"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," Dick the Butcher famously declared in Act IV, Scene Two of William Shakespeare's Henry VI. In Shakespeare's time, being a lawyer was a tough gig and it's the same today. Becoming a lawyer is even tougher. But it's definitely a worthwhile profession. Some would say that attorneys are the engine of the law, and the law is the backbone of our democratic society. Without lawyers, we would have no defenders in our adversarial system of justice, and no one to guide us through the complexities of that system. Lawyers protect the innocent, ensure that ordinary folks get equal and fair chances at trial, defend the rights afforded to us all by the Constitution, assist injured parties to recover compensation or damages and even help immigrants become citizens. Their ranks are growing every day. With so many important duties, and with so many people becoming lawyers, why did Shakespeare give them such a bad rap?
Possibly because the profession is a relentless one. On average, attorneys today work between 50 and 70 hours a week. That's 10-14 hours a day, Monday through Friday. (Obviously, there's no time left over to read Henry VI.) And if you're looking for an occupation that rewards hard work with compliments and praise, you might want to look elsewhere. Many clients come to you only when there's a problem to be fixed, which means the client is probably unhappy before you even begin to work on resolving the problem. And sometimes, if you don't get a favorable settlement, you won't be paid for your time at all.
If the hours, sometimes thankless work and William Shakespeare's words don't scare you, you might just have what it takes. So, how does becoming a lawyer work? Let's find out.