Lawyers are licensed professionals who advise and represent clients – individuals, businesses or governments – in legal matters. They may specialise in a particular legal area – such as tax, intellectual property, corporate, immigration or family law – or practise law across many different areas.
Lawyers typically work for the federal, state or local government or an independent law firm.
- Provide legal advice and counsel to clients
- Research and gather information or evidence
- Represent clients in a court of law or before a government agency
- Interpret laws, rulings and regulations for clients
- Negotiate settlements of civil disputes
- Draw up legal documents related to contracts, divorces and wills
- Supervise legal assistants
- Act as an agent, trustee, guardian or executor for clients
Skills and qualities
You’ll typically begin your career in law as an associate working on teams with more experienced lawyers. With experience and a solid track record of successful cases, you could advance to partnership in the firm you’re employed in. You could also move to the legal department of a large company or even set up your own practice.
Long hours, including weekends
As a lawyer, you’ll mostly work in an office setting, though regular travel to meet clients in their homes, businesses or other locations should be expected. You will also need to travel to appear in court.
The work can be stressful, particularly during trials or when working towards a deadline.
Hours can be long, too, with many lawyers reporting an average workweek of between 50 and 70 hours, conducting research for legal cases and preparing and reviewing legal documents.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
You’ll need a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), to work as a lawyer. This typically takes three years to complete. Most law schools require applicants to have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree and to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
You’ll then need to be admitted to the bar in your chosen state before you can practise law. This includes one or more written bar exams. If you want to practise law in more than one state, you will need to take the bar exam in each state.
SourcesAmerican Bar Association Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Bureau of Labor Statistics O*NET OnLine Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022