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Preparing for a career in law can seem intimidating, however, with the right guidance and proper steps, breaking into the legal field can be made easy. A career in law isn’t limited to being a lawyer—the legal field is rather broad and there are opportunities for everyone, whether you’re a legal secretary, judge, or attorney. If you feel confident that the legal career is the place for you, you should be sure to take the appropriate steps to ensure your success. While a legal career can be stressful at times, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience that allows you to help those who need it most.
Know how to prepare yourself
Gain legal experience.
If you’re considering a career in the law, it’s a good idea to seek legal work experience before committing to law school or another legal career. Whether you’re taking a gap year between undergrad and law school, or you’re just looking to start a second career, working in a law firm or courtroom can allow you to gain a significant amount of experience that will help you determine if you’re comfortable in this field. Many law firms need legal secretaries and interns, so there are plenty of opportunities for someone to gain experience in a law firm.
Choose your legal path.
After gaining some legal experience and developing an understanding of the typical legal process, it’s time for you to choose which direction you want to go on your legal path. If you decide you want to be an attorney or a judge, you’ll need to take the LSAT and begin your law school admission. However, if you decide law school is not the way you want to go, you can take courses for a paralegal certificate instead. Not only will gaining experience in a firm help you determine the extent to which you want to pursue a legal career but it will also help you choose what specific practice area you want to go into, but you can also determine whether you prefer a small firm or a big firm. Large law firms also can often lack the personal connections that a private practice may have, so you must choose the environment in which you believe you’ll be the most comfortable.
If you choose to be a legal assistant or paralegal, make sure to find a firm that best suits you. A legal assistant’s duties can vary depending on the firm they are at. A private practice may have only one or two legal assistants who will be required to file documents, handle every attorney’s calendar, and speak with clients or insurance companies over the phone. Whereas a large law firm may have multiple legal assistants who are each assigned to a single attorney that they are to work for and assist on various assignments throughout a lawsuit. It’s important to understand that while a legal assistant may be working closely in a case, they are never to provide any legal advice to a client, regardless of whether their firm represents the plaintiff or defendant.
Receive a legal education.
Regardless of the extent of your legal education, it will help you to succeed in the legal field if you have some sort of legal education. If you decide you want to become an attorney, then you’ll need to prepare for the law school admissions process, which includes taking the LSAT, completing financial aid forms, and submitting a completed application. Most law schools admit applicants based on their LSAT score and experience before applying to law school. Whether you’re an older student or a recent college graduate, law schools will take everything on a law school applicant’s application into consideration before making a final decision.
If you’re accepted into multiple law schools, you’ll have to determine which university is ultimately the right place for you to attend law school, as different schools may offer different experiences in various practice areas. As a first-year law student, you will be exposed to nearly every practice of law in order to determine which practice area you would like to pursue. Whether you’re going to law school in your 30s or just recently finished undergrad, law school students receive endless support from professors and classmates, making the law school experience rather enjoyable.
If law school isn’t for you, then you can also receive a certificate to become a legal assistant. Receiving a legal education to become a paralegal typically takes about one year, making it much more practical than the 3-years of law school. This option is sometimes best for older students, as it’s easier to maintain this education if you’re also balancing a family and kids. Regardless of the extent of your legal education, it’s important to look the part and remain professional while you’re attending classes or working in a law firm. Receiving a paralegal assistant will not only help you avoid significant student loans, but you will also not have to attend three years of school or be subject to the stress of the bar exam.
Regardless of what specific legal career you are seeking, before embarking on your legal journey, make sure you have some nice blouses for women or sweaters for men, as you always want to look your best. Dressing professionally will allow you to show your employer, professor, or classmates that you are serious about your career and you want to make sure you look professional at all times.
Choose your practice area.
After taking the bar exam, law school graduates must choose their practice area and apply for jobs. Law school graduates have endless opportunities, as they can work as criminal, real estate, family, or personal injury attorneys. Most young lawyers have an idea of what type of cases they would like to work on upon graduation, and whether they want to work in a big firm or a private practice. Whether you want to be a Raleigh North Carolina injury lawyer or a judge in a different state, attending law school is the first step of this journey. Lawyers have the ability to provide legal assistance to people who are typically going through a tough time, so you’ll want to be able to provide your clients with the best knowledge and compassion possible. If you feel particularly strong about a certain area of the law, that’s the area you should consider practicing in. Having an interest in your field will allow you to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from your law degree as well as your personal attention to the matter, which will typically result in a favorable verdict.
You should still choose a practice area even if you don’t attend law school but still want a legal career. If you’d prefer to be a paralegal, you’ll still be rather hands-on in each lawsuit, as paralegals are a significant aspect of any legal service. Since legal assistants work closely in each lawsuit, it’s helpful to choose a field in which you have an interest. For example, if a criminal case or an injury case is capable of making you uncomfortable, it would be best to avoid those areas and go into a field such as real estate or estate planning. Given the sensitive nature of many lawsuits, you must carefully choose the field in which you believe you are the most comfortable.