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Civil Attorney: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

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Civil attorneys handle cases involving contracts and property between individuals, government and businesses. Lawyers typically complete at least three years of undergraduate studies before entering law school, which requires another three years of education. Attorneys must also pass the bar exam and be licensed by their state.

Essential Information

Civil attorneys work on behalf of private clients, businesses or government entities to resolve disputes and legal issues. The do not work with criminal cases, but instead deal with law pertaining to people, relationships and property. Civil attorneys need a law degree and must pass the bar exam for the state they wish to practice in.

Required Education Juris Doctor degree
Other Requirements Pass bar exam for state licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (all lawyers)
Average Salary (2015)* $136,260 (all lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Civil Attorney Job Description

Civil attorneys work on non-criminal legal issues. They may, for example, defend clients who have been subjected to violations of privacy rights or destruction of personal property, like a mailbox or automobile. They might also help resolve legal disputes between two people, such as settlements for injuries resulting from car accidents.

A civil attorney differs from a civil rights attorney. A civil rights attorney redresses infringements upon individuals' rights to freedom, such as repression or unlawful imprisonment, which are guaranteed to them through the U.S. or international constitutions. Civil law, on the other hand, is a general term referring to all non-criminal fields of law that pertain to civilians, such as family, personal injury and medical malpractice law. Many times, civil lawyers specialize in one of these areas and add their specializations to their titles. For instance, a lawyer who focuses on divorce might be called a divorce lawyer.

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Job Duties of Civil Attorneys

A civil attorney performs similar job tasks as other attorneys. They may take depositions from their own or opposing parties' witnesses, investigate pertinent laws to identify the best arguments to make and argue their cases in court trials. Civil attorneys also draft legal documents and, in some cases, negotiate settlements. Usually, a civil attorney's goal is to acquire money for their clients or to prevent their clients from needing to pay any money.

Requirements to Become a Civil Attorney

To become a civil attorney, a student must first complete at least three years of full-time study in an undergraduate program. There is no specific undergraduate field of study required to attend law school; however, bachelor's degrees in English, philosophy, political science and history are commonly held by lawyers.

Aspiring attorneys must then graduate from law school. An education in law generally takes three years to complete. The first year focuses on introductory topics, like civil procedure, property, contracts and torts. In the final two years, students may take electives that can guide them into specializations of law.

After law school, graduates must pass a state bar exam. Many states employ the National Conference of Bar Examiners' Multistate Bar Examination, a 200-question test that covers subjects like constitutional law, evidence and real property. Candidates must also pass additional tests, such as one focusing on professional ethics.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that in 2015, U.S. lawyers earned an average of $136,260 per year. According to BLS predictions, the job field for lawyers is expected to grow by 6% from 2014-2024.

A civil attorney handles civil legal matters on behalf of their clients. This may mean trying to eliminate or reduce expenses their client has to pay due to a civil lawsuit or to increase and secure a settlement or judgment in suits their client has against others. They may take depositions, investigate relevant laws, prepare arguments, attend negotiations or argue their case in court.

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