Saturday , 19 August 2017

Attending Law School: Pre-Law Questionnaire

Pre-Law QuestionnaireIf you are considering attending law school, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Among them is the fact that a law degree is a graduate degree, and pursuing any graduate degree should not be undertaken without doing your research and obtaining all material information that can help you decide whether that degree is worth both the finances and the extra years of education. After all, you certainly don’t want to go through three years of law school and wind up in the same or worse place than prior to enrolling. This unfortunate fate is very possible by attending law school, so it is strongly recommended you do not make any choices on a whim. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, you’re already ahead of much of your peers. To begin, you should get very comfortable with the Law School Attendance: Do Your Research article. It tackles very important topics that should be understood by any prospective law student. However, although the financial costs of law school and the potential job opportunities are integral to understand, there is also something very important that few ever really discuss: the reality of the practice of law and the type of personality an individual should possess to increase the likelihood of enjoying that practice. The first topic is covered in our Law Practice: Perception vs. Reality article. The aim of this article is to elaborate on the second topic.

It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s very rare for prospective law students to actually sit down and think about whether the practice of law is right for them and whether they have the type of personality that is recommended to succeed in the profession. To be fair, the failure to ask and analyze these questions isn’t something that is specific to prospective law students. It’s a general state of affairs among all college and graduate programs. Yet, these are the fundamental questions that will decide whether you will come to at least find the practice of law bearable after investing so much time and money into getting the degree. In turn, whether the practice of law is at least bearable will ultimately decide whether you will have a career in the profession or fizzle out a few years after graduation. The latter result is unfortunately quite popular among law graduates, for a multitude of reasons that are beyond the scope of this article. However, certainly chief among them is this exact reason: learning they do not actually like the legal field. This problem isn’t limited to those who are not successful either, far from it. Even for successful attorneys, the money starts mattering less and less if they cannot stand what they do and each morning is more dreadful than the one before. Now imagine how many of those law graduates wish they had a time machine to get the chance to figure this out, or at least have a sense of where they stand, before investing all that time and money? You have that chance. Not everybody is suited for the legal field, just like not everybody is suited to being a doctor, accountant, or any other professional.

With all this in mind, here’s a list of questions you should consider that will help decide whether you may be suited for the practice of law:

1. Are you social? (law is a sales job first)

2. Are you argumentative? (this is the wrong answer to give in interviews, but it’s integral to competent representation of clients)

3. Do you like to argue? (you may not mind arguing, but it’s even better if you actually enjoy it)

4. Must you win every argument? (being passive in law helps no one, especially not your client)

5. Do you enjoy debates? (an unshakeable curiosity for hearing all perspectives on any given topic is a plus)

6. Are you arrogant? (you shouldn’t be the type of person that has doubts about his or her position)

7. Do you think you’re smarter than most people and want a chance to show it? (there’s a chance to do this daily as you represent your clients and deal with the opposition)

8. Do you have the qualities of an “a-hole” even if people like you? (it’s not easy to simultaneously achieve respect and the ability to be unbearable at the same time)

9. If you write a paper and you don’t receive the grade you thought you would, do you rush to identify why? (attention to detail and learning from mistakes are key to law practice)

10. If you write a paper and you don’t receive the grade you thought you would, do you often think the grader got it wrong? (there’s always an argument to be made)

11. Do you imagine being an authority on something? (an important skill is to be able to develop into an expert that clients seek)

12. Do you talk to yourself? (analyzing even minutiae is fundamental to lawyers)

13. Do you argue with yourself? (it’s important to be able to take the other side and identify your own weaknesses in an argument)

14. Are you a curious person? (you should have the drive to seek answers)

15. Do you enjoy seeking answers on how to improve something? (you should be curious about why something is the answer and if there is any better way to achieve the result)

16. Do you enjoy telling people how something can be done better? (helping people achieve a desired result efficiently is a fundamental aspect of lawyering)

17. Do you believe you can figure out anything through your own research? (having the drive and confidence to figure things out on your own is a characteristic of any competent lawyer)

18. Are you genuinely interested in helping other people? (law is a service industry)

19. Do you enjoy writing and creating documents? (this is the essence of law)

20. Do you prefer learning something once and sticking with it or constantly learning new things? (each client’s fact pattern is diverse and a lawyer constantly discovers new nooks and crannies in the law)

21. Do you like to leave your work at work? (unlike in many professions, the work you do does not stay in the office when it’s time to leave – the matters you work on as a lawyer stay with you 24/7, there is no off switch!)

Although this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, these are many of the common characteristics found among lawyers. Answering all of these in the affirmative isn’t necessary, but certainly scoring high is at least an indicator of your future affinity towards the legal field. In addition to examining these questions, you should really strive to gain some legal experience between college and law school to see what the practice of law is like day to day. Enjoying law as a career requires you to not only be suited personality wise, but to know what the day to day practice of law entails. This means applying to be a paralegal, legal secretary, or trying to obtain an administrative role in a law firm is recommended. Outside of showing you the daily practice of law, it will provide you with some useful legal experience and kick start your legal network (both extremely important factors in today’s competitive legal market).

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