5 Ways to Build Your Career In Law While Still in College
BY SHAHINA PARVIN
You may be a law student, wishing to prepare for a career – or you may just love watching reruns of “Law and Order” (enough to want a career out of it as well). However, you should know that getting a degree in law is not as easy as it may seem.
However, there are certain things that you may be able to do in college in order to set the stage for your career. You just have to be determined enough to do so. Here are a few tips to get yourself started.
- Study and Gain Knowledge
It may seem obvious, but not many students focus on their studies while they are in college. After all, there are so many committees to join, and so many parties to attend. Plus, you’ll never be this young again, right?
However, if you want to be a successful lawyer upon graduation, you must be particularly careful with your studies. This doesn’t mean that you have to be at the top of your class; each law school has different expectations. However, you may want to create an excellent record that would make you seem attractive to a prospective law firm.
Knowledge is one of the strongest attires a lawyer has – this is why you must make the most of your years in college. Still, don’t focus on your grades. Law schools are looking to give you the necessary skills that you need in order to pursue a legal career. In other words, you need to focus on developing your knowledge, and aiming to become an exemplar lawyer.
To be a lawyer, you have to be a people’s person. You need to understand the way their minds work, to know how to protect their rights. And you can’t do that by continuously sticking your nose inside your books.
- Go for an Internship
As a freshly graduated college student, you will have to present a resume to the company where you want to practice law. If they see that your “experience” part of the resume is completely blank, they might choose someone else with more experience instead of you.
“But I’m still a college student! I have classes to go to!” Yes, the situation is fairly tough here. However, if you are seriously considering a successful law career, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices – and this may include your summer vacations.
Look for internships that allow you to work up your experience level. It doesn’t necessarily have to be law-related; even something as simple as editing a magazine will take you up a notch. Good writing skills are associated with the makings of a good lawyer – and considering that you’ll have many essays to write, it will help you out in the long run.
The better your grades, the more attractive you will seem in the eyes of your employer – so get yourself out there and try to improve yourself.
We know, volunteering and community work do not bring you any money, and you will practically have to kill all your time in order to slave yourself for free. Still, just like internships, this will look very good on your resume, and it will tell your potential employees that you have worked hard to get some experience.
In order to pursue the career path that you are looking for, you have to volunteer in organizations that are relevant to the discipline. Law schools usually care very much about attorneys who don’t mind spending their free time to help those in need. Moreover, some of these volunteer positions may involve campaigning, writing memos, and many other activities that could develop the right skills for a legal career.
For instance, two important skills a lawyer should have are communication and writing. You need strong communication skills in order to carry out a solicitor’s duties, and good listening abilities, to listen to your clients and build a relationship. On the other hand, writing is essential when drafting letters and legal documents. Basically, you need to know both legal and technical language to become a good lawyer. The university’s law society could help you achieve this through draft emails, writing newsletters, and others.
Participating in the student government may also be a sound choice for you, that would double as volunteering. It will show that you are an active person that is not afraid to take on a leading role – to protect the things that they believe in. It will count as experience, which will definitely look great on your resume. In addition, you will gain a set of skills that could be helpful for a lawyer career.
- Job Shadow Different Attorneys
There are many reasons why you should shadow an attorney when you’re a student. Obviously, the main motivation would be that you have the unique opportunity of analyzing how they handle the cases. This type of experience cannot be obtained by reading books – that isn’t to say reading books doesn’t have its purpose. Memorizing information means nothing if you don’t know how to use it, or put it into practice yourself.
They know how to handle even the most complicated cases, taking into account the tiniest details – which, at first, might seem insignificant. In the end, though, these are the aspects that can make the world of a difference.
If you do not know any lawyers yourself, you may want to talk with someone from your career service office. They might be able to put you in contact with someone so that you can see for yourself how it feels to be a lawyer for a few days.
Although you won’t be able to actually replace the lawyer, you will be there to observe how a process in the court goes. You can analyze every word the lawyer says, and you will gain knowledge and skills for when you’ll be an attorney yourself. If you’re lucky enough, maybe you’ll also be asked to give your opinions in the court, as long as the judge and jury allow it.
You need to actually experience something to gain the skills required, and this is especially true when you’re pursuing a legal career. After all, you’ll be doing it to help people in need, meaning you need to get serious.
- Choose an Academically Challenging Major
If you choose the easy way out, it may not help your cause much. However, if you choose something that is slightly more academically challenging, you will look like a person that is not afraid to take on a difficult case – and it will be much easier for you to launch yourself in your career.
Furthermore, if you go for challenging majors, you will also develop skills such as critical thinking, writing, and argumentation. All of these are very important for a law career. Knowing the type of law you’re interested in could help you decide which major is right for you. For instance, psychology is good for criminal law, while business and economics are great if you are interested in corporate law. By knowing the type of law that interests you, you’ll be able to become a successful lawyer.
Author name – Shahina Parvin