You’ve been working for years toward building a strong GPA and getting into law school, so you might not want to hear about some of the disadvantages of a law career. In 2013, Forbes reported a list of the jobs with the unhappiest people. Number one...associate attorney. Why are attorneys miserable? Reasons vary from person to person; here are four disadvantages of being a lawyer.
1) Lawyers work long, long hours.
While there are some lawyers out there who enjoy a 30 hour week in the office and another 10 hours a week on the golf course, this kind of schedule is rare.
- Depending on your specialty, you may be required to work as much as an 80 hour week as a new associate.
- Even once you’re an established lawyer, your income is often determined by hours billed. Which means that the more you work, the more money you make.
- Lawyers in private practice have overhead, which means even more billable hours required to make a profit.
- Lawyers frequently get calls from frantic clients during evening and weekend hours.
- Law isn’t a job you leave at the office; many lawyers think about their cases and clients during their “time off.”
2) Lawyers don’t make as much money as you might think.
Sure, law can be a lucrative field. But there are some considerations:
- Students from private law schools borrow an average of $124,950. Those student loans must be paid back.
- Some law specialties are saturated. Even lawyers get laid off. Some lawyers find it difficult to obtain jobs.
- Overhead such as advertising, office space, insurance and support staff can be expensive and eats away your profits.
3) Lawyers sometimes deal with clients they don’t like.
You don’t always get to choose who you work with. Sometimes your clients or colleagues will make your life miserable. Here are a few examples:
- Criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to fighting injustice and ensuring that everyone gets a fair trial, but they often find themselves representing unsavory, violent clients.
- Corporate litigation attorneys occasionally deal with greedy, ethically-challenged clients.
- Prosecutors work with exhausted public defenders, jaded police officers and judges and even receive death threats from defendants.
- Family law attorneys sometimes see the worst side of their clients as they fight about money, custody and who gets the antique sofa table.
4) Lawyers work in an adversarial atmosphere
It’s a cutthroat career; someone’s always ready to catch you making a mistake (and to point it out to everyone present).
- Every case you work has opposing counsel; his or her job is to oppose your every move.
- By their very nature, cases are adversarial: one party is angry at the other.
- In court, if you make a mistake, the opposing attorney will jump to his feet to point out your error and object. Being publicly humiliated is a common occurrence.
- Sometimes you’ll lose cases that you feel strongly about, or worked long hours to win.
While your score on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is certainly not the only component of your law school application, it’s definitely one of the most influential. It’s crucial to score well on this standardized test...but studying for it requires a slightly different tactic than you might be used to. Here are five tips to help you study for the LSAT.
1) Start Early
The key to the LSAT is this: Practice, practice, practice. And then, practice some more. You see, the LSAT is not about memorizing facts and then repeating them during the test. Instead, you’ll need to learn how to apply logical reasoning to questions in order to answer them correctly:
- Logical reasoning can be counter-intuitive.
- Practice helps your brain learn how to think within the logical framework found on the LSAT.
- Starting at least 2-3 months before you take the LSAT gives you ample time to practice.
- You’ll soon see a pattern to the types of questions on the LSAT, and with practice, you’ll be able to quickly identify the type of problem and how to approach it.
2) Take a Prep Course
Prep courses are available for the LSAT, and are offered by a variety of companies, in different formats. While these courses cost money, the investment may be well worth it. If you’re able to perform better on the LSAT, and are able to gain admission to a more prestigious law school, you’re more likely to be offered a higher-paying job after graduation.
Prep courses are not a magic bullet; you’ll have to be dedicated and participate fully throughout your course in order to get the most benefit.
3) Get an LSAT Prep Book
A number of LSAT prep books are available to pre-law students and can be beneficial as a study supplement because:
- Most can easily be found in your local bookstore.
- They typically contains practice tests and problems that you can take throughout your months of study.
- They’re easy to take along on the bus, to class or anywhere else that you can open them up and peruse the problems while waiting.
- Friends and family can help you study or quiz you using the book.
4) Study Consistently
Besides practicing a lot, the other key to studying for the LSAT is to practice consistently:
- Don’t try to “cram” a week before the test.
- Your brain needs consistent time and practice to learn the skills of rational thinking.
- Consistent practice allows you to build up the stamina you’ll need for the long amount of time it takes to complete the LSAT.
5) Be Patient
It can take awhile to learn the skills necessary to do well on the LSAT. Keep in mind:
- At first, it will take you a long time to complete a practice test. Don’t rush—focus on accuracy instead of speed. You’ll get faster over time.
- After you complete a practice test, go over the problems you missed. Don’t look at these as failures—see them as opportunities to work on weaknesses.
- If you find that you’re having trouble grasping the logic problems, take an introductory philosophy or logic course at your school.
At the end of their first year of law school, most students try to find a summer internship to gain valuable experience and begin making connections in the field. Here’s some info on how to find internships, what to expect and how to make the most of the experience.
Why Do a Summer Internship?
After a long, tough year as a 1L, you might be tempted to take the summer off to work on your tan, or find a paying job to offset expenses. Here’s why it’s a better idea to land an internship and work hard all summer:
- You’ll get experience working in a real law office.
- You’ll be better situated to get a paying gig at the end of your second year.
- You’ll make contacts that will come in handy later: attorneys, paralegals and judges.
- A summer internship will strengthen your resume.
How to Find an Internship
In a tough economy, many firms have stopped hiring 1L summer interns. You can still find opportunities, however; you just have to look a little harder.
- Find some small firm with partners who are alumni of your law school.
- Focus on other skills you possess that will help the firm: languages, knowledge in the field, experience in other arenas that pertain to the firm. For instance, if you speak Spanish and worked for a non-profit that assists Spanish-speaking immigrants, you’ll be valuable to a firm specializing in immigration law.
- Don’t overlook non-profits or public interest groups. They’re often underfunded and happy to have your help.
What to Expect in a Summer Internship
You’ll be working for free, so make sure that you’re getting something out of the deal. During your interview, ask the following questions:
- What kind of work will you be doing? Making copies and bringing coffee to the partners doesn’t give you much experience.
- Who will be your direct supervisor? Ideally, it’s not a brand new associate, but rather a seasoned attorney.
- What can you expect to learn? The firm should have some goals set for its interns.
- What does the firm expect from you? Get a clear idea of the hours involved, and the amount of work expected.
Turn an Internship into Future Job Opportunities
In addition to the experience you’ll gain over the summer, you may be able to turn your internship into a paid position later; or make contacts that will give you valuable recommendations. Here’s how:
- Show up on time (or early) every day.
- Dress professionally. Look the part, and you’ll appear invested.
- Spend your time in the office working. No Facebook, personal email or playing games online.
- Consider social events an opportunity to network. Avoid drinking too much at all costs and remember that you’re being watched by both the partners of your firm, and others in the field.
- Form professional relationships. Don’t be difficult to work with—instead, be the person that the firm’s attorneys want to inspire and teach.