Lawyer Job Description
What does a lawyer do? Lawyers are highly trained professionals who represent clients in legal matters in courtrooms and in private settings. They often advise their clients regarding legal issues, and perform research and prepare legal documents. There are many different types of lawyers including tax lawyers, environmental lawyers, corporate lawyers, and probate lawyers.
Lawyers can work in a variety of locations. Although most work in private law offices, some lawyers are employed by corporations, the government, and at law schools as professors. Sometimes, lawyers will need to travel to different locations including law libraries, offices of clients, and courthouses.
Lawyers often work alongside paralegals, legal assistants, and other lawyers. The schedule of a lawyer generally exceeds 40 hours per week, especially when preparing for a case. Often, lawyers will work long hours including evenings and weekends. Prospective lawyers should possess good research skills, have the ability to communicate well and be an excellent speaker and writer.
On a daily basis, a lawyer might perform the following duties:
- Perform research in preparation for a case or to properly advise a client
- Meet with and advise clients
- Present cases in court on behalf of clients
Lawyers are also known as attorneys.
How To Become A Lawyer
Becoming a lawyer requires years of preparation and schooling. Many prospective lawyers begin preparing in high school by joining the debate team and becoming involved with student government. Then they begin 4 years of undergraduate coursework, take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), apply to and complete 3 years of law school at an accredited law school, and achieve a juris doctorate degree. After finishing school, graduates must prepare for, take, and pass the bar exam. This not only entails passing an exam but applying for entrance into the state bar. After successful completion and entrance into the bar in the state where one wishes to work, he or she can legally practice as a lawyer.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Lawyer?
It generally takes about 7-8 years to become a lawyer. 4 years are spent as an undergraduate achieving a bachelor’s degree, 3 years are spent in law school, and then there is additional time needed to study for and take the bar exam.
Becoming a lawyer requires many years of schooling. First, potential lawyers will need a bachelor’s degree. Although there is no required degree to gain entry into law school, many applicants choose a philosophy or pre-law major. Entrance into law school is extremely competitive, so it is important to maintain a high grade point average while an undergraduate, volunteer, and be involved in extracurricular activities in school.
Before finishing their bachelor’s degree, those desiring entrance into law school will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and achieve above average scores. Aspiring lawyers can then apply to law school.
If accepted, law students undergo a rigorous 3 years of coursework in classes such as Torts, Business Law, Contracts, and Legal Writing. They can also choose to apply for summer associate positions or clerkships while still in school to gain experience in the field of law. Many schools offer their students opportunities for practical experience in the form of moot court which involve students arguing cases in a practice legal environment. Students can also hone other skills by writing for their school’s law journal.
Lawyers can become certified in various specialties in and out of their field. Some legal specializations include environmental law, sports law, and family. There are other certifications lawyers might consider attaining such as becoming a real estate agent, a tax preparer, and/or a notary. Certifications can provide more options for employment and can increase business for lawyers.
All states require that lawyers apply for and pass the bar exam. This process entails a lengthy application to ensure that the candidate is honest, moral, and qualified to practice law in that particular state. The applicant must undergo an extensive background check and then pass an exam that tests an applicant on the laws of the state. Once the exam and background screening are passed, one can legally practice as a lawyer in that state.
Many states require that lawyers maintain their licenses by taking continuing education classes every few years.
The outlook for employment as a lawyer is good. The profession is projected to grow at a rate of 10 percent between the years of 2012 and 2022 which is about as fast as other occupations. Many people and companies will continue to need legal services, and that fact will fuel the increase for lawyers. There will be new opportunities for lawyers during this period as well. Many more lawyers will become employed by companies in-house in the fields of insurance, finance, and healthcare. Detailed lawyer salary data is available here.
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