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I was wondering what the pros and cons of having a profession in law happen to be. I haven't had the opportunity to shadow somebody in a firm yet, and am unsure of the day-to-day schedule of a lawyer. TL;DR: best and worst parts of being a lawyer?

I'm in high school hoping to go into either a health or law profession after college. I am currently undecided about which university I want to go to and what my major will be. #lawyer #law-school #attorney #law


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Job’s Answer

It depends on the type of law you practice. I was a real estate, land use , construction defect and trial attorney dealing with large complicated civil cases. I did not deal with criminal, divorce or small civil matters.
The upside of being an attorney is resolving problems for your client. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of defending your client to the best of your abilities. The down side is long work hours, legal research, drafting and filing court documents, depositions, discovery requests and dealing with opposing attorneys that are not ethical. As a trial attorney you conduct a trial during the day and prepare for the next day in court that night. The work can be very draining.
Another function you have is to keep your clients informed of how things are proceeding and attempting them not to act out or request unnecessary court filings against the other party. Civil suits bring out the worst in clients between their fear of the outcome and their hatred of the opposing party. Some clients want to inflict monetary damage on the opposing party be filing many motions that the opposing attorney has to respond to, slowing down the case and costing the opposing party additional attorney fees. Some clients try to cause the opposing party to go broke prior to trial or draw out the proceedings so long the opposing party has already gone broke.
I hate to say this but to be successful one needs to understand court rules and procedures to enable them to make the case more difficult to the opposing party. One thing I did with new clients in serious suits was to have them hire all the other good attorneys in town by paying them 500-1,000 retainer so the opposing side could not hire them and therefore deprive them of the best counsel available. The practice of law is not like tv, you need to be aggressive and know how to navigate the court system for the benefit of your clients. Finally, some clients are not ethical or honest and you do not discover it until depositions or during the trial which is very upsetting.
The practice of law as a top flight attorney is not easy.

Retaining the good attorneys in town. I never even thought of that. Clever. And for upcoming attorneys, that’s another great, creative aspect of this career. Always using your imagination and trying to think outside of the box to find the best solutions for your clients. Randolph Brandelli

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Aram’s Answer

Hello, and good evening Attorney Brandelli, I always seem to answers these right after you and always find that you are spot on. Fortunately for our questioners I'm a corporate/government compliance/white collar criminal lawyer so I can offer a bit of a different perspective. What I can say, and I'm sure my fellow attorneys will agree, is that what your schedule is like will depend on what type of law you practice, where you choose to practice law and who you choose to work with (or if you choose to run your own firm). I can say that my day involves lots of client contact, I am usually on at client's places of business or jail (video calls now) or on the phone for a large part of the day. A lot of what I do involves answering legal questions that come from my clients and providing quick answers to help them conduct the day to day of their businesses. Once the rush of calls/videos is over, I turn the work that those calls generated, so typically the latter half of my day is spent writing and planning strategy. Since a lot of my cases involve thousands of documents there is always a couple hours of each that I spend working with and supervising document review contractors and talking to attorneys for the government.

As for what I love about my job I would say that it is the unpredictability, anything could come across my desk on any given day and I usually have to react quickly. This means that I am always learning something new, learning about different niches within different industries, this keeps things fresh and I am never ever bored. It is also fascinating to see all the ways people manage to get themselves in trouble, and for the most part in my world it involves recklessness and greed instead of violence. I also enjoy acting as a counselor, answering questions and providing guidance for clients that use me to help them follow the laws closely. I enjoy clients that come to me and flat out say, I want to do everything by the book, it's nice to work with people that have good intentions and it's nice being the guy that interprets "the book" that they intend to follow. Like Attorney Brandelli I also make my own hours (most lawyers do, especially as they advance in their careers). However, managing work load is often a challenge, so being disciplined about taking on projects is very important.

I also concur with Attorney Brandelli in that the part I dislike most about the practice is the financial side, I enjoy what I do, but I do not enjoy billing for it. In my world we keep our time in 6 minute increments, so it means I always have to be aware of what I am doing, what file I am working on and at the end of the day I have to account for my time so that clients are comfortable that they are getting a fair deal for the fees that they pay. I also dislike having to chase clients down to get paid, and often (especially when I know they are not in financial stress) I take their non-payment personally, I try not to, but it does get to you. Fortunately, I don't have many clients that don't pay and that is because I have ongoing relationships since I am on call at all times while a client business is operating. That means that I can end relationships with clients that I know are trying to use me to get around laws, or to cover up illegal activity or who don't pay for the services that I provide them with (I liken it to going to a restaurant, ordering food, eating, enjoying it and then deciding that now that you are full you don't feel like paying for the meal).

