Maritime Lawyer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 22, 2019

Maritime lawyers require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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The path to becoming a maritime lawyer begins with completing a bachelor's degree. After this, aspiring attorneys must graduate from law school and pass the state bar exam to be licensed to practice law. Those interested in maritime law can consider taking a certificate in maritime law as part of their education.

Essential Information

Maritime lawyers are attorneys who specialize in laws pertaining to navigable waters. Like all lawyers, they must earn a law degree and pass the bar exam, but focus on issues pertaining to maritime law, also known as admiralty law. Their duties include handling any legal matters pertaining to ships registered in the United States. While in law school, aspiring maritime lawyers may be able to choose elective courses in maritime law, and a few schools offer certificate programs in this field.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Licensing State bar examination required in all but two states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% (for all lawyers)
Median Salary (2018)* $120,910 (for all lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Maritime lawyers are licensed attorneys whose primary focus is on law relating to any activity on the sea. They represent clients or businesses in cases relating to the seas, oceans and other open bodies of water. As one of the oldest branches of law, maritime law today covers a broad area of issues, ranging from injuries and working conditions at sea to shipping and commerce, as well as recreational boating and environmental issues. Ships that fly the American flag are subject to U.S. maritime law.

Maritime lawyers may argue cases in court, draft documents, negotiate agreements and handle complaints about injuries or illnesses that are caused by seacraft or a company disposing waste into the water.

Job Duties

Maritime lawyers may review or draft contracts, interview witnesses or write insurance agreements. They may protect or defend individuals or companies against personal injury lawsuits. They may work for international corporations or government agencies. Because maritime law focuses on water-related legal issues, many maritime lawyers work near bodies of water.


To become a lawyer, an individual must earn an undergraduate degree and graduate from an accredited law school. He or she must then pass a bar exam in the state where he or she intends to practice. Only Louisiana and Washington do not require lawyers to pass a state bar exam. No specific undergraduate degree is needed to qualify for law school. Lawyers commonly have bachelor's degrees in English, political science, the social sciences or history.

Law school requires three years of study. The first year is dedicated to foundational subjects such as Constitutional law, criminal law, torts, contracts and property law. The second and third years are comprised of elective courses that may include maritime law, securities law and family law.

Some schools may offer specialized certificates in maritime law. To earn these certificates, students must usually complete several courses in the subject. A certificate is not required to practice maritime law, but may enhance employment opportunities and demonstrate specific knowledge in the field.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

Positions for lawyers in general are expected to increase at a rate of 6% between 2018 and 2028, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for lawyers was $120,910 in May 2018.

A maritime lawyer deals with legal matters related to the sea. This may include insuring vessels, safety regulations regarding crews or addressing business concerns for those whose work involves the sea, such as shipping companies or fishing companies. Due to the focus of their work most maritime lawyers live near the ocean or large bodies of water where their services will be required.

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