Being a lawyer is a prestigious profession that poses various rewards financially and emotionally. It will get your mind working simultaneously because of the intellectual challenges that lawyers are faced with on a day to day basis.
The best part is that you will have the flexibility to use the skills you learn as you practice your profession in another career should you wish to switch paths.
If you are keen on being a lawyer, below are some of the things that you need to think about.
Factors that you need to consider
To become a lawyer, you need to reckon certain factors that can affect your future success in terms of completing the course, passing the exam, and practising your profession. You need to think about the hard work that you need to put into to master various legislation in your jurisdiction and use this knowledge to assist the people who need your services. Aside from this, below are some other things that you need to ponder on.
Cost of law school
One of the main things that you need to consider if you want to become a lawyer is the cost of going to law school. Private schools impose higher fees compared to public schools, but still, you need to allot a certain budget to get you through the course. In case you already have a job, expect that you need a significant portion of your salary to fund your schooling. Nevertheless, think of this as an investment because, in the long run, the pay that you get from practising law may prove to be lucrative.
Time needed to complete the courses
Another thing that you need to think of when you pursue law is the time you need to complete the courses. Depending on the units you take every semester, you may be able to finish law school between a three to five year period. However, this is law school proper, and the time you need to finish your undergraduate degree is not yet included in this timeline. Most countries entail the need for you to finish a certain undergraduate major for you to qualify for admission in law school.
Various skills necessary
- Logical Reasoning and Analysis – As a lawyer, you need to possess logical reasoning and analysis, which is necessary regardless of the area you intend to practice. It is highly likely for you to thrive being a lawyer if this skill comes naturally for you. A good sign of this is if you enjoy completing logic puzzles or doing research. Nonetheless, this skill can certainly be acquired so be open to the types of hobbies that can improve your reasoning.
- Writing Skills – Lawyers need to be able to express their stand on a case through writing as this is one of their main tools to achieve success for their client’s cases. If you intend to be a trial attorney, you need to master the art of persuasive writing such that this reflects on your argue motions or try cases, as well as in your legal pleadings. On the other hand, if your goal is to be a corporate lawyer, then you need to be able to draft documents effortlessly.
- Communication Skills – Lawyers are not only eloquent on paper, but they are effective speakers as well. According to a seasoned chicago lawyer, you need to be an effective communicator because this is a key characteristic that is needed in working with your future clients. If you master your communication skills, you will also be able to efficiently negotiate the cases you will handle aggressively, strategically, and creatively.
How to become a lawyer
Reflect on your career goals
The first step in becoming a lawyer is in reflecting on your career goals. After all the considerations that you need to think about, ask yourself if becoming a lawyer are what you want. Fortunately, you will have ample time to switch paths in case you realise that law is not really for you because of the schooling timeline involved in completing a law degree.
Attend an undergraduate school
Certain countries don’t require you to take up any undergraduate studies for you to be eligible for admission to a law school. However, some countries impose otherwise. In the case of the latter, you may want to consider attending a college with a law school available. While there are no specific undergraduate courses required, you need to carefully choose a major. Some of the most popular undergraduate majors are:
- Political Science. This course will offer you with an invaluable framework regarding the laws that you will take up in law school.
- Psychology. This social science course blends history, reading, writing, as well as quantitative analysis together, which will help you identify the best angle to handle your cases.
- History. With a good understanding of how previous cases ran its course, you will be able to establish a good practice on how to manage your current cases.
- English. Since the practice of law needs precise writing and speaking skills, an English major will help you build a foundation for your career.
- Economics. This major will equip you with the qualitative and quantitative experience that you need, which will prove to be beneficial when you enter law school, and as soon as you practice your career.
- Criminal Justice. This field of study will provide you with an in-depth understanding and exposure to the law, even before you set foot in law school.
- Philosophy. With this major, you will be able to hone your logic and reasoning which can have a significant impact on how effective you will be as a lawyer in the future.
- Sociology. Sociology involves the need for you to scrutinize data and write extensively lengthy papers, which can be a valuable practice of your critical thinking and writing skills.
