As litigation increases, the number of students graduating with law degrees each year is growing, which makes the job market very competitive.
So You Want to Be a Lawyer: Educational and Career Planning
To become an attorney, you need to obtain a bachelor's degree and then a law degree, as well as coursework related to an area in which you might specialize. Licensing requirements may vary; check with your state's Bar Association for more information. To become a practicing attorney, you need to complete the following:
- A bachelor's degree (4 years)
- A law degree, also known as a Juris Doctorate (JD) (3 years)
- A passing score on your state's bar examination
It's important to note that admission to law schools can be very competitive; for this reason, it's essential to excel in your undergraduate program and to become familiar with the law programs you're considering. Academic advisors can help you design an undergraduate course of study that prepares you for the rigors of applying to and attending law school. All accredited law schools require applicants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). You can take preparatory courses and/or purchase study materials to help you prepare for the LSAT. The exact content of your career training depends on what aspect of law you wish to practice. If you're headed for corporate practice, then business, accounting, and economics courses are useful. If you want to practice family law, courses in psychology and social services can complement your law studies.
Lawyers use reasoning and evidence to successfully represent their clients. Trial lawyers in particular must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Courses in writing and rhetoric (the art of argument) can help prepare you for your law career. Speech and research skills courses can help prepare you to research and present cases.
Law Jobs: Expect Keen Competition
Law school graduates are plentiful and the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth through 2016 to be about average. Candidates graduating from top schools are expected to have the best employment opportunities. Lawyers typically start work as salaried employees or associates, or they can work for governmental agencies as assistant district attorneys.
You can expect to spend long hours researching and writing, and meeting with clients. The glamorous status achieved by "celebrity lawyers" is not typical of the profession. As you acquire experience and build your reputation, you can start your own practice, become a partner in an established law practice, or seek a position within a corporate legal department. Experience and talent can lead to additional opportunities such as speaking engagements, legal analysis for media venues, and bonuses.
In 2007, the median salary for wage and salaried lawyers was $106,120.