Lawyers have a prestigious job representing clients and upholding the justice system.
A lot of people are apprehensive about entering law either due to the intense education or “sleezy” feeling.
But the truth is, society needs honorable and trustworthy people to enter the field of law.
The lawyer job description involves much more than just showing up to court – your time will often be filled with long nights of research, plenty of driving, and lots of communication.
If you think you have what it takes – and wouldn’t mind the nice paycheck – you might want to consider becoming a lawyer.
Lawyer Job Description and Duties
Your job duties as a lawyer will vary based on the type of law you practice and the types of clients you represent. You might represent individuals, government entities, or businesses in a variety of cases.
As a lawyer in any specialty, your general tasks on any given day might include:
Depending on your work environment, you might have assistants and paralegals to help you around the office.
As a newbie, however, most of the grunt work will likely fall on you so you can gain experience.
What are the Four Responsibilities of Lawyers?
The lawyer job description involves four key ethical responsibilities, according to Harvard Law School. As a lawyer, the integrity of the entire legal system and justice itself ride on your shoulders.
Just like doctors have a Hippocratic oath to do no harm, lawyers also have a set of responsibilities to uphold as wise counselors and leaders.
- Responsibilities to uphold the rights of clients and stakeholders
- Responsibilities to uphold the legal system
- Responsibilities to various institutions
- Responsibilities to uphold the wellbeing of society at large
Different Types of Lawyers
It’s hard to talk about the lawyer job description without mentioning the vast possibilities of careers in law. Your salary, work environment, working hours, and general duties all depend on the type of law you choose to practice and the type of clients you represent.
It would be impossible to mention every single type of lawyer, but here are some of the most common choices.
Lawyer Job Description Skills and Education
Becoming a lawyer is no small feat.
If the lawyer job description interests you, expect to complete about seven years of school.
First, you’ll go through four years of undergraduate school to receive a Bachelor’s degree – consider picking something in criminal justice or public speaking.
After that, it’s time for three years of law school.
And those three years of law school won’t be a walk in the park – many schools advise law students against working or having much of a social life during this time.
You can’t complete your law degree from just any old school you pick out of the phone book. To ensure the American Bar Association will accept your education, check their website for accredited schools.
Before applying to law schools, however, you’ll need to take an intense test called the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to make sure you’re competent enough to make it through the schools’ education.
Don’t get discouraged – plenty of prospective law students take the LSAT a handful of times before applying to their schools of choice.
If you want to become a lawyer, it’s important to have a clean criminal record and good character. Any history of substance abuse or poor academic performance can turn up to haunt you.
After you’ve completed law school, you’ll need to pass the "bar exams” so you can receive a license to legally practice law. Each jurisdiction has their own set of rules and regulations regarding this test so it’s important to take the test where you plan to practice law.
Again, you may need to take this test a few times – but you’ve made it this far so you can’t give up now.
Lawyer Job Description and Salary
Lawyers have a challenging job with long hours and they’re compensated fairly well for their sacrifices.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), lawyers brought home a median salary of $119,250 in 2017. However, it takes a while to work your way up to that figure.
As a lawyer fresh out of law school, expect to make between $50,000 and $60,000 per year.
The good news is that after gaining experience by working in the field for a few years to prove your worth, your wage will increase. The bad news is that you can forget paying off your student loans for quite some time. And with all that time spent in expensive law school, you’ll probably have a lot to pay back.
Keep in mind that your salary will depend on many factors – especially the type of clients you represent and the type of law you practice.
Lawyers representing large corporations as part of a dedicated team might make upwards of $160,000 per year. Sadly, public defenders who represent people who cannot afford their own attorney will make considerably less.
What Kind of Hours Do Lawyers Work?
There’s no way around it: lawyers work long hours. Don’t worry, law school will prepare you for this.
Most lawyers work full time and the majority of those working full time put in more than 40 hours per week.
During the day, you might spend time traveling between courthouses meeting with other attorneys, judges, and government workers. You could meet with clients to provide them with advice and go over their case. Or you might even spend your day in the courtroom itself representing your clients.
Be prepared for lots of high pressure and high stakes situations. It helps to have a personality that lets you go with the flow while things roll off your back.
After the clock strikes five, expect to be in your office doing research about upcoming cases, studying figures, and conducting interviews. There will never be enough hours in the day to finish everything so get used to that feeling right now.
Lawyer Job Description and Work Environment
If the thought of toiling in a cubicle drives you nuts, law might be the perfect field for you.
Although you’ll likely have a dedicated office, you shouldn’t expect to spend much time there unless you’re meeting with a client. You’ll typically be on the go working on whatever task is at hand.
On most days, you’ll be out and about during working hours (nine to five) meeting with other attorneys and people working in the justice system. You probably won’t spend much time at your office until the clock strikes five and it’s time to get some paperwork or research done.
A lot of people enter law for the paycheck and prestige – this is a big mistake.
Law is a high-pressure industry that involves almost constant face-to-face interaction. It’s certainly not for everyone. The average lawyer job description requires a few personality traits that will help you excel in the field.
- Interpersonal skills: You’ll spend a lot of time interacting with people of all classes, backgrounds, and personalities – you'll want these interactions to work out in your favor. And don’t forget: you need to earn the trust of your client. That’s why it’s so important for lawyers to have strong interpersonal skills.
- Analytical and research skills: Laws are not easy to understand – even for lawyers. Attorneys must be able to process and analyze large amounts of information to figure out what they can leverage in a case.
- Problem-solving skills: Get ready for disappointment because as a lawyer, you’ll experience it every day. In addition to having a realistic and objective outlook on life, it helps to have great problem-solving skills so you can bounce back quickly.
- Speaking and writing: When you’re not speaking in front of a court or hobnobbing with judges and other lawyers, you’ll probably be writing – and it better be on-point. It helps if you’re a natural public speaker or have a charismatic personality.
How to Find More Lawyer Career Information
If you think the lawyer job description sounds like something up your alley, you’re in luck because the job outlook is good.
The BLS expects the industry to grow about 8% until at least 2026.
The first thing you’ll need to do is prepare yourself for your educational career and the challenges ahead. Start by checking out the National Conference of Bar Examiners to see what’s expected of you in your state.
It also provides a ton of resources to prepare for your career journey.