Attorney Career Overview
The job of a lawyer, also called an attorney, is to understand and interpret laws while engaging in litigation, creating legal documents, and advising clients. Most lawyers specialize in a certain area of the law, such as civil, criminal, environmental, or tax law. Trial lawyers frequently appear in court to defend or prosecute suspected criminals, while civil lawyers assist with mortgages, wills, contracts, and leases and appear in court less often.
Law School Education
Attorneys must hold a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, the terminal degree in law. To earn a JD, future lawyers must attend law school for three years after graduating from a four-year college or university. At the end of law school, students must take and pass their state's bar exam to become a practicing attorney. Admission to law school can be highly competitive, and online degree programs are becoming more common.
Today there are approximately 554,000 practicing attorneys, with the majority engaged in civil and criminal law. Lawyers can find work across the country, although large cities offer the most opportunities for work in large firms. The work of lawyers is invaluable to law enforcement and the country's legal system.
Lawyer Job Description
Employment of lawyers is expected to increase by approximately 11 percent from 2006 to 2016, driven mostly by population growth and increased business activity. The job market for major law firms and corporations will remain extremely competitive.
Lawyer Salary Range
Work as a lawyer is generally lucrative, with nonprofit organizations paying the smallest salaries. *Most annual wages fall within the following range:
Bottom 10 percent: $54,460
Top 10 percent: $163,320
*Bureau of Labor Statistics