Thinking about Becoming a Lawyer?

Law School Expert Blog

Do you want to be a lawyer? If you’re considering law school because others have suggested it to you, or because you feel compelled as your peers move on to seemingly prestigious employment options, take some time and delve into the lives of actual attorneys. If you have not yet done any serious research about the legal profession, what lawyers do, how much lawyers make, and how hard they work, there is no time like the present.

If you are still in the investigation stage and just learning about law school and careers in law, here are some ideas to help further your exploration:

  1. Take some law-related and/or writing and research-intensive courses.
  2. Attend seminars, either on a college campus, at a nearby law school, or arranged through a local American Bar Association group, to learn about areas of the law and to meet lawyers.
  3. Consider shadowing or interning with a lawyer for a better view of the daily realities of the legal profession.
  4. Reach out to lawyers in your community for informational interviews and informal meetings.
  5. Take a career assessment test.
  6. If you are a nontraditional applicant (meaning you’ve been out of college for three or more years), talk with friends who are lawyers and people who practice law, especially those who interact with law in a way that is related to your current (or intended) industry.

As you consider whether you are well-suited for a career in law, consider whether you have skills that are relevant and helpful in the practice of law:

  1. Oral and written communication skills;
  2. Complex reading comprehension skills;
  3. Problem-solving skills;
  4. Research skills;
  5. People skills, particularly with diverse populations;
  6. Foreign language proficiency;
  7. Business or professional acumen;
  8. A willingness to work hard;
  9. Professional ethics, and
  10. Are detail oriented.

The skills most utilized by lawyers can vary according to the type of practice. Litigators need to be writers and orators, but they also may need more specific knowledge (for example, medical records or accounting documents), depending on the area of law. Transactional attorneys need to be wordsmiths, but also may need the people skills to be deal-makers. Talk to attorneys who do things that you think sound interesting and/or viable and ask them what skills they think are important. For example, a judicial clerk may need to take time to seriously consider issues and research minute areas of law in depth, while a judge may need to make decisions on the spot, and an attorney who works on volume may need to work quickly.

Are you interested in legal issues?

It’s important that the law itself is of interest to you. Some cues to this are: an interest in politics, the Supreme Court, social justice issues including the Second Amendment, school-to-prison pipeline and reproductive justice, and/or other ways the law regulates our daily life through business, taxes, or immigration. If you find yourself reading articles or watching videos on these topics, it’s very likely that you’re sincerely interested in law.

Are you interested in only one singular area of law?

I worry about people who decide to apply to law school only because a niche area of law interests them. This is especially true for people who haven’t worked in the industry before. For example, if someone tells me they want to go to law school to practice sports law and they haven’t worked for a talent agency or as a professional in the sports industry, they really don’t know enough to make a major educational and financial investment to pursue law school. If someone is interested in different areas of law and one of them is sports law, then that tells me they are generally interested in legal issues. If someone has worked for an agent, a major league sports organization, or been a professional athlete, the single driver or motivator for going to law school is more credible.

Make sure that more than just one niche area interests you for three main reasons: (1) so you don’t regret your choice to go to law school if you later find that area of law isn’t interesting to you after all; (2) that area of law is difficult to break into and you can’t find work in the field, and (3) the economy is in a position where your area of law is not needed or desirable when you graduate from law school.

 

[This is an excerpt from the introductory chapter to the 6th Edition of The Law School Admission Game; Play Like an Expert, to be released in April 2024.]

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