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What is it like being an estate planning lawyer/constituional lawyer/civil litigation lawyer?

I am currently trying to figure out what course to take for University in the near future. However, I am still indecisive about it, but I have been leaning towards Law (particularly, in civil litigation, constitutional and estate planning law) for some time now but, I am still hesitant about it.
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Desiree’s Answer

Hi Auni - To be honest, I've not practice estate planning or constitutional law, but I am a lawyer and have experience in civil litigation in the U.S. I'll share what's it has been like in my experience.

I started my legal career at a large law firm with lots of companies - and government entities - as clients. I had lots of different types of clients and did transactional work (emails, contract drafting/review/negotiation, due diligence/investigation, meeting with other professional experts in tax, engineering, accounting, etc); litigation (preparing to go to court); and mediation (presenting a commercial disagreement to a mediator to be settled based on contracts and evidence - sort of like a mini trial with no jury). The litigation & mediation work involved drafting and filing motions, preparing discovery/reviewing the other side's discovery (all the evidence and documents), preparing for and take depositions, etc. Those parts are really intense in each phase, which is rather formulaic based on the trail calendar (you cannot put the cart before the horse!). The fun part about a law firm is that you have a variety of clients and you are juggling lots of different matters. Some clients were terrific to work with and gave you fun, challenging legal problems to sort out - that made the time fly by! On occasion, I'd have a very grouchy and prickly client which made the demanding work of practicing law feel even harder. At a large law firm there is an expectation that you will put in a lot of hours. You need to meet the "billable" hours (i.e., the time that gets charged to clients), but you also have to take Continuing Legal Education, write articles for your firm's blogs/white papers and maybe even a local bar association, work on landing new clients (or keeping old clients happy) - aka "client development". So in addition to the the billable hour commitment, there is a significant non-billable hour requirement, too. There are no two ways about it: working at a large law firm is competitive, hard work that requires a huge time commitment with limited flexibility (although firms are always trying to improve the so-called work/life balance).

After the law firm, I took an in-house position, working for a large international company. This was much more flexible, but also required a lot of flexibility from -- to take phone calls at all hours to accommodate matters in other countries, travel (before COVID put the brakes on that), and I even moved to (I work for the company in Asia for a few years). Once you are working for one company, you have one client. You have to keep that one company (and everyone who works there, each of whom is arguably your client!) happy with your work - even if you have to advise them that their newest, greatest idea is not possible under the law; that there is a new law that will require additional expense for compliance; or that a law suit didn't end the way they'd hoped. You need to be strong and diplomatic when you have to bear "bad" news, so that can be hard. But you also get to know the company so well - you get to help shape policies, address issues before they become problems, and protect the company. Rather than just be retroactive and putting out fires (like most attorneys in law firms), you get to be pro-active. It's exciting to stay abreast of the business strategy and direction, to try to anticipate legal hurdles, and then to find the ways to accomplish the business objective while staying compliant under the law. Frankly, I think all the lawyers at my company work hard and put in a lot of time. However, we have much more flexibility -- and are required to be flexible -- as to when we work.

Based on my experience and observations, to be a successful attorney, you need to put in long hours (especially at the start of your career). The more senior you are, the more flexibility you have, but the need to work hard never seems to lessen.

Note that in the U.S., you don't have to decide the precise area of the law you which to practice until after you're admitted to the bar. Law school trains you to be any sort of lawyer - be it estate planning, constitutional or litigation. So don't focus too hard on exactly what you will practice - that can evolve with time, exposure and experience.

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Research local law school admission requirements to see how best to prepare yourself as an applicant
Research local law school curriculum to see if the subjects interest you
Ask your parents, aunt/uncles, grandparents, teachers, coaches to introduce you to a lawyer they know and talk to them about their career path
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