This section of our website is dedicated to legal professions and to those who are contemplating the idea of starting a career in the field.
Here you can find salary and career path information about in-demand legal jobs such as lawyer, judge, or paralegal.
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Job descriptions in the legal field vary depending on the position and the level of education.
Lawyers are usually responsible for:
- Advising and representing clients in court
- Communicating with clients
- Interpreting laws
- Presenting facts in writing and verbally, and arguing on behalf of their clients
- Preparing and filing legal documents
Paralegals are usually the ones who:
- Investigate and gather facts
- Organize and maintain legal documents
- Write or summarize reports
- Draft correspondence documents
- Get affidavits and other formal evidence
- Help lawyers during trials
- File briefs, appeals, and other legal documents
- Call clients
Lawyers and paralegals may specialize in working for a specific industry or in a particular legal field.
For example, environmental lawyers are responsible for helping companies and government agencies make sure that all environmental laws are met.
Family lawyers are the ones who advise clients on matters regarding divorce, child custody, and other family issues.
Tax lawyers help clients understand and comply with complex tax regulations and handle tax-related issues for individuals and companies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers held approximately 804,200 jobs in the United States in 2020.
The biggest employer for lawyers is the field of legal services, which employed approximately 49 percent of them.
Legal companies were also the biggest employer of paralegals and legal assistants.
Some legal workers are self-employed.
Approximately 17 percent of the lawyer were self-employed in the United States in 2020.
Most legal jobs require some form of post-secondary education, usually in law or a related field.
Becoming a lawyer usually takes around 7 years of education beyond high school consisting of 4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school.
Most states require that lawyers complete a Juris Doctor degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.
These programs include courses in constitutional law, property law, contracts, legal writing, and civil procedure, and some also include specialized law classes such as tax, labor, and corporate law.
Undergraduate law programs include classes in law and legal studies, history, and social science.
Almost all law schools require candidates to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
The LASTs evaluate if the students have the general abilities required for the first year of law school.
These skills include writing, reading, comprehension, and reasoning.
The LSAT is administered in two parts: a multi-choice exam and the LAST writing exam that is administered online.
During college, students can take a part-time internship in a law firm or participate in a summertime associate program, which helps them get valuable hands-on experience.
After graduation from law school, most states require a passing score at the bar exam before being allowed to practice law.
Lawyers who want to practice law in multiple states often have to take the bar exam in each state.
Most lawyers take a similar career path after being hired by a law firm.
Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work alongside more experienced lawyers.
After a few years of experience, some lawyers advance to a partnership position in their firm.
Experienced lawyers may choose to go into practice for themselves or find a job in the legal department of a large corporation.
Most judges and hearing officers have many years of experience as practicing lawyers.
Many states require judges to take continuing education classes that last from a few days to a few weeks.
Paralegals and legal assistants usually can practice this profession with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in a different field and a certificate in legal studies.
Some employers prefer to hire paralegals who have a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in paralegals studies from a program approved by the American Bar Association.
A bachelor’s degree is sometimes sufficient for a mediator and arbitrator position, although many positions require applicants to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or an advanced degree that is relevant to the position.
Although there is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and councilors, some states require workers in these occupations to hold a license before handling cases that require a specific type of expertise.
Before being allowed to work independently on cases, many mediators work under the supervision of an experienced mediator.
Court reporters usually need a postsecondary certificate program for court reporters and simultaneous captioners.
These programs prepare prospective court reporters for the licensing exams and typing speed tests.
Post-secondary training usually lasts 2 or 3 years and includes courses in English grammar, legal procedures, and legal terminology, among other topics.
Before being ready to practice, many states require court reporters and simultaneous captioners to hold a license or certificate issued by a professional association, such as the National Court Reporters Association.
Besides formal education, there are some personal skills that can make you a better paralegal, lawyer, judge, or court reporter:
- Communication skills are important for most legal professions because these occupations require being able to present facts to clients or other members of the legal team.
