Trial Lawyer: Job Description and Requirements

Sep 17, 2019

Trial lawyers require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Defending people in court is the responsibility of trial lawyers. Trial lawyers must have exceptional researching and communication skills, as the outcome of a client's case depends on the merit of their legal findings and their ability to convince the judge and jury.

Essential Information

Trial lawyers meet with clients and agree to represent them in court cases. After performing legal research, trial lawyers go to court to argue their client's case on their behalf to the judge or jury. A bachelor's degree followed by three years of law school is the necessary education for this vocation. Trial lawyers have to pass a bar examination to be licensed with the state.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Licensure/Certification Admittance to the American Bar Association for state licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% for all lawyers
Average Annual Salary (2018)* $120,910 for all lawyers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Trial Lawyer Overview

The educational process for a trial lawyer is long and difficult. A total of seven years of study has to be completed. Four of it is at the undergraduate level while three years are spent in law school. Applying to law school is a difficult process that requires an interview, work experience, a bachelor's degree and an acceptable score on the Law School Admission Test. Once enrolled in a law school accredited by the American Bar Association, trial lawyers pursue the law program that interests and matches up with what law they want to practice. Internships and externships along with real law exercises are crucial experiences for trial lawyers.

Job Description

Trial lawyers are attorneys who regularly represent a party in a trial and argue the client's case for them. A trial lawyer can be employed with the state, a business or with a private law firm. Regardless of their employer, trial lawyers examine all the necessary evidence, research laws and study judicial decisions that are relevant to the case at hand. Trial lawyers regularly meet with their clients to discuss their options and the strategy that is going to be taken once at the trial.

Presenting a case at trial can be a difficult experience. Trial lawyers usually start with an opening argument, then as the trial moves on they take turns presenting evidence, addressing the judge and interviewing and cross-examining witnesses. At the end of the case, trial lawyers present a closing argument and await the decision of the judge or jury.

Job Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a trial lawyer, as all lawyers, has to be admitted to the American Bar Association to have a state license to practice law ( An ethics examination and a written bar examination have to be completed by trial lawyers. Sometimes being admitted to one bar allows a trial lawyer to be accepted into another state's bar. However, this is an exception rather than the rule since many states do require trial lawyers to reapply when practicing law in another state.

The bar examination has several prerequisites before an aspiring trial lawyer is qualified to take it. First is graduating from an accredited law school with an appropriate college degree for trial lawyers. After this is done, a trial lawyer needs to figure out what bar examination is required by their state. The majority of states use the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) which is a 6-hour test. Some states use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) which is only a 3-hour test.

The BLS projects that jobs for lawyers will increase as fast as the average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $58,220 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $58,220 or less per year.

Trial lawyers must go through an extensive educational process, which involves completing a 4-year college degree, then law school, and finally passing the bar exam to become licensed - averaging a total of roughly seven years. Lawyers wishing to work in trial typically specialize in that area during law school.

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