How to Prepare for a Career in Law as a High Schooler
So, you want to pursue a career in law? Whether your decision comes from an urge to advocate for those in need or comes from binge watching legal dramas like “Law & Order ” and “Better Call Saul,” law is an excellent career choice for those with a strong sense of justice.
The law field has a variety of jobs that you can explore throughout your four years in high school.
Explore your job prospects
Lawyer and attorney are the most popular jobs associated with a career in law, but they are not the only law-related paths to take. For example, paralegals focus on assisting attorneys by preparing them for cases and trials.
A title examiner works closely with legal firms to collect documentation related to real estate, insurance, or contractual agreements. They decide the authenticity of the documents and the ownership of any property or land between two or more parties.
Do any of these pique your interest? Well, they’re just a few jobs that are an important part of the law field that do not require a law degree or a license to practice. In fact, lawyers and attorneys are often confused with one another, but both carry different responsibilities.
A lawyer is any person that has earned a law degree through an accredited law school or legal program. In contrast, an attorney is any person that has passed the bar exam, which is an assessment of a prospective attorney’s knowledge of the field, and practices law.
In short, all attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. Good news for those living in these four states: Virginia, California, Vermont, and Washington state. They allow you to become a licensed attorney without completing law school through an apprenticeship program where after completion you can sit for the bar exam.
If you have set your sights on becoming any of the jobs listed, you must first finish high school and get a bachelor’s degree. If you plan on going to law school, understand that there are no requirements for what your undergraduate major should be when you apply, so feel free to explore any concentration that you can excel academically in (GPA matters) and that interests you.
Nevertheless, studying the Humanities, such as History, English, and Philosophy, does give you critical foundational skills in reading, logic reasoning skills, and writing skills that are very important in this field.
Next comes the LSAT, a required entrance exam for law school hopefuls. Similar to other assessments, there are various testing books and resources you can use to do well on the three hour long exam.
If you don’t do well with test taking, here’s a reminder that your LSAT score is just one part of your law school application and that other factors such as your GPA in college, professor recommendations, and essays are also evaluated.
After finishing law school, you will be awarded a law degree also known as a Juris Doctorate and be eligible to sit for the bar exam and become a practicing attorney. Those with a law degree but no license to practice can instead work as professors, legal counselors, or judicial clerks.
Begin developing critical skills
Law is a broad field, but whatever career you choose to pursue, you will need to be proficient in certain skills. Some include logical reasoning, information analysis, and communication (written and oral).
Taking courses in high school that sharpen your ability to analyze text and craft complex arguments creates a strong reading and writing foundation needed for when you work in law. AP or IB English and History are some courses that emphasize these skills.
Taking class electives that focus on increasing your knowledge of society, past or present, is important. Sociology and Psychology specifically supplement your understanding of human society and human behavior.
A big part of working in law is completing research, so if you have any room in your schedule for incorporating coursework that emphasizes growing your research skills, then AP Research, AP Capstone, and AP Human Geography are perfect options.
Get involved in your community
Outside of your academics, survey opportunities to exercise skills that future employers want in their prospective employees. The law field is about protecting the rights of the general public from unjust treatment, so participating in service-based activities like joining political campaigns demonstrates that you are able to recognize the problems around you and help solve them.
Debate club, Model U.N., and Mock Trial focus on growing your writing skills, research ability, and teamwork experience, experience that is coveted in legal jobs. Public speaking and writing competitions are also a wonderful way to expand your writing and reasoning skills.
Joining student council/student government and student unions can provide you leadership positions (which are always great for your resume and college applications) while showcasing your ability to problem solve and work with your peers towards a common cause.
Finally, internships and shadowing are excellent ways to get first-hand experience before committing to law as a career path. High school law programs like the United States Department of the Interior Pathways Program provides the opportunity for students to explore working under federal agencies through their internship.
Regardless of what job you choose or even if you don’t decide to pursue law as a career, I urge you to keep an open mind about anything that piques your interest and to not fixate on just one career path. I personally have changed what I have wanted to study many times.
Take the time to gain insight on your passions and where you see yourself in the future. High school is one of the best times to explore your future careers, so take advantage of it and don’t stress if you are still not sure by the end of your four years!
Best of luck to the future lawyers, title examiners, and paralegals reading this blog post now!
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