Some people decide from a very young age what they want to do when they grow up. They envision themselves in that career and do all they can to make the dream a reality. Then, there are some people who aren’t quite as sure about their future, which is equally common and fine. If this is your case, it can be helpful to do some research, look into different career paths that may suit you and, when you do find something that you think could be ideal, dig deeper into what that job would entail.
If you’ve been thinking about pursuing a career in law, there is a lot to consider and be aware of. This information can help to ensure you make an informed decision and pick a career that you will be happy in for many years to come. Let’s take a look at some of the key things worth knowing before you decide to pursue a career in law.
It’s a Lot of Work
One of the most important things to be aware of is how much work is involved in becoming a lawyer. It’s not just a matter of attending a university for a couple of years; instead, it can take many years. If you want to speed up the process, you can look at accelerated law school programs that can shave things down a couple of years in total. You’ll be able to work your way through school much faster if you can enroll in full-time studies rather than part-time. So, do you have the time and dedication to devote years to schooling?
Becoming a Lawyer Isn’t Cheap
Many people who choose to pursue a career as a lawyer have their eye on that impressive salary that they will eventually be able to command. But did you know you’ll need to spend a lot of money to get to that point? Becoming a lawyer is expensive. It will cost tens of thousands of dollars each year, so it’s easy to see that you can owe well over $100,000 in student debt by the time you become a lawyer.
How Much Can You Make as a Lawyer?
This brings us to the next topic, which is how much money you can make as a lawyer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median pay for a lawyer in 2020 to be $126,930. For that, you will need your doctoral or professional degree. Pay will differ depending on the industry you practice law in and the area of the country you work in.
What Is the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Law?
Part of deciding to pursue a career in law will mean doing your research and figuring out what area(s) of the law you wish to practice. For an in-depth explanation of the different areas, check out the following blog from the Central Christian College of Kansas: What Is The Difference Between Criminal And Civil Law?
However, in simple terms, civil law would involve cases where there is a dispute or disagreement between organizations and/or individuals. In these cases, there is compensation being asked for that would be awarded to the victim in the claim. Some of the more popular types of cases that fall under civil law can include:
- Custody disagreements
- Tenant and landlord disagreements
- Personal injury
These types of cases tend to be rather common since they involve so many different types of disputes.
On the flip side, criminal law focuses on crimes and what is considered legal punishment. This can be quite serious, so criminal law is most definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Some of the common types of cases you may take on would include:
Choosing between criminal and civil law comes down to your personality, how much stress you are willing to take on if you’re able to separate yourself from your work and if you can handle case details and situations that are very serious. You may even want to speak to lawyers who practice in each of these lanes and get their inside scope on the pros and cons of the job.
Are There Jobs to Be Had?
In going through the many years of school and spending all that money, you want to know that there are jobs available once you can practice law. The good news is that the field is experiencing modest growth. Over the next eight years, the number of jobs is expected to grow by 4%, which is right in line with the national job growth average.
Experts are warning students that, even though there is job growth, they can expect for it to be a competitive field. The number of students who are graduating hasn’t dropped – just the opposite is true. That means more graduates vying for positions.
How Are Your Communication Skills?
Several skills can help you to be the best lawyer possible, but one of the top skills to have is communication skills. This means you’re able to communicate effectively across all platforms – speaking, listening and writing. You’ll be listening to clients and then advising them and communicating with them. You’ll be speaking with other parties and their lawyers, judges, insurance companies, organizations and so forth.
Successful lawyers often note how important it is to feel comfortable with public speaking. This is especially the case should you find yourself representing your client in a court trial.
The good news about communication skills is that there are plenty of ways you can improve and build on what you’ve currently got. It’s not a stagnant skill; it’s one you can always aim higher with.
Other Top Skills You’ll Want to Have
And it’s not just communication skills that will be necessary to excel in this career. Other skills that you will need to have include:
- Organizational skills
- The ability to focus on the tasks at hand
- An eye for detail
- Excellent judgement skills
- The ability to manage stress effectively
- Time management
- Excellent logic and reasoning skills
- Inquisitive mind
All of these can be built upon and improved while you’re still in school so that by the time you’re able to practice, you’re well-positioned to succeed.
It May Not Follow a Traditional Workday Schedule
For some lawyers, there is no such thing as working Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Instead, they will end up working long hours, often taking their work home in the evening and even working straight through the weekend. This may just be once in a while when they have a particularly important and involved case, or that may be what’s required of you regularly.
Long hours can have a huge impact on your home life and your lifestyle in general, so this needs to be something you are clear about from the start and decide if that’s the kind of career you want. If not, you may want to open your practice so you have more control over the amount and type of cases you take.
Do Your Expectations Match with Reality?
Here’s a really important question to ask yourself before making a decision – do your expectations of what a day in the life of a lawyer looks like a match up with reality? Again, it can be helpful to speak with a few lawyers and even get a chance to intern at a law office so you can get a better idea of the reality of the job.
Who Will You Work For?
This brings us to the next question to mull over and that’s who you want to work for. You’ve got a few options as a lawyer as you can open your practice, work in a firm, work for a private company (an in-house law department), or even for a government organization.
The work will differ from industry to industry, so this will help to determine what schooling you take.
Do You Like Working with People?
At the end of the day, lawyers work with people. They are representing people and/or organizations and fighting on their behalf. Asking yourself if you like working with people and needing to talk with them regularly will help to make clear if this is the right path for you.
Do You Like the Idea of Helping Others?
This ties in nicely to careers that give you a chance to help others and give back to your community. Not every case will be that profound and provide you with that opportunity, but the ones that do can be incredibly fulfilling and help you to press forward. Those are the cases that can make up for harder ones that may be more difficult for you to deal with.
Being Prepared to Make a Big Career Decision
So, before you rush in and make a decision either way regarding a career in law, it’s important to pull back the layers and ask some tough yet meaningful questions. This will help you to make a well-informed decision that makes sense for you and ensures you choose a career that will keep you happy for the rest of your working years.