Lawyer: Job Outlook and Career Overview

Aug 28, 2019

Essential Information

Lawyers help individuals and businesses understand and address legal issues. Also known as attorneys, lawyers provide advice to clients and help them to understand laws, rights, and responsibilities applicable to their situation. A lawyer's occupation also includes advocating for clients during criminal or civil proceedings and litigating in court. Individuals interested in becoming lawyers must complete a law degree and pass their state's bar exam to be licensed to practice law.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Other Requirements Passing the state bar exam and character and fitness assessments to obtain state licensure
Median Salary (2018) $120,910*
Job Outlook (2016-2016) 8%*

Source: *U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview

Lawyers must research applicable laws and relevant prior court rulings and interpret their findings for clients. They often present arguments on their clients' behalf, both orally and in writing. Lawyers also prepare legal documents like contracts and wills and file these documents with courts or government agencies. Through their education and work experience, lawyers can specialize in many areas including criminal law, intellectual property, family law, and tax law.

Work Environment

Lawyers may work for law firms, government entities, or corporations. In law firms, lawyers work with individuals or companies who seek their counsel. Lawyers who work for local, state, or federal governments may prosecute individuals or organizations in criminal cases, or they may serve as public defenders. Large corporations may hire lawyers to counsel executives on legal matters the companies face. Regardless of where they are employed, lawyers may work more than 40 hours per week in high-pressure environments.

Education Requirements

Before becoming licensed to practice law, attorneys must complete an undergraduate degree and a law degree. To be admitted to law school, prospective students should have undergraduate coursework in areas like English, history, and public speaking, and they may need to take the Law School Admission Test. Law school programs usually take about three years to complete. Students begin by taking core classes in torts, criminal law, civil law, contracts, and related areas. Later in their studies, law students can take classes or complete concentrations in areas of interest like constitutional law, law and gender, employment law, or tax law.

Lawyer Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for lawyers are expected to grow by eight percent between 2016 and 2026. Most employment opportunities can be found within law firms and large corporations seeking to strengthen their in-house counsel teams. However, competition for jobs may be strong since the number of law school graduates each year is greater than the number of available jobs. Additionally, some clients are shifting work to positions that require less training and education like legal assistants and paralegals.

Salary Information

In May 2018, the median annual wage for lawyers was $120,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest paying industries included cable programming and crude oil transportation. Salaries varied by geographic location, with lawyers in the District of Columbia, California, and New York earning the most.

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