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In general, what type of person is best suited for a career as a lawyer?

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I have seen a lot of individuals be warned against attending law school, how the legal profession is often not what people expect it to be, etc. This has me wondering, what type of person SHOULD pursue law? What aspects of the profession will appeal to certain individuals? Or maybe, are there individuals with certain characteristics/interests who should NOT pursue law?

I understand it would be difficult to generalize and that there are many different legal fields, but I’m really just wondering which types of people (e.g. with particular traits/interests) would have higher chances of thriving in law school and dealing with the law.

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i don't think there's any one type of person suited to be a lawyer. But there are generally required traits which aren't unique to law which should indicate potential success in the field. Just off the top of my head the ones that come to mind are intelligence, intellectual curiosity, strong work ethic, integrity and good people skills. Once more, these aren't unique to law. I'm sure many successful lawyers could also have been great accountants, bankers etc. 

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I tend to agree with @NapoleonBonaparte in that there are general traits required for success in any field. I'd also add that a genuine interest in that field would be an asset. There's a reason why law school applicants/students/graduates come from a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds, and that incoming classes are more diverse than ever. There's not just one type of person/student who is best suited for law. Also, given that there is such a variety of law jobs out there, all different types of people can succeed at all different types of law jobs.

I'm not sure who OP knows that has been warned against law school or who is doing the warning, but I'd advise them to take it with a grain of salt. I was told by my ex that I didn't have the traits of a good lawyer and that law school was going to be just another wasted degree when I inevitably couldn't find work after graduation. That certainly didn't stop me from getting a law degree and articles and kicking ass at it. And the only lawyers I've met who discourage people from obtaining a law degree are those who are bitter about their own lives/jobs and are projecting that onto other people.

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Isn’t there something about lawyers and doctors being much more likely to be a sociopath than the general population? I’m not saying correlation=causation, just something to think about. 

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I think that a wide range of people are suited to a career in law.  A 'career in law' is broad. A lawyer with a career in corporate commercial litigation at the Toronto bar would likely have a much different personality than a family law lawyer in rural Saskatchewan.

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31 minutes ago, RNGesus said:

Isn’t there something about lawyers and doctors being much more likely to be a sociopath than the general population? I’m not saying correlation=causation, just something to think about. 

I've only ever heard that for CEOs.

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Posted (edited)

Someone who doesn't take arguments personally.  Someone who has enough backbone to initiate an argument when they have an issue.  Higher self-esteem helps but mainly for speaking in front of people.

Edited by Trew
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My take on the necessary characteristics for lawyers boils down to two things: drive and integrity. 

When you are a lawyer you seldom have anyone looking over your shoulder. This is the context for both requirements.

You need to have the drive to show up, learn, prepare, preform. Self motivated people do well whether they’re drafting a mountain of paperwork or tearing apart their opponent’s case. (If you procrastinate but *still do the work* given the deadlines, welcome to the club.)

The practise of law is a staggering responsibility. We are given tremendous amounts of trust: we handle money, property, children, liberty, reputation, business, homes, and sometimes literally life and death. If you don’t have a clear personal code of honour, just walk away now. There are Rules Of Professional Conduct and common law principles that govern the profession. You need to take these seriously. We serve, we don’t rule. 

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On 7/9/2018 at 11:44 AM, Hegdis said:

If you don’t have a clear personal code of honour, just walk away now. There are Rules Of Professional Conduct and common law principles that govern the profession. You need to take these seriously. We serve, we don’t rule. 

While I would agree with you, is there anyone who doesn't believe that they have a clear personal code of honour? I would guess that even most sociopaths would think that their code of honour is correct for some twisted form of justification. I once had a roommate who regularly lied, stole, and sucker punched people at bars, but would always manage to justify his actions after the fact - and would gladly talk about things like honour and integrity without a sense of irony if the opportunity to grandstand arose.

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3 minutes ago, lazslo93 said:

While I would agree with you, is there anyone who doesn't believe that they have a clear personal code of honour? I would guess that even most sociopaths would think that their code of honour is correct for some twisted form of justification. I once had a roommate who regularly lied, stole, and sucker punched people at bars, but would always manage to justify his actions after the fact - and would gladly talk about things like honour and integrity without a sense of irony if the opportunity to grandstand arose.

I think that’s what the rest of us simply call a self-righteous prick

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33 minutes ago, RNGesus said:

I think that’s what the rest of us simply call a self-righteous prick

I think that's what the rest of call a Liberal.  But potatoe/potato.  

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On 7/9/2018 at 1:31 PM, Trew said:

Someone who doesn't take arguments personally.  Someone who has enough backbone to initiate an argument when they have an issue.  Higher self-esteem helps but mainly for speaking in front of people.

Thick skin and a bit of an edge. That seems to get the job done. 

