There are many young people who aspire to be an attorney and also are considering their options for practice areas. This article is written to give aspiring attorneys a practical perspective about the practice of personal injury law.
Obviously, in order to become a personal injury lawyer, you need to graduate from law school and obtain a law degree. Also, you will need to take the bar exam for your individual state.
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree
Law schools generally accept any undergraduate degree from an accredited university and do not necessarily give preference to any one specific undergraduate study area or degree. Some of the more common undergraduate degrees for law school are in areas such as political science, english, communications and some colleges offer degrees in pre-law. If a pre-law degree is offered by your university that would be a preferable undergraduate degree to obtain.
Subjects such as writing, english and speech are all very helpful to give you a basic foundation for your legal studies ahead and also will help you on the law school entrance testing – the LSAT.
Getting a Law Degree
Law school is a three-year program after your bachelor’s degree. Like college, the first year generally consists of core legal subjects such as torts, property law, criminal law and constitutional law. For those seriously considering the personal injury arena, the core course in torts will give a pretty good overview of the basis for legal personal injury claims. After the first year of law school, students are given choices for which classes they can take. If your interest in personal injury, subjects like trial skills and negotiation are a good choice.
Students should endeavor to enroll in law schools that are accredited by the American Bar Association.
While in law school, participation in trial course work is advisable. Personal injury attorneys need to be skilled trial lawyers. The more practice you have in moot court and trial practice in law school the better prepared you will be for the real world practice.
It is very helpful for law students to clerk for law firms while attending law school. This gives students a chance to experience the legal profession outside of the classroom. For students who are unsure of which area of law they want to practice, it may be a good idea to clerk at different law firms and practice areas and get to experience several areas of practice.
Taking the Bar Exam
After graduation from law school, the bar exam is required by individual states in order to practice within that state. The exam itself will cover state-specific issues and also general legal areas in addition to a multi-state bar exam multiple choice test. Taking a bar exam preparation course is also recommended.
Practicing as a Personal Injury Attorney
It is always advisable to obtain hands-on practice with a reputable law firm after graduation from law school and passing the bar examination. Many personal injury attorneys are former defense attorneys who cut their teeth on trying cases for insurance companies. Insurance defense attorneys, and also DA’s particularly those starting out in the practice of law, can obtain trial experience relatively quickly. Look at the training offered by law firms that you’re considering as your initial employment. The training aspect is probably the most important component of securing a successful future as a personal injury attorney and should be a primary consideration for your first job.
Some firms offer very detailed training and others are more on the job training. Always inquire about initial training and opportunities later on to learn.
A personal injury attorney must also strive to continue to improve in every category on a daily basis. Representing injured people whose lives often been shattered, requires compassion, understanding, the ability to listen and also people skills. Additionally, personal injury attorneys must also learn to be selective in the cases they accept because most of the work that they do is based on a contingency fee arrangement. In other words, if they do not win the case they do not get paid for their time and effort.
Changing Legal Environment
Trial lawyers and particularly personal injury lawyers have been under attack in many states across the country recently. Calls for “tort reform” are in effect a mechanism to change the personal injury practice in individual states and also on a federal level. There are some organizations funded by insurance interests that seek to limit both damages of victims and access to the courthouse. Do not underestimate the impact of pro-insurance politics in the state you reside. Unlike hourly paid attorneys, most personal injury law firms must fund case expenses and only get paid if money changes hands. Tort reform serves to reduce the access to attorneys in areas where the attorney can not be paid fairly for the risk and time.
In some states, personal injury practice is more attractive financially than others. The latest trend has been to limit rights of the innocent victim by capping damages and reducing attorney’s fees. By making personal injury litigation less financially attractive, lawyers move to other areas of practice and often victims find that they are not able to find an attorney to help them in some practice areas in some states. In the state of Texas, tort reform includes capping damages in medical malpractice cases and also placing expensive legal hurdles on those types of cases. The net effect has been that victims of medical malpractice in the state of Texas are largely unable to find representation for their cases.
Aspiring attorneys looking at personal injury should research the legal environment within the state they plan to practice to analyze the feasibility of a legal career in personal injury law.
Rewards of a Personal Injury Practice
Being a personal injury lawyer can be very rewarding. The personal relationships you form with the seriously injured can last decades. In the time of great need and vulnerability, you can make a huge impact on someone. Representing the catastrophically injured can also include great pressure as often you are their only hope. Overall, I highly recommend the personal injury practice of law.