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Toxic Tort Attorney: Job Description and Requirements

A toxic tort attorney requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A toxic tort attorney is a lawyer who specializes in law cases that deal with toxic substances. Like all lawyers, they must complete law school and pass the bar exam. As this is a legal specialty, individuals who wish to become toxic tort attorneys should consider law school courses or internships that deal with environmental concerns or public health.

Essential Information

A lawyer who works cases involving toxic substances - like lead paint or toxic mold - is a toxic tort attorney. These professionals may handle casework for a wronged individual or work on a class action lawsuit where multiple parties claim to be wronged by the damages that toxic products might have caused. Like all lawyers, they must earn a law degree and pass the bar exam. Aspiring toxic tort attorneys can seek internships and choose elective courses that allow them to become familiar with this area of practice.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Licensing Must pass bar exam to obtain state license to practice
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015) $115,820* for all lawyers

Sources *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Toxic Tort Attorney Job Description

Toxic tort lawyers specialize in cases involving dangerous medication, chemicals and substances or even faulty mechanical or medical devices. The majority of their work is conducted in law offices, law libraries and courtrooms; however, on a case-by-case basis, they occasionally enter the field for in-home client visits or site-specific investigation.

Attorneys are paid fees based on their work that involves researching the facts in, and the laws applicable to, their case. They typically earn an hourly rate, though some are only paid if their case wins or pays out.

Education Requirements

Becoming an attorney takes several years of schooling. After high school, it typically takes at least seven years of studying full time. That study includes obtaining a bachelor's degree and then going to law school for three years at a school of law that is ABA (American Bar Association) accredited. Upon graduation, a law student earns the designation of Juris Doctor (J.D.).

An attorney needs to be licensed in the state where they wish to practice law. To become licensed, they must pass the bar exam. These are commonly offered twice per year in each state, with prerequisites and content varying between regions. Taking the exam spans 2-3 days. Those who pass the bar can then practice law in the practice area of their choice. Individuals wishing to become toxic tort lawyers should seek internships and other opportunities specific to this field.

In particular, toxic tort attorneys must understand specific federal laws, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which is designed to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals. For example, OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) was created to help protect workers from harmful substances or conditions while in the workplace. It's important for toxic tort attorneys to have a background in toxicology and understand the dangerous substances that are found in water, air and food.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Lawyers are expected to see a 6% rise in employment opportunities over the 2014-2024 decade, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salary for lawyers in May of 2015, as reported by the BLS, was $115,820.

Education and licensing requirements for toxic tort attorneys are the same as that of other lawyers, but may require specialized training for a better understanding of the laws that govern toxic substances. Most of their work is done in a courtroom, and they are paid by the hour or the case. In 2015, the median salary for all lawyers, including toxic tort attorneys, was around $115,000.

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