It sometimes only takes seeing one episode of the TV show, Law and Order, for someone to start dreaming of becoming an attorney. These dreams often evaporate once the show is over, but for some people the dreams persist. Fortunately these dreams can come true. But the competition to become a legal professional is more intense than ever before. So every budding attorney needs a clear idea of what it takes to become a successful lawyer.
The demographics of the legal professional landscape have changed greatly over the past few decades. As of 2010, the American Bar Association (ABA) stated that there are 1.2 million licensed attorneys residing in America. Of these attorneys, about three-fourths were male. While this may seem like an overwhelming number, consider this: 92 percent were male in 1990. Clearly the glass ceiling in the courtroom is beginning to crack.
The current demographics of attorneys and law students makes it essential for an aspiring lawyer to dig in their heels or high-heels and work hard to be successful. Law school enrollment has steadily increased over the past few years. This number topped out at over 145,000 in 2010. These schools, however, are only pumping out about 40,000 graduates a year.
This may seem like an open door to landing a job in the legal system, but it’s simply not the case. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently predicted that 218,800 legal jobs would come into existence between 2010 and 2020, this 40,000 figure means that all newly created legal jobs could be gone by 2015.
Steps to Success
There is no one-size-fits-all, step-by-step approach to becoming a successful attorney. There are many skills, insights, revelations, and choices with which every successful legal professional must deal.
Collaborative skills don’t just require working well within a team. Teamwork is, of course, vital especially in a law firm setting, but learning to work in multi-party environments is also crucial. A good attorney must work with and convince the judge, opposing attorney, and jury that their arguments are irrefutable. Without these skills, a new attorney won’t win many cases.
b) Analytical Skills
It’s virtually impossible to get into a good law school without great analytical skills. This is evident if you look at the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT). Attorneys need to know how to thoroughly research and manipulate the law in a way that helps their practice. This isn’t accomplished by mere reading. Analytical thinking is a science, a craft, and an art. It requires understanding and discernment beyond the scope of precedence—looking outside the box for potential solutions.
Specialization is both a hurdle and an opportunity in the legal profession. Focused lawyers don’t try to cover real estate law, family law, criminal law, and elderly law all in the same practice. Becoming specialized in one area is a huge hurdle to overtake, but it can also be a brilliant professional move. A Florida law school graduate, for instance, could work towards becoming an outstanding Orlando car accident lawyer. The reward for her hard work would result in her becoming exceptionally proficient in that single area of the law, and an expert in the inner workings of a specific locale’s courtrooms.
Some people groan at the thought of having to write and can’t imagine ever becoming good writers. In the legal profession this is not negotiable—excellent writing is a basic requirement. Law students have to write a plethora of legal assignments; and the necessary motions and legal documents that must be filed as an attorney means writing well every day; it must become routine. Anyone who wants success as an attorney will first have to succeed at mastering the King’s English.
Becoming an attorney is no simple task, but for those who really want it, it’s completely possible. Attorneys hold some of the most respected positions in America. Many of the country’s politicians got their start as attorneys. With a legal degree, the sky is literally the limit.
Writer and former legal aspirant LaGeris Underwood Bell offers this article as encouragement to those would-be legal eagles who need a little nudge to pursue their dreams. She hopes that whether they become a California environmental lawyer or an Orlando car accident lawyer, they will garner success for themselves and their clients.
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