Attend law school
- Choose a law school – Once you have completed an undergraduate degree, the next step is for you to attend law school properly. In choosing the perfect school for you to attend to, make sure that you weigh in the cost of their courses as well as the location of the school. Both of these can either make it easy for you to attend the school or it can also test your capabilities in terms of managing your money and time. Apart from this, also take into consideration the culture of the law school, as well as their academic support programs. This entails the need for you to think about the area of practice you intend to probe into and assess whether the law school has ideal programs for this practice.
- Prepare for an admission test – After choosing the most suitable law school for you, the next step is for you to make the necessary preparations for the admission test. Successfully passing the entrance exams is one of the criteria that makes up your entire eligibility to attend the law school. In doing so, you may opt to enroll in a review class or find a study partner. Never underestimate the test difficulty because these admission exams are designed to efficiently filter those who have what it takes to be a successful lawyer.
- Law school proper – Once you get into law school, expect to spend the next three to five years of your educational life in your new home, depending on the number of units you take in each semester. The courses you need to complete while in law school may include civil procedure, contracts, and legal writing to name a few. This is aside from the in-depth legislation that you need to familiarize yourself with within your jurisdiction.
Take the bar exams
Without successfully passing the bar exams, you won’t be able to get your license, which is mandatory for you to be able to practice your legal profession. You must exert an extra effort in making all the preparations and studying necessary to pass the exams. This assessment aims to evaluate your knowledge and understanding of all the concepts and skills that have been taught to you in law school. Once you pass the bar exams, you will already be able to practice law but only in the state or jurisdiction where you passed. In case you intend to practice law in another state, you need to take the bar exam in that jurisdiction as well.
Practice as an associate
Oftentimes, a stepping stone towards a career in the legal profession is to work as an associate in an established law firm. This is where you will be able to learn the tricks of the trade. After spending some time with the firm, showing excellent skills and expertise, they may soon hire you as one of their partners. While being an associate or once you move up, below are some of the common areas where you can concentrate on your legal profession.
- Defense Attorney. Defense attorneys research the facts of their client’s case to be able to provide an accurate representation and strategy for defense.
- Corporate Counsel. Corporate counsels provide sound advice to the business executives regarding any legal matter that the corporation may face.
- Environmental Lawyer. A lawyer who focuses on environmental law usually works with groups fighting for their advocacy related to the preservation of the environment.
- Tax Lawyer. A lawyer who concentrates on the regulations involving taxes and its complexities when it comes to income or property for individuals or businesses is referred to as a tax lawyer.
- Intellectual Property Lawyer. In this modern-day and age of technological innovations, intellectual property lawyers are often sought after to help individuals or businesses protect their patents, trademarks, inventions, and creative works.
- Family Lawyer. There are various legal matters when it comes to family law and for this, a lawyer who is an expert in this field will be of significant help.
Put up your law firm
- Business Plan – Once you have established your name in the field of law, there is always the option for you to put up your law firm. To do so, you need to develop a business plan because after all, putting up your firm is still a form of a business. In your plan, you need to layout the mission statement of your firm. Not only this, but you need to precisely identify in your plan the competitive edge that your firm will be able to offer. This should also encompass the finances of your firm, as well as the marketing strategy you intend to implement.
- Choose an area of practice – Larger firms tend to have numerous practice areas, but for firms that are just starting, it is best to initially focus on providing services in a certain area of law. In doing this, you will have a greater chance of emulating an exemplary performance in each of the cases you handle. As a result, you will be able to build your reputation and garner more clients. As you expand your client base, you will also be able to build on your network and grow your firm.
- Build your identity – It is important to name your law firm well based on your area of expertise. You also have the option of adapting your name to be the identity of your law firm. You also need to decide on an organisational structure or your firm depending on how you intend to run it, either as a sole practitioner or a professional corporation.
Before you take the plunge in becoming a lawyer, make sure to think about certain factors such as the cost of law school, as well as the time needed for you to complete the required courses. Also consider the skills you need to possess such as logical reasoning and analysis, as well as writing and public speaking skills. All these are essential when it comes to pursuing a career in the legal profession.
In becoming a lawyer, you will be faced with several hurdles that may prove to be all the more challenging if you are not rooted in what you want to achieve. Thus, you need to extensively reflect on your career goals and choose an undergraduate major that will help you get through law school. Prepare yourself for the bar exams because passing it is the key for you to be able to practice your profession.