Preparing for a career as an attorney

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A career as an attorney starts in law school. (Sora Shimazaki via Pexels)

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an attorney, now is a great time to learn more about this fascinating and rewarding field. Preparing for law school takes time and effort, it is true, but most law schools look favorably on applicants who work hard and demonstrate a passion for what they’re studying. Here are just a few great ways to start preparing for a career as a lawyer and why the process can be a life-changing experience for the better.

1. Set a strong academic work schedule

While a person’s GPA is by no means the be-all-and-end-all of a law school application, a great performance as an undergraduate can really make you stand out to law school admissions committees. What kind of GPA you’ll want to shoot for will largely depend on where you want to apply: To really be competitive at top law schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, for example, applicants will need to have truly stellar grades and LSAT scores. 

Schools also respect applicants who show personal growth and initiative even when those students don’t have 4.0 GPAs. If you’ve been lackluster in your school work thus far, now might be the time to build an upward trend in your grades. Law school requires a lot of work; moreover, most attorneys work long hours. Building up a great work ethic now will really help you prepare for a legal career at a later time. 

To really make your application stand out to admissions committees, you’ll also need to get a good score on the Law School Admissions Test. Doing well on the LSAT requires long hours of intensive study; getting ahead on your preparation now can help you reach a stellar score at a later date. Along with your GPA, your LSAT will be one of the biggest determining factors in your law school applications. 

If your undergraduate grades aren’t great, you should also be aware that a very strong LSAT score can often counterbalance a poor GPA. Being a “splitter” isn’t the best strategy for getting into law school, but applicants who are self-conscious about their grades should understand that law school is still an option even with a poor GPA. 

2. Find extracurricular activities that you’re passionate about

While it may be tempting to do volunteer work or other extracurricular activities simply to pad your resume, most law schools will see through any attempt to use arbitrarily chosen work as a credential. To really shine on your applications, find extracurricular work that you are genuinely passionate about. 

If you’re concerned about the homeless population in your area, for example, try volunteering with organizations that help people struggling with homelessness. If you aspire to one day help people who are the victims of domestic violence, try volunteering your time with a domestic violence intervention organization or local shelter. 

3. Visit law schools to speak with students and faculty

Whether there is a law school in your area that you have your eyes on or you have the means to travel to other institutions, take time to schedule an informational interview with law school faculty members or students. Getting an insider’s view of the law school experience will help you decide if a legal education is right for you. If a school gets to know you, it will also help your application stand out at a later time. 

4. Consider different fields of legal practice

You don’t necessarily have to be totally passionate about a particular area of the law to be a successful attorney, but it does help to consider what areas of legal practice you might like to work in one day. 

For example, most corporate attorneys tend to spend long hours in the office, helping companies navigate the legal waters of big business deals. Public defenders will spend much of their time in court arguing for clients before judges. Family lawyers will tend to handle cases relating to divorce settlements or child custody issues. 

As the representatives of an important and growing legal niche, environmental lawyers can help companies stay within legal guidelines set out by organizations such as the US Environmental Protection Agency or even protect important natural areas and wildlife from polluters. Having stood up to local government representatives on behalf of area citizens, Cory Briggs, a San Diego attorney, is an example of this type of practitioner. 

What area of practice you excel at will have much to do with what you are passionate about. To get a sense of different legal fields, try brushing up on important cases central to currently used legal precedents in order to better understand why such cases are important. Stay informed about the legal industry by subscribing to newsletters, podcasts, or blogs. 

Most of all, keep a positive attitude as you make your way towards your goals! Becoming a lawyer requires resilience and hard work. But with the right approach, you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you really set your mind to it. You’ve got this!

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