Do You Have What It Takes to Become A Lawyer?

Television programs showcase high-powered and highly paid attorneys litigating dramatic cases with significant outcomes. The reality of the legal field is much different. Beginning and maintaining a career in law also has more than a few unwritten rules. Some requirements are universal to all lawyers while some are of greater benefit to litigators or transactional attorneys. Being an attorney is not for everyone.


Above all else, prospective lawyers must have a great deal of self-awareness. Any attorney that performs work incorrectly will endanger another person’s freedom or produce work that leads to costly litigation. Successfully training to become an attorney requires hard work and dedication to the field. Any distractions, doubts, or other life concerns will greatly inhibit one’s educational and professional career. Prospective lawyers must have the ability to look at their own lives and make an unbiased and calculated assessment of their own flaws and work to correct those flaws.

Work Ethic and Motivation

Attorneys must have a high work ethic. Simply being authorized to practice law normally requires a law degree, which requires three years of law school. At school, students are exposed to the Socratic Method, a method of challenging the student’s beliefs in front of the class. This potential for social embarrassment is both a great motivator to do well and a great source of discouragement for someone on the fence about law school. Additionally, obtaining a job right out of law school frequently requires a professional connection to a firm in some capacity. The most common source of this connection is an internship acquired during the summer.

Attorneys who receive a high salary from a firm will be expected to meet a high number of billable hours in a particular year. Billable hours can be misleading; most attorneys find that of all the time spent servicing a particular client’s needs, they may only bill every third hour or so. Attorneys will spend countless hours doing research and performing many necessary tasks that cannot be attributed to any particular client. Attorneys must still meet these billable hours requirements or be dismissed from the firm.

Attorneys who accept cases on a contingency basis, such as many personal injury attorneys, normally will not receive compensation for their time without any recovery for the client. If the client cannot afford to pay discovery costs or filing fees, the attorney may be willing to float those costs in the hopes of receiving a settlement or even a judgment. In other words, an attorney may have his or her own money tied up in a client’s case. If the amount is great or if the firm is small, this can be a source of stress for an attorney.


All attorneys must also have analytical personalities, an eye for detail, and an excellent memory. Law heavily relies upon precedent and attorneys who can remember details about binding or at least persuasive cases in that particular jurisdiction will have a substantial advantage over those that cannot. Specific offenses and tortious acts have specific elements that vary in specific jurisdictions, each with their own qualifiers created by hundreds of years of case law. Even the trial and appellate courts are not always named consistently; unlike most states, New York calls its trial courts the “Supreme Court,” which can throw off some attorneys not experienced in New York law. This is one reason why practicing attorneys such as hometown lawyers specialize in one or a few areas of law; mastering every field is just not as efficient for them or their clients.

Quality Interpersonal Skills

Attorneys that litigate cases will benefit greatly from an outgoing personality, but all attorneys will need quality interpersonal skills. Depending upon an attorney’s particular area of practice, they will meet with defendants, prosecutors, plaintiffs, defendants, opposing counsel, co-counsel, witnesses, investigators, judges, and various other parties. Meeting with all of these people will require patience, eloquence, and an understanding of both parties’ respective positions so as to leverage the situation to the client’s best interests.

Transactional attorneys will also require interpersonal skills. Often, clients are uncertain or vague about their specific goals and require an in-depth conversation to clarify matters. Some signatories to a contract can be apprehensive about the inclusion of certain clauses and require an attorney to explain why said clauses are included in the contract. Transactional attorneys may also have to persuade unwilling clients to engage or not engage in certain conduct.

Determining in advance whether a career in law is right for you is difficult. Law is a prestigious profession that requires a high degree of training and proficiency. Lawyers must understand the law, speak with clients to understand their needs, and interpret the law and apply to the client’s situation. This requires an array of learned skills that must be applied perfectly. For those select few who consider law to be a calling rather than a career, becoming a lawyer can be the start of an intellectually, spiritually, and financially rewarding career.

Author Anthony Joseph contributes this article for those considering a life in the legal field. At Hometown Lawyers, New York, there are highly skilled lawyers featured in single categories of law, including: divorce, dwi, personal injury, bankruptcy and criminal law.  Additionally the directory qualifies its attorneys by knowledge, communication skills, confidence style, experience in judgment, ethics and ability to respond quickly.

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