Harrison Barnes' Legal Career Advice Podcast - Episode 18
Listen to Top 20 Reasons Why There Is No Better Profession Than Practicing Law Podcast
- On almost a daily basis, aspersions are cast over the legal sector.
- Lawyers are liars.
- They cannot be trusted.
- They are secretive and in constant fear of losing their jobs.
- Other than that work as an attorney can be hugely satisfying.
Summary: Although it is often portrayed in a negative light, the practice of law is a wonderful profession to be a part of. Learn why in this article.
In this article, readers will learn many of the good reasons for practicing law and how being an attorney is a hard-to-match career in terms of money, prestige, potential variety of work, and opportunities to get involved in politics, public service, and issues of national and international importance.
Most of the news I hear about practicing law is consistently negative. There is so much of this that it is difficult to speak to an attorney or read a legal publication without hearing or seeing something negative about it.
However, practicing law is not really all that bad. In fact, it can be about the clearest path to security, wealth, and prestige there is. The complaints related to practicing law tend to follow the ups and downs of the economy and the demands placed on attorneys at the very high end of the profession.
- On the one hand, during a bad economy, only attorneys from the very best schools and those who have the best grades are generally employable. The lack of opportunity for attorneys without these credentials is no different than what is experienced by people without such credentials in most other professions.
- On the other hand, attorneys wishing to enter “the Olympics” of practicing law and to work at the largest law firms with the highest salaries often resent the demands on their time. But the highest-paying jobs in all professions are generally extremely demanding.
Regardless of how you stack it, practicing law has its ups and downs. Nevertheless, attorneys who dwell on the “negatives” often miss the huge “positives” that go along with being an attorney. All in all, the positives of practicing law far exceed those of most other professions.
Attorneys are trained—by nature—to find fault in everything, and so attorneys find fault with their profession just as they find fault with the arguments of their opponents. Attorneys typically go into the practice of law because they are very ambitious. Until they go to law school and start practicing law, most of these attorneys have never been surrounded by people as ambitious as they are. Set against each other and competing for a slice of prestige, recognition, money, or jobs, attorneys can become cynical when they do not get everything they are accustomed to getting. They get even angrier and more cynical during recessions. Then when things are good, they start feeling entitled, envious of other attorneys, demanding more money, and the cycle repeats itself again and again.
No other profession offers the opportunity to do so many things. When attorneys complain to me about regretting going to a school or about being attorneys in general, I like to remind them of the following positive things about practicing law. The reality is that no other profession offers so many potential benefits as the law does:
1. Most Attorneys Earn Much More Money Than They Would Otherwise
Just about anyone can get into law school, graduate, and pass the bar exam. Certain schools and bar exams are indeed more challenging than others, but for the most part, it is fairly easy to go to school and become an attorney if you set your mind to it.
To become an attorney, you do not need to take a lot of math and science classes in college, like you would if you wanted to become a doctor. You also do not need to become an expert in spreadsheets and know a lot of math, as do accountants, bankers, and MBAs.
Becoming an attorney is something that is not that difficult to do at all. It is a lot of work and takes three years. But just about anyone who wants to become an attorney can do so.
Most attorneys go to college and major in liberal arts-related disciplines that do not necessarily lead to abundant opportunities for gainful employment, such as political science, anthropology, fashion design, art, or music. Law schools do not care and they are open to everyone!
If you have no idea what you are interested in doing when you get out of college or graduate school, just about the smartest thing you can do is go to school. You can take a degree and set of skills that are essentially worthless in the market and parse them into a job where your starting salary might even be well into the six figures—or more than you could make if you earned a Ph.D. and then managed to get a tenured spot at a major American university after a decade or so.
According to a tabulation of Bureau of Labor of Statistics data, out of 820 occupations and their wages, attorneys came out in the 21st spot, behind certain medical professionals and chief executives but ahead of hundreds of other professionals and workers, including airline pilots, financial managers, geoscientists, real estate appraisers, teachers, and electricians.
