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What they don’t tell you about being a lawyer

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Posted by Craig Butler on 1st June 2022

General

Thinking of becoming a lawyer? Hi, I’m Craig, a Senior Associate at Wolferstans Solicitors. I’ve been a solicitor for over 25 years now, and I want to share what they don’t tell you about becoming a lawyer…

GETTING THERE!

Consider your options 

Back when I was training, there was only really one route publicised. Generally, you would complete a law degree in three years, spend a year on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and then secure a training contract. Some people might study a different degree and undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in between, but that was often the full extent of variety.

Now there are many various alternative routes into a legal career. For example, the Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx) route and Legal Apprenticeships are more flexible options that, in many cases, will allow you to ‘earn while you learn’.

Are you up for it? 

At some point during your law degree, when motivation levels are low and the mountain of cases to read high, you might question your choice (I know I did!). A law degree will stretch you to your limits and test your commitment. Some students drop out of law degrees due to being unable to cope with the intensity. Don't make the decision about the choice of your degree lightly! A law degree is a very expensive investment. Make sure you are 100% sure of your choice.

Try it out 

Find work experience at a law firm. Most firms offer this to students (click here to see what Wolferstans are offering). This is a perfect opportunity for you to gain insight and knowledge into what life is really like as a lawyer. Work experience is vital when you start applying for training contracts too. They will want to see that you are a hard worker, have some office/life experience and that you are prepared for the challenges of working in the field of law.

ONCE YOU’RE THERE!

You will have a lot to learn 

In the beginning, it may seem like nearly every time you are assigned a task, it's something that you've never done before. But don't worry, eventually, with more practice (pun intended) you'll get the hang of the skill set and type of law you're practicing. The anxiety should ease after a couple of years when you've developed a decent base of core skills.

For some reason, people think that solicitors (from the moment they qualify) are overflowing fountains of legal knowledge to be tested at will…“No, I do not know about the legal intricacies of internet libel law. No, I can't help you get out of your mobile phone contract. No, I can't help you if you've killed a man!”…

You will be under pressure

Life as a lawyer can be very stressful. Your clients will more times than not be going through a very emotional, distressing time. When dealing with this pressure, taking care of your mental health is key.

On top of that you may also be expected to:

  • Hit chargeable targets
  • Hit billing targets
  • Cover for/train/supervise/performance manage your colleagues
  • Get involved in marketing
  • Be on a charity/social/environmental sub-group
  • Avoid being sued

So, that’s it. That’s what they don’t tell you about being a lawyer. It’s not all fancy suits and court cases. There is a lot to consider before you pursue a career in law. I hope this helps any aspiring lawyers; I know I would have really benefited from hearing this back when I was training.

To conclude, here are my tips to being a happy, healthy lawyer

Take notes on everything

Whether it's a five-minute phone conference or a day-long meeting. You’re going to have to multitask between cases and circle back to them even months later, so make notes in your phone, at the very least. It's hard to remember every single important detail when you are juggling multiple matters, and sometimes an issue will resurface months or even years after the last time it seemed relevant.

Work for a firm that protects their employees’ mental health and well-being

Burnout, stress, and depression are incredibly common among lawyers. Work for a firm that is passionate about their people and dedicated to supporting you. Talk to existing employees of the firm you are thinking of working for, or check out their social media to see whether they have an active approach to looking after their staff. At Wolferstans, we have over 10 mental health first aiders on hand to look after our team. We also have an events team that arrange social events, mental health and wellbeing weeks and much more. It’s important to find a like-minded firm and take advantage of what they offer.

Don’t forget to enjoy life

It may sound obvious, but many of us get so caught up in work that we forget to enjoy life outside of it. Prioritise your family, your home, your social life and holiday time. Eat well, exercise, take time for yourself and try to get a good night’s sleep. If you're truly struggling (or your colleagues are), speak to someone.

If you’re interested in working with us, please visit the work experience or training opportunities pages to find out more. You can stay up to date with what we have on offer by following us on social media @wolferstans. Or visit the People pages and reach out to any of our team who would be happy to answer any questions you may have.