Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

I Am Considering Becoming A Lawyer. What Is The Pathway to That?

 

August 1, 2017 | View PDF



Aside from the lawyer jokes, being an attorney is a noble profession. In all professions you have the occasional bad seed even though law schools and Bar associations attempt to weed them out. And many lawyer jokes focus not on the misdeeds of the few but on one of the rules of ethics. The Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.3, Comment in part says, “A lawyer should act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client and with zeal in advocacy upon the client's behalf. “ It may be a zeal for the advocacy of a client when an attorney seeks the best result for that client and may to the layperson appear to be an ethical violation or misconduct. Certainly there have been situations where attorneys have overstepped their boundaries in the solicitation of clients.

To become an attorney, it is not necessary to follow a pre-law major in college. For instance, an English major or minor may be very useful since lawyers do a tremendous amount of writing. Taking speech classes can help to prepare a future lawyer whether they later become a litigator or transactional attorney that finds they on occasion must appear before a judge. Any classes that help with critical or spatial thinking are a plus and certainly the sciences are useful.

Once you have decided you want to attend law school you must first take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The more prestigious law schools require higher LSAT scores. Coupled with your LSAT score and your undergraduate grades you may then start to look at law schools that you might wish to apply to. There are three ABA accredited law schools (University of Alabama, Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and Jones School of Law at Faulkner University) in Alabama and two that are unaccredited (Birmingham School of Law and Miles College School of Law). The three accredited allow graduates to sit for the Bar examination in any state, but the unaccredited allow graduates to only sit for the Alabama Bar examination. In addition to the Bar examination each new law student must submit paperwork to the state bar and each new lawyer must have also passed the ethics examination.

Law school is interesting and let’s face it made up of a group of high achievers you’re not the only one. When my eldest nephew began his law school journey several years back the Dean’s comments on the first day regarding the class was that many of the students had already achieved graduate degrees or spoke multiple languages or had already started their own business. Initially following his undergraduate graduation my nephew competed against these, graduating from law school and passing his Bar examination on his first attempt. He has now been practicing the last few years along with the other 18,120 Alabama lawyers (almost 19% practice out-of-state).

Each law school is slightly different. There will be required classes such as legal research, ethics and maybe torts and contracts but many are elective and allow law students to pursue areas of interest that can be developed after Bar admission. I definitely found my first year of law school as the toughest and wondered at times why I was putting myself through all of it. While higher intelligence is a great asset in law school, a closer to average student can persevere if they are willing to work really hard. I had to work really hard! The three years of law school passes quickly and before you know it you have been a lawyer many times over the time spent in your formal education.

One lawyer told me while I was still a student that half of your education is after you graduate law school and that is pretty much true. There are so many areas that you can pursue in law and each that you undertake you are expected to know the applicable law or have access to it. The town lawyer that does a little of everything is expected to be as proficient as a big city estate planning attorney when it comes to writing a Will and that is true for all areas that he or she may practice in. Attorneys have required continuing legal education each year so attorneys have a wide variety of educational classes that they can attend and learn from the best in those specific specialties.

When you finally complete law school the Bar examination becomes your next obstacle to a legal career. The bar examination consists of three areas utilizing a performance section (not on my examination many years ago), an essay section and a multiple-choice section (also referred to as multistate). It’s two days as my attorney brother says that you can recall more law than the three prior years and probably subsequent years.

Hopefully, even before you take the bar examination you have either landed a good job (conditioned on passing the exam) or have a lot of good leads. If you have not been blessed with the funds to get you through there may be large student loans that now need to be repaid and may include undergraduate loans as well so I hope you have realistically looked at your chances for landing a good legal job with pay that will allow you to live and repay any loans.

God has richly blessed my life and I try to focus on the skills that He has given me in serving others. If this is your calling I hope that you too have prayerfully considered how you can use this for a higher calling.

This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.

"No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."

Mailing address • Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq. • Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC • 7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124 • Montgomery, AL 36116 • (334) 220-3700 • raholtsford@aol.com

 

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