Career Development

Lawyer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Lawyers are professionals who help clients navigate the legal system. They advise clients on how to avoid legal problems and how to work within the law. They also represent clients in court, draft legal documents, and give expert testimony in trials.

Lawyers are professionals who help clients navigate the legal system. They advise clients on how to avoid legal problems and how to work within the law. They also represent clients in court, draft legal documents, and give expert testimony in trials.

Most lawyers specialize in a particular area of law, such as criminal law or family law. Lawyers often choose to specialize because it increases their chances of working with clients who have cases similar to their area of expertise.

Lawyers may work for large firms or small firms that offer specialized services. Many lawyers also open their own practices, either working by themselves or with other lawyers they hire as associates.

Lawyer Job Duties

A lawyer’s job duties can include many different activities. These tasks might include:

  • Negotiating contracts, settlements, and other contractual agreements on behalf of clients in civil cases
  • Drafting legal documents such as wills, trusts, and business formation documents for individuals or businesses
  • Researching and analyzing laws, statutes, and regulations to identify cases with precedents that apply to current issues
  • Drafting and filing briefs with the court and responding to briefs filed by opposing counsel
  • Negotiating settlements with opposing counsel on behalf of clients and providing expert testimony for trials and hearings
  • Representing clients in court or at arbitration or mediation proceedings
  • Counseling clients on legal issues such as contracts, business formation, estate planning, real estate law, divorce, criminal defense, bankruptcy, trademarks and patents

Lawyer Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for lawyers is $122,980. Those earning higher wages tend to work for larger organizations, and the highest earners are making more than $250,000 per year.

Demand for lawyers is expected to grow at an average rate through the next decade. As the economy grows and businesses expand into new markets, they will need legal assistance to help them set up and develop their business structures.

Lawyer Job Requirements

The education, training, and licensing requirements for a lawyer are as follows:

Education: To become a lawyer, an applicant needs to earn a law degree from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for admission to most law schools. Law school is usually a three-year program, but it may take longer.

Training: Many law schools offer an optional training program called a legal clinic where students work on real-world legal cases under the supervision of a legal professional. This training is designed to give students real-world experience and to give them a head start on passing the bar exam.

Certifications & Licenses: In addition to earning a law degree and passing a state bar exam, lawyers must also obtain a license to practice law. Each state has its own licensing requirements. 

Lawyer Skills

Lawyers are expected to possess several soft skills, including:

Communication skills: Lawyers must be able to communicate effectively with their clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, judges, and jurors. They must also be able to listen well to others’ concerns.

Writing skills: Lawyers are required to write in a clear, concise, and persuasive manner when writing legal documents. 

Analytical skills: Lawyers must have strong analytical skills in order to investigate cases thoroughly and prepare them for trial.

Ethical standards: Lawyers are held to high ethical standards that include protecting client confidences and complying with all court rules and procedures. They must abide by the laws of the jurisdictions in which they practice law.

Perseverance: Lawyers must follow through on tasks, even when they are complex or difficult.

Good organizational skills: A lawyer’s office is like a small business. The lawyer needs to be organized enough to keep track of many details at once.

Lawyer Work Environment

Lawyers typically work in clean and comfortable offices. However, they must spend some time traveling to court or clients’ businesses or homes. They may also be required to conduct research at home as well as during the day at their office.  Lawyers may also serve clients on evenings and weekends as needed.

Lawyers spend much of their time working with clients or other lawyers on cases and looking for new business opportunities. Their job can be demanding because they are under constant pressure to perform at a high level. Their workdays can vary considerably depending on the type of law practiced.

Lawyer Career Advancement

Lawyers can advance to more senior positions within their field. For instance, associates may become partners and work alongside other partners or in-house attorneys for a corporation. Lawyers can advance in their fields by taking on more challenging cases, working for a higher-level firm, or serving as a mentor to other lawyers.

Outside of these options, there are many specializations lawyers can take on. They might choose to specialize in family law, bankruptcy, criminal defense, or any number of different areas. These roles will often require advanced legal knowledge and experience in the area of focus.

