What It Takes
While there are lots of ways to be successful in your legal career, there are some traits that are common to great lawyers, even across very different career paths.
Helping People and Solving Problems
It’s not possible to say exactly what it will be like to be a lawyer in 3, 5, 10, 20 years. The problems lawyers address are constantly evolving, and thus, so are the skillsets.
There is one constant, though: People only come to a lawyer when they have a problem.
A willingness to serve a client in need—to solve those problems—is crucial to enjoying lawyering. Whether that client is a person seeking asylum or a corporate CEO, the basic function of a lawyer is consistent.
Lawyers should be interested in a broad range of topics and be willing to constantly learn more. Learn as much as you can about the things in the world that interest you, and law school will teach you the law.
Comfort with Text
Whatever kind of law you practice, you will need to be comfortable reading and digesting large amounts of often dense text, as well as writing and communicating clearly.
Attention to Detail
Lawyers have to be able to pay attention to details. It’s such a key skill that we would even say the best lawyers ENJOY attending to details.
Putting Yourself to the Test
So, what if you want to test yourself on whether you have the skills and orientation needed to be a lawyer before investing in law school?
Well, we have some ideas for you:
- Work in a law office as a non-lawyer; even better than one law office is multiple law offices. This could involve working in the private sector, but it could also mean working in government or non-profits. Even if you aren’t doing much legal work at all, you can still learn about what a lawyer’s day-to-day life looks like. Be observant and ask questions.
- Volunteer for a legal services organization.
- Have informational interviews with lawyers in your area. You can find them through mutual acquaintances or through your undergrad’s alumni network.
- Read, a lot. Read the paper; it’s safe to say every major news story has a law-related kernel in it. Read books by and about lawyers. Read about famous and non-famous cases. Read books that help you think about why people become lawyers. Read about the legal issues you hope to focus on in a future career.
- Listen to or watch oral arguments. Some courts stream them live; others (such as the Supreme Court) record them and make them accessible after the fact.
- Consult with the pre-law adviser at your undergrad institution. You can often reach out even after you’ve graduated.