Careers in the Law Field: Typical Courses & Degree

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore a few of the typical careers one can pursue with a law degree, as well as some tips and options for the best classes and courses in which to enroll.

The Law

Whether it's Law & Order, the hit show Suits, or Matlock (ask your parents), our televisions are full of programming that feature lawyers. But, as any lawyer will tell you, practicing law is not all courtrooms, juries, and settlements. There is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes, and a myriad people with different roles working toward those moments. Indeed, the careers one can choose in law vary greatly.

In this lesson, we will explore several different career paths one can pursue in law, and discover the education necessary to get into those careers.

Careers

Anyone who goes through the rigors of law school or a law-related degree gains a wealth of knowledge about how the law works, why the law works, and how to operate in sometimes complicated legal situations. The following careers are those where a law degree can be useful or even necessary.

Lawyer

This is, of course, the natural career path for most that choose to pursue a law degree. A career as a lawyer can be extremely rewarding, and there are many different fields one can pursue depending on the inclination of the prospective lawyer. If putting away bad guys is their thing, working in the public prosecutor's office might be a good choice. If one likes high finance, working for a firm that specializes in those clients would be a good idea. From fiscal law, to injury law, to real estate law; the choices for a prospective lawyer are many.

At the same time, choosing to become a lawyer can be incredibly stressful. Placements, especially for the biggest and best law firms around the country, are incredibly competitive. Hundreds, if not thousands, of law graduates usually apply for only a few select spots each year. Lawyers generally work long hours, and spend a good deal of time researching, looking for laws or legal statutes that may help their case.

Politics

Going into politics is another well-trodden path for anyone with a law degree. After all, in order to make law and public policy, it helps to have a firm understanding of how those laws will function. Many of our public leaders--from Barack Obama, to Bill Clinton, to Abraham Lincoln--began their careers as lawyers.

So, lawyers have a leg up on the competition when it comes to being a policy-maker, but most politicians also have to deal with the added difficulty of having to be elected to office. Running a campaign can be time-consuming and costly, but if you have a way with people and a passion for creating law, this may be the right career for you. Not every political career, of course, requires an election. Your legal background can be of enormous help as a legal advisor to other campaigns or in a sitting political office.

Public Advocacy

Legal degrees and background are tremendously useful to public advocacy and lobbying groups. These are groups that focus on improving the conditions or spreading awareness of a certain cause or group of people, often through lobbying politicians and other public officials. A legal background is incredibly helpful to anyone working for a public advocacy group as that knowledge can help guide a person in their efforts to influence law. For example, if legal authority for a certain interest group's issue lies with state governments, then it would do little good for that group to send lobbyists to Washington! That very basic example is why legal knowledge, and employees with a legal background, can be vital to these groups.

Paralegal

Even without a formal law degree, one can become an accomplished paralegal. Paralegals often work under the supervision of a lawyer and perform many of the procedural tasks that come with working in law, such as filing motions, drafting briefs, and handling client relations. Paralegals are an important part of the legal system as they often provide a more affordable alternative for routine legal proceedings like real estate sales.

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