Being a lawyer is so glamorous and exciting. Strutting into court, wearing wigs and robes, and dealing with high profile cases where you get to say “I object!” a lot. This is exactly what being a lawyer is like. On television, at least…We blame you, Suits.
If you are considering studying to become a lawyer we have some advice for you on how your expectations will vary compared to reality, as well as some tips for you on what to expect and how to make the most of your burgeoning legal career.
The reality of being a lawyer is this: the expectation you have is probably not going to align with what you have seen on TV, or in movies, or in the media. Law involves a lot of reading. Like, a lot of reading. You probably never saw Harvey Spector pick up a book in his entire time on Suits. The fact is that no matter what point in your career you are at, you are going to be reading. Law clerk? Reading. Solicitor? Reading. Associate? Reading. Barrister? Reading. You get the picture. If you do not like reading large amounts of material, it may be worth considering why you really want to be studying law to be a lawyer, at this point.
Still here? Ok, good.
The other thing about law is that you will have a lot of things on the go at once, and you will need to be very good at balancing your work life with your personal life, otherwise you will find that your job can take over a lot of your spare time. To ensure you thrive as a lawyer, you will need to be able to manage your time well.
OK - now that we have compared some of the expectations to reality, let’s take a look at some key tips and takeaways.
1: The hours are long (but it’s worth it)
You will hear this a million times as you start to study, and then a million times more as you enter into your first job, and then you’ll keep hearing it and eventually you will be the one telling a fresh-faced grad that the hours are long. But hey. One more time for those in the back - the hours as a lawyer can be really long.
There are a number of reasons why this may be; it could be because there is always just one more bit of work you can do, it could be because lawyers are relentless perfectionists and want to do an amazing job, it could be because the demands on lawyers are high, and it’s hard to get everything done in a standard working day.
Whatever the reason, you will find that if you manage to find a niche that you love, the hours will fly by and you will absolutely love what you do.
2: The people are amazing
As you begin to study law you will find yourself in lectures and tutorials (ok, maybe virtually for now, thanks to Covid) with some of the most wonderful people you’ll ever hope to meet.
People who are drawn to study law are those who want to help others, and those who want to make a difference in the world.
Whether that difference is going to be through practice in civil law, personal injury law, criminal law, human rights law, IP law or something else entirely, one thing you can be sure of is that you will make lifelong friends as you move through your career.
3: You will meet some of the most brilliant minds on earth
Along with your studying companions, you will constantly be meeting and interacting with people who are, quite simply, brilliant thinkers.
Whether this is your mentor at work, the barrister you shadow in court, the tireless advocate for human rights at the community legal centre, or the legal secretary with thirty years’ experience and more knowledge than the whole team put together, the people who make up the legal industry are wonderfully bright, compassionate and tirelessly hard workers.
4: Don’t do it for the money
There is this expectation that being a lawyer will make you really wealthy. Maybe once upon a time, but with the employment rate compared to graduate rate being what it is, it’s likely that you will be competing for a job with a lot of other graduates.
Do not let this deter you, though, if studying law is what you really want to do. The money will always come, and you will find the right path for yourself.
5: Find your niche
Within the legal industry there are so many different avenues and options to explore. You do not have to go into legal practice — you can choose to use a law degree in so many different ways.
Perhaps you are devoted to human rights or environmental protection. Your law degree can be used in employment when you are drafting submissions for legislative reform, or working within local government.
You can use a law degree in so many different ways and you do not need to feel constrained by what others are doing.