As a current law student at Bond University, I’ve heard numerous stories on both sides of the coin – from those who breeze through law school and those who don’t.
Attending law school will challenge every fibre in your being as it requires a humungus amount of time and energy to succeed; and a mind that is able to understand, analyse and solve complex matters.
I’ve also come across many who wonder if law school is for them. If you’re in the same boat and wondering if a legal career is for you, the best way to start is to answer honestly this one basic question:
Why do I want to go to law school?
If your answer is any of the 5 reasons below, then take it from me – have some time out and re-think your decision to go to law school:
- “I’m good at arguing.”
If I had a dollar for every person I’ve met who have said to me, “I’m good at arguing, I’d make a great lawyer!” – I would seriously be sailing the Bahamas on my own yacht.
Most people misunderstand that lawyers don’t argue in the sense of the word, but they need to persuasive, confident and intelligent.
Lawyers advocate for their client in line with proper protocols and procedure, whether that is in the courtroom or boardroom. Most of the work ahieved by lawyers or solicitors is to negotiate on behalf of their clients to help them solve legal problems.
Additionally, it’s the barristers who are the specialist advocates and professionals working the courtroom. Their conduct is one of respect and high regard for the jury, judge or magistrate; not of an argumentative nature so to speak.
2. “My parents want me to be a lawyer.”
My parents wanted me to get married young, have children, enjoy a safe 9 to 5 job and live in the suburbs paying off a mortgage. I am more than happy that I didn’t listen to them, I would’ve been miserable.
Same goes for you, if your parents want you to be a lawyer as it’ll make them look accomplished in some way, you will be unhappy going through law school.
It’s hard when you love your parents and want to please them, but you only have one life to live so do what makes you happy.
3. “I’ll make so much money being a lawyer.”
You may eventually make a lot of money being after years of experience as a practicing lawyer or a partner in a firm perhaps. However, straight out of law school as a junior solicitor, you’re looking at $49,000 per year [based on Job Seeker’s estimate for Queensland] depending on the firm you work for and the geographic region you are based in.
Your salary may increase when you’ve been practicing for a few years but don’t forget, you may have a huge amount of student loan to pay back.
Then there’s the stress of time-based billing and billable hours to meet the firm’s performance indicators. In a billing system, lawyers are remunerated according to their performance for a client. One of the requirements to achieve this level is perhaps working up to 10 hours per day for your client.
4. “I want to put bad guys in jail.”
It’s a noble act to want to serve society well by locking up the bad guys but it’s not as easy as that.
In order to put someone in jail involves many factors such as evidence, contending with the opposite legal team, judge and jury.
If that’s your ambition, then perhaps look into being a police officer or detective; occupations that places you in the front line of arresting those who break the law.
5. “It’s a prestigious job.”
There is a lot of admiration and respect for those who practice law in society. It is a wonderful occupation, which is both intellectually stimulating and being placed in a unique position to help others with their legal problems.
However, besides the prestige, keep in mind that it is a highly-intensive time-consuming career. One that is also demanding of your energy and resources.
So ask yourself again, “Why do I want to go to law school?”
From my personal experience, start off by connecting with a lawyer mentor who can give you an insight into the day-to-day operations of practicing law; this will serve as an effective eye-opener into the profession.
Attend university open days and ask as many law professors or students as possible what studying law is all about; this will assist in making sure you are making the right decision to spend 3-4 years of your life studying and investing a lot of money towards a law degree.
Then make the right decision if it’s based on a desire to help individuals, non-profit organisations, the government, businesses or companies in solving their problems and championing legal causes for the greater good of society.
“If you are absolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already,” Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America.
Disclaimer: The content within is general or publicly available information only. Speak with your education adviser for advice on your specific circumstances to study law.