Lawyer

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Job Outlook:
Faster than average
Education: Doctoral or professional degree
Work From Home
Salary
High: $208,980.00
Average: $163,770.00
Hourly
Average: $78.74

What they do:

Represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents, or manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law.

On the job, you would:

  • Analyze the probable outcomes of cases, using knowledge of legal precedents.
  • Advise clients concerning business transactions, claim liability, advisability of prosecuting or defending lawsuits, or legal rights and obligations.
  • Select jurors, argue motions, meet with judges, and question witnesses during the course of a trial.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Lawyers interpret the law as it applies to their client’s case. They must be able to evaluate large amounts of information, interpret relevant findings, and apply them to facts.

Communication skills. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain information to clients, opposing parties, and other members of the legal community. They also need to be precise when preparing documents, such as court filings and wills.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must build relationships with current and prospective clients, as well as with their colleagues and other members of the legal community.

Persuasion. Lawyers work to convince others that particular laws or findings apply to their client’s case in a way that is most favorable to their client.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must evaluate information to propose viable solutions, mediate disputes, and reach agreements or settlements for their clients.

Research skills. Lawyers need to find laws and regulations that apply to a specific matter in order to provide appropriate legal advice for their clients.

Personality

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

91% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
91% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
90% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
89% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
87% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
84% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
84% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
83% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
83% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
81% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
80% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
80% Independence  -  Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
71% Concern for Others  -  Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
69% Leadership  -  Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
69% Social Orientation  -  Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Strengths

100% Enterprising  -  Work involves managing, negotiating, marketing, or selling, typically in a business setting, or leading or advising people in political and legal situations. Enterprising occupations are often associated with business initiatives, sales, marketing/advertising, finance, management/administration, professional advising, public speaking, politics, or law.
61% Investigative  -  Work involves studying and researching non-living objects, living organisms, disease or other forms of impairment, or human behavior. Investigative occupations are often associated with physical, life, medical, or social sciences, and can be found in the fields of humanities, mathematics/statistics, information technology, or health care service.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

89% Recognition  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
83% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
83% Working Conditions  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
83% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

Aptitude

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

97% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
88% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
88% Written Comprehension  -  The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
81% Speech Clarity  -  The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
78% Written Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
75% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
75% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
72% Information Ordering  -  The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
72% Near Vision  -  The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
72% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
69% Fluency of Ideas  -  The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
69% Category Flexibility  -  The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
66% Originality  -  The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Skills | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

70% Reading Comprehension  -  Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
70% Writing  -  Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
70% Speaking  -  Talking to others to convey information effectively.
70% Critical Thinking  -  Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
68% Active Listening  -  Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Job Details

Responsibilities
Prepare legal documents.
Provide legal advice to clients.
Provide legal advice to clients.
Identify implications for cases from legal precedents or other legal information.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Identify implications for cases from legal precedents or other legal information.
Interview claimants to get information related to legal proceedings.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Research relevant legal materials to aid decision making.
Identify implications for cases from legal precedents or other legal information.
Interview claimants to get information related to legal proceedings.
Meet with individuals involved in legal processes to provide information and clarify issues.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Research relevant legal materials to aid decision making.
Identify implications for cases from legal precedents or other legal information.
Prepare documentation of legal proceedings.
Prepare legal documents.
Arbitrate disputes between parties to resolve legal conflicts.
Evaluate information related to legal matters in public or personal records.
Supervise activities of other legal personnel.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
Provide legal advice to clients.
Draft legislation or regulations.
Represent the interests of clients in legal proceedings.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

100% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
100% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
99% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
98% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
95% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
95% Letters and Memos  -  How often does the job require written letters and memos?
93% Frequency of Decision Making  -  How frequently is the worker required to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the image and reputation of the organization?
92% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
90% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
89% Spend Time Sitting  -  How much does this job require sitting?
89% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
89% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
81% Responsibility for Outcomes and Results  -  How responsible is the worker for work outcomes and results of other workers?
80% Frequency of Conflict Situations  -  How often are there conflict situations the employee has to face in this job?
80% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
77% Consequence of Error  -  How serious would the result usually be if the worker made a mistake that was not readily correctable?
77% Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People  -  How frequently does the worker have to deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous individuals as part of the job requirements?
77% Coordinate or Lead Others  -  How important is it to coordinate or lead others in accomplishing work activities in this job?
77% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
73% Deal With External Customers  -  How important is it to work with external customers or the public in this job?
65% Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions  -  How much does this job require making repetitive motions?
72% Duration of Typical Work Week  -  Number of hours typically worked in one week.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

94% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
93% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
93% Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards  -  Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
87% Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others  -  Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
87% Providing Consultation and Advice to Others  -  Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
85% Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others  -  Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
84% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
84% Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge  -  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
81% Working with Computers  -  Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
81% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
80% Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships  -  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
79% Communicating with People Outside the Organization  -  Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
77% Analyzing Data or Information  -  Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
73% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
71% Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People  -  Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
70% Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work  -  Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
67% Thinking Creatively  -  Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

What Lawyers Do

Lawyers
Lawyers represent clients in criminal or civil proceedings, including trials.

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Duties

Lawyers typically do the following:

  • Advise and represent clients in criminal or civil proceedings and in other legal matters
  • Communicate with clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in a case
  • Conduct research and analysis of legal issues
  • Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
  • Present facts and findings relevant to a case on behalf of their clients
  • Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, contracts, and wills

Lawyers, also called attorneys, research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and determine whether they apply to the specific circumstances of their client’s case. They act as both advocates and advisors for one party in a criminal (offense against the state or the nation) or civil (matters between individuals or organizations) proceeding.

As advocates, they may present evidence and argue in support of their client for settlements outside of court, such as through plea bargaining or arbitration, or during court appearances, such as in hearings and trials. As advisors, they counsel clients about their legal rights, obligations, and options and suggest courses of action.

Lawyers may have different titles and duties, depending on where they work.

For example, in law firms, lawyers perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Those who represent clients accused of wrongdoing or carelessness may be called criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys. Those whose expertise includes representing clients in trials are sometimes called litigators or trial lawyers.

Corporate counsels, also called in-house counsels, are lawyers who work for a single organization. They advise the organization’s executives about legal issues related to its business activities, such as patents, contracts with other companies, taxes, and collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

Attorneys in federal, state, and local governments may have a variety of titles, including prosecutor, public defender, or general counsel. Prosecutors typically pursue the government’s charges against an individual or organization accused of violating the law. Public defense attorneys represent criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Government counsels help write regulations, interpret laws, and set up enforcement procedures, and they may argue cases on behalf of the government.

Public-interest lawyers work for organizations that provide legal services to disadvantaged people or to others who otherwise might not be able to afford legal representation. They often handle cases involving issues related to social justice or individual liberty, such as housing discrimination or consumer rights.

Lawyers may oversee the work of support staff, such as paralegals and legal assistants and legal secretaries.

In addition to working in different industries, lawyers may specialize in particular legal fields, including the following:

Environmental lawyers deal with issues and regulations that are related to the natural world. They may work for advocacy groups, waste disposal companies, or corporations. In government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they help to ensure compliance with relevant laws.

Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to spousal, parent-child, and other familial relationships. They may advise and advocate for clients in proceedings on topics such as divorce, child custody, and adoption. Family lawyers also may work for local, state, or federal agencies to ensure compliance with relevant government regulations.

Intellectual property lawyers deal with the laws related to inventions, patents, trademarks, and creative works, such as music, books, and movies. For example, an intellectual property lawyer may advise clients about whether they may use published material in a forthcoming book. Some intellectual property lawyers work for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Personal injury lawyers represent clients in civil proceedings who have been harmed by the actions or lack of action by another party.

Securities lawyers work on legal issues arising from the buying and selling of financial instruments. They may advise corporations that are interested in listing on a stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO) or in buying shares in another corporation. In government, they may work for their state’s securities regulator or for a federal regulatory agency, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tax lawyers handle a variety of tax-related issues for individuals and organizations. They may help clients navigate complex tax regulations, handle tax disputes, and represent clients in court on tax-related matters. Tax lawyers also may work for government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Those who handle a range of legal issues without specializing in a particular area of law are known as general practice lawyers. These lawyers may handle criminal and civil matters related to common legal matters, such as traffic violations, wills and estate planning, and real estate negotiations.

