Want to become a lawyer? Here’s what you need to know…
What makes a good lawyer? And is it right for you? The truth is, there’s not a simple answer to that. It will depend on what type of law you want to practice and what sort of firm you want to work in.
But there are some key traits that might help you along the way, and some things I wish I knew when I was starting out...
There are certain key skills that may indicate you will be a good lawyer. If you are organised, analytical, you enjoy researching an argument and using your judgment to reach a conclusion; you’re probably on the right track. Innovation is also important; law as a profession is constantly changing and you need to be able to adapt to that.
You also need to be a good communicator. Not all lawyers go to court, but we do all have to communicate with clients, colleagues and other lawyers. It’s vital you can get your point across clearly, both verbally and on paper.
Perhaps the most important trait to have, you will need to be a team player. We rely on each other to achieve the best results. You need to be able to work as part of a team, with supervisors and support staff, barristers and experts and many other professional people. If you don’t develop your people skills, you will struggle to build or be part of an effective team.
Having a good group of people around you and getting the best out of everyone is the key to success. Take advantage of 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 a helping hand.
Also, take notes, lots of notes. None of us remember everything and, particularly when in training, you should never go anywhere without a notebook!
Please don’t be fooled, it is hard work. Things don’t always go 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. Maybe your A-levels didn’t go according to plan, or you didn’t get into that Russell Group University you were aiming for, but you can still achieve your goals.
You need to be open-minded and look at all options available to you. Do your research and find out about all the different routes into law and explore which might be right for you. With the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam, Solicitor Apprenticeships and the CILEX route, there is more than one way to become a lawyer and you might be surprised by what you learn.
It is well publicised that lawyers are often overworked and stressed, so looking after your mental health is key. Set boundaries and stick to them. Take your holidays. There will be times when there is no alternative to just 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 work life balance will largely be up to you. If you choose the right area of law and the right firm to fit with your lifestyle choices, you can make it work. You may want to work in a large commercial firm in London with offices overseas, or you might prefer to work for a smaller regional or high street firm. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for the next and that’s ok.
Practice is different to theory
Remember that practice is very different to theory and being a lawyer is not the same as studying a law degree. Nor is it like the various legal dramas that you watch on TV. There will be a lot of routine tasks, learning on the job and finding your own way through things.
Don't be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes
You should not be afraid to have a go at something for the first time, get it wrong, and learn how to do it better next time. And never be afraid to ask questions.
I recommend you get involved with as many of the activities happening at your firm that you realistically have time to do, whether it’s a specific project, a community fundraising initiative, a sports team or just socialising with colleagues after work on a Friday evening. It will be a huge benefit for you to get to know people outside of your particular team.
In my opinion, the key to success is finding out the area of law that really sparks your interest, finding the right working environment for you and building a strong support network around you. After that, anything is possible!
If you are thinking of becoming a solicitor, we have a friendly team of people happy to help you with any questions you might have. We also offer work experience and vacation schemes which you can find more information about here.