It is quite common for those who begin to explore careers in law to ask yourself certain questions like:
- How do you actually become a lawyer?
- What type of person becomes a lawyer and does this fit you?
- What is a lawyer’s job description?
- What different types of law can you pursue?
Sometimes asking yourself these questions leads back to one main question: Do you have the ambition and what it takes to succeed in a law career?
One thing to take into consideration it so to remember that careers in law are not like they are depicted in movies and TV shows. Many people pursue a career in law because they find it fascinating on the big screen. Although this might be fine, just remember that these shows are not at all what the real world is like and that their main goal is to entertain with drama and highly unusual circumstances.
So in the real world, here are some characteristics needed in order to succeed in the field of law.
Working well with others
When you are a lawyer, you have to constantly work with people such as judges, court clerks, clients, and even other lawyers. It’s very important to be a “people person” in order to succeed. On TV or in movies we see many battles being fought in fancy mahogany courtrooms. However, in the real world the vast majority of cases are being settled before reaching the courtroom. Less than 1% of all civil cases are actually won in a courtroom. It’s because lawyers are dealing with people all of the time and settling matters.
Family law attorneys handling a client’s divorce will be constantly working with the other side to reach a fair settlement for both parties involved. So, does this sound more like you?
Able to persuade others
Practicing law ultimately means you are trying to persuade others. Although there is the TV show depiction of lawyers battling it out with an opponent, a key trait of a good attorney is the ability to convince others of their point of view by being verbally persuasive, as well as through written documents. So, it is important to also have excellent writing skills.
Many of the verbal persuasive skills take place outside of the courtroom. Instead it might be with a judge and DA in chambers. Your job as a lawyer could be to advocate for a client who was arrested for a DUI or drug possession to be allowed to enter treatment for addiction rather than serving time in jail. In order to do this, you will need have a convincing argument based on the best course of action for both the client and the community at large.
Being independent and self-disciplined
Successful lawyers are independent self-starters who know how to work well on their own and manage deadlines. They need to have the ability to motivate themselves on a daily and ongoing basis. In other words, as a new lawyer, people are not going to hold your hand and make sure everything is taken care of for you. It’s your own job to do all your own scheduling and in many cases if you are finding things to be difficult, a supervisor will likely tell you to just “figure it out.”
You can endure the grind
Being a lawyer means scouring through paperwork and doing heaps of research. You’ll have to answer the same questions by clients over and over again and if you work at a large law firm, you’ll have to do lots of grunt work for the “partners”.
Weathering the storm is an important trait for becoming a lawyer. It needs to become second nature.
You must be able to network
In order to succeed you’ll need a large client base. Building your network is immensely important, especially if you decide to go out on your own. Lawyers will also build relationships with other attorneys they know and trust to refer clients to each other.
Even if you are hired by a firm, don’t count out the fact that you might be put in charge of bringing in new clients and being responsible for the firm’s marketing. The better you are with networking and connecting with different kinds of people, the more success you are likely to see.