What Are the Duties of a Lawyer?

A lawyer may use her knowledge of the law to defend her clients.

You can turn your talent for persuading people into a lucrative and rewarding career as a lawyer. As a lawyer you would routinely give advice and legal representation to people, businesses or the government. Your busy day would consist of working in and out of courtrooms interpreting laws, filing legal documents, preparing wills, consulting with businesses or individuals, doing research or teaching. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you'll make a pretty penny for your troubles. The median wage of lawyers was $112,760 per year as of May 2010, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $54,130 a year, and the highest 10 percent making more than $166,400 annually.

Working in Court

As a lawyer, you definitely get to choose sides. Two kinds of lawyers work in criminal law -- prosecutors and defense attorneys. As a prosecutor, you'd represent the government against individuals or corporations accused of criminal misdoings. If that doesn't strike your fancy, chose a career as a defense attorney, representing those accused by the prosecutors. If criminal law isn't your passion, consider working In civil law, where both the plaintiff -- the party who feels she has been harmed -- and the defendant -- the one accused of doing the harm -- hire attorneys. Regardless of the kind of work you choose, you will cite legal precedent and current facts to make the best case for your client.


You have to be a legal detective to excel as a lawyer. Although lawyers typically use paralegals and legal assistants, as a lawyer you are ultimately responsible for making sure the right research has been done to represent your clients' best interests. Research typically might involve pulling "all nighters," poring over relevant cases and analyzing similarities between these rulings and the current case. You wouldn't just be cooped up in law libraries; the Internet, online legal databases and virtual law libraries allow you flexibility.

Preparing Legal Documents

Lawyers have to love paperwork, because you'll be doing it until you literally can't think straight. You be the head honcho, carefully crafting and filing legal documents including wills, appeals, divorce paperwork and deeds. You might also work with businesses or private persons to write contracts. It might make your head spin how even the smallest request needs a mountain of paperwork to go through. In the area of patent law, for instance, you might file copyright notices, trademark applications, intellectual property declarations and patent pending documents. Every document must be prepared carefully, or they will be rejected by the courts. That will send you back to the drawing board and get you a very disappointed client.

College Professors

If you see yourself as more the academic type, consider teaching college. Many lawyers are employed as college professors, teaching courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Lawyers who graduate from college obtain a juris doctorate degree, or J.D., which allows you either to practice law or teach. Getting your J.D. takes about seven years, so resign yourself to having few dates out on the weekends during your four years of undergraduate studies and three years of law school. Passing the bar examination is not a requirement to teach law, but as a law school professor you might want your license just to have a potential side stream of income. Your extra time would typically be filled by scholarly research, publishing research results in peer reviewed journals and mentoring students. Solid performance and a track record of prestigious publications earns tenure, which is your ticket to job security.

2016 Salary Information for Lawyers

Lawyers earned a median annual salary of $118,160 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, lawyers earned a 25th percentile salary of $77,580, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $176,580, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 792,500 people were employed in the U.S. as lawyers.

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