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Choosing Careers in Law

This is a difficult question to answer. Some people claim that they knew they wanted to be a lawyer from the time they were quite young, but most struggled with their decision up until the time they applied to law school. In fact, many law students and even recent graduates are still unsure of the answer to this question.

Questions to Ask Yourself 

One of the more meaningful ways of determining whether you want to be a lawyer is look at the types of skills that one must develop to be a competent lawyer.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I enjoy working closely with people regarding significant events or issues affecting their lives?

2. Can I empathize with a client's situation; yet have the ability to objectively analyze the issues and their consequences in light of the existing law?

3. Do I enjoy educating or teaching a person about a subject about which he or she may be ignorant or have significant misconceptions?

4. Am I able to articulate in a clear and concise manner my analysis of a problem to others, whether it is verbally or in writing?

5. Do I enjoy being an advocate? Can I argue both sides of the questions with enthusiasm?

6. Do I like detail work? Do I enjoy searching for the facts of a situation?

7. Do I like to read and study?

Like so many other aspects of law school, the curriculum tends to follow a similar pattern in almost every law school in the U.S.   Generally, the first year is very structured, while the remaining two years are unstructured.  In most law schools, all of the first-year students take the same classes.  Indeed, students usually cannot even choose which sections and/or professors they would like to take.  Instead, each student is randomly assigned to a section (see above), and they take all of their classes with the students in that section.  Moreover, most schools offer the same set of 6-8 classes in the first year.  The typical 1L curriculum includes some or all of the following classes, which can be either semester or year-long classes:

  • Torts

  • Property

  • Contracts

  • Criminal Law

  • Civil Procedure

  • Constitutional Law

  • Legal Research & Writing

After the first year of law school, most of the classes are electives.  Often, only a few classes like Legal Ethics (which may surprise most non-lawyers!) tend to be required after the first year.  Many students will try to take all of the classes that cover topics offered on the bar examination (e.g., bankruptcy, secured transactions, corporations, taxation).  Law schools also are increasingly offering internships and/or clinics where the student can work on developing skills like trial litigation and negotiating.  Many law schools also offer specializations (see immediately below).

More about legal career: Legal Salaries: Median Salaries for Attorneys