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How To Become a Personal Injury Lawyer

August 22, 2023


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/18/23

If you’re interested in becoming a lawyer that can right the wrongs of accidents and negligence, read on to find out more about personal injury law.

We live in a dangerous world where even the most unexpected and seemingly harmless objects can be fatal - like coffee. 

Yes, coffee. In 1994 a 79-year-old woman was about to enjoy her McDonald’s meal when she tried opening the lid of her coffee. This scorching hot coffee then spilled onto her lap, leaving her with third-degree burns that doctors feared would be fatal. 

The woman took this “hot coffee case” to court using a personal injury lawyer and successfully sued McDonald’s for $2.7 million. 

If cases like this interest you, and you’d like to see people compensated for their injuries, becoming a personal injury lawyer might be the perfect path for you!

This guide will cover everything you need to know about how to become a personal injury lawyer and what you can expect during this career.

How To Become a Personal Injury Lawyer

Steps to becoming a personal injury lawyer

There are several steps you’ll have to take in order to become a personal injury lawyer.

1. Obtain A Baccalaureate Degree

The very first step you’ll have to take is obtaining an undergraduate degree from an accredited university.

While a large percentage of students choose to major in Political Science as their pre-law major, you can choose to major in any subject that interests you the most, since you’ll have to maintain a high GPA in order to get into a good law school.

Take a diverse set of courses to expand your knowledge base and develop various skills that will prove useful in law school, such as reading and writing, critical thinking, analytical thinking, memorization, research skills, and reasoning skills.

2. Choose Your Top Law Schools

While you’re still finishing your undergrad, you should choose your top law schools to ensure you meet their admissions requirements, like their median GPA.

Every law school will give you experience with tort law, which is what personal injury is, so you don’t necessarily have to choose a specific law program to gain experience in this specialty. 

However, consider choosing a law school that offers you externship opportunities and experience in legal clinics involving tort cases. This will help you make the most out of your legal education and boost your resume!

3. Ace The LSAT

Sometime during your undergrad or after, if you choose to take a gap year, you’ll likely have to write the LSAT to apply to law schools. As more schools now accept the GRE or LSAT, you may opt to write the GRE instead.

No matter which test you decide to take, be sure to develop a comprehensive study plan with a target score based on the requirements of your chosen law schools, and use the resources available to you to get to this score! 

You can choose to self-study or entrust the help of experts. For instance, Juris has a team of 99th percentile LSAT and GRE tutors that can give you useful insight to get to your desired score with as little hassle as possible.

4. Perfect Your Law School Applications

A good LSAT score is not all it takes to get into law school! Law schools look at candidates as a whole and want to know if they will be successful students and lawyers. In order to prove you will thrive in the legal field, you’ll have to wow the admissions committee on every part of your law school application.

In other words, you should write an impressive personal statement, create a resume that displays all of your achievements and experience, and have glowing letters of recommendation.

5. Complete Your JD

Once you’ve gotten into law school, you’ll need to do well to open up as many doors as possible post-graduation. Remain focused, develop good study habits, and make strong connections with your peers, professors, and summer employers.

6. Pass the Bar Exam

A JD doesn’t make you a lawyer, passing the bar does. So, it’s essential you give yourself enough time to fully prepare for and ace the bar exam

7. Earn An LLM (Optional)

This last step is optional but can also open up more doors for you, make you more qualified in your field, and thus more desirable to employers. An LLM in personal injury will provide you with specialized training to help you become the best personal injury lawyer you can be!

What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

As we’ve already stated with the example of the hot coffee case, a personal injury lawyer helps people get compensation for injuries they receive due to the negligence of other people or corporations. This compensation is typically meant to cover the costs of the emotional and financial toll of accidents.

These lawyers work with personal injury claims, determine who is at fault, gather as much evidence as possible to prove accidents were caused by negligence, and deal with insurance companies to get their clients the most compensation for their injuries.

These injuries do not have to be physical; they can be emotional as well! Personal injury lawyers typically handle defamation cases, where untrue statements are told about someone and cause emotional distress.

While they often show up during times of strife and chaos, personal injury lawyers are the beacons of light that ease this chaos and offer solutions to resolve it!

Personal Injury Lawyer Salary

Aspiring lawyers that are considering the personal injury specialty should know this job does not entail the luxury or glory other areas do. As a personal injury lawyer, you deal with people who are frustrated and often extremely hurt. It’s a hard job that generally doesn’t pay enough to compensate for its challenges.

Personal injury lawyers typically make around $35,000 - $131,500 a year, with the average salary being $82,049. Many personal injury lawyers don’t charge an hourly rate, but take a certain percentage of the compensation their clients receive.

So, if you’re part of a big case such as the hot coffee case, you can expect to make a pretty penny as a personal injury lawyer! However, it’s not every day that personal injury lawyers go up against such large corporations, meaning their cut isn’t usually this big.

While this type of law might not bring in as much money as others, the work itself is very fulfilling! On top of healing from their injuries, these clients have the added stress of paying for these injuries emotionally, physically, and financially.

Personal injury lawyers help ease some of this stress!

FAQs: Becoming a Personal Injury Lawyer

While we’ve given you a basic rundown on what it takes to become a personal injury lawyer and what a career in this specialty looks like, you might have some remaining questions. The following frequently asked questions can provide you with your answers!

1. How Do I Become a Personal Injury Lawyer In California?

The steps required to become a personal injury lawyer in California are the exact same as in any other state except for the exams students must take. Students hoping to practice law in California must pass an additional bar exam after the first year of their JD, which no other state requires.

This exam, often called the baby bar, is required for students to gain credit for their legal education and to eventually sit for the bar once they’ve graduated.

California also has its own bar exam that differs from the UBE. 

2. How Many Years Does It Take To Become a Personal Injury Lawyer?

It will take at least seven years to become a personal injury lawyer if you attend your undergrad and law school full-time and you don’t take a gap year. If you choose to pursue an LLM, you can add another year or two to this timeline.

3. Do Personal Injury Lawyers Make A Lot of Money?

Most personal injury lawyers are paid a certain percentage of their client’s compensation. Depending on how much their client receives, personal injury attorneys can make a lot for certain cases.

However, in general, personal injury lawyers make decent money and can have a high earning potential if they work with private firms that tend to take on bigger cases.

4. What Kind of Cases Do Personal Injury Lawyers Handle?

Personal injury lawyers can handle any case that involves one party being harmed due to the negligence of another party. As seen in the coffee case, this injury can be caused by virtually anything, meaning this job can be quite interesting!

In general, though, personal injury lawyers handle cases involving:

  • Car accidents 
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product liability
  • Wrongful deaths
  • Assaults
  • Defamation 

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to work on cases to take down big corporations and fight for the underdog, or you simply want to help people recover from their injuries, the extensive journey to becoming a personal injury lawyer might be worth it! Just be careful with the coffee you’ll need to get through this long journey!

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