- About one-quarter of lawyers are self-employed
- You'll need good grades and high test scores to get into law school
What do lawyers do?
If the Law & Order side of being a lawyer doesn’t appeal to you, don't sweat it. Even though most lawyers concentrate in criminal or civil law, some lawyers rarely see the inside of a court room. Even lawyers who do practice courtroom litigation wind up spending most of their time doing research and interviewing clients and witnesses outside of the courtroom.
Lawyers can specialize in a variety of different areas including bankruptcy, international, environmental or corporate law. In addition to lawyers working in specialized fields, a sizable number of lawyers work for the government at every level.
How much do lawyers make?
The average salary for all lawyers is about $110,000 per year, but it might take you a while to get there. The average salary for lawyers nine months after graduation is only around $68,000, $50,000 if you're working for the government. While that's still a lot of money, you'll need to give some thought to how you'll pay back all those student loans you racked up to get your law degree.
If you’ve got your sight sets on a career in law, education should be on your radar. Most lawyers spend seven years, after high school, in school. The first four is spent getting a bachelor's degree, the last three is spent in law school.
The time is only half the battle. Getting into law school can be difficult, and good law schools have highly competitive admission processes. Law schools weigh a combination of your undergraduate GPA and LSAT (Law School Admission Test) scores to determine your ability to be successful in a given program.
Once you finish school, you'll need to be licensed. Licensure for lawyers is given after the successful completion of the written bar examination. Bar exams are specific to the state in which you plan to practice, though some may be transferable. Many states may also require lawyers to pass an ethics exam.
Career paths for lawyers
Nearly every lawyer fresh out of law school starts in a salaried position working with experienced judges and lawyers to gain experience. Experienced lawyers can earn partnership in their law firms. Being a partner in a law firm makes you part owner. Some lawyers also decide to start their own practices. The combination of partnership and self-employment means that nearly 25% of all lawyers are their own boss.
The future of lawyers
The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) expects steady growth in job opportunities for lawyers over the 2008-2018 decade. Most jobs will be concentrated in and around major urban areas where government positions and big companies will seek to fill salaried staff positions.
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