At the time of writing, the website Glassdoor reports that the national average lawyer salary is $107,549 with a Los Angeles average of $125,784 and a New York average of $121,394. Many first-year associates at law firms with more than 700 lawyers in major markets earn salaries of $160,000. Regardless of how you stack it, attorneys earn good livings and (in general) earn much more than they could ever earn with the sorts of undergraduate degrees most of them have. There is really no other way for someone with a degree of questionable market value to get out of school and make a good living so quickly. I have seen art majors, acting majors, forestry majors, fashion design majors, anthropology majors, sociology majors, and others with degrees that will most likely not translate into much money in the market go to top ten schools and come out with great jobs.
2. Attorneys Command The Respect Of Society (Mostly)
Lawyers are extremely respected and looked up to compared to other professions. The most highly esteemed people in most areas of the country are often attorneys. Attorneys are judges, politicians, and others professionals who have an important role in running the government agencies wherever they go. Forty-one percent of the people in the 113th Congress are attorneys. Forty-six of the 498 chief executive officers listed on Forbes’ 500 have law degrees.
- In my own small community, I have been asked to lead community boards and to help sort out various neighborhood issues—just because I am an attorney.
- People ask me for advice all the time and are willing to pay me for it—just because I am an attorney.
For all the flak the profession sometimes gets about dishonesty, when it comes down to it, people respect lawyers because they have the power to protect them. Lawyers designed the very fabric of our government agencies and society, and we look to lawyers when we need help or redress. At their best, lawyers trade in truth, justice, liberty, and fairness. The very fact that lawyers have the power to do this and to influence so much in so many arenas indicates the might and nobility of the profession and the reason why it is held in such esteem by those who are not vested with such power.
The respect that being an attorney gives you is something that no one can ever take away. You cannot put a price on that. Few other professions offer such a rapid and virtually guaranteed pass to the middle and upper-middle classes as being an attorney. You can come out of the lower classes or out of the worst imaginable background, but once you become an attorney, you suddenly have the respect of society.
Some areas of the country indeed have proportionately more attorneys than other places and thus they may not command as much awe in Washington, DC, New York, and Los Angeles where there are a lot of lawyers; however, for the most part, people in society respect attorneys and view them with distinction even in areas where they are plentiful.
There are few professions other than the law that confer on members such a high level of respect. I am happy that I am an attorney. I appreciate this honor every day and have never regretted it.
3. Attorneys Have a License to Start a Business That Is Always in Demand and Protected from Competition
All attorneys have to do is announce to the world that they are attorneys and people will find them and pay them money. If you are an attorney, you can set up an office out of your home, rent a small office, or operates a small business with a few other attorneys. You will need a website, some marketing, and may have to knock on some doors—but if you want to have your own business, a law license allows you to do this. It is fast, simple, and cheap, and yet you are expected to be able to charge a lot of money for your services. You can take contingency cases, charge by the hour—it is up to you. If you get a law degree, you suddenly have a world of opportunities open to you for starting your own business.
The great thing about being an attorney is that there is a barrier to entry. Not everyone can simply announce that he or she is an attorney and start practicing law. This is very different from many other professions and types of jobs where no license is necessary and where everyone who wants to can compete with you. When you practice, you are protected from competition because the only way someone can compete against you is by having a law license in your state as well as (in some cases) competency in your area of law.
I receive calls from attorneys a few times a year who are retiring and need me to find someone to take over their practices. In many cases, these attorneys are in small towns around the country and maybe the only attorney in town or one of only a few attorneys in town. There are so many areas like this around the country where a new attorney can set up a practice—i.e., “business”—with very little difficulty and function with very little competition.