Some lawyers opt to open their own law firms. They begin as sole practitioners and grow their firms over time, hiring other lawyers and support staff as needed.

Lawyer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how lawyers work. Lawyers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Evolving Role of the Lawyer

Legal experts are increasingly called upon to help with compliance issues, rather than representing clients in court.

Lawyers are increasingly hired to ensure that companies are adhering to legal requirements—such as tax law, safety regulations, and other legislation—rather than solely providing litigation services. This role requires lawyers to have strong organizational skills, excellent communication skills, and an understanding of business practices in order to effectively assess risk for their clients. 

Increased Demand for Social Media Experts

Social media experts are in demand, particularly in legal circles. Many of the largest law firms in the world now employ social media experts to help them leverage their social media networks to connect with prospective clients and generate more business.

While there is still a significant need for lawyers who can effectively communicate on paper and through speeches, lawyers who can effectively use social media to expand their practice and reach a wider audience will find themselves increasingly valued by potential employers.

Increase in Legal Industry Consolidation

The legal industry is changing rapidly, and one of the most notable changes is the consolidation of legal firms.

As larger law firms look to take over smaller competitors, it has become more important for lawyers to specialize their skills and knowledge than ever before. This trend will continue into the future as demand for attorneys continues to grow and smaller firms look to merge with larger ones in order to keep up with industry trends.

How to Become a Lawyer

1. Planning Your Career Path

Becoming a lawyer is a long and arduous process, but it can be very rewarding. If you are interested in becoming a lawyer, you will need to take the LSAT, apply to law school, and pass the bar exam. To help ensure that you are well-prepared for these steps, research your target schools, practice taking the LSAT, and seek out mock interview opportunities so that you can get comfortable with this aspect of the application process.

It’s important to think about what type of law you want to practice. Do you want to represent clients in criminal cases or family law? Or maybe you prefer civil litigation and contract disputes? There are many types of lawyers and many different fields of law, so consider your personal strengths and interests when making this decision.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for lawyers are designed to demonstrate the skills that are most relevant to each position. For example, it’s important to highlight your ability to research, analyze and interpret data if you are applying for a legal position at a startup. However, you may want to focus on interpersonal skills if you are applying for a role in an in-house legal department.

You will also want to showcase your knowledge of the law. The most effective lawyer resumes highlight this by discussing past accomplishments and successes, including cases that were successfully concluded.

Regardless of the job you are applying for, it’s important that you have plenty of evidence showing that you can communicate effectively. This can include past writing samples, testimonials from previous employers or even videos demonstrating your ability to speak publicly.

3. Applying for Jobs

The legal field is highly competitive, so in order to get the job you want, you’ll need to be strategic about how you apply for positions. You should begin by getting familiar with your industry; law firms typically work with only one type of practice area (e.g. corporate law) and prefer candidates who are already familiar with that particular niche. While there’s no guarantee that working in the same sector will earn you a job, it will help increase your chances if you can demonstrate knowledge of their specific interests.

Once you’ve figured out which types of law firms interest you, consider making an appointment to visit their office in person to make connections with hiring managers. It’s also a good idea to become involved in groups related to your field, whether through your school or through outside organizations. The more networking you do, the more familiar you’ll be with both the legal field as well as potential employers—and that can only help your job prospects.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on your local and state bar associations as well as general legal websites for openings in your area.

4. Ace the Interview

You should be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of the legal field by asking about the firm’s caseload and culture. If you are interviewing with a small law firm, it may be helpful to have read some of the firm’s most high-profile cases so that you can talk about them intelligently. If you are interviewing with a large firm, you should have done research on some of the high-profile clients they have worked with in the past. This will demonstrate that you are not just applying for any job but are specifically interested in this company.

Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer about the firm or the industry. You should also have answers ready to some common interview questions, such as “What are your strengths?” or “What are your weaknesses?”

Another great way to prepare is to write out answers to some questions you think you might be asked, like “Why do you want to work here?” or “Why do you want to practice law?” Then read through your answers out loud several times until you sound natural saying them. This will help you speak clearly and stay focused. Be sure to prepare examples of times when you were able to provide excellent legal advice and services.

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