Myths About The Legal Profession: The Reality Of Being A Lawyer

Let’s think of a lawyer: dashing, well-dressed, carrying a briefcase, walking with a confident gait, and presenting a strong argument in court. This impressive and attractive image is what we often see in movies. It has inspired many students to dream of becoming a lawyer. Is the legal profession as easy and pretty as in the movies?

A deep dive into the characteristics and meaning of the legal profession, and their part in building and improving the law, will unveil several myths about this profession. Let’s find out! 

Lawyers – Who are they?

According to Article 2 of the Lawyers Law 2006, amended and supplemented in 2012, a lawyer is a person who practices law after satisfying the standards and conditions for legal practice in accordance with the laws in a country. Lawyers provide legal services at the request of individuals, agencies, and organizations. Lawyers are often associated with activities such as consulting and giving legal advice, researching and collecting evidence to compile documents for trials and disputes, advising and drafting contracts, advising in purchase and sale transactions, representing, and defending the interests of their clients in court for litigation matters.

Based on the nature of their work, lawyers are divided into consulting lawyers and litigation lawyers. A consulting lawyer gives legal advice to clients. A litigation lawyer represents clients in trials to defend, argue, and protect the client’s rights and interests.

How to become a lawyer?

Get a bachelor’s degree in law

To become a lawyer in Vietnam, you need to meet the following conditions prescribed by law: to have a bachelor’s degree in law, then to be granted a legal practicing certificate. Individuals must graduate from law faculties at universities such as Hanoi Law University, Ho Chi Minh City Law University, Hanoi National University, and Foreign Trade University. A bachelor’s degree in law normally lasts four years.

Complete lawyer training

Having obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law, graduates must complete a lawyer training program at the Judiciary Academy. The current training duration is 12 months. If you pass the graduation exam, you will be granted a course completion certificate.

Professional internship

After graduating from the legal training course, graduates are required to register as an intern at a law-practicing organization with a probationary period of 12 months. The law-practicing organization must be a law office or law firm

After one year, you must pass the probationary examination to be granted a legal practicing certificate. If you do not pass the probationary examination, you can extend your probation period and retake the examination. If the second try is not successful, the probationary intern must start from the beginning, doing the probation for another 12 months.

Get licensed to practice and join the bar association

Once you pass the exam, you prepare the relevant documents and sends them to the Ministry of Justice and the Bar Association to apply for: 

  • a legal practicing certificate issued by the Ministry of Justice 
  • a practicing card issued by the Vietnam Bar Association

Once these procedures are completed, you are ready to practice law.

What do lawyers actually do? Basic characteristics of the legal profession

Lawyers are a special profession with their own roles and characteristics. The following characteristics are also compared with other professions.

Lawyers are specially trained to possess appropriate legal qualifications, skills, and ethics

The legal profession selects high achievers who possess strong legal abilities and strong ethics; it does not select just anyone. This is the case in every country. Other occupations may have less stringent standards in qualifications, skills, and morality, except for the specific requirements in occupations such as the military, marine, and mining, or the special talents such as architecture and the arts. 

This characteristic leads to a major difference in the entry barrier for lawyers, compared to the standards for other service providers that require legal knowledge. 

A lawyer’s work is autonomous 

A lawyer works autonomously and is solely responsible for his or her professional activities. 

This characteristic of the legal profession comes from the self-sufficient nature of the lawyer’s activities in specific situations. This characteristic greatly impacts law practice management. 

Therefore, government regulation of lawyers also has distinct attributes compared to their management of other commercial or service sectors. Currently, numerous lawyers are granted practicing licenses, but not many of them make a real living from practicing law. The number of fully practicing lawyers amounts to only about one-third of the total number of certified lawyers. 

Due to such a small number of practicing lawyers, clearly, there is a low supply of full-time professional legal services. The number of lawyers practicing seasonally or part-time suggests that tying lawyers to a certain organization is not mandatory.

Lawyers provide services

The services that a lawyer provides come in two capacities: advice and argument.  

These fundamental capacities earn the most income for lawyers, a testament to the true nature of the legal profession. These capacities are in addition to other activities that contribute to the wider society, similar to corporate social responsibility. These activities may include pro-bono legal support, outreach, and publicity.  

Lawyers have a full grasp of the law and the appropriate measures to handle legal violations. Therefore, lawyers provide legal consulting services that guide clients in taking correct legal actions. They also present arguments to ensure the proper use of the law in specific disputes brought to judicial agencies. 

The legal profession is semi-commercial 

Lawyers’ social function is to satisfy the people’s legal needs in a transparent way, and helps the people truly and fairly understand those rightful needs. 

Serving this function, a lawyer is expected to possess these qualities: law-abiding, skilled, disciplined, professionally proficient, and service-oriented. They also should have a big love for society’s welfare, a healthy lifestyle, and faith in justice and social equality.    

Therefore, lawyers do not merely provide services for money like other professions, but also directly ensure social compliance with the law. 

Business activities operate based on the purchasing, sales, and exchange of goods and services, whose prices are determined by supply and demand, contributing to socio-economic development. On the other hand, in the legal profession, each legal service provider, i.e. lawyers, directly contributes to compliance with the law and social stability. 

Busting the myths about the legal profession: the reality of being a lawyer

Due to its peculiarities, the legal profession suffers from much confusion and misunderstandings.

