A career in law is an enthralling experience in itself. The ever-changing nature of the field assures that lawyers stay on their feet at all times and adapt to the newer problems posed along with the long-term changes that laws bring with them. Thus, bringing to light the question that lawyers and law students alike raise about the profession. What are my options in the field of law? Let’s find out all you need to know about Lawyer Career Path.
The fundamental answer about any form of career is that there are no specific set of options. Since laws are different, and so are people, and so are their career choices. However, what we can do, is inform the readers about the prospects of the field. Luckily, for the discipline of law, the possibilities are endless. You can be whosoever you wish to be and do whatever intrigues you. Find this hard to believe?
Well, lawyers do not just carry heavy documents or argue in courts. The field of law offers and demands much more than meets the eye. If you wish to be a famous television personality, maybe you could be an expert on news channels about the legal aspects of the hot news. You could be part of the Parliament and work for the welfare of the people through your legal expertise in legislation, or maybe you are impressed by the resounding gavel and wish to strike it. Or you might aspire for a quiet life where you could teach enthusiastic children as a professor.
How to Become a Lawyer?
Before understanding the options of a lawyer, we will be looking at how one can become a lawyer in the first place. Firstly, a lawyer must have a law degree and a license from the Bar Association of the State to practice law. Getting a law degree is divided into 3-steps and usually takes 7years.
- After completing high school, the aspirant should have completed an undergraduate course, which usually spans 4 years.
- After completing the undergraduate course, the aspirant has to qualify in an entrance examination (LSAT for most law schools approved by the American Bar Association), which allows them to seek admission in colleges of their choice (considering they are qualified for it).
- The college grants a J.D. (Juris Doctor/Doctor of Jurisprudence), i.e., the law degree for the students after completing their education in law school. However, this degree is not enough and, the aspirant now has to clear the Bar Exam of the State, which grants them the license to practice law in that particular State.
NOTE: Having a license to practice law in a particular State does not allow the lawyer to practice law in any other State (unless the States in question have a reciprocal agreement with the parent State). To practice law in another State, the lawyer must clear the Bar Exam of the State in question as well or, the State should allow the pre-existing license, which implies that the Bar Exam is not required.
Common Skills Required
The field of law, much like any other, requires a particular set of skills that come in handy regularly to a lawyer. Some skills most sought after in the field of law are:
- Communication: A lawyer must communicate with their clients and understand the gravity of their situation. Building a relationship of trust and confidence is the primary duty of the lawyer. Not only does this grant relief to the client, but also a smooth path to the lawyer.
- Problem-solving and Analytical Skills: Even before their client’s issue has registered itself or the judicial proceedings have begun, the lawyer should aim at understanding and deciphering the nature of the problem and the potential solutions to the said problem. The best forms of defense and recommendations to the client further strengthen the relationship between the lawyer and the client.
- Researching and Drafting: The lawyer should be an expert in thoroughly researching the case at hand. Thus, eliminating any loopholes that might have a detrimental effect on that case. Another skill important for being a lawyer is drafting, which is usually overshadowed by the art of public speaking. Along with the art of speaking, the lawyer should also focus on conveying the draft of the case. Thus, ensuring the utmost clarity that strengthens the side of their client.
Career Options of a Lawyer
Usually, the general outlook is that being a lawyer is the sole profession for anyone who earns a law degree. The only things we find associated with lawyers are suits, ties, and arguments in courts, which could not be any further from the truth. Not only are there multiple fields in law, the stark difference that fits one and all as per their preferences makes it all the more accommodating. Here we will discuss the different job profiling a person can have after getting a degree in law.
Specialization in a particular kind of law further establishes the lawyer in that specific field. However, the number of such career paths can be as expansive as the number of major bills passed by Congress, like International Lawyer, Immigration Lawyer, Human Rights Lawyer, Criminal Prosecutor, Family Lawyer, Divorce Lawyer, Education Lawyer, and others.
So, in this article, we will talk about the diverse fields which accommodate individuals who seek different experiences in their career, i.e., career options that are available to law graduates that are not just similar branches or specializations.
Lawyers often tend to work alone and are approached by clients to represent them, fight cases, or for legal advice. This occupation grants freedom to the practitioner since there are no deadlines or pressure from the higher-ups to handle issues in a specific manner. However, this kind of practice needs a long time, and the lawyer should be established for clients to approach them at the very least. The main setback is the reliability of the lawyer. If clients do not trust the lawyer, they will not consider them for any services. Thus, the fame and standing of the lawyer in society determine progress in this form of practice.
Next, the lawyer could join a firm and work as an associate. Gradually, they rise the ranks to become a partner at the firm, i.e., a partial owner. Here, the individual gets to work as part of a team under the supervision of a superior. However, the employee receives a fixed salary (tentative additional benefits), and the clients are usually from the corporate world.
Average Salary: $96,694/year (from https://www.comparably.com/).
State governments and Federal Government hire lawyers for several tasks. Nearly all the federal and State government agencies (including the military) appoint lawyers for their representation, advice, and cases. The State also appoints the attorneys as prosecutors, i.e., they represent the State or the executive of the State in lawsuits.
