Employment growth for all lawyers was predicted to be 10 percent from 2010-2020, which is about average for all professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, competition should remain strong for all lawyer positions since there are more law school graduates than there are available positions. The general demand for all legal positions tends to depend heavily on the economy, as many firms are restrained in their hiring practices and legal services based on their budget. Despite this, there are certain qualifications a prospective lawyer must adhere to when deciding to practice law.
To become a licensed and practicing lawyer, most students will need to complete four years of undergraduate study and three years of law school. While no specific undergraduate course of study is necessary, students can prepare for the practice of law by taking courses in areas such as philosophy, history, English and other humanities studies, in addition to mathematics and science classes. To be admitted to law school, students who have completed or will soon complete an undergraduate degree need to complete a standardized test and application process. Admission to law school can be quite competitive, and the required tuition can be expensive.
Becoming a licensed and practicing lawyer usually involves taking and passing a standardized exam for your state, called the bar exam. Exact requirements can vary by state, but most states require passing at least one written exam, and may require undergoing a character examination by a state board. Many states require lawyers to pass their own state exam and reciprocity may not be offered; however, some states may participate in multi-state testing.
Though there are a variety of types of lawyers and ways in which to practice law, there are a few fundamental personality and character traits that are necessary for success in the profession. Lawyers need to have strong analytical and problem-solving skills in order to accurately interpret large amounts of critical information and devise a strong argument or solution that will solve their clients’ problems. Lawyers should also be able to remain objective and separate their own biases and emotions from their professional cases. Lawyers need to be able to work and interact with a wide variety of people in order to build professional relationships and earn the trust of clients.
The working environment and hours for a lawyer can vary considerably from one position to another. Most lawyers are based out of an office, but travel may be necessary to meet with clients and attend events like trials. Lawyers usually work full-time, and many can work long and irregular hours in order to meet deadlines and hold meetings with a variety of people. Work as a lawyer requires good writing, research and public-speaking skills in order to present a strong case.
For a successful career, lawyers should be willing to complete continuing education in order to remain up-to-date on changes in the law. Most states have education requirements that lawyers need to meet in order to maintain state licensure to practice.
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.