Lawyers are talkative 

Many clients assume that lawyers are talkative. They imagine a lawyer squabbling, his neck stiff with tension. Some people think that lawyers who don’t talk don’t win. So the image of a talkative lawyer is imprinted into clients’ minds. This is just a misperception, while the reality is completely different.

In reality,  it depends on the lawyers’ personalities whether they are talkative or not. Some lawyers like to talk, and some lawyers prefer to listen. 

Generally speaking, lawyers are cautious with their words. When they talk, they talk clearly, with evidence. This is a characteristic of the legal profession. It is also a habit of many lawyers. Why? 

Because when interacting with clients, the first thing lawyers need to do is quickly grasp the matter and the client’s requirements. To do this, a lawyer will ask questions, using clear and brief inquiries to lead the clients in retelling the issue. At this point, the lawyer acts as a listener to grasp all relevant information. Any unclear detail prompts the lawyer to ask additional questions and continues to listen to the client. 

Having grasped the issue in question, the lawyers often answer the clients’ questions with the simplest responses. Since brevity is necessary here, so the lawyer’s responses are often succinct, to help the client make sense of the complexity of the issue. 

To develop a strategy to solve the case, a lawyer needs to take time to consider all aspects of an issue. They then hone in on the gist of the issue. Therefore, it is impossible for them to guarantee the result straight away after just listening to it. It is even harder for the lawyer to explain the issue at length without careful deliberation.

However, the clients and the people may not always understand such a process, and make the mistake of assuming that lawyers are talkative and argumentative. It needs to be repeated that: lawyers only talk when there is evidence and the necessity to do so. 

Are lawyers ‘know-it-alls’?

The answer is NO. A lawyer is an analytical thinker. A lawyer must be fully equipped with professional knowledge, skills, and social experience.  However, a lawyer is not necessarily better at doing administrative procedures than a more experienced specialist. 

Lawyers are knowledgeable about general procedures. This is a must-have credential. Maybe a lawyer is not too adept in land registration, but he or she must know the requirements for registering land, how to look up preparation documents, etc. Or, a lawyer must also know about international trade procedures according to Incoterms, or the general workings of the financial market. 

Simply, lawyers are not required to have deep expertise in all areas, but to be a good lawyer, it is necessary to have a broad understanding and a general awareness of common social issues. At the same time, they also need specialist competency in their forte. When a client needs legal assistance in a certain area, the legal organization will assign a dedicated lawyer to meet the client’s requirements.

A lawyer is aggressive

As mentioned above, when the general public thinks of a lawyer, they often imagine a squabbling person ready to roll up his sleeves and shout his arguments.  Therefore, people often imagine lawyers to be aggressive. Some even choose lawyers with an aggressive appearance to ask for advice.

It is a serious mistake to judge a lawyer by their appearance. A lawyer has legal knowledge. He or she presents his or her arguments based on legal grounds, which is completely different from squabbling on the street or in the market. Winning or losing an argument depends on logic, evidence, and legal application, not on aggressiveness. At trial, the lawyer’s arguments are heard by the judge, the prosecutors, the jury, and many others, so lawyers win by presenting more convincing evidence and applying a lot of legal knowledge to convince the judicial committee.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the loud and strong talkers are the ones who can win your case. Remember this when approaching a lawyer. 

Lawyers make good money

Many people believe that a lawyer’s job is an ‘easy-money’ job. But the reality is quite different. First of all, consider the arduous training process to be eligible to practice as a lawyer: 

  1. Complete four years of law school 
  2. Complete a legal training program
  3. Legal internship
  4. Practice law

Let’s go into detail about the four stages. 

  • Complete four years of law school

In these four years, you must study seriously. I do not mean to compare the hard work with other professions, but to possess the knowledge to take the next steps, law students must read a lot of laws and by-law documents. The number of readings is significant. In particular, the by-law documents often change. Therefore, it is required that law students regularly re-read.

  • Complete a legal training program

The total study and practice time is two years, including one year of coursework and one year of internship. During this time, students mainly learn about soft skills, research skills, and how to handle real situations. They do not re-study the law because it is assumed that they already know this from university. This period is also very challenging, requiring great effort to complete.

  • Legal internship

Legal interns are exposed to further challenges. They often face scrutiny and fault finding. When they do well, they are chastised as showing off; when they do badly, they are also criticized as incompetent. Senior lawyers are very difficult to please. 

In addition, the internship is also costly. A minimum internship takes around six years to complete, if everything goes well, for a legal intern to earn his practicing certificates. The costs to cover these years are significant. 

  • Practice law

There are many more difficulties when practicing law. Many cases require the lawyer to travel extensively to collect sufficient evidence and details. To defend one person, a lawyer has to oppose several people, many of whom are willing to do dangerous things to obstruct the lawyer’s work.  This is an extremely dangerous risk in the legal profession.

Lastly, the legal profession in Vietnam currently has poor conditions to grow. An external reason is that Vietnamese people often try to avoid troublesome lawsuits. The psychological preference for peace and harmony, for avoiding troublesome litigation, is a barrier to developing the legal profession. 

In addition, when facing legal problems, a large part of the population often trusts unofficial street services, but does not find a lawyer. There are many cases where these unlicensed services cost more than hiring a lawyer, but the people still want to get quick solutions regardless of the consequences. For these reasons, the current legal profession is quite challenging and not as easy as people think.

Above are some myths about what lawyers actually do. We hope the article has helped you better understand the reality of being a lawyer. When you need to find a good lawyer, feel free to contact us for more details: