Lawyers can work in many different areas and there are no singular descriptions to explain this job. A range of career paths are available to legal professionals, in corporate, private, government and international settings.
However, in essence, lawyers are highly trained advisors that provide support on legal matters. This can be in civil or criminal cases.
The path to becoming a practicing lawyer is long and hard. There are a lot of educational requirements as well as subsequent examinations that all lawyers need to pass. There is a lot of pressure involved with the profession and there can also be a lot of media activity around certain cases.
However, the income is very good and the opportunities for a reputable lawyer are vast. If you are considering becoming a lawyer, the following is the process you will need to take in order to begin practicing.
Education & Training
First of all, an aspiring lawyer will need to achieve a bachelor’s degree in law or similar. In some cases, where a lawyer is already thinking of specialising, they may choose accountancy as a degree to become a tax attorney for example.
Many universities will provide law courses and you will spend much time picking the one that will offer the best chances going forward. Picking the right schools with the highest reputations will make a huge difference in your career.
To help with your choice, or to decide if you want to specialise at this point, here are some free courses you can take to give you a better insight as to what the day-to-day will involve:
- An Introduction to American Law – University of Pennsylvania
- European Business Law – Lund University
- Introduction to International Criminal Law – Case Western Reserve University
- English Common Law: Structure and Principles – University of London
- Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics – Wesleyan University
- International Law in Action: A Guide to the International Courts and Tribunals in The Hague – Universiteit Leiden
- Rethinking International Tax Law – Universiteit Leiden
Once a bachelor’s degree has been obtained, you will then need to attend law school. Applying to law school requires passing the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). You will need to study well in order to pass these exams. Students have also suggested additional English courses to help construct arguments, and a focus on critical thinking skills as being beneficial to passing.
You will need to examine which law school you would like to attend and apply to the one’s that best suit your needs. Note that competition can be fierce for some schools so it’s recommended that you boost your extracurricular activities and make yourself stand out.
Law school students will usually study for three years before earning their Juris Doctor (JD) degree. With this in tow, you will have a better understanding of the fundamentals of law, including civil, criminal and property law. You will understand legal writing and how to conduct proper research in legal archives.
Half way through your law degree, you will have the opportunity to specialise in certain areas like environmental law, tax law or bankruptcy law. You will also try to secure externships that will expose you to the practical side of the field, working on cases specific to your specialisation.
Finally, on receipt of your JD, you will then need to gain admission to the state bar. All law school graduates must take and pass the bar exam in the states in which they plan on practicing. These exams vary and contain elements such as the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and testing your knowledge of professional conduct.
The duties will depend on your chosen field, however, common responsibilities include:
- Advising clients concerning business transactions, prosecuting or defending lawsuits, legal rights, and obligations.
- Interpret laws, rulings and regulations for individuals and businesses.
- Analyze the probable outcomes of cases, using knowledge of legal precedents.
- Present and summarize cases to judges and juries.
- Evaluate findings and develop strategies and arguments in preparation for presentation of cases.
- Gather evidence to formulate defense or to initiate legal actions.
- Interviewing clients and witnesses to ascertain the facts of a case.
- Represent clients in court or before government agencies.
- Examine legal data to determine the advisability of defending or prosecuting lawsuit.
- Select jurors, argue motions, meet with judges and question witnesses during the course of a trial.
- Present evidence to defend clients or prosecute defendants in criminal or civil litigation.
- Study Constitution, statutes, decisions, regulations, and ordinances of quasi-judicial bodies to determine ramifications for cases.
- Prepare and draft legal documents, such as wills, deeds, patent applications, mortgages, leases, and contracts.
- Prepare legal briefs and opinions, and file appeals in state and federal courts of appeal.
- Negotiate settlements of civil disputes.
- Confer with colleagues with specialties in appropriate areas of legal issue to establish and verify basis for legal proceedings.
- Search for and examine public and other legal records to write opinions or establish ownership.
- Supervise legal assistants.
- Perform administrative and management functions related to the practice of law.
- Act as agent, trustee, guardian, or executor for businesses or individuals.
The career paths for a lawyer are many. Lawyers can specialise in certain areas, becoming the go-to person for advice on those matters. They may start their own firms, or work for existing ones. They can choose government careers or work on international cases.
Many lawyers start their own businesses or advise existing companies on business law.
The education received while training to become a lawyer sets a person up to be a great candidate for a wide variety of careers.