How to Know If You Want to Be a Lawyer


Pursuing a career as a lawyer requires years of education and hard work. Before putting in the time and money to get you on the road to partnership, spend some time considering whether you really do want to be a lawyer. Assess your own skills, likes and dislikes, and spend some time exploring what the day-to-day life of a lawyer is really like. You may find that it's your calling, or you may discover that you'd rather do something else entirely.

  • Shadow a lawyer. Before you decide to pursue a legal career, it's a good idea to know what a lawyer actually does. Connect with a lawyer through friends, family or through mentorship programs available through your school. Ask the lawyer if you can spend some time watching him as he works. You may wish to shadow several lawyers, as every attorney will have a different working day depending on the king of law he practices. For example, a criminal defense attorney may spend most of his time in court defending clients. A corporate attorney may spend the majority of his time in meetings, negotiating contracts.

  • Research the legal job market. Like any profession, there are times when lawyers are in demand and times when they are not. Although the market may change between the time when you begin law school and when you finish, it is still good to know if you are likely to get a job when you graduate. Read trade publications and review job postings to get a sense of how much work is really out there. If you sense that you might not be able to get a job with a firm, speak to several sole practitioners to get a sense of whether practicing on your own is something you'll be able to do.

  • Discover your aptitudes and skills by taking a career assessment test or by speaking to an employment counselor. You may appreciate the work done by lawyers and want to be a part of it. However, your aptitudes -- tasks you will potentially be good at -- and skills -- what you already know how to do -- may not match the work lawyers do. You may discover that you are better suited to an alternative role in the justice community: for example, working with victims of crime or helping at-risk youths find a better life.

  • List what you want your lifestyle to be as you grow older. For example, ask yourself if you would like to have children and would like to take time off or work reduced hours to raise them. Ask yourself if salary is important to you, and research whether the legal career you are likely to obtain will actually give you the salary you need.

  • Note your own unique needs and decide whether a career as a lawyer can accommodate them. For example, if you are prone to migraine headaches, a career such as law, which requires you to do a lot of reading, may not be ideal for you. If you have to care for a dependent relative, assess whether it is likely you can take time off to do that. At the end of the day, try to envision yourself practicing law and ask yourself if it is a lifestyle that makes you happy.

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