Lastly, much like Attorney Brandelli, I do run into situations that can be stressful. I am always aware that I am often the last stop between success and ruin and that many clients are trusting me with their hard earned business and in many cases their family's future. I also find it stressful when clients are not completely honest with me and I have had occasions where they neglected to tell me important information causing embarrassment and bad results all around.

Again, don't let any of this scare you off, if you find an area of practice that you really love, and you are good with people, you will find that you excel and that you can have a very rewarding career. Since you are asking these questions so early in the game you are in a great position to observe different legal environments, firms, the courthouse, government agencies, the world is yours for the taking at this point so take this time to pick something you feel will inspire and interest you. I see that you mentioned that you are thinking of choosing between a health care career and being a lawyer, these days you can combine the two. Lawyers that specialize in health care are in high demand, and there are so many niches within the health care field that you can very easily find something you like that combines both of your passions.

While I am not qualified to suggest what you should major in if you plan to go into health care, but I will say that if you plan on going to law school, you can really major in just about anything that teaches you to research and write. For example I majored in art history which has absolutely nothing to do with the law, but it did not disadvantage me at all when it came time to apply to law school and begin my career. For these reason I often discourage future lawyers from taking "pre-law" most good schools don't offer it, and I don't believe that it prepares you for law school. Again, as with picking your field, you are much better off picking something you like and you care about, because then you will excel and good grades are very important when applying to school. Also, majoring in something interesting will make you an interesting and well-rounded person which is as important as anything else when you are out in the world meeting potential clients.

This went on a lot longer than I intended. Hope this was helpful. Feel free to ask follow ups on here, I am sure we will all check back to see if you need something clarified. You are off to a great start and I am sure that you will have every success. Best of luck.

Aram recommends the following next steps:

Contact attorneys that you might have a connection to so you an arrange to shadow.
Research government agencies, maybe Health and Human Services or your state Department of Health and inquire about internships.
Contact your local state and federal prosecutors, they may also have internship programs or will allow you to shadow.
Check the hours at the courthouse (when things open up) and try to find a trial or evidentiary hearing to attend
Give some thought to where you want to be geographically, since it's easiest to get started if you study in the same city that you want to work in.

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Randolph’s Answer

The pros and cons of being a lawyer. I’ll start with the cons.
I am a divorce lawyer. I doubt anyone goes into law saying they want to be a divorce lawyer. I happened into this area because I had a very good friend that was one and mentored me at a time where I needed to find income.
As a divorce lawyer, I am in court on average I’d say twice per week. The other days I’m in the office preparing paperwork or talking to clients (or potential clients).
The major con of this profession is that my clients are at one of the worst parts of their lives. They have an ex that is trying to battle them in court for their kids or their money, or both. It can get really nasty and I hear the very ugly things people are doing to each other. Sometimes I am the only person they can talk to about their problems because they are too embarrassed to tell their friends and family. Regardless if they have support, I am the person they always need to vent with. I have different clients calling me at all different times complaining about the horrible thing their ex did to them or their kids. I then need to think of the best way to help them in their situation. Sometimes it’s just a letter to their ex’s attorney. Other times it’s filing a motion in court to make their ex do something or refrain from doing something. The constant battling can be very stressful.
An occasional con is when something needs to be filed and time is short. This is rare but once in a while there is the need to do whatever it takes to get things filed on time. For example, when there is a large trial, you need to prepare a trial brief (which explains your clients position on all issues), a witness list, an exhibit list, and you need to prepare all of the exhibits. Preparing the exhibit can take a lot of time because you have to go back and review the entire file to pick out the documents you think are important for the court to see. I’ve had to pull more than a few all-nighters for especially big cases.
The last con would be that sometimes it is difficult to get the clients to pay. This is especially true after I have performed my services and they don’t need me anymore. I may have been the hero when I was battling in court and getting them what they wanted, but when their case is done, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to pay. That is why attorneys try to get all of their money up front. But that is not always possible.
I hope I didn’t scare you off already because their are many pros to being an attorney as well.
The first obvious pro is the money. Attorneys can charge whatever they want. It’s really whatever the market will allow them. I charge $350 per hour. This rate has allowed me to have a very comfortable life style with nice vacations and not have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. Now my income varies from month to month depending on how many cases come in and other factors. But in some months I earn more than many people earn in an entire year. That is a definite pro!
Because I have my own practice, I make my own hours. This can be really fun sometimes. If I don’t have court and don’t feel like going into the office, I simply take the day off and do what I want. If I don’t have court in the morning, I can sleep in to whatever time I feel like going into the office. Really nice!
As for divorce law, as much as I told you how stressful it can be fighting the ex and battling in court, when everything is done it can be extremely rewarding to see my clients so happy that everything worked out and they are so thankful that I was able to help them get their lives back in order. Sometimes it makes me feel like all that studying and preparing to be an attorney was worth it. When I know I made a difference for the better in a person’s life, it is a really good feeling.
Lastly, a pro of being an attorney in general is knowing that no one can mess with you. Knowing the law is just a very powerful tool to have. Whether it’s myself, a friend or family having trouble with some company, for example, I simply write a letter and things get resolved. An attorney is one of the highest positions in society and there is instant respect and admiration from everyone you will come in contact with for the rest of your life. That alone is worth all of the hard work it took to get to this position.
I hope this helps you in your decision making. Good luck!!!

