Man being a social animal has to abide by certain rules to function harmoniously in a society. Laws and a legal system exist to make sure every individual gets justice.
A lawyer acts as the voice of his/her client to protect a person’s rights. The client can be an individual, organization or the government. Basically lawyers are hired as legal representatives
because they understand the technicalities of law and act as counselors to help individuals in a wide range of cases from criminal to civil litigation.
Over the years, the legal system has become more complex and with it the legal framework has also diversified. Today the need to have a competent lawyer is felt even more, as a layman is more vulnerable and has to safeguard his/her rights in different areas. A layman cannot represent him/herself the way a specialized lawyer can, hence we find them involved in varied areas in both public and private sector.
What Do Lawyers Do?
Lawyers are hired to help individuals navigate the legal proceedings and advise clients on legal issues and disputes to protect their interests. Lawyers have different duties depending on their area of specialization.
Here is a list of what lawyers do:
- Meet clients to discuss the case, the strength of it and the expected prospects
- Provide legal advice
- Research relevant areas of law to come up with arguments and solutions
- Enterpret laws
- Draft letters, contracts and legal documents
- Give advice on legal transactions
- Represent clients to carry out negotiations/settlements or to argue their case in courts of law
- Provide legal help with litigation in wills, contracts, mortgages etc.
Types of Lawyers
Since the areas of legal system are widespread so are the practice areas for a lawyer. Today you can have your own family lawyer and a different lawyer for your company or business. In this day and age lawyers specialize either in a particular area or few specific areas of law. Therefore we have different types of lawyer for every legal category.
Here is a list of different types of lawyer
- Criminal Lawyer
- Corporate/Commercial Lawyer
- General Practice Lawyer
- Personal Injury Lawyer
- Family Lawyer
- Employment/Labor Lawyer
- Civil Litigation Lawyer
- Contract Lawyer
- Workers Compensation Lawyer
- Medical Malpractice Lawyer
- Tax Lawyer
- Immigration Lawyer
- Property/Real Estate Lawyer
- Bankruptcy Lawyer
- Intellectual Property Lawyer
- Private Practice Lawyer
- Government Lawyer
- Social Security Disability Lawyer
- Digital Media and Internet Lawyer
Lawyers Salaries and Job Growth
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2017 the median annual wage for legal occupations was $80,080. Predictions are that employment in legal occupations will grow almost 9 percent during 2016 to 2026, which means 116,200 new jobs and for lawyers the growth is reported to be 8% during this period. Median pay for lawyers as of May 2017 is $119,250 per year and $57.33 per hour.
The competition in this field is getting more and more intense as more people are graduating from law schools than there are jobs available for them. The trend for more specific and specialized legal services is increasing by the day making it more diversified and bringing in more openings.
The following statistics are taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and reflect lawyers median annual wages as of May 2017.
|Legal Occupations||Lawyers||Total, All Occupations|
If you are interested in knowing who employs lawyers the most, below is a list of Top 4 employers:
- Federal government
- Legal services
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals
- State government, excluding education and hospitals
From the look of it the need to have lawyers in every field is growing and hence lawyers jobs are expected to grow from 2016 to 2026. The following table will give you a clearer picture of future job growth in this field. This set of statistics is also taken from BLS.
|Total, All Occupations||Legal Occupations||Lawyers|
In layman terms, Lawyer’s jobs will increase at the rate of 8% from 2016 to 2026. In case you are interested in knowing the actual number of jobs created in this field from 2016 to 2026, then here are another set of statistics taken from the BLS.
|Occupations Title||Employment, 2016||Project Employment, 2026||Percent||Numeric|
Steps to becoming a Lawyer
You need a minimum of bachelor’s degree to enter a law school. It is advised that those applying should have knowledge of the curriculum and areas of study the degree offers to know what they are up for. Since law has many specialties one needs to select a study program that is relevant to your area of interest.
To get admission in a law school in the United States aspiring students have to clear the entry test known as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The score attained in this test is used to judge the aptitude of the students and helps to determine the merit of the students; hence it is a very important part of the admission process. The examination consists of multiple-choice question sections and a writing sample.
The law degree called the Juris Doctor (JD)s typically takes three years to complete. It is a nationally recognized degree for practicing law in the United States. It can be obtained from ABA-accredited law schools which signify that the law school meets the standards of study. The first year of study includes foundation courses and in second and third year you can take up elective courses such as tax, labor or any other category that is relevant to the area of specialization you wish to pursue.
To practice as a lawyer after graduating from an ABA-approved law school, you need to take up the bar test for the state you wish to practice in. If you wish to practice in another state then you will have to take up another bar test for that particular state.
Preparing for the bar test usually takes three months. Every state has its own test guidelines, but generally it is a two day process. Day one covers Multistate Bar Examination and the next day is spent on writing examinations regarding legal matters.
Other than that, there is an ethics test and a background check which needs to be cleared before you are offered a full legal licensure and ‘admitted to the bar.’
Lawyers need to be informed of all the latest legal developments and thus they continue taking up certifications and courses. The additional certifications enhance their profile and are necessary because it affects their practice. In fact all states require the lawyers to continue with legal education after a year or three. These courses and certifications are offered by law schools, state and local bar associations as well. Some of these can also be obtained online.
Lawyer Career Advancement
Lawyer’s earnings depend on their experience, qualification and area of specialization. There are many opportunities for lawyers to take their careers forward. Initially lawyers start as associates or junior associates. They work with veteran lawyers to hone their craft and learn the tricks of the trade and work their way up to become senior associates.
After gaining valuable experience some become partners in different firms while others start their own practices. Some may move on to become a judge or attain public positions. Lawyers also have the option to go for further education and opt for advanced degrees at both the master’s and doctoral levels. The Master of Law (LLM) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) are often taken up by lawyers who want to advance their careers in research and higher education.
Should You Become a Lawyer?
Do you wish to be a lawyer and want to know if you are suited for the job? Have a look at the qualities required to be good lawyer and you will have your answer.
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving skills
- Decision-making skills
- Speaking skills
- Research and writing skills
- Communication skills
Going Away Tip
Having analytical skills and good communication is great but not enough if you want to pursue this career seriously. What really helps in the practical world is if you can apprentice with a seasoned lawyer or judge.