Career Development

What Does a Lawyer Do?

Find out what a lawyer does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a lawyer.

Lawyers are the professionals who interpret and apply the law to real-world situations. They advise clients on how to proceed with their lives, businesses, or cases based on an understanding of the relevant laws.

Lawyers may specialize in a number of different areas of practice, including criminal law, corporate law, tax law, family law, etc.

Lawyer Job Duties

Lawyers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Researching applicable laws and precedents to build a case for court proceedings
  • Communicating with clients to establish needs, goals, and objectives
  • Preparing legal documents such as contracts, wills, and briefs
  • Drafting legal documents such as contracts, wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents
  • Conducting research to identify applicable laws and precedents that may be used in the case
  • Interviewing clients to learn about facts of their case and their goals for the outcome
  • Negotiating with other lawyers on behalf of clients or their own firm to resolve disputes
  • Drafting legal documents such as complaints, motions, briefs, and subpoenas
  • Interpreting federal laws and state laws for clients in light of their unique circumstances

Lawyer Salary & Outlook

The salary of a lawyer can vary depending on a number of factors, including their level of education, years of experience, and the type of law they specialize in.

  • Median Annual Salary: $92,500 ($44.47/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,000 ($78.37/hour)

The employment of lawyers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for legal services will depend on the growth and complexity of laws and regulations. However, alternative ways of providing legal services, such as contract law firms and limited liability companies (LLCs), may limit the demand for traditional lawyer practices.

Related: In-Depth Lawyer Salary Guide

Lawyer Job Requirements

Lawyers typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: Lawyers need to obtain a bachelor’s degree before pursuing law school. Law school is a three-year program that includes courses in criminal law, civil law, constitutional law, contracts, criminal procedure, ethics, property law, torts, business law and tax law.

Lawyers can earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from either a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) or a law school in another country that has a reciprocal relationship with the ABA. The ABA offers accreditation to law schools that meet its standards, which include maintaining a required standard of academic quality and faculty qualifications.

Training & Experience: After law school, lawyers must complete a training period, known as the apprenticeship, to become licensed. The apprenticeship is a period of supervised experience in a law firm or government agency. It typically lasts one to three years. During the apprenticeship, lawyers learn how to conduct research, draft documents and represent clients in court.

Certifications & Licenses: Each state has specific requirements for lawyers to become licensed. Lawyers must pass a bar exam specific to the state and submit a application that shows they have graduated from an accredited law school, completed a requisite amount of legal experience and passed the bar exam. Some states also require a moral character statement. Bar exam requirements vary from state to state.

Lawyer Skills

Lawyers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Lawyers use communication skills to convey information to their clients and other parties involved in a case. They also use these skills to explain complex legal processes and procedures to their clients. Lawyers must also be able to communicate with opposing counsel to negotiate agreements and settle cases.

Research: Lawyers research topics to prepare for meetings, court cases and other professional situations. They may research laws, regulations, case studies and other information to help them understand a situation and provide the best advice. Lawyers may also research information to help them understand their clients’ needs and find solutions.

Critical thinking: Lawyers use critical thinking skills to analyze situations and make informed decisions. They use these skills to develop strategies for their cases and to help their clients find the best solutions to their problems. Lawyers also use critical thinking to review contracts and other legal documents to ensure their clients are making informed decisions.

Organization: Lawyers often have many tasks to complete in a short period of time. It’s important for them to be able to prioritize their tasks and organize their work to ensure they complete everything on time. This can help them to be more efficient and effective in their work.

Negotiation: Negotiation is the ability to reach an agreement between two parties. Lawyers use negotiation skills to help clients reach agreements with opposing parties. For example, if a client is involved in a car accident, the lawyer may negotiate with the insurance company to ensure the client receives fair compensation. Lawyers may also use negotiation skills to help clients reach agreements with the court.

Lawyer Work Environment

Lawyers work in a variety of settings, including law firms, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. They may work long hours, and their work can be stressful. Lawyers must be able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines. They also must be able to deal with clients who may be difficult or emotional. Lawyers typically work in offices, but they may travel to attend meetings, conferences, and court hearings. Some lawyers may have to travel frequently to different locations, such as different courthouses or clients’ homes and businesses.

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.

The Growth of Legal Tech

The legal industry is changing rapidly as technology becomes more prevalent. Lawyers are now using legal tech tools to help them with their work, such as artificial intelligence-based software that can automate tasks like document review.

As the use of legal tech grows, lawyers will need to learn how to use these tools in order to stay competitive. They will also need to be able to understand and adapt to changes in the legal landscape, such as new laws or regulations.

More Focus on Collaboration

Lawyers are increasingly focusing on collaboration as a way to improve their practices. This trend is being driven by a number of factors, including the increasing demand for legal services and the need to reduce costs.

By collaborating with other professionals, lawyers can create teams that are better equipped to handle complex cases. They can also share resources and expertise, which can lead to better outcomes for their clients.

A Greater Emphasis on Ethics

Ethics has become an increasingly important topic in the legal profession over the past few years. This is due to a number of factors, including the increased public scrutiny of lawyers and the growth of social media.

As ethics becomes more important, lawyers will need to develop skills and strategies to ensure that they are acting in a professional and ethical manner at all times. This includes understanding the latest trends in law and policy, as well as developing strong communication and networking skills.

How to Become a Lawyer

A lawyer career can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s important to consider all the factors that go into making this decision. Do you have a passion for law and want to help people? Are you willing to work long hours and weekends? Can you handle the stress of dealing with difficult cases and clients? If you can answer yes to these questions, then a career in law may be right for you.

One of the best ways to get started on your path to becoming a lawyer is by attending a top-ranked law school. This will give you the education and training you need to practice law. After graduation, you can look for jobs at large firms or government agencies. Alternatively, you could start your own practice or work as a public defender.

Related: How to Write a Lawyer Resume

Advancement Prospects

Lawyers can advance within their firm by becoming a partner. To become a partner, lawyers must have worked at the firm for several years and must be voted in by the existing partners. The number of new partners that a firm can add each year is limited, so becoming a partner is very competitive.

In addition to becoming a partner, lawyers can also advance by becoming a department head or managing partner. Lawyers can also move to a different firm, either to take a position with a higher salary or to take on a more challenging position.

Some lawyers move into government positions or become judges. Others become law professors or start their own law firms.

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