Few experiences get Americans riled up more quickly than moving violations, as Sammy Hagar so memorably noted in his smash '80s hit, "I Can't Drive 55." Since then, the stakes have only gotten higher, particularly for those charged with major felonies like drunken driving. Small wonder, then, that drivers are feeling increasingly besieged, as fines, insurance premiums and surcharges continue to skyrocket. Enter the traffic attorney, whose business---depending on where she practices---can lead to a jam-packed, but often lucrative, professional life. An ability to think on your feet goes a long way, as does a knack for sizing up people and situations.
Start Law School
Follow the same track as other law school-bound peers while you are still in college. Take a cross-section of classes in economics, history, politics, philosophy, psychology and sociology, as these subjects put a premium on critical thinking and reasoning---the key to succeeding at a legal career.
Seek out small classes and seminars where you can work closely with professors, whose recommendations are crucial to raising your stock before law school admissions committees. Academic performance is the most important quality, but not the only one.
Buckle down for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the final factor in determining whether you enter law school. The top score for answering all the questions correctly is 180. Make it your business to get as near that mark as you can, as competition is keen, particularly for elite schools.
Plan on an intense educational workload---get into the habit of regular reading. Sharpen your oral and written communications skills as often as you can, since the ability to formulate a clear, consistent argument is the heart of any lawyer's arsenal. If you hate writing, you probably will not make an effective lawyer.
Build a Traffic Law Career
After graduation, consider working with a large law firm, where moving violations are simply just another part of its business. If you practice on your own, target higher-population, higher-violation states---notably, California, New York or Texas---that will more than offset your costs of doing business.
Bargain hard for everything---if renting an office at a strip mall saves on rent, do it. If you can get friends and relatives to help with basic office tasks for smaller salaries, or barter for other services, do it. The more you can reduce overhead, the sooner you can reinvest in your legal business and career.
Rise above the crowd---simply stating that you offer a competent legal defense will not separate you from countless others saying likewise. Adopt a colorful persona that people remember, as Californian Stan Alari has done by calling himself "Stan The Radar Man," based on his claims of winning thousands of speeding ticket cases.
Set up a website for potential clients to find you. Keep it simple and user-friendly. For example, Alari offers free evaluation forms to advise people on whether he will take a case. These tactics build word-of-mouth, the most powerful advertising in what is essentially a referral business.
Study the local courts for quirks that can be used to advocate on your client's behalf. For example, police officers are less likely to show up on their days off in larger jurisdictions' courts, increasing the chance of getting your client's case dismissed. Learning the best venues for these tactics is half the battle to success.
- Think about your college behavior. Seemingly minor offenses---such as buying alcohol for a kegger, while still being under the drinking age---can cost the votes of law school admissions committees, who also look at general character and fitness to practice law.
- Always be up front on whether you can help or not. Some situations do not lend themselves to immediate assistance, so you will need to find ways of tactfully explaining these realities to clients. Never lose sight of the fact that law is a relationship business. Taking time to build those relationships with district attorneys and judges will go a long way toward helping clients.