If an attorney is ambitious, that attorney can always use his or her law license to start a successful business. Not only that, he or she may get government subsidies to get things off to a good start. According to this New York Times article, only 2 percent of small law practices are located in rural areas, even though one-fifth of the US populace lives in such areas. In some places in the United States, you might need to travel a hundred miles or more just to find an attorney. Things were so dire in South Dakota that the state passed a law offering attorneys an annual subsidy to live and work in the state’s rural areas. Other states are also apparently looking into such measures to address lawyer-in-remote-area-scarcity issues.
4. Attorneys Have The Opportunity To Work With Important Clients And Interesting People
A few weeks after I got my law license, I found myself sitting in the world headquarters of Northrop Grumman sorting through a bunch of documents about a classified submarine that the company had built and sold to a South American government. I then proceeded to write motions for this client over the next several months.
There are few professions where you will get to do significant work for these sorts of clients as quickly as you will by practicing law. Whether your client is the government, a major corporation, or an important entrepreneur, when you practice, you have the opportunity to work for and advise important clients. As such, you can help shape national and world events. It can be exciting and gratifying to participate in global affairs in this way.
If you choose to represent individuals, you will no doubt find them and their issues to be equally interesting. You will gain profound insight into human behavior and possibly even come to better understand yourself through understanding your clients.
Regardless of whether you represent companies or individuals, as a lawyer, you will have the opportunity to interact with a wide assortment of interesting and influential people and institutions. Not many other professions confer this kind of access and exposure and it is one of the many “positives” of the legal profession.
5. Attorneys Have The Ability To Easily Transition Between And Among Various Venues
When you are practicing law, you can work in a wide variety of practice settings. It is not uncommon for attorneys to start out in the government, go to work for lead law firms, go in-house, start their own practices, and even work as a law professor as well. There are such a wide variety of opportunities and settings that an attorney can be part of it is astonishing.
Take Kathleen M. Sullivan, for example, one of the nation’s preeminent appellate litigators. She began her law career as a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. Then she became dean of Stanford Law School. Today, she is a partner in Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s New York office, where she represents clients such as Shell Oil, Google, Cisco, and Coca-Cola. Her career has taken her from Boston to California to New York, from the halls of academia to those of a top-flight firm, and courtrooms and boardrooms all across the country.
6. Attorneys Have The Ability To Make Profound Changes In Society
Attorneys can represent the underprivileged, free the wrongly convicted, change laws, empower groups of people, or even influence the functioning of entire governments. There is no other profession where an individual can make such profound changes in society.
Attorneys very quickly learn that the law is a powerful tool that they can use (if they choose) to help people, to shape society in their vision, and to bring positive change to the world.
To get a sense of the breadth of ways in which people can use their law degrees in the public interest realm, take a glance at the ABA’s Public Interest Law Links page. It has links to more than 50 projects and initiatives that target areas of civil and human rights law. A lawyer can get involved and use his or her law degree to work on alternative parenting initiatives, to help the people of Darfur or Haiti, to assist Native Americans or at-risk youth, to lend a hand to those without adequate housing, to combat human trafficking, to secure racial justice, or to work on the death penalty or poverty issues, among many other issues and causes.
7. Attorneys Get To Work With Smart People
Most attorneys are intelligent. When you practice, you get to work with and be around other smart and interesting people. Working with smart people keeps you challenged and your mind active and sharp. Most smart people prefer to be around other smart people. When you practice, you have the ability to work with and be around other smart people throughout your career.
When you talk to attorneys and ask them about their law school experiences, many (especially if they went to the better schools) will remark that until they went to school, they had not been surrounded by so many intelligent people at one time. After three years of going to class with people who are as smart or smarter than you, and who constantly challenge you and keep you on your toes, you become accustomed to that level of intellectual rigor and become frustrated when it dissipates.
When you practice you need not worry that you will lack intellectual stimulation. You will always be around these types of smart people, whether other attorneys, judges, or even some clients.
8. Attorneys Are Cerebral And Analytical And Can Solve Problems
The average lawyer spends a lot of time thinking through issues and coming up with solutions to various problems. They enjoy this, and, in many respects, the work is quite academic. Most attorneys are fairly academic anyway, so being an attorney provides an outlet for them to think and be cerebral.
