Monday, April 10, 2006

 

Question #1: Do I Want To Be A Lawyer?

I sat down to write a new posting about what a day as a law student is like, but I realized that I would really be skipping an important step – and maybe a step that I should have mentioned in my first blog (even before discussing law school applications). The issue is whether and why you want to get a law degree. I say law degree because there are a number of law students who do not become lawyers, and even some that had no desire to ever become a lawyer. Many want to start their own businesses or become writers or go into politics or become business professionals (to name just a few options). There’s even a doctor at my law school and a woman who is in her 70s that is going to law school just because her father once told her when she was younger: “Women can’t go to law school.” The best thing about a law degree is that it is beneficial in almost any field. Even the experience of law school is highly beneficial, as is the experience of studying and passing the bar exam. However, it is a very expensive venture and deciding to go to law school is something that should be considered with much thought.

So, setting aside all of the other ways that a law degree can be beneficial besides actually becoming a lawyer, what exactly does a lawyer do? A lawyer is defined as a professional person who is licensed to practice law. Not too helpful. The definition continues that a lawyer conducts lawsuits and gives legal advice. I would add that a lawyer also drafts legal documents. In my mind there are three “types” of lawyers: criminal, civil litigation, and civil transactional. There are probably many other types (like, for instance, an in-house counsel), but these are the main categories that I see. The thing about law school and the bar exam is that is trains you to be all three. In fact, as a lawyer, you have the ability to practice any type of law – “specializing” in a particular field of law is something that the lawyer himself or herself does on their own. So, for example, if you work extensively on patents and then your parents ask you to write their will, you have the license to do that. Now there are some special categories that you would need to get special certification for (like patent and admiralty, I believe), but for the most part any lawyer can write up any legal document and work on any case (as long as they follow the rules of professional responsibility, aka ethics). There is never any real need to figure out exactly what type of law you want to practice, especially in law school. Much of what type of law you practice will come through your experiences in law school and what jobs are available at a particular time.

Going back to my three main “types,” a criminal lawyer works on criminal cases – litigating on behalf or against a criminal. A civil litigation lawyer works on civil cases, which are those cases that do not involve crimes. Basically, the civil litigation lawyer would work with a client that has a problem and might want to sue or is being sued. A civil transactional attorney is basically one who deals in transactions not involving a lawsuit – this would include drafting wills, making real estate transactions, giving tax advice for corporate mergers, etc.

So what does it take to become a lawyer? Well, it somewhat depends on what kind of lawyer you want to be. However, the overarching qualities for all lawyers are to be effective communicators, great writers, dedicated researchers, and hard-workers. Criminal attorneys are always “in the action” and get the most court room experience earliest; but, generally speaking, they also make the least amount of money and the work can be very emotional. They need to attain good speaking skills and writing skills. Civil litigation attorneys also need to attain good speaking and writing skills because they will write a lot of complaints, briefs, and motions and are in the courtroom arguing their case. There will also be a great deal of researching. Civil transactional attorneys are usually experts in a particular area and must have very high attention to detail and excellent writing skills. For example, if you are a patent attorney it helps to have an engineering background so that you can effectively communicate with your client about their idea.

All of this is very general, but I hope that you get a basic picture. The decision to become a laywer is an important one because, while you might hear about all of the money that attorneys make or how much power they can have, it also takes a lot of money, hard work, and time. I looked at becoming a lawyer as a challenge and a way that I could help people. I believe that I made the right choice.

I’ll try to provide further detail in future postings – feel free to comment if you want more information on a particular area.

Comments:
I was wondering what kind of experince would be good before I applied to law school?
 
this was so f****ing dumb it didnt answer freaking question whoever wrote this is a b***h
 
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