Becoming a lawyer

The media has a way of glamorizing certain careers including the career as a lawyer, but it is nevertheless a challenging occupation with tremendous income potential. Whether you decide on becoming a lawyer because you desire to defend the innocent or because you are drawn to the litigation process, you will need determination and the willingness to start at the bottom. It is a very competitive environment, but you also have a wide range of choices in career paths.

Lawyers operate as both litigators and consultants. As litigators, they act on behalf of one of the clients in court cases by offering proof of innocence or guilt. As consultants, they advice their clients with regard to their privileges and rights and assist them in legal decisions.

The main distinction of the career as lawyer is between that of criminal and civil law. In criminal law, the lawyer acts on behalf of his client in a case where the client is charged with an illegal action. These cases are defended in court. The civil lawyer represents his client in cases brought against him by other parties, or when he wants to make a case against a person or company. The civil lawyer also handles contracts, insurance, legal advice and more.

Defining the career as a lawyer

There are as many types of lawyers as there are legal divisions. The following descriptions serve as examples of possible specialized fields:

  • Court lawyers or litigators specialize in court trials. They conduct the research and administration surrounding the particular cases and handle the client's trial.
  • Environmental lawyers handle cases and issues regarding pollution, environmental disputes, license applications, and compliance with environmental regulations. The construction or mining firms are typical clients.
  • Intellectual property law lawyers handle copyright issues, trademark protection, patent applications, program rights, and intellectual property disputes.
  • Family law practitioners focus on issues of family welfare, child custody, abuse, and more.
  • Corporate lawyers are well acquainted with commercial laws. They represent firms in disputes, handle their contracts, and advice them on course of actions to be taken.
  • Divorce lawyers handle custody, divorce proceedings, and settlement issues.
  • Labor lawyers handle proceedings of labor and conditions of employment contracts, disputes and trials. Their clients can either be disgruntled workers, unions, or companies.
  • Property lawyers handle contracts, and work with title deeds, and the transfer of property. Their clients include property buyers, sellers, and agents.

Employment as lawyer
The law graduate normally starts his career as a lawyer in a junior position at a law firm. He works under the guidance of a more experienced lawyer and after a few years, may be offered partnership in the firm. Some start their practices after a few years, although it is much easier to gain a good reputation in a small town.

Lawyers are employed in all sectors of the economy. Some work at large law firms, while others find employment in government institutions. Still, some also build a career as a lawyer while working for private companies, or even estate agent firms. Non-profit organizations also make use of lawyers on a regular base. Since competition is strong in this career field, many start in temporary positions, while a large proportion of lawyers work for the different departments of justice and military services.

Requirement for a career as a lawyer
All countries require that the lawyer register with the bar or the regulating body. The standards differ from state to state in the US, and according to the country you work in. Each country has its own requirements and you cannot practice law in another country without complying with the minimum requirements and license regulations. The minimum requirement is normally a Bachelor degree, and in many instances further study is required for an LLB or similar, and an article period.

Future employment
The employment possibilities in health services, the business sector, intellectual property, and real estate are ever growing. The competition in these sectors are however, also fierce. Graduates with excellent marks and membership with professional organizations, have the best chance of obtaining employment at large firms. Many graduates find a career as a lawyer in non-law firms.

Recessions, economic decline, disasters, and political policies all influence the availability of work. Lawyers must be able to adapt to changes in the market, and must be willing to take on work that are not directly related to their expertise area. A career as a lawyer can be very rewarding with many privileges, but requires dedication and a love for the law and people. Salary expectations differ according to the sector and country of employment, and the lawyer's experience.