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#164 How to become a lawyer (Pt. 1)

mp3 #164 Do You Want to Become a Lawyer? - Part One (mp3 file)

This message will discuss the following questions:

1-What do lawyers do?

2-What qualities do you need to become a lawyer?

3-How can you prepare for law school?

4-Where can you get a legal education?

First, "What do lawyers do?"

No matter what you have learned from Perry Mason reruns on television, the practice of law is not all courtroom drama. In fact, many practicing lawyers rarely see the inside of a courtroom. And many more do not even practice law, but work in business, government and other law-related fields.

A practicing lawyer's job involves investigative work and research. It means preparing legal documents such as wills or trust agreements. It includes counseling clients who need legal advice on all kinds of problems - from property ownership to job discrimination to business mergers. It is helping settle disputes over child custody arrangements, patent rights, partnership and corporate problems, and more. Of course, it can involve representing clients in court in all kinds of civil and criminal cases. But, before the case goes to court, many hours of preparation usually take place in the lawyer's office.

Next, "What qualities do you need to become a lawyer?"

Just like doctors, plumbers and journalists, lawyers come in all sizes, shapes and types. There are no hard and fast rules on what it takes to become a lawyer, but certain qualities can be important. Like many other jobs, the practice of law requires intelligence, common sense, sound judgment, hard work and, often long hours.

Stability and perseverance are characteristics that will serve you well, both as a law student and a lawyer. The ability to express yourself clearly and logically, in writing and speaking, is essential.

When you practice law, you will be working with people-clients, other attorneys, witnesses, judges, jurors, your employer and employees. So, it helps to understand human nature, and to be diplomatic in dealing with people.

Important deadlines are involved in almost everything a lawyer does, from dealing with clients to filing papers in court. Therefore, going about your work-in an organized way is vital.

Next, "How can you prepare for law school?"

Although there is no required undergraduate pre-law program, a number of college courses can help you prepare for both law school and the practice of law.

For example, you should develop the skills you need to express yourself well, by taking courses in writing, composition and speech. You should have a good background in spelling, grammar and punctuation.

History, sociology, and political science courses can give you a useful understanding of government and society. Courses in philosophy, logic, and computer sciences can help you learn to analyze problems and arguments. A knowledge of accounting can be useful in running a law office, and in dealing with clients' business problems. Undergraduate law courses, such as business, labor, or constitutional law, may help you decide whether you want to become a lawyer. However, you should know that these law-related courses will not necessarily give you a "head start" on law school.

There are additional ways to help prepare for law school and law practice. You can join debating societies to sharpen your speaking abilities. You can practice your writing skills by submitting articles to school publications. You can work in student government to increase your leadership qualities and managerial skills. You can learn and earn through part-time and summer jobs with law offices, investigators, and claims adjustors. You can observe how public-interest groups and government interact, by volunteering to help environmental, consumer, civil rights or other organizations.

When you begin to study law, you should obtain a free booklet called rules regulating admission to practice law in California from the office of the committee of bar examiners, the state bar of California, 180 Howard Street, San Francisco, California 94105 or by visiting the website at The committee is the state bar body that examines the qualifications of people who apply to practice law in California, enforces the requirements for admission to law practice, and accredits law schools.

Next, "Where can you get a legal education?"

In California, you currently can study law at law schools, by correspondence, in a law office under the supervision of an attorney, or in a judge's chambers. There are three kinds of schools in California: some are approved by the American bar association; some are accredited by the state bar's committee of bar examiners, and other are unaccredited.

Law schools approved by the ABA meet certain requirements dealing with a school's faculty, educational program, scholastic standards and other factors.

The committee of bar examiners has accredited all law schools that are ABA approved, plus a number of additional schools in California. For the most part, the committee's standards for accreditation deal with the same factors as ABA standards. Most differences are a matter of degree.

If you study at an unaccredited law school, by correspondence, in a law office, or in a judge's chambers, you must take and pass a first year law student's examination, before you can receive credit for your first year of law study. Even if you have studied law for more than one year when you pass this examination, you usually will receive credit for only one year of study. You should know that only a small percentage of students who take it, ever pass the first year law student's examination.

California currently is one of just a few states that recognizes a variety of ways - in addition to study at an accredited law school - to qualify to take the bar examination.

However, only a very few people study law by correspondence or in law offices or judges' chambers, and only a small percentage of the students who enter unaccredited law schools actually become lawyers.

If you would like a free list of California law schools accredited by the committee of bar examiners or approved by the ABA, write to the committee of bar examiners.

For a pre-law handbook that lists ABA approved schools in the United States and gives general information on studying and practicing law, write to law school admission services, box 2000, Newton, Pennsylvania 18940, for the current price of this handbook or visit

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