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How to Become a Lawyer 101 | Joseph D. Nohavicka
Some people know that they want to be a lawyer as early as high school, some in college, others later in life in the middle of another career. How do you set the course on the path to lawyerdom?
If you are in high school, there are mock trial team programs offered. A mock trial team learns how to try a case before you learn anything about trial practice. You learn as you go. It is extremely fun but extremely hard work. But at the end of the program, you will have some idea as to whether you want to be a trial lawyer. It is a great head start to law school, which is at least 4 years away. You have to have a degree from an accredited college to be considered for law school.
Also, start reading books geared toward the law, even fiction. Watch TV shows and movies about the law and pay attention to the language they use and how the lawyers interact with their clients, the judges, and each other. Focus on building your vocabulary. Read one item on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times and pay attention to the use of grammar and vocabulary.
If you are in college, almost every school offers a mock trial program. Take it! You will not regret it even if you decide you do not want to go to law school. You will have an inside view of how a trial works. It will help you no matter where you end up.
Just before you graduate, you will have to start preparing for the LSAT. A lot of students go out and buy a practice book and start to tackle it on their own. Not always such a great move.
My advice is to sign up for a course first. Learn the psychology and the mechanics of the exam, and learn the strategies involved in taking the exam. Then practice with all your energy. It is very easy to get discouraged when you pick up the book and try it out on your own. You end up getting 19 out of 20 questions wrong and the one you got right you have no idea how you got it right. That is a normal experience. It takes practice. A lot of practice. You have to do thousands of sample questions and then going back to find out why you got any of the answers wrong.
I recommend that when you study, you start at the time that you will be taking the exam. This will get your brain and body used to working at a certain time. Also, don’t practice in just one place. You will be taking an exam in an unfamiliar location. You don’t want to practice in the same place and get used to performing at your peak in that one place. You want to be able to practice in different environments with different noise levels and with different numbers of people surrounding you. You’re not going to be alone when you take the test and the testing centers all have different noise levels.
If you are in the middle of another career, no problem. You will bring with you to law school incredible life experience to share with your classmates and professors. One of my classmates was 61 years old, an architect. He wanted to be a lawyer. So he just packed up and went to law school, graduated with us, and became a lawyer.
But you may not have been in a classroom in a long time. No problem. Law school is different enough so that everyone is on even footing. So don’t let that stop you from going. The LSAT for you will be no more difficult than it is for the college candidates. It is nothing like any test that they – or you -- have taken.
Refresh your vocabulary in every way you can – reading the Op-Ed page of the NY Times and writing down every word that you are not absolutely sure you know the meaning of. Just do it. It helps. The same preparation rules apply to you, post grads – the LSAT is a different game. You had good study habits in college? Use them. Be even more strict. You had mediocre grades without studying much? That won’t work for the LSAT. Nose to the grindstone and stick to a schedule. Master it.
What if you do poorly the first time you take the LSAT? Take it again! Jon Bon Jovi told the 2001 graduating class of Monmouth College, “Success is falling nine times, and getting up ten.”
And, for those of you who have doubts about whether you will be able to overcome the LSAT, I want to leave you with a final quote from Bon Jovi’s famous college speech:
“Believe, and anything is possible.”