You’ve surely heard it said: “There are too many lawyers in the world.”
That’s not wrong. But it also doesn’t mean that smart, driven people shouldn’t feel confident about taking the plunge, studying for the bar, and putting on their lawyer hats (maybe judges’ robes, one day) if they’re so inclined.
Of course, you can’t just wake up one morning and call yourself a lawyer. (Well, you can, but you probably wouldn’t get very far.) If you’re serious about becoming a legal advocate, you need to map out your path to success years in advance — and be ready to confront more than your fair share of setbacks. Oh, you’ll need to save up an ungodly sum, too, and borrow whatever you can’t afford to save.
Sound doable? Great. Here are five things seasoned lawyers like David DelCollo suggest you get started on if you’re serious about becoming a lawyer.
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited Institution
First, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree from a reputable, accredited higher education institution. Some institutions have formal “pre-law” tracks, but most simply offer social science degrees that align well with law schools’ academic demands. Political science, history and sociology are all common tracks for undergrads who aspire to the big time.
- Take and Pass the LSAT
The LSAT is the gateway exam for aspiring law school students. Simply put, you need to do well on the LSAT if you want a decent shot at your top school choices. Start studying months before your exam date, and don’t be shy about re-taking it if you’re not satisfied with the result.
- Get into an Accredited Law School
Law schools can be divided into several tiers. Only a relative handful of applicants get into first-tier schools, which serve as more or less direct pipelines to high-pay, high-prestige jobs. However, most law schools are accredited, so if Harvard Law isn’t realistic, you’ll have plenty of alternatives.
- Complete an Internship or Clerkship
Depending on your future career plans, you’ll almost certainly need to complete an internship with a private law firm or a clerkship with a judge while still in law school. These gigs involve real, hands-on work, and serve in part to weed out prospects who aren’t diligent enough to survive the daily legal grind. But a successful run often paves the way for a job offer after graduation, so mind your manners and work hard!
- Get your J.D., Pass Your State Bar Exam, and Look for Work
Okay, this is technically three steps. The first is the logical outcome of a successful stint in law school: the prize at the end of the rainbow.
Once you’ve finished celebrating, study for and pass your state’s licensure exam — typically known as “the bar.” Passing the bar entitles you to practice law, well, legally, in your state of residence.
Finally, look for work. Whether your lifelong legal goal is to help fix the FDA approval process, or you’re passionate about giving small business clients a fair shake against the big boys, you’re sure to find a natural home.
Are your career sights set on lawyerdom? How are you putting your childhood (or adulthood, let’s be real) dreams into action?