How to Become a Lawyer

Career Overview

Lawyers play an intricate part in our legal system in the United States. No matter which type of law an attorney chooses to practice, they will spend time advising clients of their rights under the law, acting as an advocate, and representing clients in court and/or other legal proceedings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 760,000 lawyers who held various jobs practicing law throughout the United States in 2008.

Most of these positions are held in the corporate and non-profit sectors as well as many government positions. Approximately twenty-five percent of lawyers choose self-employed private practice according to the BLS.

Becoming an attorney means a candidate will possess a good understanding of human character, be able to speak well, and think logically, systematically, and be able to critically analyze complex data, information, and circumstances.

Specializations and Places of Work

How to become a lawyer Most lawyers will choose a specific field of law to specialize in. Our laws are complex and touch upon most aspects of our society. From the moment a person is born, until their death, they are surrounded, and affected in one form or another, by lawyers who uphold the law.

For instance, the hospital a person is born in will likely have attorneys who oversee issues that may arise in medical practice. Patient advocacy groups may have attorneys who see that the rights of mother and child are adhered to while in the hospital’s care. 

As a child grows and enters school, the laws that govern our schools will affect how the child is educated. School districts usually have attorney representation to ensure those laws are carried out. When a person buys a home, an attorney is often involved in the transaction. When a person dies, they will usually have an attorney enforce their Will, and often oversee their estate. 

Here are other areas of attorney specialization:

  • Bankruptcy Law
  • Divorce and Family Law
  • Environmental Law
  • International Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Civil Law
  • Patent Attorney
  • District Attorney
  • Legal Aide

Roles and Duties as a Lawyer

What does an attorney do on a day-to-day basis? Many of us are familiar with Defense Attorneys from TV--trial lawyers who spend time in courtrooms defending clients accused of crimes.  While many lawyers may eventually represent a client in court, much of their job takes place outside that realm.

Most lawyers spend time reading, drafting paperwork, giving advice, and working with contracts and other legal documents. They also invest hours researching, speaking to other attorneys, and formulating arguments or negotiating.

The legal duties of an attorney are born out of the ideal that, in our society, a person has rights. Lawyers are there to represent, and defend those rights on our behalf. They also have a duty to uphold the rules of law, and adhere to a high standard of moral and ethical excellence.

Education and Training

While an undergraduate degree is required prior to law school, the type of degree is not specified. Considering what type of law a student is interested in and seeking a complementary degree is advised. For instance, a corporate attorney may do well with a business degree.

One common undergraduate degree pre-law students pursue is a political science degree. It broadly prepares a student with many necessary skills needed to succeed in law school. This degree teaches how our government works. Familiarizes students with our legal system, and teaches skills such as public speaking, communication, and analytical problem solving.

Find schools to help to further your career:

Salary Information and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the median salary range for an attorney is $48,000 to $108, 500 annually.  Government lawyers are at the lower end of the pay scale, and corporate and private practice attorneys are on the high end. The BLS projects the job market for lawyers will continue to rise. From 2008 to 2013, the increase is predicted to be 13% across the United States.

See other salary information by career here.

General Resources


Career Specialties