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Jackie’s Answer

I had a bit of a different path. I wanted to be a doctor. I went through all of undergrad taking biology, chemistry, physics, you name it, and on a whim I took a class on rhetoric in my college's communications department. I never had a more engaging, down to earth, straight-shooter professor in my life and wanted to be just like her. She would give us a topic, give us five minutes to write down some notes, then defend a position in front of a class of our peers. It was super difficult, forced you to think on your feet, and even if you didn't believe the argument, if you could defend your position in a coherent manner, you may just win!

This is what led me to the law. It is constantly changing and evolving, and depending on what President is in office, the rules of the game change constantly. Being able to keep up with the changes, stay fresh and be able to stand up for something or someone, especially if you believe in what you are doing is a game changer. It is so fulfilling. I am a corporate lawyer for a technology company (because cybersecurity and IT really interested me), and have evolved as a professional throughout my career. You will never stop learning or being challenged, but it is super rewarding to hold your head up at the end of the day and say "I did the best job I could do" and mean it. People's lives may or may not be at stake, whether a company survives or dies may be at stake, or even if you think chocolate milk is a better buy than white milk in an argument with your significant others, 'winning' is the greatest feeling in the world!

Just do what makes you happy. You can never have too much education, and it will never be wasted. I actually worked on a case for a biopharmaceutical company where I knew the difference between certain classes of drugs because of my undergrad studies. You NEVER know when what you may already know will come up, either personally or professionally. Whatever you choose, just know that you can ALWAYS change your mind! Good luck!

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Job’s Answer

It depends on the type of law you practice. I was a real estate, land use , construction defect and trial attorney dealing with large complicated civil cases. I did not deal with criminal, divorce or small civil matters.
The upside of being an attorney is resolving problems for your client. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of defending your client to the best of your abilities. The down side is long work hours, legal research, drafting and filing court documents, depositions, discovery requests and dealing with opposing attorneys that are not ethical. As a trial attorney you conduct a trial during the day and prepare for the next day in court that night. The work can be very draining.
Another function you have is to keep your clients informed of how things are proceeding and attempting them not to act out or request unnecessary court filings against the other party. Civil suits bring out the worst in clients between their fear of the outcome and their hatred of the opposing party. Some clients want to inflict monetary damage on the opposing party be filing many motions that the opposing attorney has to respond to, slowing down the case and costing the opposing party additional attorney fees. Some clients try to cause the opposing party to go broke prior to trial or draw out the proceedings so long the opposing party has already gone broke.
I hate to say this but to be successful one needs to understand court rules and procedures to enable them to make the case more difficult to the opposing party. One thing I did with new clients in serious suits was to have them hire all the other good attorneys in town by paying them 500-1,000 retainer so the opposing side could not hire them and therefore deprive them of the best counsel available. The practice of law is not like tv, you need to be aggressive and know how to navigate the court system for the benefit of your clients. Finally, some clients are not ethical or honest and you do not discover it until depositions or during the trial which is very upsetting.
The practice of law as a top flight attorney is not easy.

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Richard’s Answer

My wife is a Bankruptcy attorney. She says the best part of her job is that she is actually helping people that have had a change in financial status due to medical problems of themselves or family members, divorce, or loss or change in a job. The second best part is that she has some flexibility in her schedule since she is part of a very small firm.
The worst part (which could also be considered good in some respects) is that every case is different so it takes some time to learn the aspects of each case. She may have to learn about the client's business, or a new rule of law how it applies to their case. Also, some Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases take a lot of time. She worked until 10 PM the other night getting a plan ready for a court deadline.

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