Potential lawyer


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Potential lawyer

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feb. 26, 2008, 12:13 am

I will be starting a law degree soon and was wondering what advice people have for an aspiring lawyer...

feb. 26, 2008, 12:35 am

Get your eyes checked regularly. I used to have perfect vision. Now I'm in my final year of a law degree and I have glasses. According to the optometrist, it was inevitable... *sigh*

Editat: feb. 26, 2008, 6:08 pm

I graduated law school last year and just started working in September. Here is some advice I wish I was given before my first year:

Be skeptical of some of the books out there that purport to describe what law school is like and prescribe ways to deal with it. Some of the perennials are Planet Law School and One-L.

While some of what they have to say reflects the universal experience of law students, a lot of it is specific either to the school the author went to or the author's own personality.

Something I do think is universally true, though, is that some professors will tell you not to use hornbooks or other supplementary materials -- usually because their teaching is so unique and special that generalized materials will not be helpful. For the most part, you can ignore that advice.

The most useful books I used in law school were the Examples and Explanations series, particularly on Civil Procedure and Evidence. Read them during the semester, not at the end.

Keep up with the reading at all costs. Start outlining and briefing cases early -- not just to lighten the load later in the semester, but also to see what works for you and what doesn't.

Don't skip class if you can help it, as you will be amazed how easy it is to fall into destructive patterns.

Take as many classes with practical components (like Trial Advocacy) as you can, as they are most useful.

Get the most out of your legal writing classes and work on a journal if you can. Most of what you do as a lawyer involves those skills.

lawrose, I see you're from Australia, so some of the above won't necessarily apply. But hopefully other law students-to-be will find it useful.

feb. 26, 2008, 6:26 pm

I found that the exam process tends to be about getting as much information out as possible, not whether your answers are particulary well-written. (Not as true for the take home exam.)

Take it seriously, but have fun. Its interesting stuff.

feb. 26, 2008, 7:37 pm

Look into programs that grant joint US-Canadian law degree, e.g. U of Ottawa and Michigan State U have program but there are others. Tuition is held at home university's level. Start with home country's JD so you can stop there if you want to. If you get dual, you will never want for employment!

feb. 26, 2008, 8:38 pm

Buy the Barbri books now. Don't worry. You'll learn to "think" like a lawyer anyway, but those will help you organize the material. Your grades are very important. If you have any "issues," i.e., finances, relationship problems, mental health problems, get them under control before you start. It sounds harsh, but law students and lawyers have one of the highest depression rates around and you need to take care of yourself. No one understands law school unless they've been there. If you know anyone who has gone through it, stay in touch with them. You're gonna need perspective and helpful tips. Frequently the ones who do the best are the ones with lawyers in the family and who know what to expect.

Where ya going?

feb. 26, 2008, 8:41 pm

Oh, you're in Australia. I don't even know if they have Barbri there. Hopefully your country's law programs are saner than the ones in the US.

Good luck!

feb. 27, 2008, 1:54 am

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feb. 27, 2008, 6:48 pm

Sorry everyone, I should have asked for more generic advice seeing as I come from Australia and most users of Library thing are American! In fact, I recently found out that your system is very different. In Australia we actually go straight from high school to a law degree which goes for 5 years with no 'college' in between. There is no law school per se. I am currently working as an assistant for an accounting/ property law firm. In relation to dreamlikecheese's comment... I think my eyes are going down hill already just from all the reading I did in my last year of High School! I tend to be told that I am 'too nice' to be a lawyer (whatever that means), and have often been discouraged. Does anyone think there is actually a personality type better suited to law?

feb. 27, 2008, 10:43 pm

No. There are too many ways to be a great legal professional. Furthermore nice is good, if you mean capable of being social and friendly, and not pointlessly antagonistic. You DO have to be capable of standing firm and of getting over wanting people to like you and think you are nice or other people can take advantage of you at the expense of your client. You certainly don't have to be a jerk, but you can't make everyone happy...and if they think that makes you a jerk, so long as you are polite, honest and professional, they are wrong.

feb. 28, 2008, 6:42 am

I think one thing to remember about a law degree (at least here in Australia...I suspect it's very different in the US) is that it can be either very general or very specific. Use the first few semesters at law school to work out 1. Are you interested in the law? and 2. If so, what areas of law interest you? I don't know which university you're attending but my uni offers a large variety of courses in certain specialist core areas. You can choose to either take most of your electives in one particular area (eg. tax law, or international law) or get a more generalist overview.

Also, unlike some other countries, a majority of Australian law students (something like 55-60%) will never practice law. They enter other professions which value the research and time management skills you gain from a law degree. One year doing law was more than enough to convince me that I do not want to be a lawyer. At least, certainly not a standard private practice solicitor or even a barrister. I find law eternally interesting, but the client side of things does not appeal so much.

Other than that, I don't know what format your exams and things will take, but take it from a champion procrastinator....make sure you keep your notes up to date. Don't let it slide for a few weeks. The reading will pile up.

Don't be afraid to ask your lecturers for help with any concepts you don;t understand. If they're anything like the wonderful lecturers at my uni, they'll be only to happy to help and give you new ways to look at things and summaries of key points.

Don't take law or yourself too seriously! There is nothing other students hate more than pretentious, self-important law students :)

feb. 28, 2008, 5:24 pm

Thanks, I appreciate the advice! By the way dreamlikecheese, if you are the champion procrastinator I am at least runner up! :-P

feb. 29, 2008, 10:48 pm

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març 1, 2008, 6:07 pm

Something many experienced lawyers will tell you (or at least have told me) is that being nice to your opponents is not only good for the soul, but also a smart tactic. For instance, if the other side asks for more time to do something, it's best to agree if it is no big deal, because inevitably you will need a similar favor from them down the road.

Not that you need to have a tactical reason to be nice -- I know many lawyers who always give extra time, even to lawyers who refused to do the same earlier in a case.