Average Salary: $128,633 (from https://www.indeed.com/).
Another lucrative option for a lawyer is a judgeship. The process requires a few additional steps for the lawyer to qualify for becoming a judge, but the respect and pay from the profession compensate for all the extra hard work.
- Qualify as a practicing attorney for a specific amount of time (based on the rules of the State).
NOTE: Not all types of judgeship require practice as an attorney, but a majority of them do.
- The appointment of judges is through elections, where people vote for the candidate they feel is the deserving person for the position of a judge. Election or nomination by politicians to contest for the post of a judge is another option.
Average Salary: Median $133,840/year. Generally upwards of $100,000. (from https://work.chron.com/).
The job of judicial clerks is to assist the Federal or State judges with the court proceedings. Their job includes
Reading between the lines, intricately drafting orders and decisions, and briefing the judges about it is the day-to-day job of the clerk in every decision and judicial proceeding. They also have to cross-check the facts, statutes, and precedents mentioned in the memoranda presented to the court.
Average Salary: $3,819/month (from https://www.indeed.com/)
Companies often house their lawyers, known as in-house attorneys. They solely represent the company by whom they are employed. The difference between this practice and that of a firm is that a firm hires multiple lawyers who represent numerous companies and individuals. Lawyers hired by the company act as in-house attorneys.
Secondly, the stark difference between a lawyer of a law firm and an in-house attorney is that in-house attorneys tend to have a more expansive knowledge of multiple aspects of the field of law. Also, the attorney hired should have a grasp and should be able to handle whatever business the company indulges in regularly.
Average Salary: $111,263/year (from https://www.payscale.com/)
Public Interest Initiatives
As the name suggests, the works done by these lawyers are mostly related to legal aid and public welfare. Many times, courts appoint such attorneys to represent the financially weaker people in hearings and other cases. Uplifting and assisting the economically weaker section, i.e., those unable to find legal assistance on their own, is the primary aim of this practice. Changing social policies in a manner that helps marginalized people is another aim of this legal practice.
The usual disputes addressed by public interest lawyers are discrimination, environment, and civil rights. Legal firms also take up such cases on pro bono to improve their relations with the public.
Average Salary: $70,257/year (from https://www.payscale.com/).
Representation in Politics
Many lawyers opt for the non-legal field of politics and act as public servants as politicians. Legislative representation is a viable option for lawyers since the legislative is related to law formation and lawyers tend to have expansive knowledge about the field. They help the States in policy and law formation. Furthermore, they also help with filling the loopholes in the existing laws (amendments).
Average Salary: $174,000/year (from https://www.payscale.com/).
Upkeep and maintenance of legal databases require an impeccable understanding of the law. Thus, lawyers get selected for this job. They can help with publishing articles and legal news on the databases with their expertise in the particular field of law. One example of legal databases handled by law graduates is Westlaw.
Also, media outlets require legal professionals to assist them with the legal aspect of the daily news. So, lawyers can find employment under such media outlets as legal advisors.
Average Salary: $59,000/year (from https://www.indeed.com/).
Another respectable profession for lawyers and law graduates is becoming a professor in universities and colleges and assisting students in becoming lawyers. Thus, teaching is also a profession one can pursue after completing their law degree. Luckily, a Ph.D. is not an essential requirement for becoming a law teacher in the United States (unlike the rest of the world). To become a law professor, a J.D. (Doctorate of Jurisprudence) is enough qualification.
Average Salary: $174,345/year (from https://www.salary.com/).
Law is an expansive and intriguing field where there are nearly unlimited possibilities for you to excel. The choice of profession which one finds the most appealing is what they can pursue without any hesitancy. Decent payscales coupled with performance-based promotions and increments guarantee growth and stability at the same time. Furthermore, the field also provides the option to stay independent, work in the public interest, contribute to society, hold positions of influence and power. But most of all, the ever-changing nature of the field of law allows the practitioner to lead an adventurous life.
In conclusion, only a few fields allow their practitioners to switch to the kind nature of profession they wish to pursue, and law is one of them. Lastly, to show the magnitude of the different avenues provided by law, we included only those which did not require any form of specialization, i.e., a degree in LL.M. Including all the fields of specialization would make the list of possible professions and opportunities endless.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1. Why should I choose law over other professions?
Answer 1. Law is one of the few fields that allow people to stay diverse and seek different kinds of employments under the same field. Furthermore, the pay is also good, which gives solid financial support to individuals. But most of all, the law never makes a practitioner feels stagnated since it is vast and constantly grows.
However, choosing a profession should not simply be decided by the things it can offer, but on your interests. The deciding factor is always your interest in the field. So, if you wish to pursue a legal profession, research it thoroughly and decide accordingly.
Question 2. What are the starting salaries of law graduates?
Answer 2. The kind of profession, experience, and the position one works at determine the salaries of law graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median pay of lawyers is $126,930/year.
Question 3. Do I need specialization in a particular branch to practice it?
Answer 3. No. a specialization in any branch is more like a cherry on top of the cake, i.e., additional qualification. Firms and companies do not need it as an essential requirement. However, it does help in the long run and establishes the lawyer in the particular field, giving them a higher priority.