A legal career is something much-lauded by many around the globe. In fact, the cliche of having a child become a ‘Doctor or Lawyer’ exists for a reason. Lawyers, once they open their own practice or become partnered, have a great job. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Just like Doctor’s, they earn every single benefit they get. We put in the hours each week to satisfy our professional development and our pending clients alike.
For this reason, it’s important to paint a realistic image of what life is like as a legal professional. Lawyers can get things done that might not have otherwise taken place, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s easy to paint an idealistic picture over what to expect, and through that also miss some of the actual, profound benefits that come when you make this career your focus.
For that and more, we wish to help you learn some important sentiments that are worth teaching young legal hopefuls. As they transition into professionalism, they will have the strongest start as a result.
Start For The Right Reasons
Yes, partnered lawyers can make plenty of money. They can also build solid relationships with clients over the years. This can be an attractive proposition for anyone looking to build a career with wealth as a carrot leading them on. However, training to become a lawyer solely due to the potential salary you might hold when running a practice one day is not a good motivator. This is because any lawyer will have to spend a good amount of time training and proving their reputation before they start making the big bucks.
On top of that, lawyers have a very special power. They are able to source information, present a case, defend someone, potentially even in matters of life and death. You needn’t have the most firm idealistic streak, but you do need a willingness to do well, and to care for the end result. The clients you will care for are real people. When you work a pro-bono case, you cannot be less invested in protecting your client simply because the money isn’t as good. In other words, your morality needs to be well-aligned, and you need to understand the power you potentially wield. If you can do this, then the arc of your career will have done more good than bad, a little closer to justice than not.
After all, it’s that caring eye that might spot a true case for a criminal’s defense, when all things seem so sure from the surface. It’s those lawyers we respect. However, life as a lawyer isn’t always so glamorous. Wading through paperwork to help manage a business acquisition is as heady as it can get. This is why it’s your responsibility to find some kind of love for the work, to find a passion in correcting things, in smoothing processes over, and in becoming both a literal and lateral thinker. There is great artistry in building a case, and a great science in giving it substance. For that reason, whether prosecuting, defending, or mediating, you need more than money to sustain you.
Don’t Try To Correct The World
However, to counter the previous paragraph, it’s important that we let young legal hopefuls know what they’re in for. It can be tremendously tempting to have very idealistic views when entering any form of legal profession. We might think that through our actions, we can set the world right.
It’s not hard to see how some might think that. That’s because in some part, it’s absolutely true. Any lawyer has their golden moments, the times they made a difference and consider that a highlight of their career. It might be taking a case for the downtrodden and helping them find the compensation they deserve. It might be overseeing a class action lawsuit against a company that has failed to keep up with its responsibilities to consumers.
This all matters. It’s why we do what we do. However, it can be very easy to seek idealism over actual grounded substance. Taking on the cases that have no real backing simply because they feel right to take on is not always the golden ticket forward. You have to be extremely discerning as a lawyer, no matter what form of law you are focused on. It’s essential to face facts every single day, and to ensure that no matter your personal feelings, you can let the facts of the matter speak.
For example, you might feel as though a court has ruled against the reason you have put forward. But it is not your place to hold that court in contempt, or to shout your personal opinions, or to write them on a blog discrediting everything you had heard that day. Try to correct the cases that matter to you, or try to focus on that which actually works. Idealism must always be heavily tempered by what works, by what you can work with, and what advice you can truly give.
You Will Need To Study
It’s not a surprise to learn you will need to study long and hard to become a lawyer worthy of passing the BAR. It’s important to plan ahead and learn just how many years you will need to study, and what that might mean for your student loan application process.
But it’s also worth learning what you may consider applying for before you even begin law school after your degree. For example, an online criminal justice associates degree could potentially help set you up for work as a paralegal, allowing you to be within the environment you most wish to work in as you study your extra courses.
It’s Not Quite Like The Movies
There have been many groundbreaking movies that show life inside the courtroom and the lawyers who occupy it. It’s essential to learn that while those movies are often very entertaining, they are not as humorous as we think. Even programmes such as Suits or Law and Order often make mistakes, but they’re not a bad watch if you wish to get into that kind of headspace required. Thankfully, a similar situation to Jim Carrey’s in Liar Liar is unlikely to happen to you.
However, these movies and television shows often leave out the main stock of a lawyer’s work. Paperwork, reading through old laws, trying to find holes in the prosecution or defense, collating an important argument with everything on the table, all of this is important to consider. The life of a real legal professional should be depicted as having your nose stuck in paperwork for most of the working day, and conferring with clients from time to time. Appearance in court is a small percentage of the kind of work a lawyer might do, and sometimes, a lawyer can go most of their career without even stepping foot in those halls.
The Working Week
There’s a reason why doctors and lawyers are so frequently compared. They both have an exacting approach to their work, and they are both married to the job. You can practice law part-time, but that’s hardly a commonplace solution. It’s important to know just how the lifestyle of a lawyer progresses. You will spend most of your time at work. You will work up to 100 hour weeks depending on your schedule. On top of that, you will need to read outside your schedule in order to keep up with various subjects and stay informed.
It’s not impossible to raise a family at the same time, but you will likely not be as home as much as you might wish. A work/life balance is often quite heavily skewed in favor of work. Again, this is why you need to feel completely comfortable and willing to spend most of your week in this role. You need to feel sustained by it, and nourished thoroughly through your efforts. If you can boast that, then you will have longevity in this field. But you must accept this is what you’ll be getting yourself into, much like a doctor understands his or her need to remain on-call during the weekend.
It’s A Sustaining Career
There are few careers that can give you such a breadth of experience, such an ability to help those who really need it, or the potential to help your own sense of what is right lead you to the results that are already outlined in fact, but hidden.
It’s a sustaining career. It’s one that you can be truly proud of. And it’s one that can help you distinguish yourself. So if you feel as though you need a career that can help you become the best of yourself, to exercise real professional change and to experience something truly worthwhile, then you should absolutely take your passion for law and turn it into something worthwhile. It’s a sustaining path to walk.
With these tips, we hope you’re better able to teach these important sentiments to young legal hopefuls.