Personal injury attorneys are invested in helping people protect their rights and get compensation for the long-term consequences that can occur after injury. Becoming a personal injury lawyer isn’t for everyone, but for those who make it, it can be one of the most fulfilling professions.
The first step towards the legal profession is getting a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer special pre-law degrees, but many highly successful lawyers major in communications, English, political science, or even start out with an online liberal arts associates degree before they take the next step.
At this stage it’s also important to evaluate yourself. Who do you want to represent? What do you hope to get from your profession, other than just a salary? Does it appeal to your soul to consider representing someone paralyzed after a car accident or a grieving spouse who has just lost wife and child in a truck accident?
How comfortable are you with risk? Do you need to work for guaranteed income by the hour or are you ok with waiting for a settlement that might take some years? Do you have a good sense for evaluating a person’s story and whether it rings true?
A law degree
Everyone who hopes to become a lawyer needs a law degree, and whatever your undergraduate degree covers, your law degree will educate you about core subjects like criminal and constitutional law, property law, and tort claims.
Your degree needs to come from an accredited law school. That accreditation should come from the American Bar Association, which currently approves 203 institutions within the United States to give graduate degrees in law.
When the ABA accredits a school, this indicates that the school meets all the ABA’s standards in creating a specialized law program and preparing you for the bar exam. These standards have been in force since 1958 and are updated regularly to reflect the legal landscape of America.
Passing the bar exam
Having a law degree is not enough. Once you graduate, you will need to pass the bar exam. Each state sets their own requirements regarding the bar exam for attorneys licensed in that state. This means your personal injury attorney in Irvine, California has to satisfy California’s specific requirements.
Most states, including California, require the Multistate Bar Examination in addition to other requirements. For lawyers who are already practicing in one area, transferring to another jurisdiction will mean following certain rules to get licensed in a new state or district.
Practice is essential for a lawyer as people are unlikely to risk their future with an unproven attorney. One way to get plenty of practice is to take advantage of internships and practical opportunities while in law school. If you’re interested in practicing personal injury law, it’s a good idea to go to work for an established firm after law school rather than immediately strike out on your own.
Some lawyers move into personal injury law gradually after taking a variety of defense cases. This can give them insight into the legal process and a chance to evaluate how insurance companies work, for example. Some law firms also offer specific training in personal injury law.
A good personal injury lawyer will never be content to rest on past laurels. The law is fluid and it’s important to keep up with changes in regulations and codes. This isn’t the only area where lawyers need to keep maturing, however.
Personal injury law can be personally difficult. You’ll be dealing with people whose lives have been shattered and who desperately need legal help, compassion, and personal advice. A good attorney needs to plan for ways to decompress and stay fresh.
The job of a personal injury lawyer can be lucrative and rewarding, but it is also difficult and emotionally taxing. It takes a special person to stick with it. Whatever you decide, stick with it and have faith and you’ll reach your goals.