The reason so many attorneys go into politics or become CEOs is that the process of becoming a lawyer (“thinking like a lawyer”) is not as much about learning specific laws as it is about developing the facility to work logically through any issue or problem, whether it relates to law or not, and to come up with a proposed solution or set of solutions. This kind of thinking and the sense of balance and judgment it involves are useful in all aspects of life and business and it is why the best attorneys are considered “counselors” in every sense of the word.
9. Attorneys Can Specialize And Do The Sort Of Work They Are Interested In
Most attorneys (except for general practitioners) end up specializing and doing the sorts of work that they are interested in—whether it is corporate law, litigation, patent law, environmental law, or otherwise. The ability to specialize is a huge luxury that should not be taken for granted. What this means is that before long, you can spend the majority of your time just concentrating on the issues, cases, and transactions that you find interesting and fulfilling.
For example, some people want to go to law school and become lawyers because they get to go to court and do trials. But unless you are a prosecutor or public defender, you generally will not be spending much time in court—and certainly not in trials. But if you work hard and become an expert in the art of trial work, then as you mature in your legal career, you might find yourself being sought out by other litigators who feel insecure about their courtroom prowess and who want you to do the trials on their cases to maximize the chances of victory. Soon you will be doing trials all the time. You will get to finish out your career doing what you love—courtroom sparring—as opposed to other aspects of the practice you are not as passionate about.
10. Attorneys Have The Ability To Work Most Of Their Lives
I used to be an asphalt contractor before going to law school. I remember my father saying to me at one point: “You need to think if you would want to be doing that sort of work when you are in your forties.”
He was right. Working outdoors in the sun, lifting heavy stuff, driving around, and breathing in toxic fumes was not the sort of work I would have wanted to do forever. In contrast, when you practice law you never really need to quit.
I once hired an attorney to assist me with some work, who was in his mid-90s. He was still functioning and running a law practice with a secretary, a paralegal, and an associate. He even was still golfing! Attorneys can practice most of their lives. While some lead firms certainly may ask attorneys to retire at a certain point, many do not. Some attorneys practice their entire lives. One of the greatest luxuries of being an attorney is that you never really need to quit the profession once you start.
11. Attorneys Have The Ability To Continually Improve At What They Are Doing And Get Better
The longer you practice law, the better and more talented you often get. You learn more about the law, learn new angles, and continually refine your craft and what you are doing. The ability to learn more, get better and better, and always be able to improve are exciting components of the profession. In some professions, your skills may decline after some time, but when you practice law, your skills can actually improve the more you work and learn.
We saw above how to select litigators can get better and better at trial work until they reach the rarified ranks of true “trial attorneys.” Similarly, because practicing law is a career that can span decades, attorneys in all practice areas have the opportunity after opportunity to take their work to ever-higher levels of excellence. The chance to reach the top of the ranks in a particular area and then still have room to push higher is very gratifying for attorneys who are by nature strivers and the highest of achievers.
12. Attorneys Have The Chance To Get Extraordinarily Rich
Some attorneys become incredibly wealthy practicing law. They may take on a huge company in a class action, win some sort of major verdict, make millions working in a large firm, or take a piece of a company that ends up going public. I have seen countless attorneys earn massive amounts of money practicing law, and I am aware of some attorneys who have actually retired very wealthy people in their late 30s.
Attorney Joe Jamail Jr. is a billionaire who made his money in personal injury cases. This “king of torts” successfully represented Pennzoil against Texaco to the tune of 10.5 billion dollars and earned 345 million dollars in contingency legal fees. That is an extreme example, but it just goes to show that when you practice law, you have the opportunity to earn a lot of money and become incredibly rich.
