Q: I am 11 years old and I am interested in learning more about being a lawyer. What kinds of lawyers are there? What kinds of school do you need to go to? How long does school take? Is there a place kids can go to learn more about how to become a lawyer? I wanted to become a lawyer when I heard what Timothy McVeigh had done. I took notes about what I learned during the investigation and his trial (and also after talking with my aunt who is a lawyer).
A: I commend you for your interest in learning more about the practice of law. You write very well and think very clearly, so I can certainly understand that law might be of interest to you. Law is a fine profession, often very challenging and stimulating, and it serves a valuable civic and economic function.
To learn more about law practice, I would encourage you to talk at length with your aunt and anyone else you know who is a practicing attorney. Perhaps you could spend part of a day with your aunt or other attorney, observing what they do and imagining whether you could see yourself doing the same thing. In another year or two, you might also ask to sit in on one or more classes at a local law school, to gain a first-hand impression of what law school may involve. You can browse through the law books in a law school bookstore and try to start up a conversation with a law student about his or her experience.
More importantly, however, I would encourage you at this stage to consider law as one of several possible career directions you could take. You have many years of school ahead of you in which you can learn more about your skills and interests, and about how the world works. I would encourage you to follow your "instincts" into the lines of inquiry and study that most closely matches your nature and personality. Could it be political science, literature, or astronomy? Take time to really get to know yourself in different fields of study, noticing what comes easily to you, what you most love to do, and what you are drawn to. If you discover that you want to use your thinking and writing skills at the center of your work, and if verbal conflict does not acutely distress you, then law may be worth seriously considering.
Before attending law school, you would need to complete college. You can study any subject you wish in college; pre-law courses are not particularly helpful, so you may as well study what interests you most. It will be important to get good grades in college and to do well on the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT), administered usually toward the end of college or after college, in order to get into a good law school. Because law practice is highly competitive, entering a well-regarded law school and doing well in law school are important, as a practical matter, in competing for good legal work after graduation.
Above all, take time to enjoy your life as a youth, and then as a young adult. Life is not a race to the finish line. Smell the roses as you go along, and enjoy asking questions as much as seeking answers. You seem to be off to a good start.