Aviation Law is a highly specialized field in the legal profession and very few law students choose to or have the skill to pursue this career path. The profession is incredibly attractive as aviation lawsuits tend to involve the largest sums of money under US legislation, but can also mean the biggest losses for an aviation company.
Becoming an Aviation Lawyer is, however, not so easy. The following phases are important to achieve this sought after status in the legal arena:
Phase 1: Law School
You need to be within the top ten (or at least within grasp of the top 10) applicants to a registered ABA (American Bar Association) law school to achieve success.
Just studying hard and making excellent grades may not be enough. You need to network throughout your period of education to build good relationships with your lecturers, professors, student body and any other people that could prove valuable later in life.
It is recommended that you join as many clubs and societies within the school environment as possible. For example, writing or editing for the law review paper, magazine, or journal for your law school will definitely be of benefit.
Phase 2: Internship with an Aviation Litigation Firm
You need to start applying for internships to a variety of aviation law firms. This process should begin before you even finish graduating to ensure that you get your name on the potential intern list early on. Start by applying to the top law firms but try to ensure that they have an aviation focus or branch.
The networking contacts that you established at law school will begin to show their true value here where these people can provide you with recommendations or referrals for a position at a specific law firm.
Once you have secured your position as an intern, you need to show dedication in the number of hours and the amount work that you put in. This is a highly pressurized job and at times the hours and the requirements may seem impossible to achieve. You also need to pay attention to your reputation by being respectful to your mentors and work colleagues.
Phase 3: The Bar Exam
During the stressful and time-consuming period of internship, you will also need to be preparing for the bar exam. Once you have passed the bar exam, it is time to start looking for work. Even in the highly specialized field of aviation law, you need to be prepared to start at the bottom.
Phase 4: Finding A Permanent Position as an Aviation Attorney
Apply to the law firm where you interned first but keep your options open and see if you may find a better offer at one of their competitors or one of the top firms that may have turned down your internship application. However, you may decide that you prefer to be a prosecutor or defense attorney before you start this process.
You need to promote the fact that you are interested in practicing aviation law and how this relates to the education you received as well as your internship. You may benefit from listing any additional aviation experience that you may have such as a pilot’s license. It goes without saying that you should dress professionally and carry yourself well throughout the interview process.