How to become a lawyer?
Many students aspire to study law and pursue careers in law for many reasons. While some students want to pursue a challenging and fulfilling careers in law, others want to effect change or help members of their respective communities. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in law, then you need to get acquainted with the expectations and requirements of law schools and state bar associations. In the section that follows, we shall look at fundamental things that may help you in your quest to become a lawyer.
Enrolment in a law school
Like most other demanding courses, a degree in law requires more consideration and preparation. The reason is that most law schools are highly selective of the students who enroll for their programs. Many law schools prefer applicants with high grades with good record in extra curricular activites. Critical thinking is also required as it forms the basis of creating and evaluating arguments surrounding an issue. So, if you are thinking of enrolling in a law school, you have to take these requirements seriously.
Studying and training as a lawyer
If you are interested in pursuing a career in law, then you need to be cognizant of the work habits and lifestyle of law students before you enroll in law school. The rigorous study cycle may seem quite disenchanting, but it nurtures students to be meticulous and diligent as is required of attorneys and lawyers. As a student, you should have good research and documentation skills. In addition, you should know how to source information, organize your ideas, and present arguments in a persuasive manner. Students are required to read widely and assimilate the information quickly. Besides that you should be ready to study for long hours and undertake exhaustive reviews and analysis of cases.
Traits of good lawyers
Lawyers are expected to have a deep understanding of legal issues and to keep up to date with changing laws and legal systems. Most importantly, they must be able to advocate different interests some of which they may not personally agree with. Fundamentally, lawyers should have excellent verbal and written communication skills which are requisite for effective negotiation and persuasion. The demanding and exhaustive work requires diligence and commitment of the highest level.
Certification and licensing to practice law
For you to work as a lawyer, you must complete your law degree and pass the bar examination. A law degree qualifies you to work in private practice or with big law firms and corporations. Since law careers are highly competitive, a law degree alone does not guarantee you job. Good grades may build your portfolio, but it is personal initiative and dedication that makes you a good candidate to a prospective employer. To work as a lawyer, you must also possess good analytical and problem solving skills.
What kind of lawyer?
Law is a broad field which covers many areas that overlap. Lawyers work with different entities, from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, interest groups, and corporate firms. If you want to become a lawyer, you should decide whether you want to work in in civil criminal or in civil litigation. Civil law focuses on agreements such as contracts, leases, wills, and mortgages while criminal law focuses on individual crimes. There are also special areas of corporate and private practice for law graduates.
Attorneys and lawyers study agreements and situations to avoid litigations, not to engage in confrontations and lawsuits. Lawyers read, research, discuss and negotiate with clients and parties in a lawsuit. If you pass the bar examinations and get sworn as an attorney, you can pursue any of the following specializations:
- Trial lawyer
- Corporate lawyer
- Intellectual property lawyer
- Property lawyer
- Environmental lawyer
- Patent lawyer
- Government lawyer
- Insurance lawyers
Besides the above areas of specialization, you can work as an international lawyer, a bankruptcy lawyer, or even a probate lawyer.
How much is a lawyer’s salary?
All law graduates are required to do chambering, which is a form of law apprenticeship, before they can be qualified lawyers. In Malaysia, a chambering allowance of RM800-RM1200 is paid, while a qualified lawyer gets a salary between RM2500 and RM3500. The figure goes higher as the number of experience accumulates. A report by PayScale.com indicated that lawyers with between 5 and 9 years earn between RM4,500 and RM7,500 monthly. In the US market (experienced lawyers), statistics from Bureau of Labor shows that the annual median salary range for lawyers is between US$60,000 and US$137,000 ($5,000 and $11,000 monthly). A lawyer’s salary do vary depending on experience and employer.
Law partners tend to earn more than lawyers in private practice. Lawyers in big law firms earn six-figure yearly salaries, that include profit sharing. It is not unusual to find corporate lawyers earning half a million dollar or more per year. On the other hand, lawyers in smaller legal practice earn more modest incomes. Regardless of their experience and area of practice, lawyers make decent incomes that guarantees them comfortable lifestyles.
Career outlook for lawyers
The career outlook and employment for lawyers remains positive. Country laws continue to evolve and with it, the demand for litigation services will always be around. Government reports indicate employment is slowly shifting from individual practice to employment in large firms. However, competition still remains a challenge for new lawyers. So, if you want to go into private practice, then you should consider working in smaller cities where competition is relatively low.
Regardless of your motivation for pursuing a career in law, the fact remains that legal practice is both challenging and rewarding at the same time. High grades and demonstration of requisite skills is necessary for enrollment in a law school. Graduates with good academic records and requisite skills stand a good chance of securing the best job opportunities. To work as a successful lawyer, you must complete a law degree and pass the bar exam. Thereafter, you can choose to work in private practice or in a law partnership.