By Diksha Chavan ('22)
A civil rights lawyer is a profession that requires assertiveness and determination as well as compassion. These lawyers focus on researching and presenting cases, negotiating settlements, and creating legal appeals and briefs.
In terms of education and college, someone who wants to become a lawyer would need to go for about seven years. Four of those years would be at an undergraduate school, where it would be beneficial to take courses that relate to civil rights.
A some examples include: job discrimination, gender inequality and social justice. Mr. Andrew Charkow, a civil litigation lawyer at Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford P.C., said that he majored in Law and Society, and it included many other topics, such as philosophy and history, to give him a more well-rounded education.
The remaining three years are spent at law school. The entrance exam is the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The test consists of questions that test a person's abilities when it comes to critical thinking, reasoning and logic.
Depending on the score, someone would chose a school and work towards getting a Juris Doctor degree. There they would have to take courses such as basic law and negotiating, but after the first year, higher level and more specific classes such as race and mass incarceration, and strategic law research will be open to take.
Mr. Charkow said, “ I studied a variety of legal topics, including Torts, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Property, Estates and Trusts, and Family Law. I also took courses in oral and written advocacy.”
New York University (NYU) is considered one of the top programs for law, and very rightfully so. They offer a JD program for around $63,986 per year. If anyone wants to become a civil rights lawyer, he or she would have to study legal theory, practice and writing, as well as race theory, political theory and civil rights narrative. All these courses will give them the basics in law, and allow them to start choosing more specialized courses the next year.
After college, prospective lawyers need to pass the Bar Exam. Once passed, anyone can practice law in the state in which the Bar Exam was taken. Then, an individual would have to search for a job.
According to the The Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate is about 15.5% in new law graduates, so there is a lot of competition. Although it’s projected to grow about 8% from now to 2026, that is the average rate so there is no guarantee that anyone will definitely get a job. However, lawyers are always needed. As the world advances, many jobs are being taken over by robots, but a lawyer is not one of them. So, despite the competition, at one point or another a job position will most likely open up.
Once a job has been found, the salary might be a little low. The lowest salary when starting out is about $69,000. Still, as the lawyer gains more experience and skill the salary will only go up.
Once a person proves themself to the firm, and gains the respect of those around them, salary rises. After they have worked the average work hours of forty to fifty per week, and have put in the effort, they will be accordingly compensated.
Mr. Charkow said, “On an average week, I work about sixty hours. It can be more depending on what is going on in my particular cases.”
In order to perform well as a lawyer, there are personality traits that will enhance a person's ability and skill. Being an assertive and determined person helps. Some of the work a lawyer does includes researching, arguing, negotiating, and writing for the client. Someone who is insistent will be able to provide that and more.
In addition, being social and compassionate allows a person to better understand their client, and know them on such a great basis that it feels like they are fighting for themselves according to Mr. Charkow.
He believes traits such as being a hard-worker, and being open to collaboration are important to the job. Finally, having creative traits gives anyone the ability to become a better problem solver. In the workplace, a logical and analytical solution is not always possible or needed, so when someone is able to look at it from a different angle it may lead to success.