13. Attorneys Have The Chance To Become Famous
Numerous attorneys have become famous. A few who come to mind are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, David Boies, Alan Dershowitz, John Grisham, Mitt Romney, and Jerry Springer. Attorneys often end up becoming quite famous and for some reason, they seem to have a special ability to do so. Perhaps it is because a law degree gives people “lawyer skills,” which they transfer into other lucrative and high-profile areas, such as entertainment and journalism. Judith Sheindlin is a former family law attorney who now earns millions of dollars as the star of “Judge Judy.” David E. Kelly left his law practice to write and produce “Picket Fences,” “Ally McBeal,” and “The Practice.” Phillip Graham, the late publisher of The Washington Post, Bob Woodruff, and Cynthia McFadden are people with law degrees who parlayed their talents into journalism.
14. Attorneys Have The Chance To Easily Transition Into Politics
While you certainly do not need to be an attorney to get into politics, it definitely helps. For example, 25 of the 44 presidents of the United States have been attorneys. This is more than any other profession. Attorneys seem uniquely suited to politics compared to other professions. When you become an attorney, your odds of successfully transitioning into politics increase exponentially.
15. Attorneys Have The Chance To Bring Flexibility To Their Careers
Attorneys have the flexibility to work in a variety of settings and in the manner they choose. Many choose to work in part-time legal jobs, as contract attorneys, or in more demanding settings. Attorneys have a great deal of flexibility compared to other kinds of professionals. Some attorneys even relocate to remote areas and can continue practicing law by telecommuting.
The Philadelphia Bar Association has a model Alternative Work Arrangements policy that invites attorneys in good standing with their firms to submit proposals for a variety of such situations, including reduced work, job sharing, flextime, and telecommuting. “Virtual” law firms such as VLP Law Group and SRD Legal Group also offer alternative options to accommodate attorneys who want flexibility in work arrangements and entities that want good legal work done at reduced rates.
16. Attorneys Have The Ability To Go Very, Very Far If They Choose To Do So
I often see attorneys start in small law firms and then through hard work and other factors wind up in giant law firms doing extremely well—even without stellar educational qualifications.
The practice of law allows you to go as far as you want and to rise as high as you can push yourself. I know people who have become federal judges, multimillionaires, famous authors, partners in major law firms, and more. They have done this all through the power of their law degrees plus ambition and hard work. There are so many great things you can do with a law degree.
17. Attorneys Have The Opportunity To Get Paid For Writing
The legal profession offers many outlets for people who love to write. Litigators and many other types of attorneys do a tremendous amount of writing as part of their jobs, whether it is pretrial motions, appellate briefs, client updates, or articles in legal publications. The power of the pen can literally change the outcome of a case by convincing a judge to make one ruling as opposed to another. It is only through the process of writing that our ideas for governance become meaningful in the form of written laws and published opinions.
There is no shortage of writing opportunities in law and good writers love the profession because it gives them a way to turn their interest and passion for writing into income. The practice of law allows lawyers/writers to get paid for doing something they love, and it also helps them become better writers by constantly requiring them to tighten up language, impose structure, order, and clarity on ideas, and express complicated concepts in simple ways. When you think of all the interesting dramas that play out in courtrooms and law firms around the country, you can see how a good writer can use his or her professional work as fodder for fiction. Who knows which lawyer/writer out there will become the next John Grisham or David Kelley.
18. Attorneys Have The Opportunity To Get Paid For Arguing
Just like some lawyers love to write, others love to argue. They do not care what the topic of argument is or who the opponent is. They just love the process of debating and arguing. For these people, the law is a great profession because it gives them the chance to argue as part of their regular everyday jobs. Lawyers argue all the time— with opposing counsel, judges, government agencies, and anyone else who stands in the way of their clients. If you like to argue, then you can find happiness and fulfillment daily in the practice of law.
19. Attorneys Have Many Transferrable Skills
As we have already seen, lawyers are constantly taking their “lawyer skills” and putting them to good use in all sorts of other professions. Given their skill set, attorneys are well qualified for all kinds of other jobs, including sales, marketing, politics, writing, entrepreneurship, and more. Attorneys also tend to have strong work ethics and an ability to pay attention to detail, which can be very useful in other lines of work. Lawyers become journalists, authors, artists, business people, agents, and all sorts of other kinds of professionals.
