Want to become a lawyer? Here’s what you need to know…
Whilst preparing to write this article, I found an onlinequiz asking, “Would you make a good lawyer?” Once I’d answered all thequestions, thankfully the answer came out as ‘yes’!
But what does make a goodlawyer? And is it right for you? The truth is, there’s not a simple answer tothat; it will depend on what type of law you want to practice and what sort offirm you want to work in. But there are some key traits that might help youalong the way, and some things I wish I knew when I was starting out.
Firstly, there are certain key skills that may indicate youwill be a good lawyer. If you are organised, analytical, you enjoy researchingan argument and using your judgment to reach a conclusion; you’re probably onthe right track. Innovation is also important; law as a profession isconstantly changing and you need to be able to adapt to that.
You also need tobe a good communicator. Not all lawyers go to court, but we do all have tocommunicate with clients, colleagues and other lawyers. It’s vital you can getyour point across clearly, both orally and on paper.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we rely on eachother to achieve the best results. You need to be able to work as part of ateam, with supervisors and support staff, barristers and experts and many otherprofessional people. If you don’t develop your people skills, you will struggleto build or be part of an effective team.
Having a good group of people aroundyou and getting the best out of everyone is the key to success. Take advantageof your supervisor’s experience but also make friends with the admin staff and secretaries,as they will save you more than once when things go wrong, and you need ahelping hand.
Also, take notes, lots of notes. None of us remember everythingand, particularly as a trainee, you should never go anywhere without a notebook!
Please don’t be fooled, it is hard work. Things don’t alwaysgo according to plan, and you need to be committed and willing to persevere.Training opportunities can be hard to come by and there will be setbacks. Maybeyour A-levels didn’t go according to plan, or you didn’t get into that RussellGroup University you were aiming for, but you can still achieve your goals.
Youneed to be open-minded and look at all options available to you. Do yourresearch and find out about all the different routes into law and explore whichmight be right for you. With the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam, Solicitor Apprenticeships and the CILEX route, there is more than one way to become alawyer and you might be surprised by what you learn.
It is well publicised that lawyers are often overworked andstressed, so looking after your mental health is key. Set boundaries and stickto them. Take your holidays. There will be times when there is no alternative tojust putting in the hours because you have a deadline and it’s got to be done,but don’t let overworking become a bad habit that you cannot break.
Your worklife balance will largely be up to you. If you choose the right area of law andthe right firm to fit with your lifestyle choices, you can make it work. You may wantto work in a large commercial firm in London with offices overseas, or youmight prefer to work for a smaller regional or high street firm. What is rightfor one person is not necessarily right for the next and that’s ok.
Finally, remember that practice is very different to theoryand being a lawyer is not the same as studying a law degree. Nor is it like thevarious legal dramas that you watch on TV. There will be a lot of routinetasks, learning on the job and finding your own way through things.
You should notbe afraid to have a go at something for the first time, get it wrong, and learnhow to do it better next time. And never be afraid to ask questions. Also, Irecommend you get involved with as many of the activities happening atyour firm that you realistically have time to do, whether it’s a specificproject, a community fundraising initiative, a sports team or just socialisingwith colleagues after work on a Friday evening.
It will be a huge benefit foryou to get to know people outside of your particular team, especially in thesepost COVID times.
In my opinion, the key to success is finding out the area oflaw that really sparks your interest, finding the right working environment foryou and building a strong support network around you. After that, anything ispossible!