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Personal injury lawyers represent people involved in car accidents, medical malpractice cases, products liability cases, and wrongful death suits. A good personal injury lawyer can be the reason why someone gets compensation for a life-altering, disabling injury or a wrongful death. But to become one yourself, you need the right education, connections, and skills. Follow these steps to become a personal injury lawyer and make a career out of helping people win compensation through the courts.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
In order to get into law school, you’ll need a four-year college degree. It doesn’t really matter what you study in college, but most people who intend to go to law school study a field like history, political science, economics, sociology, psychology, or English. You definitely don’t need to study criminal justice, and it probably won’t help you get into a law school, anyway. The most important thing is that you have good grades – you’ll need at least a 3.5 GPA to get into a good law school.
Hone Your Public Speaking Skills
Personal injury lawyers spend a lot of time speaking to judges and juries in open court. You’ll need strong public speaking and oration skills in order to succeed in this career path. Hone yours by participating in debate club or other public speaking clubs at your university.
Take the LSAT
As you approach graduation from your bachelor’s program, you’ll want to prepare and take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). You will need to score into at least the 50th percentile to get into an accredited law school, but the better your score, the better your law school prospects – and the greater your likelihood of getting a scholarship. Take this test seriously and study hard. It might be worth getting LSAT tutoring from a test prep company.
Prepare Your Law School Application
You will need to use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to send your letters of recommendation, your LSAT scores, your transcripts, and the rest of your application packet to your law schools of choice. Make sure you register with the CAS and send in your credentials early in the application process.
Choose a Law School
Most law schools place their graduates within the local legal community, so unless you have the grades and test scores to get into a top law school with a national reach, choosing a law school will also mean choosing a community in which to build a life after school. If you want to become a Clearwater car accident attorney, for example, you’ll want to go to law school in the Tampa area. If you want to stay where you currently live, you may only be able to apply to schools in your local area. Think carefully about whether you’d like to live in the city where your prospective law school is located.
Build Your Network
You should begin building your professional network during your undergraduate years. Work as a lab assistant or teaching assistant to build strong relationships with your professors. Participate in student clubs and study groups to build relationships with your fellow students. Once you get into law school, you’ll want to join a study group in order to build those network connections.
Get Good Grades
Law school grades matter, especially if you want to work with a large firm litigating class action suits or products liability cases. Gather information from your campus Career Services office on what large firms interview on campus and what GPA you need to maintain to be hired by one of these firms.
Participate in Legal Clinics and Internships
Legal clinics can give you the opportunity to help low-income people with their legal cases while you are still in law school, and under the supervision of a faculty member. You’ll likely be doing criminal cases, but you’ll learn valuable transferable skills from this work, like interviewing, trial work, and negotiations. Internships with firms that take personal injury cases, or with judges who work in civil court, can give you valuable insight and experience in personal injury litigation and help you make valuable connections. Work as a summer associate for a personal injury lawyer to gain even more experience.
Pass the Bar
You will need to pass your state’s bar exam in order to practice law, even if you have a law degree. The test typically consists of a multiple choice section and an essay section. It can take several months to get your score, and many prospective lawyers need to take the bar more than once.
Get Your First Job
As your time in law school draws to a close, it’s time to get your first job. Large and medium-sized firms may come to your campus for On Campus Interviews (OCIs). Signing up for these interviews can help you get your first job, especially if you have decent grades. You can also look for jobs online – don’t forget to check your state bar association’s website for job listings. If you can’t find anything, put your network to use – call up your old legal employers and ask if they have any overflow work that you can do while you’re looking for something more permanent. If you’ve had some internships, you should have plenty of connections.
It isn’t as easy to be a lawyer as many people think – even after you get the credentials, you have to work long and hard to advance your career. If you’ve got what it takes, you could help a lot of people repair their shattered lives – and that’s why it’s worth all those hours researching, interviewing, negotiating, and arguing in court.