The legal profession continues to play a significant role in shaping American life with lawyers in demand across all sectors. Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives this field its "bright outlook" rating as it sees that job growth will parallel the demand for all jobs over the next several years. College students weighing a legal career should consider the following matters as they explore a career working as an attorney.
Your Education Goals
Lawyers are highly educated with all such professionals holding at least a master’s degree. Most have a professional or a doctoral degree, the standard requirement for nearly every law firm.
Law professionals represent their client in court or before government agencies. They gather and present evidence to help defend their clients to prosecute defendants. Lawyers also select jurors, meet with judges, argue motions, study state and federal constitutions, interpret laws, review rulings and regulations, and present their cases to the judge and to juries.
Lawyers also prepare legal briefs, advance opinions and file appeals as necessary. They examine legal data to advise their clients, analyze the probable outcomes of cases, and evaluate the findings. Such professionals must have full knowledge of laws and legal codes, language, customer service, administration and management. Computer skills and expertise, economics and accounting may be important to this position.
Where the Jobs Are
Approximately half of all lawyers are employed by legal services companies, commonly known as law offices. About 20 percent are employed by federal, state and local governments and a very small number find work in finance, insurance, and in large companies.
Presently, there are more law school graduates then there are job openings according to the BLS, therefore competition for available positions is fierce. Lawyer candidates that show some flexibility in their field choice may find additional available opportunities. Those that are members of more than one state bar association also have more opportunities.
What Pay to Expect
Lawyers can expect to work long hours and some must be available around the clock and on weekends. Some lawyers travel to visit clients in their homes, at hospitals or in prison. Lawyers work with legal assistants to gather information.
Although much glamour is given to the law profession, new lawyers may spend considerable time performing research including gathering information about opposing counsel, proofreading legal briefs and liaising with clients. The impression that some prospective lawyers get of the profession is often culled from television or the movies where attorneys are often cast inaccurately.
Lawyers are generally well paid, earning a median salary of $113,500 per year. Beginning attorneys can usually earn at least $50,000 annually and the top professionals routinely earn $200,000 or more per year, sometimes much more. In large law firms, billable hours largely determines what attorneys can make with associates earning a slice of that amount while the firm’s partners typically earn far more.
Why stop at working as an attorney when there are other fields to explore too? The BLS lists postsecondary teachers, judges, mediators and hearing officers as among the related professions. Teachers, who might qualify to work as college instructors, are needed to handle night and online classes. Judges are individuals that have worked as lawyers and are appointed or elected to decide cases in a court of law. Consider your career options beyond attorney work and you’ll enjoy options indeed.