Tales from the Other Side: 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Lawyer
Apr 26, 2023   •   Tim Henares
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Apr 26, 2023   •   Tim Henares
Not all careers are created equal. All of them have their good points and bad points. Here at the 8List, we interviewed experienced professionals who know their industry inside and out — and asked them about the 8 things they wish they knew about their industry before they got there.
They always say that the grass is greener on the other side. But is it worth it to get there with these pitfalls? Read on and decide for yourself.
Law students complain about how much reading they have to do all the time, but even after you pass the bar, needing to read a lot will never stop. Whether it’s brushing up on the letter of the law, doing research, going through contracts with a fine tooth comb, or countless court transcripts or depositions, a good chunk of your career as a lawyer will involve reading, reading, and even more reading. There’s no audiobook or movie version to help you out.
So once you’ve read something, what’s the next thing you’re going to do? Paperwork, paperwork, and even more paperwork. And that’s assuming you’re not a notary public, which means, if you are, then triplicate that paperwork! You’ll be reading contracts as much as you’re writing them. You’ll be taking notes from every important legal conversation you have. And yes, anything your client needs you to do will probably involve you having to write something. Hope you’re ready for that!
It’s a small world, and the world of lawyers is even smaller. The people you’re with in law school will likely be your colleagues, rivals, judges, and more. Thus, developing a bond with them while you’re there will prove to be more important the longer you are actively practicing.
You think practicing law is going to be a lot like Suits? Sorry, nope: even a photographic memory won’t save you if you don’t know how to critically apply all that stored knowledge to law. How about How To Get Away With Murder? Hilarious. That show is more like How To Get Away With Malpractice, amirite (Hint: as a lawyer, you can’t let interns interview your witness for you, as that literally breaks privilege)? Most of your days in the courtroom are routine and uneventful, if not outright boring. Even those bombastic opening and closing statements are just that – the beginning and the end of mostly endless droning testimony, questions, and cross-examinations.
Except for the crisis of conscience. That’s just something all lawyers need to deal with, one way or another.
A lot of the things you will read and write can be broken down into outlines. The better you are at creating outlines, the easier it will be for you to digest the things you need to read and understand for your practice and comprehensively write the things you are required to. The sooner you get good at this, the sooner you can start making heads and tails of 95% of your practice.
When so many people pass the bar at any given time, outside of being one of the top 20 or so bar-takers, how do you hope to stand out from the pack when most of you are only separated by a couple of points? Surpise! It’s going to boil down to what you do when you’re not in class; whether your orgs, frat/soro, or internship, or anything else in between. In fact, one of the surest ways to find employment after graduating from law school is to be an intern at a law firm and do well enough for them to guarantee hiring you once you’re a lawyer. It’s not going to be as simple as just throwing out your resume at random law firms like most other jobs – more often than not, the law firms will go to you. So you better give them a reason to do just that.
Just like a doctor gets endless medical questions, people around you will ask you questions involving your practice non-stop. In fact, some of them will do it so often, you’d feel tempted to start charging them a retainer. If you are the type who has a huge thing about boundaries, then we hope you’re fine not having too many friends – because most of them will keep crossing those boundaries to ask you for free legal advice.
After years on the debate team, most people who end up going to law school think that their remarkable record as a debater would carry them all the way to topping the bar (we know we did). Once they hit law school, they realize that arguing well is only one aspect of the practice, and a lot of good lawyers have made excellent careers by settling things before they end up in court, often to the benefit of their clients. There’s a certain level of smugness that gets erased from the ones who really end up being great lawyers, simply because they understand that tying their self-worth to their title and their win-loss record will only result in a miserable life.
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