What it’s really like to be a lawyer depends on each lawyer’s own situation. In other words, it’s entirely subjective. The kinds of factors that help form an attorney’s opinion, however, are fairly concrete. These factors include choosing which type of lawyer to become, his experiences during law school and internships, and what he encounters once he graduates and begins practicing law. Some potential or current law students might benefit from interviewing experienced lawyers.
After he decides he wants to be a lawyer, one of the first things a person considers is what type of lawyer he wants to become. Most commonly, this means what kind of law he wants to practice. In some situations, though, it can mean whether he wants to work for a law firm, for himself, or for his area’s court system as a public or court-appointed defender.
Various factors help people decide what kind of attorney they want to become. Sometimes personal interest and passion play a role, and other times money and prestige help form their decisions. Generally, if an attorney doesn’t enjoy or believe in the kind of law he practices, or decides the money isn’t worth the time and effort, he can become unsatisfied.
Attending law school and completing an internship can give students an idea of what it’s like to be a lawyer. Still, these don't provide a crystal clear picture. In other words, what a student experiences in the classroom or working for another attorney might not be what he experiences once he becomes an actual lawyer. During law school and their internships, some potential lawyers decide they want to focus on another area of law. Some even decide practicing law isn’t for them.
After a person has chosen the kind of lawyer he wants to be, completes his internship, and graduates from law school, he must then begin to practice law. At this point, a new group of factors will help him determine what it’s like to be a lawyer. Such factors include where he works, the kinds of hours he works, and the money he makes.
For example, he might get hired at an established law firm and work with other attorneys, or he might start his own practice and work by himself. Each of these options can mean the new lawyer will have to work long hours. This is because he might be responsible for the cases the firm’s partners don’t want, working to make partner himself, or working enough cases to keep his own practice open. If the new lawyer enjoys long hours, or if the money is worth spending more time working, he might continue being a lawyer long enough to gain the seniority or reputation necessary to take fewer cases and make more money. On the other hand, his personal situation and accompanying factors might be such that he decides practicing law isn’t the right job for him.
Although every attorney has his own opinion regarding what it’s like to be a lawyer, it might be beneficial for potential lawyers to talk with others in their prospective fields. For example, before enrolling in law school, a potential student might meet with several seasoned lawyers who practice the kind of law he’s interested in. He can ask them about the beginning years, the kinds of hours they worked in the past and work in the present, and even whether their salaries play a role in their satisfaction.