Going to Law School

Chapter 1

The decision to seek admission to a law school should be grounded in a thoughtful and informed decision that you want to obtain a legal education. The Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree is excellent graduate preparation for work in many professional fields, including business, publishing, education and public policy. However, by far most students enter law school in order to become a lawyer, be admitted to the Bar, and enter the practice of law. If this is your intention, it is very important that you research what it is really like to be a lawyer. You should talk to practicing attorneys, visit their offices and courtrooms, and understand what it will mean to practice law on a daily basis. Below are some things to think about before you pursue a law degree and become a lawyer.

The practice of law can be deadening or exhilarating depending upon your personality. A distinction therefore must be made between whether you will be successful practicing law versus whether you will be happy practicing law. Successful attorneys generally have strong writing and communication skills, good memories, quick analytical and logical reasoning skills, and good organizational abilities. If you are weak in any of these areas you must focus your undergraduate energies on improving them. Attorneys who enjoy practicing law generally thrive on being busy, on debating, on being in control of situations, on working with people, and on being challenged by complicated problems. Does this describe you?

The legal profession consists for the most part in asserting and defending the rights and responsibilities accorded individuals by the constitutions, laws, rules and regulations of the Federal and State governments. The actual laws and the volumes which have been written thereon are so extensive that no one individual can memorize or even read them all in a lifetime.

The true skills and knowledge used by attorneys are found in:

1) knowing where to look for the law, and
2) applying strong writing, analytical and logical reasoning skills to accurately persuade others (be they a jury or corporate board) that his clients's view of the law is the correct view.

The results of an attorney's ability to persuade can change the rights and responsibilities of every citizen of the United States or can be limited to settling a dispute between neighbors. An attorney's field of operations is not limited to the courtroom but extends to the law office, the boardroom, libraries, public forums, etc. An attorney's work not only involves lawsuits but also includes matters such as contract negotiations, advisory opinions, and drafting legal documents.

Most attorneys are considered general practitioners. By that it is meant that they handle a variety of subject matter ranging from divorce and speeding tickets to civil rights litigation and incorporating businesses. There are a growing number of attorneys, however, who are specializing. A specialization is usually not recognized until one has proven oneself an expert in a field after a few years in practice. Examples of specialization are:

For more information on areas of legal specialization, see http://www.lawcentral.com/

International Law Health Law
Intellectual Property/Patents Environmental Law
Tax Law Immigration Law
Corporate Law Criminal Law
Family Law Securities

Law school is at a minimum three years beyond a bachelor's degree. Law school graduates are eligible to practice law only in those states for which they have taken and passed the bar. The Georgia bar exam lasts two days. One day is devoted to testing your knowledge of multi-state law. The questions are multiple choice and test issues concerning property, contracts, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, and evidence. On the other day the questions are usually essay and may cover many more subjects. For this one you must know both state and federal law. Bar exams may vary from state to state.

It can be said that opportunities for new lawyers will depend not only upon the economic situation of the United States and the world, but also on one's academic performance in law school, one's specialty, and one's willingness to work in a variety of geographical locations.

The process of becoming an attorney should include insight and discovery into the field of law and its demands and opportunities, as well as insight into and discovery of your own strengths and abilities, values and goals. Your years in undergraduate study provide a rich opportunity for this exploration, preparation, and growth.


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