Becoming an attorney is a challenging, lucrative, and often very noble goal. Depending on the practice area you have in mind, you’ll have a long and fulfilling career, and may even be able to put that cool little “esquire” after your name in letters and emails! As you can imagine, this isn’t the kind of role you can just show up to and learn as you go. Here are a few important things to consider before pursuing a career as a lawyer…
The Cost of Law School
One of the first things you need to consider is the financial burden of training to become a lawyer. The average lawyer’s student loan debt in 2016 was over $140,000 in 2016, and different niches will lead to different salaries once you actually start practicing. A lot of lawyers certainly earn a comfortable living, and the skills you’ll gain certainly have a lot of value in the modern marketplace. Having said that, you have to weigh up at least three years of little or no earnings, the cost of law school, and how much you stand to earn in your practice area. The potential returns may not quite cover the financial burden of your education.
How Are You Under Pressure?
To start with, how are you at performing in high-pressure exams? Aside from the admission test and following bar exam, there are a number of tests you have to take as you progress through law school. The result of a single test can make all the difference to the grade you come out with. Learning to be a lawyer is hard enough, and the pressure will be even more intense once you actually start working as one. When you’re working for some law firms, such as Scheiner’s lawyers for DWI-case-related questions, you’ll get a pretty bleak look into clients’ personal situations, and the way you perform in court can have the potential to turn someone’s life on its head. Even when your niche isn’t quite so life-or-death, you’re going to need to deal with pressure effectively in order to perform well in your job. You’re going to have to get confident with presenting information to a range of people, including other lawyers, clients, judges, jurors, witnesses and arbitrators. Even in-house lawyers can be required to lead meetings and committees by their company.
Can you Work Around the Clock?
While being available 24/7 isn’t a strict requirement for every attorney, a lot of value-conscious clients for various common practice areas will want their lawyer to be available for counsel around the clock. This is particularly true when it comes to criminal law cases. With the number of different communication channels we have these days, a lawyer’s work will rarely stop when they leave the courtroom or the offices of their practice. Some of the most successful lawyers out there will regularly work 12-hour days, or even more strenuous schedules. However, you’ll still have some level of flexibility. Attorneys specializing in academia and public interest will often substitute high salaries for an easier work-life balance.
If you were on the fence about pursuing a career in law, I hope these considerations have helped!