Is a Career in Law The Right Job for You?

There are many reasons why you might wish to consider a career in law. It’s an industry that can make a real difference to people’s lives, it comes with a certain social status, it can be well paid, and it can open plenty of doors, especially if you hold lofty ambitions such as becoming President of the United States. After all, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama are just some of the many lawyers who went on to be elected to the Oval Office.

That being said, becoming an attorney isn’t for everyone. It can be extremely hard work, nowhere near as glamorous as certain television shows would have you believe and – whisper it quietly – quite boring, certainly when you are pouring over heavy textbooks.

career in law
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How do I start a career in law?

If you’re considering a career in law, then here are some of the factors to take into account.

Are you sure you want to be an attorney?

The first place to start when considering a career in law is to ask yourself if it is what you really want? Attending law school is a considerable commitment, more so than most college degrees. First, there is the financial sacrifice with the average annual tuition fee to study law coming in at $45,469 per year. With most courses lasting at least three years, that’s not the sort of debt you want to be getting into unless you’re convinced it is the career for you.

Then there is the dedication required. Qualifying as an attorney isn’t easy. There will be plenty of long nights reading mostly boring material as you cram for multiple exams. In an industry that is continuously changing as new case judgments set new precedents, it means the learning never stops.

Finally, chances are to succeed in a career in law you’ll have to socialize with people you may not like. Put simply, to become an attorney you have to make a lot of sacrifices – sacrifices you don’t want to be doing if you aren’t sure it is what you want to do with your life.

It’s a big investment

We’ve already touched on the finances, but it’s worth reiterating again just how much it costs to train as an attorney. In addition to that, the amount of study means that you won’t have the time to take on any form or part-time work.
You might be able to secure positions in the summer that pays well, but that won’t be anywhere near enough to cover your total costs. Becoming an attorney means at least three years of frugal living, which can be frustrating as you see friends of a similar age entering the workplace.

You can focus on what you practice

The law covers virtually every sector of life that you can imagine, and that means that once you are qualified, then you focus what you practice on a particular area. You might have absolutely no interest in writing wills or becoming embroiled in family law, but that doesn’t matter if you choose to specialize in criminal law.

If you are a keen baseball fan, you could move into sports law and work with professional teams. You might want to stick it to some of America’s biggest companies by becoming an employment specialist. You might even have a keen interest in trucks, in which case this firm which specializes in truck accidents might be of interest –

It’s this wide variety that means that no matter what your interests, chances are you will find a role in law that can incorporate them.

Soft skills are every bit as important as hard skills

You might think that becoming a successful attorney is all about your ability to make a case or an argument in front of a jury of people and while your ability to get facts and information across is important, having good soft skills is also vital to your chances of success in law.

That is something often overlooked by people considering a career as an attorney. They might consider themselves too nice to work in such a cut-throat business – but the best lawyers all have empathy and understanding because, at the most basic level, the practice of law is still delivering good customer service to the client.

You need to be receptive to the client’s needs, relate to their situation and develop a strong bond with them. They’re going to be paying you a handsome sum for their services, so they need to believe in you, after all. Above all else, the best way to get a client on board is by making them feel heard and respected.

You need to be a good storyteller

At its most basic level, defending or prosecuting in a case is about telling a story. If you enjoy telling stories and feel like you have the ability to do so, then chances are you will go far in the business.

Whether it is in written submissions or giving an oral presentation in front of a judge, you must be able to get across a narrative in a way that will leverage evidence and opinion in your favor. The best skill you can have as an attorney is the ability to make and sum up an argument in five seconds so easily that you can do so while hopping around a room on one leg.

You’ll experience drastic lows and extreme highs

Being an attorney can be a lonely place. Often, you have to answer to your bosses or clients and when things don’t go right – even if it is through no fault of your own – then you’ll carry the heat for it. That means there is massive pressure on you to deliver results.

That has its benefits though as when things go well, or you win a case, you’ll feel like a million dollars. The work an attorney does can be genuinely life-changing for their clients, and there is no better high than knowing you have made a real difference to somebody.

Ultimately, the law is whatever you decide to make of it

No two attorneys in the world are the same time, and ultimately, law is what you want to make of it. You could be the sleazy attorney, the win at all costs lawyer, the honest solicitor, an introvert, an extrovert or somebody who does everything by the book.

There is no wrong or right way to go about practicing law. If you decide that it is the career for you, then it will be up to you to make a success of it however you see fit.

Drew Hendricks is a professional business and startup blogger that writes for a variety of sites including The Huffington Post, Forbes and Technorati. Drew has worked at a variety of different startups as well as large advertising agencies.