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Steps to Become a Legal Attorney (Part II)

Steps to Become a Legal Attorney (Part II)

 Overview:  Becoming a fully-fledged legal attorney or a barrister requires several steps and hand-on-experience. Are you ready to put in the work?

From completion of graduate and undergraduate degrees to examination and licensing, prospective lawyers must undertake a series of steps to practice law in the US. Before embarking on this journey, you should ask yourself: Are you willing to commit yourself to several years of studying law and mastering the nooks and crannies of your chosen field?

If you answered affirmatively, the following guide (Part II of this series) outlines the various academic, skill choosing/building, and licensing steps required to begin a career practicing law and becoming a legal attorney. The best part is that there will be an excellent payoff for the hard work it takes. The light at the end of the tunnel is a potential annual salary that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), could exceed $200,000, depending on your mastery of the necessary skills.

Getting Hands-on Experience:   

How do I get a job in a law firm when I don’t have any experience? This is a question that crosses every aspiring attorney’s mind at one point. Many first-year students ponder this question and reach out to us. While we don’t have a magic pill to offer them, we can provide suggestions that will help you to get your foot in the door – if you follow  them closely.

The best part about law school is that it can act as your “golden ticket” to get inside the legal profession. Once you complete your first semester, use that ticket to approach law firms and offer them your services. You don’t always need luck when you’re persistent and use the right strategies to land a job.

To get hands-on experience without any prior history, make sure you:

  • Reach the right firm

  • Get your resume ready

  • Volunteer your services

  • Conduct targeted outreach

Here are some other things you can do to gain experience.

Volunteering for non-profit organizations: Nonprofit organizations always need volunteers to assist in their daily operations. When you give to the community, you’re also gaining valuable skills and meeting people from different areas of expertise. From building connections to landing a lucrative gig, it pays to present yourself to respected names in the industry. Volunteer opportunities can be meaningful both personally and professionally – check with your alma mater and other personal connections to find volunteer law opportunities and build experience.

Pro bono work: Since you’re out there to build a strong portfolio, consider offering free legal assistance to those with limited means. You can work pro bono cases as an independent lawyer or work under the supervision of a law firm’s pro bono division. As you continue to build your portfolio as a new lawyer by working on these cases, you’ll continue to gain confidence, skills, and new connections that’ll be invaluable in your career.

A part-time job in a law firm: Working part-time as a file clerk, data entry clerk, or assistant at a law firm can also help you gain experience and contacts. By their very nature, these jobs will provide a taste of what it’s like to work in a legal environment. It’s rare to find a job as a part-time lawyer at a firm, but these other roles can open the door to current and future job opportunities.

Researching Firms:   

Your application will be automatically rejected if recruiters find that you haven’t engaged with or searched anything about the firm – except for what they’ve shared on their LinkedIn. Firms want to ensure that you thoroughly understand who they are and what they stand for.

Scour the website: The first place to start is the firm’s website, where you can find out about the firm’s sectors, services, values, and much more. Poring over their site will let you know whether that firm is the right place for you. Within those websites, you may find info on the recruitment process, what they look for in trainees, and key dates for applying.

Social media: Like other businesses, law firms have an online presence. Social media accounts can help you get a feel for how firms want to be viewed by potential clients and associates. If you have questions, you can try contacting a firm through its social media accounts. In this day and age, there’s a good possibility that you’ll get answers more quickly than on other platforms.

Attend events: This is a useful one. By attending networking events, you’ll be able to gain further information on the firm, the general culture, and the feel of the employees. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to the people involved in the recruiting process.

How To Prepare For Interviews:   

If you want to pursue a legal profession as a career, you’re going to have to interview at some point — and it’s going to be daunting. So when you appear for an interview, ensure you follow the proper techniques. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Sell your soft skills: For in-house legal counsel roles, it’s essential to strike the right balance between hard and soft skills. Integrate your soft skills with the job description, describe your behavioral traits, and demonstrate your ability to handle a variety of different tasks you might be assigned to work on.

Be knowledgeable about yourself: Make sure you know exactly what’s on your CV or resume, and that you can speak about all of it in detail. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where an interviewer asks you to explain a particular item but you don’t know what to say. It might help to re-read your resume or CV right before an interview.

Dress to impress: When you’re going in for an interview, your first impression matters. Your wardrobe should be businesslike and professional. If you need some additional tips, ask an experienced friend for advice — or remember, YouTube is your best friend!

Related Reading: 8 ways to prepare for a legal job interview

Landing Internships:   

Big firms take in thousands of interns every year. Once you’ve prepared yourself to become a professional lawyer, a clear-cut CV describing your goals and aspirations will help you land an internship in a top-notch law firm. When you decide to join a firm, look up their website, and you’ll find an email address. You might see a general inbox for the whole law firm, as well as addresses for some of the professional lawyers on staff.

The value of networking can’t be overstated – and you expand your network by getting in touch with people who are relevant to your field. But don’t limit yourself to contacting one firm. Apply everywhere. You might want to devote a day to research, make a spreadsheet in Excel, and keep track of which firms and which lawyers you’ve contacted. Send them your CV, along with a short, personalized cover letter.

Moving From Intern To Hired:   

Ensuring that your internship ends in a full-time job is no small feat, but if you are an overachiever, you’re sure to get hired as soon as you complete your apprenticeship. Ask your supervisor for feedback so you know whether you should make adjustments to improve your chances of getting hired. Let them know you want to do the best work you possibly can.

If possible, don’t limit your interactions only to your immediate peers or direct supervisors – establishing rapport with upper managers is another great way to get noticed and keep your name at the top of the list when hiring season arrives. Be assertive and let your work and your personality speak for themselves.

In Summary: 

If you’re considering a career as a lawyer, you’ll benefit from honing your communication skills before diving into the field as a long-term career. Lawyers work in a variety of fields and typically enjoy continuous career growth. Learning about the daily duties of a lawyer will help you anticipate the path that lies ahead.

Remember, legal experts can help you to get on the right track and offer consultation. The Law Offices of William D. Shapiro is a legal firm that has helped many law students, and we’re looking forward to helping you. Contact us today!

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