As a personal injury lawyer, you’ll focus your law practice on cases related to physical and psychological injury. Typically, this involves car accidents with drunk or otherwise negligent drivers. You’ll work to protect client’s rights and ensure they receive a fair settlement from insurance companies to compensate for injuries.
The majority of lawyers work full-time in an office setting. Preparing for a case, however, typically means long hours. It may mean traveling to meet with clients and others related to any particular case. As the caseload increases, so do the hours.
As a personal injury attorney, you can expect to work for private practice. As you gain experience, you may work your way up to partner in a respected firm, or start your own. Generally, you’ll work on a contingency basis—meaning you will not get paid unless you win your case. It’s up to your law firm to set the percentage of the settlement charged for legal services.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all lawyers—not just personal injury lawyers—is $126,900 as of 2020. The legal field is growing at a rate of 4 percent or as fast as average, so there are plenty of opportunities available for law students.
The journey to becoming a personal injury lawyer begins with seven years of education. You’ll spend four years in undergraduate school earning a bachelor’s degree in your chosen field. Then, you’ll move onto your Juris Doctor degree after three years of law school. After finishing law school, however, you’ll first have to take and pass the bar exam before you can begin practicing law in any specialty.
Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field
It’s up to you as to what field you want to pursue your bachelor’s degree in. Before entering law school, you must have completed an undergraduate program. Certain majors tend to fair better when it comes to law school acceptance, however. Common choices include history, English, social science, or political science. Some schools offer pre-law programs, specifically for students who know they’ll move on to law school.
It’s a good idea to participate in mock trials so that you can learn more about how court proceedings work. Mock trials will put you working alongside licensed, practicing lawyers.
Take the Law School Admission Test
Once you are near the end of your bachelor’s degree program, you’ll be required to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). It is a multiple-choice exam that measures your aptitude in skills that lawyers typically use, such as task management, logic, critical reading, and research. Admission to law school is highly competitive and depends not only on your college GPA but also on your LSAT score.
Earn your law degree
After earning your Bachelor’s degree and taking the LSAT, you’ll attend law school. To ensure that you’ll be able to sit for the bar exam after you graduate, attend an institution that’s accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
During the first year, you’ll learn about general legal subjects, including criminal law, legal writing, constitutional law, torts, property law, etc. You’ll spend the second and third years focused on electives, focusing on courses related to personal injury law. For example, you could take classes on medical malpractice law, civil litigation, and advanced tort law.
During your tenure in law school, consider interning with a personal injury attorney or a judge who presides over personal injury cases. This helps you learn more about how court proceedings work and how court proceedings specific to personal injury work. Some schools may require you to participate in an internship before you can graduate.
Pass the bar exam
In most states, all practicing lawyers must first pass the bar exam. The exam varies from state to state but is the same for all legal specialties. Applicants are generally tested on both national and state-specific laws. You must take the bar exam in the state where you intend to practice personal injury law.
Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
Depending on the state you live in, you may also be required to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE. Many states require this exam. It is a test to measure a lawyer’s understanding of legal professional contact. It doesn’t measure an individual’s ethics but instead measures knowledge of the legalities governing professional behavior. It ensures that lawyers understand how these laws apply to lawyers in cases such as criminal wrongdoings while on the job, censure, and contempt.
Engage in Continuing Legal Education
Most states require lawyers to participate in continuing education should they wish to maintain their current bar status. Many law schools offer continuing education courses. Outside of that, the ABA offers continuing education through the Center of Professional Development. Continuing education ensures lawyers can maintain bar status and ensures they remain current with advances in the field and changes to the law.
After you earn some experience as a personal injury lawyer, should you ever decide you no longer want to work in a courtroom as a lawyer, you may seek a position as a judge. If you’re going to leave the courtroom altogether, you may look into becoming a law professor. However, to become a judge or a professor will take many years of experience.