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What information is necessary to know if I want to start my own law practice?

I am a sophomore in high school. I someday want to become a lawyer. I just want to know if there is anything I can be doing now in preparation. #law #lawyer


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Bob’s Answer

My suggestion would be to learn as much as you can about running a business while considering what type of law you will eventually want to practice. Running a law practice of your own takes the same skills you will need to run any type of business, so in addition to learning law, you will want to understand profit and loss statements, advertising, networking, and management.


That said, I would recommend putting most of your focus on finding a college and major that would help you with law school. History and political science are some of the most common, but consider business or other majors to round out your background. You might decide on a particular area of law between now and law school, and some areas lend themselves more to opening your own practice than others. For example, you might want to be a criminal defense lawyer, but decide first you would like to become a prosecutor to see what the other side feels like.


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Phi’s Answer

That's wonderful that you are thinking so far ahead! I think that there are a few things you can do to start right now to prepare while you are in high school:
1) read and write as much as possible- these skills are very helpful in the legal field
2) take a speech and debate class/join a club- your oral argument skills need to be strong in the legal field so the more experience the better
3) volunteer at a legal organization- see if you can get some experience doing any type of work for a legal organization in your area or see if there might be an internship you can do when you are a Senior
4) logic- do some logic exercises or take a class, this will help you with the LSAT
I hope this helps!


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Amber’s Answer

All of Phi's advice is absolutely wonderful. There are also high school mock trial competitions you may be able to find and get involved in.


When you start thinking about college, remember that lawyers come from many different backgrounds, so make sure to do something that interests you. Remember, of course, that if you want to become a lawyer you'll have to keep those grades up!


Good luck and congratulations on thinking so far into the future.


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Deborah’s Answer

I love how you are thinking ahead! It sounds like you ultimately want to start your own solo law practice. A solo practice can be very rewarding, because you can pick and choose matters that you feel passionate about, and be your own boss. And of course as things get busy, you can hire like-minded people to help you get the work done.


Your next step toward your goal is college, of course. It really doesn't matter what you major in. Just pick something you really like, because you will get better grades than you will at something you feel lukewarm about. Grades really matter when you are applying to law schools. The only exception is if you think you want to practice patent law, in which case you should major in a science or engineering field.


After you go to law school I want to encourage you to consider starting off at a medium to large size law firm first. I think it would give you an extremely valuable foundation on which to build your own practice later. You'll have the benefit of formal training, and the guidance of more experienced lawyers while you learn your craft. Then when you are ready, you can voyage out on your own with the confidence to know you are an ace in your field! And you can market yourself to potential clients by saying you have that big law firm training, which tends to give clients built-in confidence and a willingness to hire you. Best of luck!


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Gary’s Answer

http://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/7-things-that-might-surprise-you-about-having-your-own-law-firm/


Hi, here is a link with some information about starting a law firm. Right now, I think your best preparation would be to take classes that will prepare you for college and law school after college. I would suggest deciding on your college major within the next 2 years...below is a link from a Forbes article about college majors for lawyers...you can really major in a lot of degree plans and specialize in a lot of different types of law.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2012/10/29/does-your-major-matter/


In high school, it is good to participate in activities like journalism/newspaper, debate and anything that can give you a leadership role in a group.
Good luck.


Thank you so much for your insight! I will make sure that I look at the websites you provide me with. Aerionna S.

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Andrew’s Answer

I agree with all the above comments, especially as related to the actual practice of law. An important note, though: you can use a law school education to gain skills that are marketable in any area where you might have interest. In other words, you don't HAVE to be a lawyer. Consider someone like the late Tim Russert, who used his legal education to become a world-class journalist.


Law school helps to develop critical thinking, the ability to reason, and a true attention to the details of a particular set of facts. There is no one way to prepare for it or for a legal career afterward. As mentioned above, a love of reading--particularly, critical reading--will serve you well. The most important advice I could give is to go in with an open mind. I had a number of classmates who were tied to their ideologies going in, and they did not adjust well as professors tried to break down all those preconceived notions.


Also, make sure now to start figuring out a good work flow. Time management cannot be taught, and is one of the hardest things to develop, especially once you're buried in legal treatises, doctrines, and dogma. Learn now how to manage your time and be intentional about preparing your day. Make yourself happen to your day, instead of letting your day happen to you.


If you're this interested in a legal education now, you're already well ahead of the curve. I look forward to seeing you across a boardroom table some day. Good luck to you!


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Richard’s Answer

My wife is an attorney. She said it would be wise to start as an associate before opening your own practice. The practice of law is not at all like law school. Unlike medicine with a scheduled residency, attorneys are just thrown out there. Working with someone first will help you know if you like their software, that type of practice, etc.

Law schools do not look to see if you have had specific high school courses. However, in order to get into a good college, you might consider taking the hardest degree program available at your school (AP or IB). The IB program would be excellent to get experience in extra writing. You might also take a speech or debate class to see if you enjoy public speaking. There are types of attorneys though who do not have to go to court or have trials. My wife is an attorney, and she thinks all of the writing she did in high school and college were excellent preparation for law school and being an attorney.
Clubs in high school could contribute as well (like speech would help with moot court).
As far as owning your own practice, my wife says she would highly recommend working under someone first. Being a practicing atty is quite a bit different than what you actually learn in law school. Also, practicing with someone at first might help you know what focus you want for your own firm.

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Richard’s Answer

Opening a law firm is like opening any small business. You need to have some way to pay the bills and that means getting clients that can and will pay their bills on time. The wealthiest clients (large corporations or the government) are more likely to use a large law firm for their legal needs. Therefore, many sole practitioners represent criminal defendants, tenants who have a dispute with their landlord, or some other small (and not very wealthy) client. You will need to be the type of person who doesn't mind doing this sort of work and has a way to get money from people who don't have a lot of money. It's not that easy to do.


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Nora’s Answer

Before you go about starting your own law practice, you should definitely get some experience working at a law firm so you understand the demands of working at a law firm. In particular you should not only be familiar with the substantive areas of law but also how a firm is run. It will also give you a change to build relationships with clients who may decide to move with you when you start your own firm. In order to have a successful firm, you need clients!


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Luis F.’s Answer

That is a great question. I am an attorney and I constantly think about having my own practice.


The best thing you can do is to excel at school (being the very best), working really hard to go to college, working really hard to get into law school (hopefully with a good scholarship), then working really hard at law school, so you can work really hard at passing the bar. If you do all these sacrifices, 9 years from now, you might have the opportunity to work really hard to start your own law practice so you can make some money to repay the debt you will have and hopefully to make some profit too.


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Aimee’s Answer

Hi. You should also know that there are many other ways to practice law besides starting your own law practice. You can work "in-house" at a company, as I do, you can work for a government agency (every government agency has lawyers), you can be a lawyer in the military, a policy "think tank", criminal prosecutor or public defender. Good luck to you.


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Richard’s Answer

My wife is an attorney. She said it would be wise to start as an associate before opening your own practice. The practice of law is not at all like law school. Unlike medicine with a scheduled residency, attorneys are just thrown out there. Working with someone first will help you know if you like their software, that type of practice, etc.

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