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Should I become a lawyer and how do I do it?

I am in the eleventh grade and I have always wanted to become a lawyer. My aunt is one and we always talk about how interesting it is. I have done some research and I think I want to work as a legal counsel for corporate or as a public defender, leaning more towards legal counsel due to the structure of the corporate world. While I do know being a lawyer is the path I am leaning towards, these specific paths of law are not set in stone since I am not yet entirely sure what I want to do. English is my best subject in school and I get overall good grades. Should this be the path I take? I also don't know what colleges/law schools are the best, what to major in, etc? Is law school worth it? Is the LSAT and bar test hard? Any other suggestions on any other kinds of lawyers that sound interesting? Is being a lawyer fun? Are there good benefits? What does a day look like as a lawyer? Any and all of this would be super helpful, and any extra details are welcome as well. Thank you for your time. #school #lawyer #law #lawyers #corporate-lawyer #law-school #corporatelawyer #inhousecounsel #generalcounsel #associate-lawyer #law #politicalscience #criminology


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Kim’s Answer

Hi Abby!

Perhaps you should ask your aunt to introduce you to other lawyers, and perhaps they could give you a "less-biased" perspective of the field. You definitely don't want to go into law if you are uncertain or afraid of difficult challenges. It's a grueling three years.

That being said. . . yes, the LSAT is hard, but, there are study prep programs available. Yes, the bar exam is hard, but, there are study programs available.

Is it worth it? That depends. Financially? If you get a good job and are able to pay off your loans. Is it rewarding? Maybe, depends what kind of work you do. I've worked with some Civil Rights lawyers who lose case after case, but they keep coming back for more. They are doing something they believe in, trying to make a difference in the world.

Benefits? Depends on the employer. You could work for the government. That would have good benefits. You could work for a small firm, or a non-profit. Maybe not so good. Corporate? good.

Fun? I'm not sure that word applies, unless you represent musicians or sports figures, and go to the shows! Law is more like an adrenaline rush. When you find that one little piece of evidence that tips the case a lot more in your favor, for example. Again, a lot depends on the type of law.

What to major in? Whatever you want! Try to choose something that you can go out and get a job doing if you choose not to go to law school. For example, finance/accounting. Try to choose something that will give you a good background for the type of law you want to practice. An example, biology if you want to go into medical malpractice. Whatever type of law you choose, there will be a lot of specifics to learn that aren't "law" at all. For example, was it a vehicular homicide when your client hit that pedestrian, or was it unavoidable? Tire tread, condition of the brakes, road surface, lighting, reaction time. . . .

Other classes to take: Speech, debate, LOGIC (really important - usually in the philosophy dept). Something where you learn to understand a balance sheet (company finances - following the money trail is part of law!) Join the toastmasters/toastmistress group and work on public speaking. Stay current in technology. Develop a good typing speed. Learn now to study, take good notes, and get organized. Learn what works for you! That is, what times of day is your brain disengaged? What methods help you study?

It also helps to learn how your "opponent" thinks. That is one reason for criminal defense attorneys to start out as prosecutors. If you want to do criminal defense, you should join the police explorers, for example, or do ride alongs with police officers ( i think you need to be 18).

Me? No, I'm not a lawyer. I retired from law enforcement and did freelance work for civil rights/criminal defense cases, including in-custody deaths. From that perspective, I can tell you that a day in the life is driven by your calendar, and, involves a lot of time researching and writing, communicating with clients, opposing counsel, etc. It's not really glamorous. But, that's just that one area of law.

If you are determined to get what you what, and you really want this, then, go for it! Another option to consider is paralegal. They make decent money, and do a lot of the same work the lawyer does, including research and writing. But, the lawyer gets the limelight. Much less expensive schooling. If that is something you are interested in, you will want to look into a paralegal program that is approved by the ABA - American Bar Assn. Those credentials will get you further than ones from schools not approved by the ABA.

There are people who become paralegals first, and then decide to go to law school. That is also an option!

Best of luck!

Thank you for answering! This was really helpful! Abby C.

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Brittany D.’s Answer

Hi Abby -

I am so excited for you as you decide on your next career move! I am a lawyer and have been practicing for 9 years! I am a corporate lawyer and work in-house at a technology company in the Bay Area. I can say, from experience, that you are asking the right questions, so let me see if I can help:

Litigation or Corporate?

