When choosing any career, or making a career change, it’s important to have some idea of what to expect from the years ahead. Of course, you won’t be able to see into the future to know exactly what your day-to-day will be like, but you can get an idea of what kind of journey you will take to get there. As such, here are a few ideas of what you should expect from a legal career, including some of the challenges you can expect to face, and how to do that.
1. Law school is a long and grueling process
The law is an undeniably complicated topic. As such, it should be no surprise that the role of a lawyer is one of the professions that demands the most education from those who want to become one. The steps to becoming a lawyer are numerous, including your undergraduate degree, getting a juris doctor law degree, and passing the bar exam. Overall, you can expect to spend at least seven years of your life on schooling. This can differ from state to state, but there are degrees and exams you will have to fulfill no matter where you go.
2. Becoming a lawyer can be expensive
Not only can it be a long and arduous process to become a lawyer. It can also be very expensive. After all, you have to pay for all of that education. There are tips for how to pay for law school that you can find, and getting financial assistance where possible, such as grants and scholarships, is highly recommended. However, you should expect that you’re going to have to pick up a part-time job while you’re still in education, even as demanding as that education is going to be.
3. You aren’t going to be a hotshot lawyer straight out of law school
One of the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer is that you’re going to come out of law school and immediately start blazing your trail and proving that the education was all worth it. The truth is that first-year lawyers often do the kind of work you would expect from legal admin assistants. You don’t know a lot about practicing the law yet, only the law itself. As such, you need to learn skills such as keen attention to detail, communication with your team, and how to treat your clients. Your first year as a lawyer is going to feel a lot like more education on top of the seven minimum years of studying you have already done, but you have to accept it.
4. You spend a lot more time outside court than inside it
Again, you might have dreams of making a compelling and convincing argument sticking to the evidence of the case in front of a judge, but that’s not likely to be a reality any time soon. Not only are you going to spend more time outside of court than inside it, but you also might not even see a courtroom for years in your career, depending on what direction you take. In fact, you’re likely to spend most of your time writing. Improving your written communication skills is crucial, as a lot of your time will be spent on contracts, memos, briefs, legal letters, and so on. If you can’t handle paperwork, then becoming a lawyer might not be the best path for you.
5. Trying out different practice groups early is a good idea
There are a lot of different directions your career as a lawyer can take. For all of the practice groups, there are, there’s a career you can find specializing in that direction. From real estate to business law, tax law to intellectual property, injury to employment law. However, as your career goes on, it’s easy to find yourself settling into a lane without having really thought about it too much. As such, it’s important to take the first year to try out different practice groups. You might not really know what field of law best suits you until you try it, and you’re going to get your most opportunity to “play the field” early in your career.
The above tips are general, and while they might not apply to everyone who looks into a career as a lawyer, they are representative of the majority. If you want a career in law, then be sure to do your research, getting accounts from those who have taken the road before you. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.