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Lawyers: Career, Salary and Education Information
Career Profile: What do Lawyers do?
Although lawyers affect nearly every aspect of society in a range of positions and industries, their basic duties are the same--to represent the needs of their clients in civil and criminal trials. However, other job duties vary dramatically. Lawyers can specialize in bankruptcy, international, elder, probate, or environmental law. The growing field of intellectual property is also seeing a growing level of attention from lawyers.
Some lawyers spend more time in the courtroom than others, working as trial lawyers. While some lawyers work in private practice, others find employment in government, legal aid societies, or within corporations.
A Day in the Life of a Lawyer
The daily responsibilities of lawyers can mean late nights on a regular basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, of those that work full time, about 37 percent work 50 hours or more per week. Travel can also be required, particularly for those specializing in international law.
Lawyers do most of their work in courtrooms, law libraries, and offices. Some meet clients in their homes or businesses. They attend meetings, gather and interpret evidence, and consult with authorities, clients, and members of their firm. Some meet with clients in prisons or hospitals. About 27 percent of lawyers are self-employed, either in solo practice or as partners in law firms.
Lawyer Training and Education
Competition for law school is intense, and is viewed as the first of many challenges for aspiring lawyers. A four-year college degree plus three years of law school are the basic educational requirements for lawyers. After formal training, candidates must pass a stringent bar examination.
Even with the competitive nature of law school, graduates face still more competition as they enter the job market. Many law schools have clinical programs, clerkship, and internship opportunities, which are highly recommended as training for new lawyers. Some states require continuing education among lawyers, to keep them informed on changing legal and non-legal developments that can affect their practice.
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Lawyer Employment & Outlook
About 761,000 lawyers were employed nationwide in 2006, according to the BLS. Of lawyers who were salaried, most held positions in government, in law firms or other corporations, or in nonprofit organizations. A relatively small number worked at law schools as faculty.
Employment for lawyers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all careers through 2016. About 84,000 jobs are projected to be created in the field.
Typical Lawyer Salary
As a reward for the stringent nature of the educational and employment process, lawyers earn high salaries. The BLS reports that lawyers saw mean annual earnings of $118,280 in 2007. Those working directly in legal services occupations earned $124,230, while those working in local and state government earned $87,130 and $78,310, respectively.
The District of Columbia saw both the highest concentration of workers and the highest salaries for the profession, with annual earnings of $143,520. California and New York trailed slightly behind in the salary department, with earnings of $137,300 and $136,900, respectively.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lawyers
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