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5 hours ago, lazslo93 said:

While I would agree with you, is there anyone who doesn't believe that they have a clear personal code of honour? I would guess that even most sociopaths would think that their code of honour is correct for some twisted form of justification. I once had a roommate who regularly lied, stole, and sucker punched people at bars, but would always manage to justify his actions after the fact - and would gladly talk about things like honour and integrity without a sense of irony if the opportunity to grandstand arose.

Perhaps I should add a third qualification: self awareness. 

However the “sociopath” exception will be by her nature an exception: not something you can really excise. I rest moderately  happy in the hope that the vast majority of us are not, in fact, sociopaths, and will at least attempt to remain somewhat honest with ourselves. 

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On 2018-07-09 at 12:39 PM, MissJE said:

And the only lawyers I've met who discourage people from obtaining a law degree are those who are bitter about their own lives/jobs and are projecting that onto other people.

I disagree with this. I frequently warn people away from law, despite loving my job.

In my experience, it is true that most students do not know what a career in law is going to be like. They think it’s like suits where you do criminal one day and corporate the next. They think it’s a magical ticket to a lifetime of wealth. They don’t realize the time commitment that is generally required. They don’t consider the costs of exorbitant tuition and lost opportunity. They don’t realize the stresses and responsibilities and the tedious tasks that come with the interesting ones.

So, I’ll tell them about as much of that as I can. Then I’ll tell them about why I like the job and why I think I’ll never leave it. I’ll tell them that I make a good wage. But then I have to hammer-in my point that I’m in the minority... because I am.

And the more I hear from undergrads, the more it becomes my responsibility to push them to not consider law. Someone who wants to be a wealthy and famous criminal lawyer, or work for the UN on human rights missions, or even Bay Street or bust types. If that’s all that will make you happy, you should be told that the chances are slim.

 

 

 

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Agreed @leafs_law. But then I hear from a student that they want to run their own shop, with like 4-5 employees (legal and non legal), by the time they're 45 So they can manage their own family life well and run the business in the way that pleases them. And I say, for you, law may not be a bad choice after all. 

 

Certainly not easy to get that. But it's reasonable. Unlike the ones that want to be the head honcho at the ICC. Those ones I have to break the news to that in fact, the ICC doesn't hire honchos. They hire very talented prosecutors well into their careers.

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44 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Agreed @leafs_law. But then I hear from a student that they want to run their own shop, with like 4-5 employees (legal and non legal), by the time they're 45 So they can manage their own family life well and run the business in the way that pleases them. And I say, for you, law may not be a bad choice after all. 

 

Certainly not easy to get that. But it's reasonable. Unlike the ones that want to be the head honcho at the ICC. Those ones I have to break the news to that in fact, the ICC doesn't hire honchos. They hire very talented prosecutors well into their careers.

I’m aiming for deputy-head honcho of the ICC. I like to aim low so that I’m not disappointed. 

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Do they offer 1L perspective options in honchonomy? I think I’d like to get my designation before graduating, sounds like it unlocks quite a few doors. :D

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, leafs_law said:

In my experience, it is true that most students do not know what a career in law is going to be like. They think it’s like suits where you do criminal one day and corporate the next. They think it’s a magical ticket to a lifetime of wealth.

How many people actually believe this though? I didn't really encounter anybody in law school who was disillusioned by the practice of law. Most realized, at the very least, that there aren't a whole lot of completely general practitioners out there (at least in bigger shops). And most of us realized that it won't be a lifetime of wealth, but a first year associate salary in an off-bay market will basically put you at the medium income for families in Canada. Second year salary puts you in top 10% of Canada (roughly).

Having said that, I have to agree that most don't understand the day to day monotony. Sometimes you wanna hear hooves and it's a zebra. The majority of the time it's a horse. Or...like...a turtle or something more boring.

Edited by setto
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A lot of students come into law school wanting to do “human rights law” or “international law”, by which they mean Anal Clooney or ICC prosecutor. A lot of others have a “Bay Street or bust” attitude. Yes, a lot of them settle down when they recognize the reality and the “human rights” person ends up doing legal aid work or goes to Bay and the “Bay Street or bust” person who doesn’t make it into Bay accepts articles with a sole practitioner and they end up happy and making a reasonable income. But some do end up as disillusioned and unhappy lawyers feeling trapped in a career they didn’t really envision.

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During my first year in law school I thought that pretty much anyone could be a lawyer. The infinity of area of practices made that any personality can fit. Not anyone is fit for litigation, nor anyone fit for eldery law. But at the end of my degree i realised this simple fact : there is two kind of lawyers, the ones that listen, and the ones that don't. Open your ears and listen. Don't just tell your 300 pages of research during a debate, listen and answer the argument. When the judge ask a question, listen to the question and answer to the question. When a master lawyer gives you instruction, listen. If you think a lawyer is mostly a mouth, I think he is more two ears. 

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