20. Attorneys Have The Chance To Sell To Lots Of Different People
Lawyers love to sell! They need to sell clients on their services (i.e., to convince clients to use their services as opposed to those of a competitor) and they need to sell judges, opposing counsel, and others on their clients’ side of the story or their interpretation of the law. If you enjoy selling, there is really no profession where your salesmanship will be as highly valued as in the practice of law.
There are so many good reasons for being an attorney. All attorneys should appreciate the many “positives” associated with law, no matter how they end up using their law degrees and “lawyer skills.” While there are many purported “negatives” associated with being a lawyer, most of these apply in the case of any profession. All in all, being an attorney is a wonderful job filled with tremendous challenges, opportunities, and rewards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Law Still A Good Career Choice?
It is possible to enjoy an intellectual challenge, personal satisfaction, and financial reward in a career in law. The following are the reasons why the law is a good career choice:
Diverse Legal Career Options
There are more than a hundred career options in law because of the complexity of our legal system. In an ever-changing legal system, legal professionals' roles are expanding and evolving across the spectrum, from lawyers and judges to paralegals, secretaries, and consultants.
Growth and Opportunity
Legal practice has grown dramatically in recent years. Profits and revenues have steadily increased, as have headcounts, and salary increases have provided plenty of job opportunities across a broad range of legal jobs.
Today, the legal profession is one of the most lucrative industries. Over the last few years, revenue has increased by double-digits and salaries have increased as well. Partner salaries in the nation's largest law firms range from $1.2 million to more than $1 million annually for associates. In addition to lawyers, many non-lawyers also earn substantial financial rewards in the legal profession.
Legal professionals' main responsibility is to provide excellent client service. It is the fundamental purpose of the legal professionals to help others with their legal concerns, whether they are legal counsel for a multinational corporation or a paralegal who assists abused women in obtaining restraining orders.
Diverse Practice Areas
Legal specialization has increased in recent years. There are now more and more fields within the law that cater to a wide variety of legal interests. Litigation professionals can choose from a wide variety of practice areas, including criminal law, employment law, family law, products liability, and more. Lawyers who choose to specialize in corporate law can choose from areas such as tax law, mergers, and acquisitions, real estate, or finance to focus their practice.
The legal profession is characterized by an evolving legal system, technological advances, extensive case law, and the demands it places on the legal profession. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike must plan, reason logically, analyzes the law and the case, research complex legal issues, and master written and oral communication.
Due in part to the legal profession's diversifying geographic and practice bases, many law firms have historically weathered economic downturns quite well. Some practice areas will actually benefit from an economic slowdown, such as litigation, bankruptcy, and reorganization, residential real estate foreclosures, and regulatory compliance. Due to this, lawyers will have access to plenty of employment opportunities regardless of economic conditions.
Law has long been viewed as an elite profession in a culture where high pay, impressive education, and societal power are the hallmarks of success. Media portrayals of legal careers as exciting, glamorous, fast-paced, and highly desired contribute to enhancing this image. As a result, the legal profession has retained its allure, and careers in legal fields continue to be highly sought-after.
By merging, acquiring, and collaborating with foreign counsel, corporations are expanding internationally and expanding across borders. Modern legal professionals can serve international clients because of the globalization of the legal profession.
There are continuous changes and changes in the legal profession, bringing new rewards and challenges. In an ever-evolving legal landscape, legal professionals need to solve problems and pioneer new approaches. They need to be open to new responsibilities, embrace new challenges, learn new technologies, and develop innovative strategies. Every day at this firm is different, and it fosters an enjoyable, fulfilling work environment.
Is Law A Hard Career?
