How to Become a Lawyer
Lawyer Careers & Degrees

Lawyers work as representatives for individuals, companies, and governments to assist them with their legal needs.

A lawyer might defend or prosecute a criminal in court, prepare a will, or negotiate a property settlement.

The duties of a lawyer are varied, and offer a wide range of opportunities for those who decide to pursue it.

To become a lawyer, you’ll of course need to enjoy law.

Whether you enjoy following current cases in court, like to learn about different areas of the law, or perhaps just enjoy watching Law and Order, interest and passion in the subject area is a good start.

A lot of study is involved in becoming a lawyer, so you will need to be strong academically and be able to achieve good grades.

This is another reason why you need to feel strongly about the law to succeed, there are are a lot of late nights reading text books and completing assignments ahead of you.

Education Requirements to Become a Lawyer

The educational path to become a lawyer takes about seven years to complete.

The first step is to complete a four year bachelor’s degree.

You do not need a particular major to study law, however those that study criminal justice, English, business, and the humanities will be highly regarded.

Your GPA will have a greater effect on whether you are accepted into law school.

Some colleges offer pre-law streams for undergraduates, so if you are certain of your career from a young age, then this might be the right choice for you.

Completing some work experience in a law firm while you are at college, or even in high school, can also help in attaining a place at law school.

After you have finished your undergraduate degree, you’ll need to apply to and be accepted into law school.

It takes three years to complete.

The next step is to pass the bar exam in your state, which will allow you to practice law.

Lawyer Job Description

The job description of a lawyer is twofold.

They must work as advocate and advisor.

As advisor, they provide legal advice.

This could be as simple as drawing up a will, or as complex as advising a client on how to plea against charges in a court.

The second role of the lawyer is as an advocate.

In this scenario they must speak and argue on their clients behalf, in a mediation or courtroom setting.

There is a lot of research involved working as a lawyer.

Firstly, they have a very strong understanding of the specialized area of law in which they work, as well as a well rounded understanding of other areas of law.

Here are some of the tasks of a lawyer:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss their needs
  • Negotiating with other parties
  • Preparing cases
  • Conducting research
  • Appearing in court
  • Appearing at a mediation
  • Interviewing witnesses

Most Lawyers will work in a specialized field of law.

Some areas of expertise include:

  • Criminal Law: Defending accused criminals in the court system
  • Civil Law: Civil matters including family law
  • Real Estate Law: Negotiating property settlement and transfer
  • Patent Law: Copyright and ownership of products and ideas
  • Labor Law: Disputes between companies, unions, and employees
  • International Law: treaties and agreements between nations
  • Corporate Law: Laws regarding companies, business, and industry

Lawyer Salary and Career Path

Many law students are able to secure jobs with firms before graduation.

Law firms will send scouts out to schools to find the top performers and recruit them.

Often law students get full time jobs from internships they did while studying.

Good grades, as well as publishing papers in your schools law journal will improve your chances of getting a job.

Most lawyers will start out in a firm as a junior associate.

With time they may move on to become an associate, and then a partner.

Some lawyers become judges later in their careers.

Some work as public defenders, or district attorneys.

Some will work as law clerks or researchers.

Below are some other careers similar to a Lawyer that may interest you:

The median salary for a lawyer is $95,000 a year.

Starting out in a law firm, you could expect to earn closer to $50,000 a year.

The top lawyers earn salaries well over six figures.

If you enjoy study and research, like working closely with a range of people, put up a good argument, and love a challenge, then you should consider becoming a lawyer.

While there is a lot of education involved to become a lawyer, the role is challenging as well as enjoyable.

Good employment prospects and a great salary are always available for top candidates.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$145,300
$59K
$80K
$145K
$186K
$K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$114,240
Alaska$115,260
Arizona$136,170
Arkansas$94,000
California$173,970
Colorado$150,630
Connecticut$154,610
Delaware- NA -
District of Columbia$192,180
Florida$130,010
Georgia$130,320
Hawaii$109,420
Idaho$105,450
Illinois$157,010
Indiana$111,790
Iowa$119,700
Kansas$110,290
Kentucky$102,980
Louisiana$108,070
Maine$106,350
Maryland$135,500
Massachusetts$164,800
Michigan$116,310
Minnesota$124,510
Mississippi$95,040
Missouri$109,820
Montana$83,030
Nebraska$112,860
Nevada$131,190
New Hampshire$126,220
New Jersey$147,170
New Mexico$103,290
New York$168,780
North Carolina$133,290
North Dakota$113,280
Ohio$124,160
Oklahoma$116,270
Oregon$116,860
Pennsylvania$142,890
Rhode Island$124,600
South Carolina$111,090
South Dakota$112,810
Tennessee$124,370
Texas$144,110
Utah$134,770
Vermont$104,790
Virginia$143,220
Washington$129,550
West Virginia$102,040
Wisconsin$129,440
Wyoming$100,090
Guam$96,540
Puerto Rico$71,030
Virgin Islands$127,860

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $192,180.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $192,180
California - $173,970
New York - $168,780
Massachusetts - $164,800
Illinois - $157,010
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Lawyers, OCC Code 23-1011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a lawyer do?

A lawyer is a licensed professional who practices law.

His or her main responsibility is to uphold the law while protecting the rights of the client.

There are different types of lawyers – divorce lawyers, family lawyers, immigration lawyers, accident and personal injury lawyers, criminal lawyers, business and corporate lawyers, employment lawyers, animal lawyers, and bankruptcy lawyers.

Depending on the specialization the duties of a lawyer would differ; however, those would typically include providing legal advice and counsel, drawing up various legal documents, researching and gathering evidence and information, prosecuting or defending in court, mediating disputes, drafting documents, and so on.

A lawyer can work for a private company, in a law firm or for the state (for prosecution or as a public defender).

QuestionHow much do lawyers make?

On average, a lawyer can make a little less than $122.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $59.000 and $253.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Lawyers that work in the District of Columbia, New York, and California, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level lawyer can earn around $28.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $122.00 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a lawyer?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree, in order to become a lawyer (in any major).

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

Aspiring lawyers would then be required to take an entrance exam (Law Schools Admission Test); it will cost you over $180, however, you might want to invest in study guides and practice tests.

You should then apply to a law school (around $26.000-$43.000).

After graduating, future lawyers take the bar exam (about $6.700).

QuestionWhat is the demand for lawyers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the lawyer job market is expected to grow by 8.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is close to the average for all occupations in the United States.

The competition in the field is extremely high; nowadays, legal services are much needed in such areas as healthcare, intellectual property, mediation, environmental issues, and antitrust.

The industry is mainly concentrated in New York, California, and Florida.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a lawyer?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

It is recommended that students spend 150-300 hours on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) prep.

If your scores are high enough, you will be accepted to law school; be prepared to spend at least 3 years as a full-time student.

The bar prep course can take you around 2 months.

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