Exploring classes, extracurricular activities, learning opportunities, and experiences that middle school students and high school students should take if they are interested in pursuing a career as an attorney.
Becoming an attorney requires dedication and a lot of hard work. A strong foundation in the basics of written and oral language, research, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills is essential. But what else do you need? To get a jump start on your legal career, it is important to explore the classes, extracurricular activities, learning opportunities, and experiences that can help prepare you.
Please note that this post is only meant to provide you with some general ideas and information about becoming an attorney, and it's geared more toward middle school students and high school students who may already be wondering about this career path. We're painting some very broad strokes here, just planting some seeds, and that's by design.
Because this post is primarily written for middle school students and high school students thinking about pursuing a career as an attorney, the kinds of coursework and student clubs/activities recommended here as a means to plant those early seeds also correspond to this age group. Ultimately, in the end, to become an attorney, you'll generally need a high school diploma, a bachelor's degree, a juris doctorate (law degree), and a passing score on your state's bar exam.
Peppered throughout the post, you'll find several solid video interviews, presentations, and chats given by attorneys that are pulled from YouTube. They'll help in painting more of a robust picture of what you can expect in the day-to-day work of an attorney.
Finally, at the end of this post is a brief list and general overview of some of the more popular and major areas of law.
You will be required to take certain core classes throughout middle school and high school, as well as so many elective courses that you have more say in taking.
You should look for classes that emphasize communication skills such as English composition and public speaking.
Additionally, any higher-level math (beyond the required core credits), as well as philosophy classes make for great options because they sharpen your abilities to think logically and critically.
Courses in history and government help build knowledge about our nation's legal system, which will be useful once you enter law school.
Other social science coursework like psychology and sociology classes can increase your leverage in better understanding broader societal issues and concerns, competing interests and conflicts, and insight into a possible opponent's mind.
Last, but certainly not least, anything offered by your school's business department is highly-desirable - classes that get into subjects like the basics of business law, entrepreneurship, creating a business plan, branding and creating a marketing plan, personal finance, etc., will be of great help in case you're ever interested in becoming a business/transactional attorney (think contracts, real estate, forming companies, mergers and acquisitions, etc.) and/or starting your very own law firm some day.
Participating in extracurricular activities shows potential employers and college admissions officers that you have the time management skills necessary to commit yourself to a project from start to finish. Clubs and activities also complement and enhance the learning taking place in the formal classroom setting. Joining student organizations like debate team or student government are great choices for building your verbal communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. If there are any mock trial teams available at your school, then take advantage of that opportunity! It will give you an edge when applying for internships or jobs down the line.
Explore internships specifically related to law so that you can gain first-hand experience in the field while gaining credit towards college requirements and/or even earning money at the same time! Volunteering with organizations like Legal Aid Society is another great way to make connections with attorneys who can provide guidance along your journey towards becoming an attorney yourself one day.
When looking into internships, it is also important to think outside of the box - consider unique opportunities like working with media outlets offering legal advice segments, or even shadowing a lawyer on their cases, if possible!
Don’t forget about attending events related to law, such as lectures given by attorneys, or local court hearings whenever possible. These experiences can spark interest and provide valuable insight into what being an attorney entails!
Lastly, subscribing to newsletters from law firms is essential, as they typically offer updates on new cases and other relevant information that can provide an interesting glimpse into the life of an attorney before actually committing yourself fully!
If you are considering pursuing a career as an attorney, then there are numerous classes, extracurricular activities, learning opportunities, and experiences that can prepare you for this goal.
Taking challenging and engaging core and elective classes, including those related to government and/or history, sociology and/or psychology, philosophy, higher-level math, and business education will all collectively help form a strong foundation in understanding our nation’s legal system while simultaneously strengthening critical thinking skills and preparing you for a better understanding of the broader societal issues, concerns, competing interests, and opportunities that are out there.
Joining student organizations like student council or debate team helps build collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, all of which are key skills needed by attorneys. Additionally, exploring internships and volunteer opportunities specifically related to law provides valuable insight into daily operations within law firms. Attending lectures by attorneys offers unique perspectives on how they conduct business.
Ultimately, taking advantage of all these sources of knowledge allows students interested in becoming attorneys to gain more information about this profession, which can help ensure success down the road!
Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crimes and their punishment. Attorneys who practice criminal law represent individuals who have been accused of committing a crime, such as murder, robbery, assault, driving under the influence, white-collar crime, etc.
Civil law is the body of law that deals with disputes between individuals and/or organizations. Attorneys who practice civil law represent individuals or organizations who are seeking damages from another party. These damages may, but not always, be in the form of money and/or property.
Family law is the body of law that deals with family-related issues, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption. Attorneys who practice family law help individuals and families navigate these often emotionally-charged legal matters.
Employment law is the body of law that deals with employment-related issues, such as discrimination, harassment, and wage disputes. Attorneys who practice employment law help employees and employers resolve these types of issues.
Immigration law is the body of law that deals with immigration-related issues, such as citizenship, visas, and green cards. Attorneys who practice immigration law help individuals and families navigate the often complex process of obtaining legal status in the United States.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property law is the body of law that deals with intellectual property-related issues, such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Attorneys who practice intellectual property law help individuals and businesses protect their ideas and creations from being used without permission or compensation.
Banking law is the body of law that deals with banking-related issues, such as loans, mortgages, and foreclosures. Attorneys who practice banking law help banks and other financial institutions comply with regulations and resolve disputes with customers.