What you need to know
Attorneys advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Attorneys are also called lawyers.
Lawyers work mostly in offices. However, some travel to attend meetings with clients at various locations, such as homes, hospitals, or prisons. Others travel to appear before courts.
Lawyers may face heavy pressure during work—for example, during trials or when trying to meet deadlines.
Some of the things an attorney might do:
- Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters
- Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case
- Conduct research and analysis of legal problems
- Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
- Present facts in writing and verbally to their clients or others, and argue on behalf of their clients
- Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, appeals, wills, contracts, and deeds
- Analytical skills: Lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues. As a result, they must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and propose viable solutions.
- Interpersonal skills: Lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship so that clients feel comfortable enough to share personal information related to their case.
- Problem-solving skills: Lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the relevant applicable information. Therefore, good problem-solving skills are important for lawyers, to prepare the best defense and recommendations for their clients.
- Research skills: Lawyers need to be able to find those laws and regulations which apply to a specific matter, in order to provide the appropriate legal advice for their clients.
- Speaking skills: Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries because they are speaking on behalf of their clients.
- Writing skills: Lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
The average pay for attorneys in the United States ranges from $61,490 to more than $208,000 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.
Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school.
A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into most law schools, and courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics are useful.