If you can put up with most people you know asking for free legal advice and how many lawyers it takes to screw in a light bulb, you might find that the advantages of being a lawyer outweigh the disadvantages. Everyone has different ideas about what makes a career worth pursuing, but as long as you look at the facts objectively before deciding -- a good trait for a lawyer to have -- you'll probably find you made the right choice.
Getting through law school won't be easy -- or cheap -- but you can count on a six-figure salary in most law fields and the opportunity to help people. A lot of lawyers find that doing pro bono work for legal aid societies and other agencies, providing services to people and nonprofit organizations that couldn't otherwise afford legal help, is personally rewarding. Regardless of the type of work you do, you'll likely find plenty of intellectual challenges, considerably reducing the chance of boredom. Staying on top of new laws, researching precedents, creating effective legal strategies for clients and investigating cases represent some of the diverse tasks you might undertake.
If you thought passing the bar was tough, you might be in for a shock when it comes to job hunting. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while the profession is projected to grow at a rate of 10 percent through 2020, that's just an average growth rate. The BLS further notes that there are more law school graduates than job openings, so you’ll need to hone your competitive edge. Once you get a job you could find yourself working long hours, including weekends, and wondering how work-life balance works, particularly if you want to start a family. Maternity leave can also significantly lengthen the time it takes to make partner in some firms.
It's nice to have choices in life rather than feeling like you're being pushed through a funnel into a narrow career path. The law offers a lot of options, from working as a criminal attorney or tax lawyer to going into intellectual or family law. You can match your interests, skills and abilities to a field you find appealing, choosing to work in litigation or environmental law, or for a corporation with a legal department. Before you decide where to work and in what field, you can go to work for a judge in a judicial clerkship, which is a common strategy for new graduates from law school. It gives you time to explore your options and a good reference for your resume.
Being a lawyer is often a lucrative career. The average yearly wage for all lawyers in 2011 was $130,490, according to the BLS, making it possible to pay off student loans without resorting to eating ramen noodles every night. Not all lawyers earn six-figure incomes -- those working for a state government agency took in an average yearly wage of $81,960 in 2011 -- but it's still a high-paying career.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Lawyers
- Koehler Law: Five Advantages to Being a Paid Lawyer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics: Lawyers
- American Bar Association: What Have You Found Most Rewarding About Being a Lawyer?
- ABA Journal: Are You Happy Now?
- The Washington Post: Law Firm Associates' Job Satisfaction Down, Survey Finds
- Georgetown University Career Education Center: What Do Lawyers Do and Where Do They Do It?
Since 1997, Maria Christensen has written about business, history, food, culture and travel for diverse publications. She ran her own business writing employee handbooks and business process manuals for small businesses, authored a guidebook to Seattle, and works as an accountant for a software company. Christensen studied communications at the University of Washington and history at Armstrong Atlantic State University.