Courtroom dramas are a mainstay in American television but is the portrayal of lawyers on TV truly the way things are in real life?
In this article, we’re busting some misconceptions you might have about the legal profession to help you get a clearer idea of this highly sought after career and discover if this is the job for you!
#1. Lawyers earn big bucks
If you’ve been lured into pursuing a law degree by the promise of a fat pay cheque, we’ve got some news for you — earning big bucks as a lawyer won’t come as easily or as quickly as you’d hope.
Law graduates can earn as low as RM1,500 during their pupillage and the average starting salary of a law graduate stands at about RM2,443 — lower than what is offered in other careers across a variety of industries.
While it is true that some prestigious law firms offer impressive salaries to their pupils and legal associates, job opportunities are highly competitive as droves of bright, young law graduates vie for the chance to gain experience at these reputable establishments. Be prepared for a heavy workload and massive expectations when you join these esteemed firms.
#2. Lawyers lead a glamorous lifestyle
Being a lawyer isn’t just about rolling up to the Federal Court in your Mercedes Benz and strutting around with your robe and briefcase. While lawyers can rattle off sections from the Penal Code and quote Latin terms like it’s second nature, all while looking super suave in their black and white get up, real life is nothing like an episode of Suits.
What you don’t see on television is the hours of unglamorous work behind the scenes involving late nights slogging over submissions, poring over paperwork and scouring precedents to build an infallible case against your opponents. You’ll be under immense pressure to perform consistently in a highly stressful environment, as your client’s entire livelihood could rest on your shoulders.
#3. Lawyers profit off criminals
Are you met with conspicuous disapproval from family members upon expressing your interest in pursuing law? Have you been berated for wanting to “make money off criminals” or ”lie and cheat others” as a professional in this field?
Lawyers play an instrumental role in the preservation of the rule of law. According to these universal principles, a person is innocent until proven guilty and has the right to be defended in a court of law.
This means that in a criminal trial, it is for the court to decide if an accused person is guilty or otherwise based on the evidence at hand — not based on the opinions of his or her lawyer. Instead, the lawyer is responsible for safeguarding justice by ensuring that the accused person is given his right to a fair trial as well as testing the prosecution’s evidence to see if they are able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
That being said, lawyers are expected to uphold the integrity of the profession at all times and are not permitted to lie or admit false evidence during court proceedings.
#4. All lawyers go to court
While litigation lawyers (those who resolve disputes in courts) regularly make trips to the court and are probably the most recognisable of the bunch, they’re not the only type of lawyer that make up the profession.
For starters, lawyers who engage in conveyancing (transfer of property) do not hash out legal arguments in front of a judge. Nonetheless, their job is no less challenging, as it involves completing a mountain load of paperwork, scrutinising arguments and conducting rigorous background checks on vendors and buyers. Those who work in corporate law and banking and finance law also rarely visit the courts.
In addition, courtroom proceedings can be costly and time-consuming. Therefore, many people are starting to consider alternative dispute resolution, where parties work to resolve disputes without going to court.
#5. You’ll be a good lawyer if you like to argue
Have your parents slyly suggested you take up law after having to bear with your persistent need to argue with them throughout your teenage life?
In reality, being a lawyer doesn’t require you to be argumentative. While a court case is technically founded on a disagreement between two parties, lawyers aren’t paid to engage in a mindless verbal battle with one another. Instead, they are expected to persuade the judge to favour their client based on the facts of the case as well as sound logical and legal reasoning.
#6. Lawyers know everything about the law
It might seem as if lawyers have permanently ingrained every single Malaysian statute into their brains but that is probably only partially true.
While many professionals can expertly cite laws off the top of their heads and spout judgements from a slew of different case laws (thanks to their many years in practice), there will come a time where they eventually hit a dead end.
The ever-changing nature of the law means that no lawyer really knows everything and must be open to learning throughout their career in order to thrive in this field. Even senior lawyers are constantly confronted with cases involving complex legal issues demanding in-depth legal research. So, if you thought you were done studying after graduating from law school, think again!
#7. All law graduates become lawyers
“Spend 4 years slogging just to give it all up after graduation?!”
This might not sound as incredulous once you acknowledge the unprecedented versatility of a Law Degree. While this professional qualification leads you towards a bright future in law, the skills you will pick up during the course will make you a valuable asset in a vast variety of other industries.
This is because during your degree, you will carry out generous amounts of research (there’s so much reading involved, taking a Law Degree is actually known as reading law), hone your public speaking skills through mooting and mock trials and master your academic reading and writing skills through exams and assignments.
This makes you a good candidate for jobs in areas such as management consulting (business analyst, management consultant), writing (journalist, content writer, copywriter) and human resource (HR executive, recruiter, corporate trainer).
Lawyers may not have a reputation for being the most honest or noble individuals, but they are in fact bound by a strict code of conduct and play a vital role in maintaining the rights of people in society. The job of a lawyer may not be easy, but it is certainly essential in ensuring that justice is made accessible to as many individuals in society as possible.