Work Environment

Lawyers held about 826,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of lawyers were as follows:

Legal services 52%
Self-employed workers 13
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 8
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6
Federal government 5

Lawyers work mostly in office settings. They may travel to meet with current or prospective clients at various locations, such as homes or prisons, and to appear in court.

Lawyers’ work may be stressful, such as during trials or when meeting deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most lawyers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Lawyers who are self-employed may have flexibility in setting their own schedules.

Getting Started

Education:
68%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession.
31%
Doctoral Degree

How to Become a Lawyer

Lawyers
Lawyers typically need a law degree and a state license, usually from passing a bar examination.

Lawyers typically need a law degree and a state license, which usually requires passing a bar examination.

Education

Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study followed by 3 years of law school. Although most law schools do not require a specific bachelor's degree for entry, common undergraduate fields of study include law and legal studies, history, and social science.

Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA-accredited programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing.

As part of their admissions process, law schools may consider an applicant’s score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAT questions cover reasoning, writing, and other aptitudes needed for the study of law.

Those interested in pursuing a career in some legal fields may need to meet additional requirements. For example, patent lawyers typically need a degree, specific credits, or a background in science or engineering and must pass an exam administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (commonly known as the patent bar exam). Tax lawyers may choose to earn a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in tax after completing a J.D. program.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Prospective lawyers take a licensing exam, called the “bar exam.” Most states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, which is coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). A score from the uniform exam is transferable across jurisdictions that accept it.

Lawyers who receive a license to practice law are “admitted to the bar.” Each state’s highest court establishes its rules for bar admission. Rules for federal courts differ, and requirements vary by state and jurisdiction. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the NCBE.

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass the written bar exam, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Prior felony convictions, academic misconduct, and a history of substance abuse are examples of factors that may disqualify an applicant from being admitted to the bar.

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state usually must meet licensing requirements for each state in which they wish to work. Most states have reciprocity agreements that streamline the process for lawyers licensed in one state to get licensed in another state.

After bar admission, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practice. States may require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education to maintain licensure.

Other Experience

Law students who have completed their first or second year of law school may be eligible for part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and organizations’ legal departments. Gaining experience in these summer positions may help law students decide on an area of legal focus for their careers. As for students in many fields, successful completion of a summer job or internship may result in an offer of employment after graduation.

Some law school graduates pursue a judicial clerkship prior to working as a lawyer. Clerkships are typically a specified length of time, such as 1- or 2-year terms, and help law school graduates develop skills required for a legal career. Judges may prefer to hire clerks who have passed the bar exam, but clerks may work without a law license because they have limited duties and are not yet practicing lawyers.

Advancement

Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work on teams with more experienced lawyers. Some lawyers advance to become partners, which means that they are partial owners of the firm.

After gaining experience, some lawyers go into practice for themselves. Others may move to a large organization, either working in its legal department or as in-house counsel.

Some experienced lawyers become judges. Most judges must be appointed or elected to their positions, a procedure that often requires political support.

Job Outlook

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 39,100 openings for lawyers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.

Despite this need for legal services, more price competition over the projections decade may lead law firms to rethink project staffing to reduce costs to clients. Clients are expected to cut back on legal expenses by negotiating rates and scrutinizing invoices. Some routine legal work may be outsourced to lower cost legal providers located overseas.

Although law firms will continue to be among the largest employers of lawyers, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about law schools and a career in law, visit

American Bar Association

National Association for Law Placement

For more information about the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the law school application process, visit

Law School Admission Council

For a list of state and jurisdiction admission bar offices, visit

National Conference of Bar Examiners

For information about the requirements for admission to the bar in a particular state or jurisdiction, visit the state’s licensing agency online. State and local government websites also usually have information about job vacancies.

To apply for positions with the federal government, visit

USAJobs

Occupational Requirements Survey

For a profile highlighting selected BLS data on occupational requirements, see

Lawyers (PDF)

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of lawyers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Bachelor's degree $64,030
Judges, mediators, and hearing officers Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts.

Doctoral or professional degree $128,610
Paralegals and legal assistants Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers

Associate's degree $59,200
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $80,840

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.