A career as a lawyer requires several years of postsecondary study. Lawyers must complete law school and pass the state bar exam before they can practice law. Lawyers who specialize in labor law focus on legal proceedings involving employers and employees.
Lawyers specializing in labor law participate in employment-related litigation. These lawyers may be called on to represent employers, employees, unions or the government in labor and employment legal cases. To become a lawyer, one needs to complete an accredited law school program and pass their state bar exam to become licensed. Though programs specifically in labor law are not typically available, law school students can take courses that focus on this area.
|Required Education||Juris Doctor (JD) degree|
|Other Requirements||State licensure|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6% for all lawyers|
|Mean Annual Salary (May 2015)*||$136,260 for all lawyers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Preparing for a Career in Labor Law
Lawyers usually spend a total of seven years in school, which includes four years earning a bachelor's degree and then three years earning a law degree. While there's no specific pre-law undergraduate degree, a multidisciplinary education helps future lawyers gain vital litigation skills.
Upon earning an undergraduate degree and gaining acceptance into law school, students take courses covering law fundamentals such as legal writing, torts, constitutional law and contracts. When the basic law classes are out of the way, students can begin to take specialized classes, including courses on labor law.
Classes in labor law will probably cover current labor laws as well as the fundamental concepts that underlie modern employment regulation. Students may also be required to take classes in collective bargaining and immigration law because these statutes are often intertwined with labor laws. After graduation, each student must pass a bar examination before they are allowed to practice law.
Lawyers specializing in labor may represent a variety of clients including unions, employers, employees and government labor law compliance enforcers. These lawyers work with a number of United States labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, which contains laws regarding minimum wage, overtime and child labor. Another example is the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which ensures that employees work in healthy and safe conditions.
A branch of labor law known as Labor Relations Law deals with the laws that govern the interaction between unions and employers. Lawyers specializing in labor relations may represent employees attempting to unionize, unions who believe that employee members have been wronged or employers needing legal defense against union charges.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2015 mean annual salary for lawyers was $136,260 (www.bls.gov). Those working for company management earned an average of $175,930 that year, while those working in local government averaged $99,060 per year.
Lawyers who work in labor law may represent companies, unions, governments, employers or employees in legal proceedings. They need to be familiar with federal and state labor laws. Courses in collective bargaining and immigration law may be beneficial to those attorneys interested in specializing in labor law.