Legal Career Resources

Considering a Career in Law?
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If you’re passionate about the pursuit of justice or simply enjoy a good debate, a career in law might be the perfect fit for you.

What Is a Lawyer?

Lawyers, also known as attorneys, are professionals hired to assist clients in navigating the complex legal system. They understand how laws and regulations apply to their clients and often appear in court to argue for favorable outcomes. However, many lawyers specialize in areas that don’t typically involve court appearances.

The Path to Becoming a Lawyer

Entering the legal profession requires years of higher education, passing the bar exam, and staying updated with changing laws and regulations. Here’s a comprehensive guide to becoming a lawyer.

  
What
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The Role of a Lawyer

Legal Counsel

Lawyers provide legal counsel to individuals, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits. They interpret laws, research and analyze legal issues, represent clients in court, and prepare legal documents such as wills, contracts, and lawsuits. They also offer written advice on courtroom proceedings and various transactions.

Specializations

While some lawyers frequently appear in court, others work behind the scenes in areas like transactional law. For instance, defense attorneys represent clients in criminal court, while family lawyers handle divorce and child custody cases.

Work Environment

Most lawyers work in office settings, but some work for government agencies or travel to meet clients in homes, hospitals, or prisons. The job can be demanding, often requiring over 40 hours per week.

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Education Requirements

Undergraduate Degree

Prospective lawyers must earn a four-year undergraduate degree. Law schools do not require a specific major, but common pre-law majors include history and social sciences.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Most ABA-accredited law schools require the LSAT, which tests reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and writing abilities. Some schools also accept GRE scores.

Law School

Earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) typically takes three years of full-time study. Law school prepares students with communication skills, legal analysis, and knowledge of areas covered on the bar exam.

Bar Exam

To become licensed, aspiring lawyers must pass the bar exam, which includes an essay component and a 200-item test on various legal topics.

Character and Mental Fitness

Applicants undergo a background investigation to assess moral character and mental fitness. Past issues like academic discipline, arrests, or criminal convictions are considered.

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Oath

After passing the bar exam, the final step is taking an oath in a swearing-in ceremony.

Lawyer Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn a median wage of $135,740 per year, with those in federal government positions earning the highest salaries. Employment for lawyers is projected to grow 8% from 2022 to 2032.

Lawyer Specializations

Environmental Lawyers

These lawyers work for advocacy groups, government agencies, and corporations to ensure compliance with environmental laws.

Tax Lawyers

They help clients navigate tax issues and regulations.

Family Lawyers

These attorneys advise clients on divorce, child custody, and related matters.

Intellectual Property Lawyers

They handle laws related to trademarks, patents, and creative works.

Certifications for Lawyers

Accredited Legal Professional (ALP)

This certification demonstrates readiness for the legal field and is awarded after passing a three-part exam.

Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS)

Requirements include five years of experience, continuing education, professional liability insurance, and passing a national exam.

State Board Certification

Lawyers can pursue board certification in various specialties, including labor and employment, personal injury, criminal law, and tax law.

Professional Organizations for Lawyers

Women’s Bar Associations

These organizations offer networking and professional development opportunities for female attorneys.

National Bar Association (NBA)

The NBA promotes diversity in the legal profession and provides networking opportunities for Black attorneys and judges.

American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)

AIPLA offers education, advocacy, and peer support for intellectual property law professionals.

Understanding Different Types of Law Degrees

This article provides an overview of five types of law degrees and their associated career paths. Whether you aim to become a lawyer or seek a career requiring legal knowledge, consider these degrees to help achieve your goals.

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Master of Dispute Resolution (M.D.R.)

Overview

The Master of Dispute Resolution (M.D.R.) is ideal for those who don’t plan to work as lawyers but want to enhance their skills in mediation, conflict resolution, and negotiation. Graduates often find opportunities in human resources, labor relations, and business management.

Coursework

Typical coursework includes negotiation, arbitration, conflict management, and mediation theory. Admission requirements generally include a bachelor’s degree, letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal statements.

Master of Laws (L.L.M.)

Overview

The Master of Laws (L.L.M.) is designed for individuals who already hold a law degree and wish to specialize in areas such as intellectual property or tax law.

Coursework

L.L.M. programs focus on specialized legal subjects, including taxes, copyrights, environmental law, and human rights. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, and additional requirements may include letters of recommendation, interviews, or personal statements.

Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.)

Overview

The Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) is intended for those whose jobs require a solid understanding of legal concepts without the intention of practicing law. This degree is popular among labor relations specialists, human resources managers, compliance officers, and management analysts.

Coursework

M.L.S. programs cover legal procedures, ethics, research, legal writing, and legal strategies. A bachelor’s degree is required, along with potential requirements for letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal essays.

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Juris Doctor (J.D.)

Overview

The Juris Doctor (J.D.) is the traditional path for those who plan to take the bar exam and become attorneys or judges. The program typically takes three years of full-time study or four to five years part-time.

Coursework

J.D. programs include courses in contracts, torts, constitutional law, wills and trusts, and criminal law. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree, LSAT® or GRE® scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)

Overview

The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) is the highest degree in the legal field, aimed at those planning to work in academia. It requires a J.D. and an L.L.M. degree.

Coursework

S.J.D. programs are customized to each student, involving seminars, research, and one-on-one study with faculty. Additional requirements include letters of recommendation, research proposals, and personal statements.

Careers for Law Degree Graduates

Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator

  • Median Annual Salary: $64,030
  • Education Required: Bachelor’s degree, sometimes an MBA or law degree.
  • Job Description: Facilitate dispute resolution between parties, aiming for mutually beneficial settlements.

Journalist

  • Median Annual Salary: $55,960
  • Education Required: Bachelor’s degree, sometimes a graduate degree for specialization.
  • Job Description: Research and write news stories, presenting information across various media platforms.

Judge

  • Median Annual Salary: $128,610
  • Education Required: Law degree and experience as a lawyer.
  • Job Description: Preside over court hearings, resolve disputes, and issue legal decisions.

Lawyer

  • Median Annual Salary: $135,740
  • Education Required: Law degree and passing the bar exam.
  • Job Description: Represent and advise clients on legal issues, both in and out of the courtroom.

Political Scientist

  • Median Annual Salary: $128,020
  • Education Required: Master’s degree.
  • Job Description: Research and analyze political trends, policies, and government systems.

Postsecondary Teacher

  • Median Annual Salary: $80,840
  • Education Required: Doctoral degree, sometimes a master’s degree.
  • Job Description: Educate students at colleges and universities, develop curriculums, and advise students.

Choosing the Right Law Degree

Juris Doctor (J.D.)

For those intending to become practicing attorneys, the J.D. provides the necessary knowledge and qualifications to take the bar exam.

Master of Laws (L.L.M.)

For individuals with a J.D. seeking to specialize, the L.L.M. offers advanced knowledge in specific legal fields, enhancing career advancement opportunities.

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)

For lawyers interested in academia, the S.J.D. provides the expertise needed for a career in legal education and scholarship.

Master of Dispute Resolution (M.D.R.)

Ideal for those not pursuing a legal practice but working in fields requiring dispute resolution skills, the M.D.R. offers relevant legal knowledge.

Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.)

For careers requiring legal understanding without practicing law, the M.L.S. is a versatile degree suitable for various professional paths.

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