Find out more about how you can get started on this challenging and exciting career path.
What does an attorney do?
An attorney holds a position of enormous responsibility. The law affects nearly every aspect of our lives, and the job of an attorney is to advise or advocate for his or her clients and help them through the intricacies of the legal system.
Attorneys specialized in many different areas, from criminal defense to bankruptcy to corporate and tax law. They advise their clients regarding their legal rights and obligations, represent them in court, and conduct the necessary research applying to specific cases on which they are working.
An attorney should possess excellent communication skills and have the ability to express him or herself clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Lawyers should be able to listen carefully to their clients in order to understand their needs, and they should be able to analyze a situation and come up with the best possible solution from their clients’ perspectives.
Can my job experience help me get into law school?
Many professionals spend several years in the work force before entering law school. Whether you have been working as a teacher, business manager, accountant, engineer, or in a variety of other professions, your working knowledge of the world can be a plus when applying to law school. As you fill out the necessary paperwork, write your admissions essays, and interview with admissions personnel, be sure to emphasize the edge that your real-life experience will provide in your future career as a lawyer.
What are the requirements for becoming an attorney?
In every state except California, you will need to complete at least a four-year college degree before you are eligible to apply to law school (California requires a minimum of 60 credit hours and the minimum GPA needed to graduate).
You will also need to pass the LSAT – the Law School Acceptance Test – a standardized test that evaluates your reading, writing and problem-solving skills. Once you are accepted to law school, you will need to complete all necessary coursework and pass two major examinations – the First-Year Law (L1) exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam.
After you have completed all these requirements, you will be eligible to sit for your state bar. Passing this two-day, comprehensive legal exam will qualify you to practice as an attorney.
How much can I earn as an attorney?
The salaries for attorneys are fairly wide-ranging. Entry level attorneys and public defenders typically earn far less than experience lawyers working for prestigious law firms. You can expect to make about $50,000 to start, but depending on where your career leads you, you could end up making anywhere from $150,000 to over $200,000 per year.
Keep in mind that working as an attorney is extremely challenging, and you will be working long and often irregular hours. While the salary of a lawyer is attractive to many individuals, the work is not for everyone, so if you are considering becoming an attorney, you will want to be sure you are doing it for the right reasons.
Working as an Attorney
Ask any ten children what they want to be when they grow up and you’re almost guaranteed to find one who wants to be a lawyer. However, few of them understand what this profession actually entails.
The truth is that being a lawyer isn’t always as glamorous a career as television shows and movies make it out to be. Being a lawyer isn’t all courtroom trials and criminal investigations – in fact, a lawyer’s duties can vary widely, depending on what branch of law they choose to specialize in.
Working as a Lawyer
It’s important to remember that even though there are a lot of lawyers working today, the market won’t likely be flooded any time soon. This is because every facet of modern life requires legal maneuvering – so there are quite a few different areas that lawyers can specialize in. For example, there are lawyers who handle nothing but real estate and probate cases.
There may be some instances when these lawyers need to go to court, but more often than not, their duties involve meeting with city and state planning officials and dealing with lots of paperwork.
The majority of lawyers who go into practice do so in private practice, working on either civil or criminal law cases.
For the most part, it’s the criminal law side of legal practice that receives most of the media’s attention. Criminal law practice involves representing those who have been criminally charged by presenting their cases in front of a court and jury. Some of these lawyers work within large legal firms that dictated which clients they’ll work with; while other criminal lawyers are self-employed and get to choose their clients. In addition, some lawyers choose to work within a legal aid system that helps out those who cannot afford legal representation.
Civil lawyers focus primarily on lawsuits and other civil matters. Some lawyers in this field choose to work with special interest cases or handle pro bono work in order to make a difference in the way the law is handled or applied. Other lawyers specialize in handling medical malpractice or worker’s compensation cases, for which they tend to be handsomely rewarded financially. If you choose to specialize in civil law, the number of different ways that you can specialize is so vast that you’ll have a great deal of flexibility in picking and choosing the field you like most.
Whichever field you choose to specialize in, the one caveat you should be aware of before entering the legal field is that lawyers tend to work long, hard hours. If you enter a private practice after law school, you may find yourself working 60-80 hours/week in order to prove yourself and get higher up on the corporate ladder. Conversely, if you choose a life of public service, you may not work these killer hours, but you will earn substantially less money. While this may not be a problem for some people, be sure that any job you take on allows you to cover the student loan expenses you may have incurred during law school.
The job description and duties of a lawyer are so wide-ranging that it’s almost impossible not to find a career that you enjoy and that earns you a good lifestyle. In addition, legal careers allow you to specialize in a niche that’s specifically targeted to your interests. There aren’t many jobs in the workplace today that offer that kind of flexibility – which is just one of the reasons why so many people strive to become lawyers or pursue one of the many law careers available.
Entry Level Legal Careers – Jobs That Can Help You Jump-Start a Career as an Attorney
If you are considering a career as an attorney, you are most likely going to face a great deal of competition. Even getting into law school is challenging, as thousands of applicants each year vie for a limited number of places in ABA-accredited law schools. Because your class ranking in law school is a major factor in where you may be hired upon completing your degree, you and your classmates will be striving to get the highest grades.
In this environment, it is best to stand out as much as you can, in order to improve your chances of getting hired by a prestigious law firm. Entry level legal careers or internships can provide you with a fantastic way to distinguish yourself and jump-start your career as a lawyer. In addition, working in a law office can help you form connections in the business and learn about the law on the job. The following are some brief descriptions of the entry-level jobs you can find in the legal field.
A file clerk is responsible for creating and maintaining a filing system, filing and retrieving records for the paralegals and attorneys in their law office, and for documenting the files that are being kept; if necessary, they will prepare older files for long-term storage.
A legal file clerk should have at least a high school education or the equivalent. Working as a filing clerk requires good communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to follow instructions. In most cases, a high school education or the equivalent is required to work as a law file clerk.
Working as a file clerk gives you exposure to all aspects of the legal profession and can help you make contact with professionals who can assist you in your legal career.
Court messengers are hired to pick up and deliver important legal documents, file court papers, and deliver correspondence to third parties. Attorneys often use court messengers when they do not want to trust sensitive documents to conventional delivery methods; court messengers may also run other errands as needed.
In most cases, a high school education is required to work as a court messenger. A job as a messenger in a law firm will familiarize you with the details of legal work, as well as many court processes. This type of job is ideal for individuals who are planning to enroll in law school, as it allows you to meet a large number of legal professionals.
The vast majority of lawyers assign many of their tasks to a paralegal, or legal assistant. Although a paralegal cannot argue cases in court, represent clients, or give legal advice, he or she is often responsible for many aspects of the casework performed in a legal firm. Paralegals prepare legal briefs, research the facts on a case, help attorneys prepare for trial, and make sure all relevant laws and statues are considered. They may even provide assistance in court during a trial.
In order to work as a paralegal, specialized training is required. Many colleges, universities and professional schools offer certification courses in legal assisting; in addition, prospective legal assistance must pass a state-administered exam.
Many paralegals go on to become lawyers; working as a paralegal can be a tremendous opportunity to establish relationships within the legal profession.