As you finish law school, you will probably feel the itch to start your career as quickly as possible. New lawyers choose their practice area for many reasons, including personal interests, salary opportunities, or even location.
If you are thinking about becoming a personal injury (PI) lawyer, you will have many ways to get a job. You might prepare for a career in personal injury during law school by taking courses relevant to the practice. You could get clerkships with personal injury firms during summer breaks. And many personal injury attorneys start their careers in other practice areas and move to personal injury law later.
Here are some ways to get a job as a personal injury lawyer after law school:
Paths to a Career in Personal Injury Law
Lawyers find their way to personal injury law in many different ways. You have several good options to get a job as a personal injury lawyer.
Take Courses Relevant to a Personal Injury Practice
If you decide to practice personal injury law early enough, you can take law school courses that relate to the practice area. According to Nick Movagar, a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, “when someone gets injured in an accident, you will analyze their case based on tort law.”
Attorney Movagar explains, “since every law school student takes torts, you will already have the basic legal knowledge you will need to practice personal injury law”.
Specifically, you will need a working knowledge of:
- Negligence, for cases based on traffic accidents, malpractice, and premises liability
- Intentional torts, for cases based on assault, sexual assault, and aggressive driving
- Strict liability, for cases based on dog bites and product liability
Your law school may offer some courses that take a deeper look at some of the issues you might face in a PI practice. Courses that might help you in a PI practice include:
- Product liability
- Advanced tort law
- Toxic torts
- Medical malpractice
If you have questions about the courses that take a deeper look at tort law, talk to your torts professor.
Lawyers who practice PI law spend a lot of time negotiating with insurers, documenting insurance claims, and litigating injury claims. Again, every law school student takes civil procedure. But you should also consider taking additional elective courses that cover some of the skills and knowledge you will need outside of tort law.
Some examples include:
- Litigation or advanced civil procedure
- Trial advocacy
- Insurance law
- Moot court
Since very few students take courses focused on a PI practice, these courses can give you a jump start on your practice skills and impress law firm recruiters.
Get the Right Kind of Experience
Ideally, you will clerk for a personal injury firm during law school. This experience will give you a foot in the door when you graduate.
If you cannot get a clerkship with a personal injury firm, try to clerk or work for a firm that handles other types of litigation. Experience in court will help you land a job with a personal injury firm, even if you clerk for a firm that handles criminal defense, probate, or general business litigation.
You can also gain helpful experience if you clerk or work for the other side. Personal injury law firms love to hire lawyers who have worked for insurance companies or insurance defense firms. This gives you experience in court on relevant cases. It also gives you insight into how the other side handles cases.
Judicial clerkships provide another source of valuable experience. Working with a judge can help you develop a feel for how judges weigh the evidence and decide legal issues. It can also give you experience watching both good and bad lawyering. You can even make connections with PI lawyers in court as long as you follow the rules governing judicial ethics in your state.
Make the Right Connections
Oftentimes, law firms do not hire the candidate with the highest grades. Instead, they hire the lawyer with whom they are most comfortable. A law firm invests a lot of resources into a new hire. In addition to your salary, a law firm could provide you with:
- Health insurance
- A retirement plan
- An office
- Legal staff
- Opportunities with clients
As a result, law firms will hire someone they believe will stay with them long-term. They want someone who shows loyalty to the firm. Most importantly, they want someone they trust with their clients.
To build a reputation of loyalty and trust, you need to network within the legal and business community. These connections can include:
- Law professors
- Business leaders
Bear in mind that these connections do not necessarily need to relate to PI law. You just need someone to vouch for your character as a loyal and honest person.
Show Your Passion
If you were not able to take any of these steps, you can still get a job as a personal injury lawyer after law school. Passion counts for a lot. Without passion, you cannot advocate effectively for accident victims.
When you interview for jobs with personal injury firms, show your passion for the work. Explain how you became interested in the work and what it means to you.
Passion can even spur you to open a solo office to practice PI law. Whether you remain a solo practitioner or merge your practice into a larger firm, your passion will get you clients and help you serve their interests.
Landing a Job as a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers bear an enormous burden. Accident victims often face huge obstacles, from massive medical bills to disabilities that prevent them from working. They need lawyers who have the knowledge, experience, and skills to help them through some of the greatest challenges they will face.
To get a job as a personal injury lawyer, you must prove you can stand with your clients against these challenges.