Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. All attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the laws to the specific circumstances that their clients face. As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal or civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in support of their client.
Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to the family. They may advise clients regarding divorce, child custody, and adoption proceedings.
Education and Certification Requirements
Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Almost all law schools, particularly those approved by the ABA, require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
To practice law in any state, a person must be admitted to its bar under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. The requirements vary by individual states and jurisdictions. Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar exams, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take separate bar exams in each state.
The median annual wage for lawyers was $118,160 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.