An Introduction to the Legal Profession
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Being a Lawyer
What do lawyers do? Lawyers represent clients — individuals, organizations, companies, institutions, and the public — and advocate on their behalf. This involves researching and interpreting past case law and current legislation to understand how to resolve legal questions and formulate a legal defense for their clients. The job of a lawyer is highly collaborative as lawyers work with clients, other lawyers, judges, law enforcement, expert witnesses, and members of the general public.
Skills That Lawyers Need
Lawyers need a combination of hard and soft skills to be successful. In terms of hard skills, they need to be adept at research, investigation, analysis, organization, writing, argumentation, and oral advocacy to synthesize information from a wide range of sources and construct complex legal arguments. In terms of soft skills, they need strong collaboration and negotiation skills and the ability to manage client relations tactfully.
Where Lawyers Work
There is a myriad of possible professional paths and job opportunities for lawyers across a wide range of industries. Lawyers can find work in large law firms; corporations; small businesses; nonprofits; educational institutions; local, state, and federal government; and state or federal judicial systems. They can also start their own private practice where they have more independence, control, and flexibility over who they represent and what cases they take on.
The average salary for a lawyer is between $51,000 and $158,000 a year, with some lawyers making less than $51,000 and some making well above $158,000. This is a broad salary range because there are so many different areas of the law and professional settings for lawyers. There are private firms that pay six- and seven-figure salaries and small nonprofits that pay $40,000 per year. If a lawyer starts their own private practice, their pay depends on the number of clients they have. Compensation also depends on location as legal positions in urban areas tend to pay higher than legal positions in rural areas.
For more information, check out this article on the steps you need to take from high school to become a lawyer.