This is a tough decision! Law school is more geared towards litigation work -- you learn how to write briefs, argue in court and dissect case law. When you go to law school, you should think critically about whether you like the type of work that you are doing -- does research excite you? do you like preparing a brief/motion? If you do, you will have opportunities during the summer to work at law firms and test out that practice. If you don't, you can use summer internships to explore other areas of law, as well as look for classes in your other areas of interest. Generally, litigators like to do research and they enjoy the personal connection that comes from representing their client. Cases tend to stretch over long periods of time, so it takes a lot of dedication to the practice. Corporate lawyers don't do as much research, but they do get to work directly with key players in a company to navigate a changing legal landscape and push a company's corporate strategy forward. In general, corporate work is a mixed bag of short and long-term projects that sometimes don't involve any writing at all! That's what attracted me, but everyone is different!

Choosing a College/Law School?

I wouldn't worry so much about choosing a college and/or major that is specifically suited for upcoming lawyers. You can major in anything and go anywhere and be a lawyer! I was a pre-law major in college, but I can be honest and say that it didn't really prepare me for law school. For law schools, there are reports, like the US News Report that ranks the best law schools in the U.S. These rankings change year to year, but they do show you the metrics for what people look at to review and rank law schools --LSAT scores of incoming students, class size, etc. You can take a look at the rankings and get a sense for what is out there! Picking a law school is a mix of factors that may include law school reputation, geographic location, financial aid, etc. Also, take a look on Google and look up the profiles of lawyers you would like to be like and see where they went to law school!

Testing (Bar and LSAT)?

The LSAT and the Bar are both hard exams. LSAT tests your reading comprehension and logic, while the Bar tests a core set of legal topics that you should know by the completion of law school. I took the LSAT and the California and New York bar and as someone who doesn't love standardized tests, I can tell you that it takes a lot of hard work and preparation!

Lawyer Life?

I really enjoy being a lawyer, because no day is the same! I love helping my clients (in my case, internal business colleagues) and helping to shape the way my company works and operates in the software industry. It is a lot of hard work and preparation, so you have to make sure you are dedicated to spending the time, energy and effort it takes to become a lawyer! You have plenty of time to figure that out and it seems like you already are asking the right questions!


Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer! It's really helpful :) Abby C.

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Emmanuel’s Answer

Hi Abby,

I have been working a lot with the Legal profession over the past 15 years in corporate organisations when we have to acquire services or goods from other companies. Lawyers in that case would help us to put a contract in place and negotiate the best terms for the company.

This type of law would require a good communication style, being able to listen and understand specific issues but also be able to be assertive, clear and concise. Of course, having a strong level of English is important and the most difficult thing is often to explain in simple terms a complex situation. This type of lawyers would also need to have a good understand of the business situation, the risks involved and to answer your question, it is great fun to be in a contract negotiation. You need to "feel" the room, tried to understand your next move, negotiate internally (with your stakeholders) and externally (with your suppliers) so you can close a deal!

Hope that will help
emmanuel

Thank you so much! Abby C.

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Rafi’s Answer

You are only in 11th grade so you have plenty of time to figure this all out. Here are my answers to your questions:

Should this be the path I take? This totally depends on personal preference.

I also don't know what colleges/law schools are the best, what to major in, etc? You will need to choose a college first. Law school admissions are based largely on standardized test scores, with grades coming second and your major a distant third. Your major really does not matter. You just need to do well in the first two categories. I'd recommend going to as good of a college as you can without taking on an unsustainable debt burden. Same advice for law school.

Is law school worth it? It is hard to recoup the money you spend on law school over a career. But again depends on scholarships etc.

Is the LSAT and bar test hard? The LSAT is very hard and you should study for it a lot (taking a class if possible). The bar is passable for most people but you are a long way from that.

Any other suggestions on any other kinds of lawyers that sound interesting? Public interest law > corporate law.

Is being a lawyer fun? There are many unhappy lawyers but it is also an incredible feeling to support the rule of law in this country.

Are there good benefits? Depends

What does a day look like as a lawyer? Busy. Lot of hours.

Finally: you must get a job as a paralegal before committing to law school. Try to work during or after college in such a role to see if you are really interested or if seems too dry for you.

Thank you! Abby C.

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Alexandra’s Answer

Hi, I recommend taking some courses in law school and reading some books or articles on the subject. If you are an analytical person who likes solving problems, writing and communicating this would be a good fit for you. There are many types of law you can practice depending on your interest. Good luck to you.

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