If you’ve been interested in becoming a lawyer for a long time, it may well be because you’ve watched a lot of legal-related TV shows or movies over the years. Big productions such as “Suits,” “The Good Wife,” “Boston Legal,” “Law and Order,” “Legally Blonde” and “Erin Brockovich” have made the legal career path more popular than ever. However, many people don’t realize that what’s portrayed on the screen isn’t necessarily true to life!
As you would imagine, what gets shown on films and series is purposely created to excite, enthrall, amuse and entertain viewers, and as such, the portrayal is amped up and lacking all of the more “boring” parts of legal jobs. This means that if you want to pursue a career as a lawyer of any type, and are about to enroll in or complete a higher education program like a Master of Jurisprudence or the like, you need to be clear about what your day-to-day work life could really be like.
To get ahead in your career ASAP, you need to be able to hit the ground running rather than be taken aback by what’s involved or the types of tasks (or rewards) you get. Read on for some of the most commonly perpetuated legal myths which need to be busted.
The Job Is Glamorous
For starters, one of the biggest pervading myths is that the job of being a lawyer is always glamorous. While we watch popular legal television series and movies because of how exciting the cases and work seems to be, in reality, things can be quite different. Rather than spending all their time in court, orating great stories and appealing to jurors’ emotions, most lawyers actually end up doing a lot of research, planning and client meetings.
Most of the cases depicted on-screen are those which cover mass civil suits or big criminal trials. While a select number of lawyers do work on these types of cases, most don’t, and none do so all the time. For most people in the legal arena, work is about mediating between two or more parties, attending short civil court cases and providing consultation to clients.
Furthermore, a lot of would-be lawyers get the idea that being in this field is exciting because, on the screen, it seems like everything happens quickly. In real life, there is much less drama and a lot of cases actually go on for months or years (often it’s many months before they even get to court).
Lawyers Do Everything Themselves
Another misconception that keeps doing the rounds is that lawyers do everything themselves. On the screen, it appears like most attorneys know everything possible about the law, in all areas, and apply this knowledge to cases solo. However, while attorneys certainly do tend to be very smart, they’re not experts with photographic memories who never need any help!
In reality, the majority of lawyers specialize in one particular area, not multiple ones. They also typically choose to be either transactional lawyers, who assist clients with things like regulatory filings or mergers, or litigators, who represent people in court cases and arbitration.
Note, too, that a lot of the time attorneys work in groups. Rather than there being a single “hero” who finds ways to score last-minute victories and save the day, teams of lawyers, clerks, and other assistants typically put in dozens of hours together on research, fact-checking, investigations and other preparation to get results. It is important, therefore, for attorneys to be adept at working well in groups and interacting with a wide variety of people.
It Always Pays a Lot
Lastly, a very prominent myth is the one that lawyers always earn big bucks. While we see people on the screen wearing designer outfits, living in luxury pads, driving expensive cars and always having impeccable haircuts, accessories and the like, not all attorneys have high incomes.
Those working at large firms (usually with 100-plus lawyers) tend to be highly compensated, but these people make up only a fraction of the legal workforce. The majority of attorneys work in small organizations where they receive a fairly standard wage, or they’re government employees or work for public interest groups and as such are paid quite minimally. Once you factor in the huge amount of hours that most lawyers work, their per-hour rate is actually low — but their job satisfaction can still be quite high.