Law is one of the most sought-after professions because of the high pay. Lawyers are the lifeblood of the justice system—the defenders of democracy. It’s a career path that deserves great respect. As a college student, forging your path to the legal industry is an admirable endeavor. The journey will be long and arduous but fulfilling and rewarding if you’re prepared. Here are 10 tips to get ready for your future law career.
1. Dig deep into the role
Attorneys are one of the most represented professionals in media. Dozens of successful, critically acclaimed shows and films have depicted the glitz, glamour, trials (literally and figuratively), and tribulations of the profession. The lawyers of Hollywood—like Harvey Specter, Elle Woods, and Saul Goodman—have inspired many practitioners to pursue law. But fiction is much different than reality, and what you see on screen is often an exaggeration or oversimplification of the profession. You can be inspired by fictional lawyers, but you must look closer at what actual lawyers do and their work environments to know if this path is right for you. You can only determine if the law is your calling after knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly of a lawyer’s day-to-day work, which often involves a lot of reading, writing, and research behind a desk.
2. Pick a great major
You can get into law school with whatever bachelor’s degree you hold. You can even make the cut after finishing only two years of college. However, you’ll be in a better position if your major demonstrates whether you have the chops for a Juris Doctor program. To impress law school admission officers, choose a challenging major you’re passionate about and can excel in. Admission committees look for the cream of the crop, so you want to prove that you can finish an intellectually demanding degree with flying colors that will support your academic journey into grad school.
3. Take difficult classes
Law schools favor applicants who push themselves academically. When you register for courses each year, you should choose ones that will test your mental prowess and hone the skill sets you need to be an attorney. Pre-law courses are an excellent place to start. Enroll in and ace the relevant, rigorous classes your college or university has to offer to show your growth and competitiveness when you apply to law school.
4. Improve your writing
Lawyers must be excellent communicators, so you need to learn to be eloquent and precise with your writing in addition to speaking. Writing is both an art and a science, so expose yourself to classes that will supercharge your skills. Dabble in history, literature, sociology, philosophy, and politics; these subjects will give you regular opportunities to read a wide variety of content and put pen to paper. Creative writing is worth studying as well—it can help you master grammar rules and practice articulating your thoughts regardless of audience. As you go through workshops, you’ll also grow a thick skin because your work will be subject to criticism. Producing drafts may be less of a concern in law practice these days because of artificial intelligence, but it’s more of a tool than a substitute for human input.
5. Sharpen your critical-thinking skills
The most successful lawyers exhibit a healthy mix of logic and creativity. You need to be a strong critical thinker to form judgments and reason in an argument. Critical thinking is an acquired ability—one you can enhance with conscious effort and perseverance. To be a true critical thinker, you must be:
Furthermore, you must train yourself to listen actively, identify thinking errors, determine relevant information, draw inferences, and detect biases—including your own. Higher education is a marketplace of ideas, making it conducive to developing your critical-thinking skills. You can study subjects to accelerate your growth, but a mindset shift is what it takes to employ a logical attitude and regulate your emotions to notice fallacies, spot weak statements, and read between the lines.
6. Prep for admission now
If you want to become a lawyer, you should start considering your law school plans years before you’re ready to apply. Although admission officers will pay attention to your entire undergraduate academic career, they may cut you some slack in your first year. Starting in your second year, you should be mindful of the courses you take and the extracurricular activities you participate in. Then begin your grad school search in the fall semester of your junior year so you have plenty of time to research and visit campuses. Reflect on your career goals to create a list of criteria for choosing program options. Visit as many educational institutions as possible to get the feel of various schools and their unique cultures. You should also start studying for the law school admission test (LSAT). Although relevance has sparked debate within the American Bar Association, many top law schools in the US still put weight on these scores when assessing candidates.
7. Improve your adversity quotient
Spending two to three years in law school will be grueling. You must strengthen your resilience as early as possible to overcome the challenges that await you. The best strategy for handling adversity and dealing with feelings of self-doubt is developing a growth mindset. Consider every problem as an opportunity to improve so you learn lessons from your mistakes and prevail over any failures.
8. Build a network
Networking opens doors for you, so take advantage of your school’s pre-law advising services to put you on the right track. A pre-law advisor can give valuable insights into your chosen career path and provide helpful resources for your academic journey. If you have relatives and friends in the industry, ask for class recommendations, discuss areas of practice to consider, and inquire about volunteer opportunities. If you have no existing contacts, reach out to local government agencies, nonprofits, and private companies for legal internships that get your feet in the door and work closely with established attorneys.
9. Think about your finances
Studying law will set you back tens of thousands of dollars each year. Unless you have that kind of money lying around, you’ll need a way to finance your studies. Calculate the net prices of your prospective schools before you start exploring grants and scholarships you qualify for to maximize free financial aid. After that, you may have to borrow what you need in student loans, but consider finishing your law degree in two years instead of three to save money if you can. Once you’re in law school, you should continue to try to work part-time and live within your means to get by. Being a lawyer may land you a high-paying job later, but you should control your spending in every way possible now to minimize your debt.
Taking your first steps to becoming a lawyer can be exciting and nerve-wracking—but that’s how you know it’s worth pursuing. Start early and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before you apply to law school. Study hard and believe in yourself, and you’ll do just fine!
Looking for great law schools to add to your list? Connect with our featured Law & Criminal Justice graduate programs right here on CollegeXpress.