So you're starting your A-Levels, maybe studying Law, maybe not. But in any event, you have a huge interest in becoming a lawyer. If you've done your research, you'll know that now, more than ever, law is an awfully competitive area to get in to. Nevertheless, lawyers will always be required. If you've made the bold decision that a career in the legal profession is one that you want to attain, this article should offer good advice based on my own current experience as a University law student and my ongoing mentoring by those who have made this dream a reality.
Firstly, attending college will expose you to a whole host of new and different types of people. Learn to communicate with them all! The concept of a 'comfort zone' is all in your head, and you should try and break down its limitations as early as you can. It will only act as a detriment in the legal profession. Although the demographic of legal professionals may still currently comprise predominately white, middle-class males, this is in no way a microcosm of the rest of society, or those that you as lawyers will be representing. If you want to be an effective lawyer, you must be able to gain the trust of your client, even if your backgrounds are polar opposites. Treat every interaction you have with somebody as a test, the personal goal being to persistently better your interpersonal skills.
Having the ability to make good relationships with fellow peers is important, especially as college is two years of your life. Nevertheless, what is arguably more important is making good relationships with teachers. Ensure that your teachers know how serious you are about your work, and what your future aims and objectives are. Many teachers have practical experience in their subject, and therefore, may know of opportunities that students can take advantage of. If such opportunities arise, you want to be the first pupil they think of. Law is far too competitive to try and go it all on your own, so, ensure that you appear conscientious and keen to anybody that could potentially support you along your journey.
Having been through college myself, I can assure you that I still remember the many distractions that got in the way! Indeed, when I look back, I often laugh in recognition that most of these distractions were just plain silly! It is important to ensure that these distractions don't cause you to lose focus. It is a good idea to consider university entry requirements from the very start of your college years. This early preparation will help prevent a clouded perspective and loss in academic productivity. Importantly, it will ensure that you remain focused on the bigger picture.
Work experience is also massively important, and it will benefit you immensely if you try and attain this as soon as possible. Don't be fooled by the glamorous portrayal of law seen on the TV. As one trainee in a high profile law-firm once told me "It's 95% hard work for the 5% glamour." Work experience will allow you to gain practical experience of what life in the legal world is really like, and help you evaluate whether it is a route you really want to pursue. Evidence of work experience is also a must on your applications to universities. It's all good stating the rhetorical "I have a passion for law", but if you haven't made the effort to experience it first hand, your statement holds little weight.
If you do manage to attain work experience - leave an impression! Whether it's shadowing a lawyer in court, filing documents away, or making cups of tea, ensure that you are the best you can be. In fact, that tea should be the sweetest, smoothest tea they've ever tasted! Don't fall in to the trap of thinking that nobody will notice if you're slacking. They most certainly will. I can vouch for that!
My final 'big tip' is that you should create a professional online presence. Twitter and LinkedIn are two particularly good tools. An old proverb states 'You are only as good as those who you surround yourself with.' Use the twitter 'follow' function and stay up to date with the activities and posts of professionals and other students with similar goals. If you're following the right people, you will find yourself exposed to a wealth of opportunities that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. Furthermore, there are few better motivators than seeing the progress of others. Allow this to inspire you.
Although social media is hugely important, it can also serve as your detriment, so be sure to keep a close watch on the updates you allow on the internet of your social life. It has become common knowledge that law firms will Google search the names of its applicants. If trying to attain work experience in your dream law firm during your time at college is a main goal, don't allow that opportunity to be wasted because your Facebook profile picture displays you with a traffic cone on your head from a night out! Is it worth it for a few "lol" picture comments?
College years are often some of the most memorable, and quite rightly so, as you learn more about others but also yourself. Enjoy your college years to the maximum, but at the same time, be sure to keep your eyes on the prize!