Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a lawyer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.
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A lawyer may work as an attorney, solicitor, legal executive or barrister. Their job is to handle litigation, argue for a case, negotiate, prepare court documents and provide legal advice, among other services. To become a lawyer, one needs to graduate from law school and pass the state bar exam to obtain licensure.
Lawyers, also known as attorneys, are legal specialists who help clients interpret laws and deal with legal issues. To become a lawyer, one must complete a graduate law school program accredited by the American Bar Association and pass his or her state’s bar exam. Many lawyers specialize in a specific area of law; discipline range from corporate and divorce law to criminal defense and legal aid.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for lawyers are expected to increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS attributed this growth to a general increase in the demand for legal services; although, many law firms are cutting down on staff, which is why the increase is only average.
However, the BLS also reported that, as more college graduates attend law school, the job market is expected to become increasingly competitive. Employers may favor attorneys who have specialized in an area related to law, which they can do by completing a specialized Master of Laws (LL.M.) program after earning their first law degree. Job prospects may also be better in urban areas.
As of May 2015, according to the BLS, lawyers earned a average annual salary of $136,260. Those working in industrial machinery manufacturing earned the highest wages, with an average salary of $212,060 per year.
Most practicing lawyers work for law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies. Many specialize in a specific area, such as cyber or corporate law. Some lawyers advise clients and represent them in court. For example, a criminal attorney may provide a client with legal options, argue on his or her behalf in front of a judge and cross-examine witnesses.
After finishing a 4-year undergraduate program, aspiring lawyers must complete a graduate program at an accredited law school. Traditional law school programs usually last three years and culminate in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Core studies include constitutional, contractual and property law. During their final years of study, most students choose a specialization or concentration, such as business or environmental law.
All states require would-be lawyers to pass their respective bar exams prior to beginning practice. Most states also mandate lawyers to take an ethics exam. Once they have passed the exam in one state, lawyers who want to practice in a different state may have to take it again.
Lawyers must complete an undergraduate degree, then a three-year law school program before taking their state’s bar exam. The job outlook for lawyers is predicted increase an average amount, by 6%, from 2014-2024, with the employment number largely dependent on what industry they work in. Overall, lawyers in general make a large salary, usually over $100,000, which also varies by industry.
Immigration Lawyer Defined
As an immigration attorney, you provide advocacy and administrative services to foreigners wishing to establish legal residence in the United States or handle the deportation process. According to the American Bar Association, immigration is constantly changing and requires varied skills. Immigration lawyers work in a variety of settings, including government agencies, universities, corporate offices, general practice law firms and immigration law clinics.
You must be knowledgeable in the laws governing immigrant entry and residence, and use your knowledge to help individuals transition successfully and lawfully from one country to another. Immigration lawyers also represent their clients in court. The subfield of immigration law is very complex, and many immigration lawyers focus on only one aspect of it, such as foreign national employment or marriage-related immigration.
What Is My Employment Outlook?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a large number of law school graduates were expected to enter the workforce between 2014 and 2024, which will lead to significant competition for jobs. Most new attorneys begin in firms; however, about 20% of lawyers were self-employed in 2014, according to the BLS. Employment growth was projected to occur at a rate of 6% for all lawyers during the 2014-2024 decade, which is the average rate of growth when compared to other occupations. The combination of these factors suggests that there will be more competition for jobs in the field. As of May 2015, the BLS reports that the average annual salary for all lawyers was $136,260.
What Type of Education Is Required?
To become an immigration lawyer, you must earn a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree; this means completing seven years of study beyond high school. There is no specific degree requirement at the baccalaureate level. The admissions process for law school is quite intense; you must complete the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) examination prior to application. During law school, you take courses in immigration law that involve citizenship, advising, interviewing and statutory analysis. You also want to seek out internships and practical experiences. After graduation from law school, you must become licensed to practice law. The specifics of this process differ by state and jurisdiction.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Similar occupations involving law could include specializing in fields like tax law, defense law, or international law. Lawyers in these fields represent clients or companies with problems in these areas. Other related fields could include arbitration or mediation, where professionals help solve problems between people or groups without necessarily going to court. These positions would require a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Working as a paralegal or legal assistant is another option — these professionals need an associate’s degree or equivalent. Paralegals gather information for attorneys or help clients with paperwork, among many other duties in a law practice.