Career Description for a Lawyer - career help for lawyers
As advocates, lawyers (or solicitors or attorneys) represent one of the parties in criminal and civil trials. They present evidence and argue their client's case in court.
As advisors, they discuss legal rights and obligations with their clients, suggesting courses of action in personal and business affairs.
Whichever capacity they're working in, lawyers must draw on research of legal and judicial decisions, and apply the law to the specific case they're working on.
Careers in Law
There are different aspects to a lawyer's work depending on which field they specialize in. Here are a few examples.
Private lawyers focus on civil or criminal law, representing private individuals. In civil law, they pursue private law suits or litigation, or deal with wills, contracts, trusts, mortgages, leases, etc. A criminal lawyer career entails arguing a client's case in court, following the client being charged with a crime. Some lawyers only handle larger, public interest cases that have wider social importance.
Trial lawyers spend more time in court than other lawyers. However, the majority of their time is spent conducting research, interviewing clients and witnesses, and preparing for trial.
Corporate lawyers work solely for corporate clients and advise them on legal issues around their business activities. A career as a corporate lawyer might involve sorting out issues relating to contracts with other companies, government regulations, patents, etc.
Intellectual property lawyers help to protect clients' claims to copyrights, creative work under contract, product designs, and computer programs.
Patent lawyers advise their clients on patent law, which allows them to protect their invention of a new product or process. A career as a patent lawyer therefore requires a lot of research as a patent can only be granted if the product or process is new, inventive and capable of industrial application.
Insurance lawyers advise insurance companies about the legality of insurance transactions, writing policies that are legally correct. They also help to protect companies from unwarranted action by reviewing claims and representing the company in court.
Environmental lawyers may represent pressure groups, interest groups, and companies whose work touches on environmental issues, such as construction, geological and waste management firms. These lawyers help their clients to apply for licenses and applications for activities which may affect the environment, or defend their clients if prosecuted by the authorities over environmental breaches.
Government lawyers who work as prosecutors and defenders on behalf of the state within the justice system. Some help to draft and interpret laws and legislation on behalf of the government.
Other areas of specialization include bankruptcy, probate and international law. Some lawyers work in law schools, or teach in non-academic environments. Other lawyers work for not-for-profit organizations or disadvantaged people, usually being paid with legal aid monies. They usually handle civil cases, rather than criminal.
Would a Lawyer Career Suit You?
Lawyers have to follow a rigorous education, formal educational requirements for lawyers include a 4-year college degree, 3 years in law school, and the passing of a written bar examination. Competition for admission to most law schools is intense. Demand for lawyers will be spurred by the growth of legal action in such areas as health care, intellectual property, international law, elder law, environmental law, and sexual harassment.
Lawyers do most of their work in offices, law libraries, and courtrooms. They sometimes meet in clients' homes or places of business and, when necessary, in hospitals or prisons. They may travel to attend meetings, gather evidence, and appear before courts, legislative bodies, and other authorities. Salaried lawyers usually have structured work schedules. Lawyers who are in private practice may work irregular hours while conducting research, conferring with clients, or preparing briefs during non-office hours. Lawyers often work long hours, and of those who regularly work full time, about half work 50 hours or more per week. They may face particularly heavy pressure, especially when a case is being tried.
Preparation for court includes keeping abreast of the latest laws and judicial decisions. Although legal work generally is not seasonal, the work of tax lawyers and other specialists may be an exception. Because lawyers in private practice often can determine their own workload and the point at which they will retire, many stay in practice well beyond the usual retirement age.
Lawyer career opportunities
Employment of lawyers is expected to grow about as fast as the average over the next few years, primarily as a result of growth in the population and in the general level of business activities. Employment growth of lawyers also will result from growth in demand for legal services in such areas as elder, antitrust, environmental, and intellectual-property law. In addition, the wider availability and affordability of legal clinics and prepaid legal service programs should result in increased use of legal services by middle-income people.
Growth in demand will be somewhat mitigated, because, in an effort to reduce money spent on legal fees, many businesses increasingly are using large accounting firms and paralegals to perform some of the same functions that lawyers do. For example, accounting firms may provide employee-benefit counseling, process documents, or handle various other services previously performed by a law firm. Also, mediation and dispute resolution increasingly are being used as alternatives to litigation.
Competition for job openings should continue to be keen because of the large number of students graduating from law school each year. Graduates with superior academic records from well-regarded law schools will have the best job opportunities.
Due to the competition for jobs, a law graduate's geographic mobility and work experience assume greater importance. The willingness to relocate may be an advantage in getting a job, but, to be licensed in another State / country, a lawyer may have to take additional examinations. In addition, employers are increasingly seeking graduates who have advanced law degrees and experience in a specialty, such as tax, patent, or admiralty law.
Alternative careers for lawyers / non legal careers for lawyers
Perhaps as a result of competition for attorney positions, lawyers are increasingly finding alternative careers in non traditional areas for which legal training is an asset, but not normally a requirement - for example, administrative, managerial, and business positions in banks, insurance firms, real-estate companies, government agencies, and other organizations. Career opportunities for lawyers are expected to continue to arise in these organizations at a growing rate.
As in the past, some graduates may have to accept positions in areas outside of their field of interest or for which they feel overqualified. Some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place lawyers in short-term jobs until they are able to secure full-time positions. This service allows companies to hire lawyers on an "as-needed" basis and permits recent law school graduates to develop practical skills while looking for permanent positions.
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