A career in law indeed is one of the most sought-after professions, and you can reap many rewards if you pursue one. However, being an attorney also has its drawbacks. Not all of our clients are grateful, and the drama in courtrooms is not always exciting.
The practice of law has many benefits and can provide a sense of fulfillment, but it is no longer what it was a decade ago. You should honestly decide if becoming a lawyer is the right career decision for you after considering all the factors.
A law practice is one of the most stressful careers out there because of the pressure of deadlines, billing pressures, numerous client demands, and many other aspects. Lawyers are stressed at a time when business pressures are rising, legal technologies are evolving, and debt is climbing.
Members of the bar find it very difficult to deal with the demands and stresses of practicing law. According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association, 44 percent of lawyers have depression or consider suicide.
As a result of rising workloads and decreasing staff, lawyers are spending more time working. Globalization also requires some lawyers to be available round-the-clock to their clients.
Increasingly, lawyers are working longer and harder, and many work more than 50 hours a week. Due to increasing competition, lawyers are spending more time managing clients and growing their businesses than they have in the past. Due to this, many lawyers complain that work-life balance is not maintained.
Soaring Law School Debt
Recent years have seen an increase in law school tuition. An average law school can charge around $40,000 in tuition annually. The school debt of six figures is not uncommon when starting in practice. Today's cutthroat job market makes it increasingly difficult for recent law school graduates to repay their school loans. Today, a law degree does not guarantee financial security.
Competitive Job Market
Today, the job market for lawyers is one of the worst ever. The number of jobs has fallen to record lows, and salaries have plummeted, but law schools are not reducing enrollments. Lawyers have had to take on less-than-ideal employment or change careers entirely because of a lack of employment opportunities. Law degrees have become less valuable as supply and demand continue to decline.
Clients Are Not Spending As Much
Legal spending has become a more important consideration for clients. Clients began to demand more value for their money after seeing billing increases far exceed inflation for years. As a result, lawyers must charge reasonable rates for their services.
Technology or other professionals, such as paralegals, will be able to handle some tasks that would have previously been undertaken by a lawyer more efficiently, more quickly, and for less money.
Changing Legal Paradigms
A paradigm shift is taking place in the legal profession, and lawyers do not enjoy a monopoly over this field. The legal profession is facing competition from a variety of non-lawyer sources, such as document technicians and virtual law offices.
These sources are not necessarily reputable or able to deliver the same results as an attorney with training and experience can. Nevertheless, they exist and they dissuade many potential clients from working with "real" attorneys.
What Is The Best Career In Law?
You can get into the legal industry in a variety of ways, from working as a court messenger to being a trial lawyer. These are some of the highest-paying legal jobs:
One of the highest-paid legal professionals in the world is a trial lawyer. Around the globe, thousands of lawyers practice, but the most highly compensated are civil litigators who take on high-profile, high-dollar cases. It is important to remember, however, that not every lawyer makes a lot of money. The salaries of many public interest attorneys and solo practitioners are modest. In 2018, trial lawyers earned a median salary of $99,000.
Intellectual Property Lawyers
A patent or copyright protects ideas, including trademarks, trade secrets, and other lucrative concepts. Technology continues to advance, and it is also a lucrative area of law as well as one of the fastest-growing. Lawyers at the high end of the scale earned an average salary of $197,000; however, the median pay is $137,000 a year.
Whether you are an individual or a business, a tax attorney can assist you. As well as estate planning, they can also help with IRS lawsuits. If a new business is being started or contracts are being drafted, these consultants are often necessary. Tax lawyers earn decent salaries even though they are not as flashy as trial lawyers. According to 2018 data, the median pay is about $99,000, but some employees make up to $200,000 a year.
Employment and Labor Attorneys
Employers and employees rely on labor attorneys to maintain a harmonious relationship. Employers and managers are represented by them, while employees are represented by them. The compensation is good. An employment lawyer earns about $87,000 on average, and some earn as much as $185,000 a year.
