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Lawyer Career Facts and Job Outlook

Growth in business activities over the next ten years will translate into a greater demand for lawyers. Additionally, there has been a trend towards more prosecution regarding healthcare, intellectual property, international law, elder law, environmental law and sexual harassment, which boost the need for more lawyers. However, many large firms are turning to paralegals and accountants to perform some of the functions for which they used to hire lawyers. Lawyers are also turning to other fields with their degrees, holding top management positions in banks, insurance companies and government agencies.

Lawyer Career Facts

Lawyers must complete four years of undergraduate work, three years of law school and a written bar exam.

Lawyer Career Description

Lawyers advise people and corporations on their legal rights, and argue for these rights. It is their job to consider interpretations of the law, and how that law can be used by their clients. They represent people in court, and prepare documents that will protect them from having to go to court (such as legal separation agreements and other contracts).

Lawyer Career Details

It is the responsibility of a lawyer (also called an attorney) to know the law and interpret it for his or her client. In a criminal court, a lawyer may work for the state as a prosecutor, bringing forth evidence that a suspect committed a crime. On the other side, a defense attorney will try to prove that their client was on the right side of the law. In civil suits, lawyers meet with other lawyers and their clients to settle an argument out of court. These meetings often involve differing interpretations of contracts, or a wrong committed that can be settled with a cash payment.

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Lawyer Career Specializations

Trial attorneys work in courtrooms, presenting oral arguments to back up prepared written documents. These lawyers must be able to think quickly on their feet, and present an argument articulately. Although their work culminates in the courtroom, it would be a mistake not to point out that the majority of any lawyer's work is spent in the research phase of a case. Lawyers who work for a corporation are called house council. They focus on a company's business activities, and might spend time dealing with unions, patents and contracts with other companies. Lawyers who work for legal-aid societies help people who cannot afford to hire another lawyer. The cases that attorneys work on for these societies are civil (rather than criminal) and are often handled on top of another full-time legal job. Beyond these distinctions, most lawyers specialize in a single type of law. Examples are intellectual property (copyrights), environmental law and criminal law.

Lawyer Career Working Environment

Lawyers who work for a firm have set hours and comfortable offices. In private practice, hours are more sporadic. In each case, however, about half of all lawyers work more than 40 hours a week. While most work is done in offices, law libraries and courtrooms, lawyers sometimes must travel to meet with clients or talk to witnesses. This might involve visiting a hospital or prison, for instance. Working conditions vary greatly according to the type of law practiced. Almost all lawyers work year-round. However, tax attorneys are in higher demand at some points of the year.

Lawyer Career Required Training

The job of a lawyer is one of the most highly-trained careers possible. Lawyers have completed a four-year degree and three years of law school. In order to practice law in any state, a prospective lawyer must pass that state's bar exam, and sometimes a written ethics evaluation. Sometimes these exams are transferable. Admittance to law school is competitive, and the school should be accredited by the American Bar Association, which demands a high set of standards. The American Bar Association has accredited about 185 schools, although sometimes a state will accredit a school not accredited by the ABA. In these instances, graduates can take the state bar exam and can only practice in that state. Most of these schools are in California. Every state and territory except for Louisiana and Washington require a six-hour Multistate Bar Examination as part of the state bar exam. This does NOT qualify the applicant to practice law in every state; rather, it is a test used to gauge breadth of study.

Lawyer Career Coursework

Many law schools say that they will admit students of any major, as long as they show other strong qualifications. Additionally, the standardized test administered for admission to law school, the LSAT, is used heavily as a gauge for success. So prospective lawyers should feel free to spend their undergraduate years studying what they're interested in, as long as it demonstrates strong thinking skills. Classes in public speaking, government, philosophy, history and economics are useful.

Lawyer Salary

In 2010, the median annual earnings of a lawyer was $112,760.

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