I asked our Associate Alyssa Frazier to say some words about her experience as a new lawyer. She was kind enough to write about becoming an attorney. Alyssa has been with the firm for some time.
Several years ago I was fortunate to have another law school intern recommend Alyssa. That intern was headed to the public defender (where she was a star) and could not stop raving about Alyssa. Alyssa came in and she took off. No task was to big for her.
It was not suprising when she made law review. She was in the top % of her law school class. Alyssa had a stint with the public defender before she came back in the firm. Since then, I have been trying to throw everything I can to challenge Alyssa. She has taken on all tasks as an attorney and the sky is the limit. With that said, here is what Alyssa wrote about becoming an attorney.
My name is Alyssa Frazier, Esq. and I have recently been admitted to practice law in California. I want to tell you a little about my journey. Being an attorney is a wonderful and rewarding a career. But not everyone knows how to become an attorney. While there are different ways, the following is the most traditional. First, you need to graduate from high school and college, receiving a bachelor’s degree. Personally, I graduated from Sacramento State with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. From there, you must take the LSAT, which is its own beast. You must then get into law school, and find the best fit for you.
Law school itself is a battle; you must learn to think in a different way. The professors use the Socratic Method to narrow down the case into specific issues and teaching you different rules. Once you have learned about torts, contracts, criminal law, and the other basic courses, you can usually take more pointed classes. One of my favorite classes that was offered at my law school, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, was vice crimes. In that class, we went over different theories of why certain things are crimes, and then specifically went over crimes. We discussed laws such as prostitution, laws dealing with drugs, adultery, and even bestiality (among other things). It was very interesting to discuss the different theories about why specific conduct is considered a crime.
Before you know it you are a 3L, which means you are on your last year in law school, and you are getting ready to graduate. You may take some bar prep classes, or you may just take a light load since it is your last year. One of the things that needs to be done during the last semester of your 3L year is your moral character application. Many people know about the bar exam, but another component of becoming a lawyer is a finding that you have a positive moral character determination on file. This is a grueling process of filling out paperwork going back years so the bar can determine that you are of good moral character. While the process does take time, it is important to make sure that attorneys have good ethical standards. Another way this is tested is through the MPRE exam, which is required to practice law.
Then the day comes to graduate. Once you have completed all your classes, usually between two-and-a-half to four years depending on how fast you take your classes, you can graduate. You are ready to go, you have your moral character application in, and you have tried to prepare yourself for the long and demanding practice of studying for the bar exam. You are there with all your friends and family, and you get to walk across the stage.
But then, before you know it, you must start studying for the bar. Although the bar exam will likely be several months after you graduate, you will start to feel the pressure when the bar review company gives you a start date only a few days after you walk across the stage at graduation. The task of studying the bar comes with eight to ten (or more) hours a day, seven days a week, studying a new subject every couple of days. Then the test comes, and by this point you are so exhausted, nervous, worried, and relieved that it is actually here, and within a few days it is over. All that you have worked for is done.
Now comes the waiting game. Depending on when you take the bar, you will have around two-and-a-half to three months of waiting. The week before is probably the worst, all of your hard work over the past three years may soon pay off, or not… And then it is the day of. Personally, I worked part of the day, and the latter half (as the results come out at 6 pm) I played games with my family to keep my mind off of the results. At 6 pm, the results came out, and for me it was a positive result. That said, it is an extremely rough exam, and it does not define who you are. There are many people that do not pass the bar on the first, second, third, fourth, or even more times. This does not mean they are not good at law or that they will be bad attorneys.
Once you pass the bar, and you have fulfilled all the other requirements (MPRE, moral character, etc), you will be sworn in. This is an amazing day where you are with your peers and taking the attorney oath. Once you have taken the oath you are officially an attorney! You can start practicing law as soon as you have taken the oath. And that is it, you finally did it!
I started this out by saying that being an attorney is a wonderful and rewarding career. You are able to help people, in whatever way that is. Maybe you are helping people who have been harmed by doing class actions, maybe you are helping people make their will, or maybe you are defending the accused as a defense attorney. I look forward to my many years as an attorney, being able to help people on this magnificent journey!