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INJURYwise

Want to be a lawyer?

Unlike some of my colleagues, I had no specific childhood aspirations of becoming a lawyer. 

I did not daydream of winning arguments in court, or putting the bad guy behind bars. I did not obsess over television shows or movies involving the law. In my family, it was simply expected that upon graduation from high school, you would attend university. 

Not knowing what I wanted to do, I enrolled in Arts and Sciences, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in psychology. Nearing the end of my first degree, it became clear that it was time to think about a career, so I considered my options. 

One of those options was law. I did volunteer work, wrote the LSAT, and applied to law school. Why did I apply? I am not entirely sure. My mother was a nurse, my father a pharmacist, and there was no one else in my immediate or extended family who was a lawyer or even remotely connected to the practice of law. All I knew about being a lawyer was what I had seen on television or in the movies, but for some reason (maybe because I am competitive and like to argue), I liked the idea of law.  

Law school was and wasn’t as expected. It was hard work, and I didn’t really fit in with the other students (most of them seemed far too keen, and had no life outside of school). However, despite some doubts, I stuck with it. 

I worked various retail jobs throughout both my undergrad and law school. If you aspire to be a lawyer, I would recommend working in the service industry while going to school, it teaches you things law school doesn’t, such as dealing with difficult (sometimes screaming) people. It will also help you relate to your clients, regardless of the type of lawyer you become.  

When you finish law school you have to complete articles, which is essentially an apprenticeship. I applied for an articling position the same way you would apply for any job, by sending in my cover letter and resume to every firm I considered working for. 

I received various “thanks, but no thanks” letters (which I still have), but I also received some invitations for interviews. The best interview advice I heard was, “be you - the person they want to go for coffee with.” The firms who interviewed me were most interested in my martial arts and kickboxing background. I ultimately accepted a position with a large Vancouver firm.

After writing the LSAT, completing law school and articling, before you can call yourself a lawyer you have to complete a 10 week course called PLTC (Professional Legal Training Course) and successfully pass four skills assessments and two qualification exams (the Bar exam). 

Many people fail. I remember being told that no one in the history of my firm had ever failed the Bar exam. No pressure there! Fortunately, I passed and was beyond happy to have that part of my journey in the rear view mirror. In a formal ceremony at the Court House, I was sworn in and could now officially call myself a lawyer. 

Over my career, I have been blessed to work with various lawyers who cared about my education and in my development as a lawyer. I was given encouragement, provided difficult but interesting tasks, and taught ethics and civility. 

The law firm I articled with, and first worked for, was a full-service firm with the exception that they did not practice criminal law. As a result, I had the opportunity to experience a broad range of practice areas. Right out of the gate I was most interested in being a trial lawyer (I wanted to go to court). I was inspired and motivated to become the best. I owe a great deal of gratitude to a few lawyers who took me under their wing.  

However, despite great mentors and the enjoyment with the work I was doing, I learned that becoming a lawyer was far more challenging than I ever expected. Challenges lay in the demands of clients, the demands of opposing counsel, the demands of the court, the never ending learning process, the evolution of the law, and the seemingly insufficient amount of time to meet the demands of everything.  

Women drop out of this profession in droves, and it’s not surprising, given the demands placed on us, particularly if we are trying to balance family and work life. 

Very early in my career, I was told that it is impossible to be both a good mother and a good lawyer. So, like most things I am told I can’t do, I set out to prove it wrong. I have three children, and have stayed in private practice (as opposed to going in-house or switching professions), but to suggest for a moment that it has been easy or perfect would be a lie. 

It is difficult to be both a good mother and a good lawyer, although not impossible. Sometimes, it is even an advantage to be both. I can relate to many of my female clients in ways most of my male colleagues can’t. However, it is still hard when I have to miss the school play or other activities because of work demands.

With the benefit of hindsight, becoming a lawyer was the easy part (and I am not saying that it was at all easy). Being a lawyer and continuing to strive for excellence in a profession that is unforgiving in its demands and expectations is truly the hard part. Fortunately, the time commitment and stress endured can be very rewarding. 

I was lucky to find an area of the law that I am passionate about. I work with some amazing people, and look forward to coming to work every day. If you, or someone you know, is considering a career in law, be sure to do your research, and talk to as many lawyers as you can.

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About the Author

Keri Grenier is an experienced personal injury lawyer based at Murphy Battista LLP's Kelowna office. She also holds a B.A. in psychology. Her practice focuses on helping people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents or due to the negligence of others.

In her column, Keri provides practical information about personal injury claims in a format that is simple and easy to understand.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.murphybattista.com
 

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/KelownaLawyer



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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