What Does a Lawyer Do?

Lawyer work involves advising clients on legal matters and advocating for their rights and interests. Read on for the requirements to become an attorney and for more details on what lawyers do. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Lawyer?

Lawyers provide advice and recommendations to clients regarding their legal rights and obligations. Also known as an attorney, a lawyer represents individuals and businesses during legal proceedings and disputes. Lawyers' clients may include individuals, groups, or businesses. Lawyer work includes researching applicable laws and prior court rulings, preparing legal documents, and, when necessary, arguing cases in court. Through their education and work experience, attorneys can specialize in a number of areas including civil rights, employment law, immigration law, and intellectual property.

Essential Information About Lawyers

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Median Salary (2018) $120,910*
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 6% growth*
Key Skills Analytical, research, writing, and speaking skills

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Lawyers Do?

On a day-to-day basis, lawyers typically meet with clients, conduct legal research, and prepare and file court documents. Attorneys may also appear in court to select jury members and argue cases for their clients. If they work in a large law firm, lawyers may frequently confer with colleagues and oversee paralegals and other support personnel. Specific duties depend on the area in which a lawyer specializes.

Family Law Attorneys

In family law, attorneys may devote significant attention to negotiating divorce agreements or handling adoption proceedings. They may also negotiate child support and child custody agreements.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Lawyers specializing in criminal defense law can expect to prepare and argue cases dealing with criminal activity, defending those who have been accused of a crime.

Personal Injury Attorney

A personal injury lawyer works with people who have been harmed and believe that the injury was due to negligence or that someone, such as an employer, is shirking their responsibility to pay.

Education for Lawyers

Becoming a lawyer requires several years of academic preparation. Before practicing law, prospective attorneys must earn a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited school of law. To gain admission to law school, students must hold an undergraduate degree, and prior coursework in history, English, and speech is usually helpful. Additionally, law schools usually require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Once admitted, students usually complete law school in three years. Core courses include torts, civil procedure, contracts, and criminal law. Later in their studies, students can take electives in the areas in which they hope to specialize. After completing law school, most states require that lawyers pass a bar exam and undergo an assessment of their character.

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for lawyers was $120,910 in May 2018. Those employed in the cable programming and oil industries earned the most with average annual salaries over $215,000. Lawyers working in the District of Columbia, California, and New York earned the most.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for lawyers will rise by about six percent between 2018 and 2028. This rate is roughly average, and competition for positions may be strong since the number of law school graduates is often higher than the number of available jobs for lawyers in a given year. Additionally, some tasks traditionally given to lawyers may be assigned to paralegals as companies seek to trim expenses.

Nonetheless, individuals and businesses will continue to need attorneys who can advise and advocate for them, and candidates can set themselves apart from the competition with solid work experience and with flexibility regarding location. An in-demand area of specialization may also improve job prospects; aspiring lawyers may wish to consider areas of law that deal with technological issues like digital evidence, consumer privacy, and artificial intelligence.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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