- Research skills are also important, especially for lawyers and paralegals who have to find the laws that apply to a specific case.
- Speaking skills are especially important for attorneys and those who represent clients in court.
- Writing skills are important for all legal jobs that involve drafting documents and reports.
- Concentration is also important, especially for court reporters and simultaneous captioners.
- Decision-making skills are essential for judges and hearing officers as they have to weigh the facts and make important decisions based on the applicable laws and regulations.
- Critical thinking is also important for most law professions.
Salaries in the legal field vary between less than $40,000 and more than $200,000, depending on the position, experience, employer, and level of experience, among other factors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for legal occupations in 2020 was $84,910, more than double the median national annual wage across all occupations, which was $41,950.
The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $66,130 as of May 2020 with salaries ranging between less than $40,000 and more than $130,000.
Court reporters and simultaneous captioners were remunerated, on average, with $61,660.
The lowest 10 percent of all court reporters and captioners earned less than $31,600 while the highest 10 percent made more than $109,240.
Higher salaries were reported by judges and lawyers.
The median annual wage for judges and hearing officers was $97,520 with salaries ranging between less than $48,000 and more than $180,000.
Lawyers reported a median annual salary of $126,930.
Entry-level lawyers may earn less than $60,000 while the most experienced lawyers can make more than $200,000 per year.
Salaries for paralegals and legal assistants range between less than $33,000 and more than $85,000 with the median calculated at $52,920.
The federal government is one of the top-paying fields for paralegals- with the median calculated at $69,490.
Paralegals who worked for state governments, on the other hand, earned $48,070 per year, on average.
The median annual wage for court reporters was $61,660 as of May 2020.
Court reporters and simultaneous captioners who worked for state governments usually earned more than the rest- with the median calculated at $68,790.
Those who worked in the field of business support services made $47,380 per year, on average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of legal occupations is projected to grow 9 percent by 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The future demand varies based on the occupation and the region of employment, and some legal careers have better prospects than others.
The demand for paralegals and legal assistants will be especially high because legal companies want to reduce costs for their clients by assigning more tasks to paralegals.
Approximately 43,000 job openings for paralegals and legal assistants will occur each year over the decade, according to BLS.
Employment for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 10 percent.
Alternative dispute resolutions such as arbitration are often less expensive and quicker than trials and this will lead to new job openings for arbitrators.
Employment of judges and hearing officers, on the other hand, will grow only 3 percent.
The job growth for judges will be limited mainly by budgetary constraints.
Employment for court reporters is also projected to grow 3 percent, slower than the average estimated growth for all occupations.
Budgetary constraints and the increased use of digital audio recordings will limit the growth of the court reporter profession.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are legal professions remunerated well?
Salaries in the legal field vary widely depending on experience level, position, education, and so on.
Jobs that require many years of training, such as lawyers or judges, are usually paid better than jobs that can be practiced with an associate’s degree or a few years of post-secondary learning.
Entry-level paralegals may earn a salary somewhere in the $30,000 range while experienced lawyers can make more than $200,000 per year.
What prospects do legal professions have?
Most legal professions will grow in the future but growth rates vary between less than 3 percent and more than 12 percent.
Out of all legal professions, paralegals will see one of the most spectacular job growths from 2020 to 2030.
New openings will also show up for arbitrators and mediators as more people prefer negotiation and dialog as a less expensive alternative to trials and litigations.
Do I need a degree before starting a career in the legal field?
Most legal professions require a degree although a certificate may be enough professions such as court reporters or simultaneous captioners.
Lawyers and judges usually need around 7 years of training beyond high school.
Paralegal positions can be filled in by candidates who have an associate’s degree in paralegals studies or a bachelor’s degree in a different field plus a certificate.
Do I need a state license for a legal profession?
If you want to become a lawyer you will need a passing store at the bar exam administered in your state.
Judges usually need a few years of work experience as a lawyer.
Many states require court reporters and simultaneous captioners to hold a license or certificate issued by a professional association.