Do you love to argue and debate? Do you have a passion for the justice system, or an affinity for finance? The legal field is more diverse than you might think, and it provides a number of opportunities to be engaged with clients and society on a real and practical level.
The law allows for a greater amount of versatility than you might think! (And no, the negative stereotypes and light bulb jokes do not apply to everyone. Lawyers can have hearts and still be highly effective and efficient!) Not everyone wants to be a lawyer, either—there are other ways to have a successful career in this industry that do not require the intense, prolonged education (and loans) associated with law school. Court reporters, paralegals, judges, and mediators are all part of the legal process and are critical to its operation and function.
For our society to function, it is crucial to have professionals who can advise citizens and help them navigate difficult situations, disputes, regulations, and laws. The law, and the ability to argue for it, against it, or redraw its boundaries, encompasses many interests and motivations. Try environmental law if you have a passion for conservation and regulation, or work at the district attorney’s office if you have a desire to see citizens protected and justice served.
The duties of someone in the law professions may include:
- Researching precedents for laws and practices to help guide the lawyer and client on the right path forward
- Drafting legal documents for clients, businesses, courts, and institutions
- Arbitrating disputes between people and companies over many subjects, including divorce settlements, child custody decisions
- Negotiating contracts, agreements, settlements, and sentences for clients
- Interacting with clients to make sure that their needs are being met and advising them on their options
- Organizing and maintaining complex files, documents, briefs, and accounts
- Prosecuting or defending clients in court
EXPLORING THE LEGAL FIELD
The journey to and requirements for a career in the legal profession vary greatly, and they depend on whether you wish to take on more of active or supportive role in the legal processes. In most states, there is one direct path to becoming a lawyer-law school. After completing college and earning a bachelor's degree, a law degree from an accredited school is the next step. As part of the application process, students must take a qualifying exam called the LSAT, the Law School Admissions test, akin to the SATs but focusing on logic and reasoning skills that are useful for the profession. After earning a degree in law, more testing! In order to legally practice the law, would-be lawyers must pass the bar exam. Every state administers its own exam, so passing in California does not guarantee you the right to practice the law in Georgia.
For arbitrators and counselors, a bachelor's degree may be enough but graduate degrees (and law school itself) can also be useful. Currently, there is not a single set path to becoming a paralegal. It typically required a combination of education and experience, in a way that provides the skills necessary for the job. Practical experience is very useful and students are often encouraged to intern with a law firm or office. College graduates with strong skills in research and administrative tasks also find wo rk as clerks or paralegals with lawyers or firms who are willing to provide additional training on the job. Knowledge of the specific division of the law the firm practices in extremely useful and can be a major asset in the job application process.
- Analytical skills Being able to analyze a conflict, as well as brainstorm arguments and solutions, is a fundamental part of practicing the law. Lawyers and law professionals must evaluate documents, arguments, cases, laws, and histories to determine courses of action. Constructing thorough agreements and contracts, and assessing whether they are supported sufficiently by the law, requires detailed analysis.
- Interpersonal skills. Lawyers practice the law, but the practice it for people. Clients require care and excellent customer service skills to retain their business, and because issues and cases can devolve into argumentation, legal staff must be able to clearly and evenly communicate with clients, other lawyers, members of the court, and coworkers.
- Organizational skills. Documentation is critical to legal work, and every step must be chronicled and displayed for the client, organization, or court to see. Lawyers and law offices often take on multiple cases or clients at a time, so it is crucial that all information related to each case is detailed and organized. If a brief is filed at the county clerk's office, all documentation must be included in a specific way for it to be accepted. There is no time for last-minute scrambling!
- Research skills. Practicing the law means knowing the law. Knowing the law means lot and lots of research. In order to make successful arguments and support their clients/cases, lawyers must be able to demonstrate that there is a precedent for the acceptance of that argument. They must have compiled other cases and decisions to support their argument for or against an issue.
- Writing skills. When it comes to the law, words matter. The exact phrasing or reasoning for an law can change the interpretation or enforcement of it. When preparing arguments or contracts, precision and clarity are crucial in order for them to be convincing and effective.
|Occupation||Description||Entry-Level Education||2012 Median Pay|
|Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators||
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help resolve conflicts outside of the court system by facilitating negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties.'
Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, at business meetings, or in classrooms.'
|Postsecondary non-degree award||$48,160|
|Judges and hearing officers||
Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.'
|Doctoral or professional degree||$102,980|
Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.'
|Doctoral or professional degree||$113,530|