What is a Lawyer

To become a Lawyer you had better prepare yourself for a lot of studying. To discover if this career is for you, take one of our quizzes.

After completing a law degree, a person will then need to pass the bar examination in the state that they wish to practice in. Once the bar exam is passed you are a certified lawyer. About one-quarter of lawyers are self-employed. The best-paid lawyers earned more than $187,199, while the lowest-paid made less than $55,400.

Lawyer Salary

  • Average Annual Salary: $114,550
  • Projected Lifetime Earnings: $4,755,000

lawyer – Education

All lawyers are required to hold a law degree and are usually also required to pass a written bar exam from their state. Getting ready to become a lawyer generally will take some seven of full-time study. There are four years of undergraduate study to do, followed by three years in law school.

In most states and jurisdictions, lawyers must complete a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree from an accredited law school (accreditation occurs by the American Bar Association-ABA. Most law schools require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree and they also offer courses in English, government, public speaking, history, math, and economics.

Practically every law school requires students to take and pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test, which assesses a student’s aptitude. J.D. degree programs include courses like constitutional law, property law, contracts, legal writing, and civil procedures. Law students may also opt for specialized programs in fields such as labor, tax, or corporate law.

Future lawyers need to take and pass licensing exams, so-called Bar Exams, and when they receive their license to go and practice law, they will be, as the saying is, ‘admitted to the bar’. Lawyers wishing practice law in more states, often need to the bar exam in all states they want to work in. After graduation, law professionals need to stay informed on legal developments that may affect practices, and in practically all U.S. states, lawyers are required to participate in regular continuing legal education.

lawyer – The Job

Lawyers are advising and representing businesses, individuals, or governments on legal disputes and issues. They may represent clients before government agencies, in courts, or in private legal issues, and communicate with their parties involved and judges. Lawyers usually conduct legal research and analysis as well, and they will need to interpret rulings, laws, and regulations for their clients. Lawyers are also preparing and filing legal documents, for example, lawsuits, wills, appeals, deeds, or contracts.

Lawyers, who are also called attorneys, are acting as both their clients’ advocates and advisers. In their role of advocate, they will represent their clients in a civil or criminal trial, and in their role of advisers, they are counseling their clients on legal rights, legal obligations, and come up with required legal action for individuals or businesses.

Lawyers can have different duties and different titles, it all depends on where they are working. If they work in a law firm, they sometimes are called ‘associates’, they may also be named ‘defense attorneys’ or ‘criminal law attorneys’ when they are defending the accused. Attorneys who are working for local, state, or federal governments are named ‘prosecutors’ while filing lawsuits, or charges, against individuals or corporations accused of having violated the law. Some lawyers work as ‘public defense attorneys’ where they are representing individuals who can not afford a private attorney.

If you’re not sure whether this career is perfect for you, you can always take a career quiz and discover more about your personality and the best professional options for you.

Becoming an in-house lawyer

When working in a law firm you tend to have to specialize in one area very early on and the business is purely focused on law. Whereas if you become an in-house lawyer and work within a company, you need to have a much broader understanding of law and how the specific industry works that you are in. If you are a competent lawyer who is interested in having variety in your working day and working with the business side of things, then an in-house legal job is your ticket.

Having a thorough understanding of how the business works is vital and this can be achieved by moving around the workplace and seeing what people’s jobs are and how they achieve them. It helps if you are a decisive person who is willing to call the shots even when you are not 100 percent sure it is the right decision. You will be able to learn from your mistakes (as long as they’re not too big and disruptive). As this role involves having to cover huge and varied fields relating to law and the business itself, it is a pretty hard position. As nobody can know everything, this is a job where somebody with great initiative comes in.

Flexibility is key

With the variety involved in this professional field, flexibility is a vital trait as different issues will pop up at random and will need to be addressed rapidly before a situation gets out of hand. Before you can make the move to in-house law, you will need to be highly experienced. The ideal length of post-qualification experience is three to five years, because companies can still compete on salary, and the candidate will have solid private practice experience. There are many recruitment agencies that specialize in legal and compliance jobs, and they are able to place candidates into suitable companies allowing them to excel at the role they gain.

Gaining experience

You possess the right qualifications, you have the right qualities, and you have the right attitude. The only thing you lack is work experience. However, if no law firm hires a new recruit, how do you gather the necessary work experience? Here are a few opportunities that you could use for adding work experience to your CV when looking for law jobs.

Internship and externship work: The local law or paralegal school may offer these opportunities for their law students. However, these are not advertised and often not paid. You may be able to find these opportunities at law firms, banks, corporations, insurance companies and so on with help from seniors and teachers.

Contract work: As the litigation costs are on a continuous rise, law firms are on a continuous lookout for professionals who work on a contractual basis. This gives law students the opportunity to find work for a specific period of time. Though it is not a permanent position, it offers the opportunity to gain experience.

Part-time work: If you dream of joining a particular law firm, but they would not hire you at a specific position, opt for other part-time jobs available at the law firm. This will give you an idea about the way the firm works and hires. Moreover, this will also help you attain work experience in the legal field.

Temporary work: It is possible to find short-term assignments from agencies specializing in law recruitment. Though these jobs may not pay you as much as permanent legal jobs, they offer you the option to understand the field of work and the responsibilities involved for law professionals.

Voluntary work: You may find these opportunities from non-profit organizations or legal aid centers. Though these do not offer any kind of remuneration, the advantage is that you gain experience relevant to your career. Voluntary work may also provide you the right kind of exposure in the legal field.

Whether it pays or not and whether the pay is high or low, these opportunities offer you a way to add the much needed relevant work experience to your CV. This, subsequently, helps you find better job opportunities.


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