For #1, you'll want to get a sense of what lawyers actually do on a day-to-day basis. There are a ton of different areas of law and types of lawyers, so don't think you know what the options are just because you've seen Law and Order or Judge Judy. For #2, you'll want to find programs that involve lots of writing, critical thinking, and presentations/public speaking. Here are some ideas:
- Dennis is absolutely right that one of the best ways to figure out if you're interested in law and being a lawyer is to go to court and watch. You'll want to look online ahead of time and find out if you can take your cell phone in the building (if not, leave it behind). When you go in, tell the security people why you're there --- they might just shrug and ignore you (don't get discouraged, they're busy), but they also might be able to give you a heads up where the most active courtrooms are that day. Take note of the different types of matters, and what interests you. Also keep in mind that there are a ton of different areas of law, and not all lawyers go to court.
- Talk to lawyers about what they do, and what they like and don't like about it. Ask your parents, family friends, teachers, coaches, etc., to see if they know lawyers you can talk to. Don't be intimidated; lawyers are people, too, and most people love to talk about what they do and help high school students figure out what they want to do in life.
- Look for mock trial programs, either in high school, the community, or college. These are usually competitive teams where you have an information packet on a fake lawsuit, and you can play a witness or a lawyer (or both), putting on a fake (mock) trial against another team. There are more college teams than high school teams, but look out for them.
- Many lawyers are advocates, which means they argue for their client's interests in writing, verbally, or both. Programs like debate let you practice building a case and public speaking, and will help you decide if those are tasks that you will enjoy long term. Other programs or classes that involve public speaking, persuasive writing, or frequent presentations will also help with this. There are a number of DECA programs and other business programs that fit this bill, as does Toastmasters International.
- Programs relating to social causes (environmental causes, racial equity, etc.) or political causes can also help. Many lawyers work in these areas so you can find out if they interest you, and volunteer work in these areas can look great on your college/law school applications, so it's a win-win.
- Look for business programs, too. Many lawyers have businesses as clients, so learning about business and finding out if you're interested in areas like finance, marketing, technology/Artificial intelligence, mergers & acquisitions, etc., will help you learn what you like.
- Finally, just keep seeking out opportunities and programs that look interesting to you and you enjoy. It's great to have a direction in 9th grade, but it's important not to have tunnel vision; when you become an adult you'll spend a lot of time working, and it helps to find a career that you find interesting and challenging. Get involved with hobbies that you like, and those might help you find direction in your career, whether it's the hobby itself or the type of law you want to practice. And even if you decide you don't want a career that relates to your hobby, at least you've found something you enjoy doing!
Tonya recommends the following next steps:
Before college, here's a tip to begin your career in LAW. Enlist with the US Army or Marine Corps as a Military Police officer. You can sign up at 17 (with parental consent) and begin your law enforcement career while finishing high school. From your 18th birthday to 21, you could complete a 2, 3, or 4 year tour as a Military Police officer, gaining Veteran's Status and essential experience on the job, while other kids your age are struggling with college and retail (Starbucks or McDonald's) jobs. You'll get hands-on experience dealing with report writing, interviews and interrogations, handling evidence, testifying in court, making arrests, obtaining warrants, etc.
While on active duty, you could complete a degree ON-LINE with any of several colleges, such as the University of Maryland, Global Campus, and graduate in 3 years with a BA/BS. (Most colleges and Universities give you college credit for attending military training.) The military will PAY for your college. You could study any major (Psychology, Criminal Justice, English, etc) and gain experience with crime scenes, investigations, interview techniques and more.
By the time you reach 21, you would have 3-4 years of real world law enforcement experience, a world-class university degree, and be ready (and competitive) for your application for law school or to be hired at any police agency you wish to attend. You would then have a much better than average resume for your application into law school.
Long term- stay in the Reserves or National Guard for 20 years, concurrent with your future job as an attorney, and you'll qualify for a military pension and other benefits. You'll also have Veteran's Preference for every job or promotion you apply for (for life), and GI Bill benefits when you're ready to buy a home.
Michael recommends the following next steps: