”

The American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, does not maintain an age minimum for students, though some states have age thresholds for practicing law or taking the bar exam. California, Florida and Texas have adopted 18 as their minimum age, while New York requires bar examinees to be at least 21.

Being a teenage law student poses some challenges. Many law school social events and networking events take place at bars or involve alcohol, making it difficult for underage students to join in. Chui said she doesn't advertise her age to her classmates at ASU, so they are sometimes surprised to learn that she can’t join them at happy hour.

The students are also learning to be lawyers while still learning to be adults. That was the toughest part for Aaron Parnas, who enrolled at George Washington University Law School in 2017 when he was 18 and moved away from home for the first time.

“I was trying to figure out how to pay rent and where to go to do laundry at the same time I was trying to figure out contracts and constitutional law—it wasn’t always easy,” said Parnas, who graduated in 2020 and now works at a white-collar defense boutique firm in Miami.

Chui has her own apartment in Phoenix, though her parents visit frequently from Los Angeles to check in and stock her refrigerator.

Her philosophy? “Don’t worry so much about following the norm,” she said. “It’s more important to enjoy what you’re doing.”

Read more:

Law students report exhaustion, anxiety, food insecurity amid pandemic

Deep applicant pool yields record-breaking diversity at top law schools

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com

More from Reuters