There are so many different kinds of law you can practice that you need to research each avenue before landing in a firm or starting your own agency so you don’t waste time practicing a specialty only to learn that you’re not suited for the work. Each specialty comes with its own set of demands and duties. Choices can include anything from criminal and corporate law to government, environmental, family, tax and intellectual property law specialties.
Lawyers Are Well-Rounded
While your specialty requires you to focus primarily on the issues important to your clients and their concerns, you still need to obtain a well-rounded education to stay abreast of changes in the world that ultimately may affect your work. You’ll need to be well-versed in a wide variety of issues and topics to effectively practice any kind of law. You’ll tap into your knowledge of psychiatry, for example, when dealing with families or CEOs. Your current knowledge of economics will enter into most fields as you negotiate contracts or prepare settlement agreements.
Lawyers Are Storytellers
In every kind of practice, clients will come to you with preconceived notions about what they need and why they deserve your attention. They’ll bring you a certain set of facts they believe to be relevant to their case or their positions. It’s up to you to craft a story around the needs of your client. Most times, you need to do significant research to fill in the holes in your clients’ stories and support your conclusions. Each layer of your research adds to the final narrative you create. In court, you’ll get a chance to tell your story to an audience. On paper, you’ll craft the final draft and bind it like a book.
Lawyers Are Flexible
Unlike other professional jobs that demand a rigorous regimen be followed, such as surgery or accounting, the law is fluid and often changes rapidly. An attorney must remain flexible to take advantage of the changes in and needs of society and to operate successfully within the new environment. For example, the field of environmental law was relatively new in the 21st century, and lawyers had to adapt to changing government regulations to advise and advocate for their corporate clients. The Internet creates an entirely new world order that will affect many practices in the field of law. Lawyers must change their strategy as new information becomes available.
Most Lawyers Are Caucasian
While certain demographics have changed dramatically from the 1980s to the early 2000s, others have stayed remarkably static. According to the American Bar Association, in 2011, there were 1,245,205 lawyers licensed in the United States. The number of female attorneys soared from 8 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2005, although in recent years, applications by women to law schools have been declining. And, while women made up 47 percent of first- and second-year associates in large law firms as of 2011, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers, they only constituted 15 percent of equity partners. In 2000, 88.1 percent of U.S. attorneys were white or Caucasian and in 2010, the percentage remained the same. Another interesting statistics is that in 1980, 49 percent of lawyers operated in a solo private practice; in 2005, exactly the same percentage practiced law in a solo practice.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."