As a personal injury lawyer in Belleville, IL, people have asked me over the years: How do you become a lawyer?
Recently I was asked by a representative of my old high school in Benton Illinois to go down and give a talk to high school students that were interested in getting into the legal field and becoming lawyers.
This is off the subject of my usual discussion about personal injury cases or workers compensation cases, but I thought I would go over the topic again just in case anyone out there has a son or daughter interested in going to law school and getting their Juris Doctorate JD degree; in other words, becoming a lawyer.
The Four Year Degree Before Law School
First of all getting into law school to get your law degree requires a four-year degree. When I was in high school, even though I was interested in becoming a lawyer at the time, I didn’t know that I could get into law school with any undergraduate degree.
For whatever reason it’s commonly believed that one has to have a political science degree or a degree in pre-law. In other words that you have to go into something specific in order to be able to get into law school four years after starting College. But, as I got into college, I realized after changing my degree a number of times, that that wasn’t true.
So, while I was interested in journalism and marketing and advertising, I had maintained my interest in becoming a lawyer. As far as grades went, I didn’t appear to be the smartest student in the world. I had, I believe, a 3.2 or 3.3 average in college, but that was good enough to get me into any college that I wanted to go to for Law School. I wasn’t interested in Harvard or Yale and that sort of thing, so I took the next step.
Prepping For and Taking The LSAT
The next step to becoming a lawyer is taking the LSAT or Law School Admissions Test. That’s the Law SAT exam; it’s a school admission test (LSAT). It’s a difficult exam that exam asks questions unlike any that you’ve ever been asked before. It is a test that you do need to study for if you’re a young person looking at entering law school I would suggest that you go get some books.
There are resources online that prep you for how you need to answer the questions. The LSAT tests some logic and different questions of a nature that you probably haven’t seen in your college or High School career.
So, when you take your LSAT exam you get a score. Then, just like when you’re entering college, you try to enter law school based on your LSAT score and your GPA. So, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the world you don’t have to have a high enough score on the LSAT exam to get accepted into a law school.
Choosing a Law School
I had narrowed my decision down to three schools that were local to my area. One was St Louis University, one was Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and another was Washington University in St Louis.
I chose the law school that I thought fit me best, and that’s what a person should do in my opinion. Go with the best fit. The best fit for me was to be at a school that I was already familiar with and I chose Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
How Difficult Is Law School?
Another thing students ask about was how difficult law school is. Law school is difficult. Especially the first year. It’s intimidating and it’s unlike anything that you’ve ever done in college.
For me, I sort of skated through college. I didn’t have extremely hard or difficult courses, but when I applied to law school and got in to law school everything changed.
Law school is a very intimidating process, but if you’re interested in it you just have to stick with it, and once you get through that first year of law school, everything becomes a lot easier.
Law school is a three-year program. They don’t teach you the exact law or every law that’s out there, but they provide you with the principles. You don’t end up specializing in anything in law school, but just like college, you can direct your interest in certain directions after you complete a core group of classes. Law students might explore courses around property and torts and contracts, family law, criminal law and other fields to broaden your horizon a little.
There are courses such as those on bankruptcy or the commercial code, that I didn’t like and stayed away from, because I had no interest in doing bankruptcy law. Law school allowed me the opportunity to focus all of my courses on things that had to do with torts, or in other words, negligence claims for injuries everything from personal injuries to class actions to products liability to medical malpractice. I focused on all of those classes and that was because I had an idea what I wanted to do.
It gave me a foundation of knowing what I wanted to do and I followed sort of what my interests were, not only in law school, but after I graduated.
What Kind Of Person Is Best Suited to Become a Lawyer?
Students often ask what kind of personality it takes to be a lawyer. The answer to that is there’s a law job out there for any personality.
There’s a law job out there for an introvert. There’s a law job out there for somebody who’s an extrovert. And there’s a law job out there for somebody who wants to be out and about and communicating with people and going to court all the time, being in front of a jury. And there are jobs for people who don’t want to ever see a courtroom.
I do personal injury and workers compensation cases I handle a fairly large number of cases representing a large pretty large number of people over the years. But, on the other hand, in my building a few years ago, was a a lawyer who was a patent lawyer. He did something that I could never do.
He would go into his office every day and shut his door. He would enter at about eight o’clock. He might take a lunch break, he might not. And he left at five o’clock on the dot.
His door would remain shut the entire time and all he did was sit and review documents having to do with hyper-technical issues on patents and differentiating certain issues one from another.
There’s no way that I would be able to do that; however, for him, he was very successful.
The point is that law school and becoming a lawyer is attainable. Don’t think for a minute that that you have to be pigeonholed in in one particular area of law or that you might not be a good fit to become a lawyer because of your personality. Even if you think your grades aren’t good enough, if you’re interested I would recommend giving it a shot.
Final Thoughts on Becoming a Lawyer
I would generally suggest following an interest that you have in getting a degree, rather than trying to think that you have to get a particular type of degree in a field that you don’t enjoy. Don’t do that. Don’t go into something in college that you don’t enjoy because you think that’s what you have to become. Make sure you follow what you want to do and things will work out.
After graduating law school and after a short clerkship with an appellate judge, I began working for law firms that focus on personal injury and workers compensation cases. That that means I’ve never represented an insurance company against an injured person. I’ve always been against an insurance company. I’ve always tried to help people and I’ve always found that that has fit my personality rather than representing an insurance company or perhaps sitting in a room reviewing contracts or preparing a will for someone.
I thought I would just pass this along today because it’s been on my mind about how I’ve arrived at where I’m at after receiving my license to practice law. After I was asked to give that speech I remembered some of the misdirection that I might have brought upon myself. I thought I would just try to enlighten folks in case there’s somebody out there who’s interested in becoming a lawyer or going to law school.
If you want to talk to me about it feel free to give me a call 618-239-6070
Kirkpatrick Law Offices
3 Executive Woods Ct,
Swansea, IL 62226
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Areas of Practice
The Kirkpatrick Law Office proudly serves clients as a personal injury lawyer in St Clair County, Illinois and a personal injury lawyer, coal mine injury attorney, industrial accident lawyer, workers compensation and construction accident lawyer in Belleville, Illinois and other areas of Southern Illinois including but not limited to Carbondale, IL, Goreville, IL, De Soto, IL, Murphrysboro, IL, Freeburg, IL, Coulterville, IL, Hecker, IL, Waterloo, IL, Sparta, IL, St. Clair County, IL, Madison County, IL, Johnson County, IL, Randolph County, IL, Clinton County, IL and other Southern Illinois locations.
We typically assist injured workers and people with neck injuries, back injuries, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, elbow injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, people requiring back surgery, coal mine injuries, union worker injuries, iron worker injuries, boilermaker, pipefitter and laborer injuries, those hurt as a result of construction accidents, road construction, semi-truck accidents, cell phone drivers, discrimination, warehouse injuries. We also help people hurt in nursing home injuries while lifting patients in nursing homes or other medical facilities.