Real Estate Attorneys
Licensed real estate attorneys review offers and contracts to ensure buyers get a fair deal. In addition, they make sure everything is fair for sellers. Nearly one in four real estate attorneys do not receive benefits despite earning a salary of $74,000 on average and earning as much as $145,000 a year.
Chief Legal Officers
A company's legal department is headed by a chief legal officer (CLO). Generally, the salary of general counsel is higher the larger the company. CLOs in large, multinational companies typically earn seven figures in salary. A chief legal officer's compensation package can include bonuses, stock options, and other types of perks besides his salary.
Federal, state, and local courts are presided over by judges. In the U.S., judges, and magistrates earn between $66,000 and $148,000 on a median basis. The high-paid judges are those in the federal court system, while judges and magistrates in local courts earn the least. Most judges receive generous salaries and benefits, as well as expense accounts and contributions to retirement plans made on their behalf, enhancing their compensation packages.
Members of Congress
Consider a career in politics if you enjoy changing laws to benefit a whole state or country. Law degrees are not a requirement for starting a career in politics, but they can certainly be helpful. Representatives and those in higher positions, like Majority Party Leader and Speaker of the House, make an average of $174,000 per year.
Law School Professor
The professor in law school teaches classes, carries out research, and publishes scholarly works in his or her field. Schools and regions have different salaries. Salary ranges for full professors ranged from $105,000 to $204,210, according to the Society of American Law Teachers' 2017-2018 Salary Survey.
Professorships at schools are highly competitive. For top candidates, qualifications include a law degree from a top school, publication credits in scholarly journals, judicial clerkship experience, and high-class standing.
Litigation Support Director
Technology is changing law practices, so tech-savvy legal professionals are earning more. On average, litigation support professionals make around $80,000 per year, and director and manager salaries can be far higher. Most top-earners possess a business or law degree.
Director of litigation support manages firm-wide litigation support activities, e-discovery initiatives, and technology resources. Since litigation support salaries are predicted to climb due to increased demand and a lack of experienced litigation support staff, litigation support salaries are predicted to increase.
Law Firm Administrator
Managing officers or administrators oversee the business and administrative aspects of running a law firm. The duties of the administrator include handling finance, human resources, facilities, technology, marketing, and practice management.
Large law firms pay their administrators the highest salaries. In New York, for example, firm administrators can earn up to $750,000, while salary levels in Washington, DC, can soar up to $650,000.
In general, lawyers in law firms work fewer hours than administrators, and CMOs usually have a bachelor's degree rather than a law degree. For those seeking career opportunities in the legal industry, this can be a good option. Any job requires consideration of salary. Rather, you and your firm should be driven by passion, to be successful.
Why Choose To Be A Lawyer?
Even though lawyers are honest professionals, the industry has its fair share of rotten apples. The law industry in general, however, is not filled with such individuals.
The fact remains that a lawyer is a respected professional, regardless of what you may have read in other articles. Furthermore, the number of legal cases keeps increasing every day, increasing the demand for this profession. The following reasons will make you want to become a lawyer:
Contribute to the Community
It is best to get into law if you love working with people and helping them. Among this profession are many who are motivated by a desire to help others.
It is one of the professions that allow an individual to indulge in professionally helping people. One of the most fascinating aspects of the profession is, when it comes to lawyers, they are in a position to help those who are marginalized by society. A lawyer can easily influence the people around them.
Despite the high tuition fees of a school, you will have enough knowledge of the industry once you have completed your degree. Unlike money, education stays by your side throughout your lifetime and helps you for the rest of your life.
Having been a lawyer for so many years, you will easily be able to make this transition, if you desire to do so. If you hold a law degree in this field, you will have a lot of job opportunities. School instructors can also become lawyers.
A career as a lawyer is one of the most satisfying ways to experience the continual development of your intellect. It is amazing that as time passes, you get to learn more and more about being a lawyer. Taking more and more cases throughout the year allows you to improve your skills.
The change in intellect helps you become a better person every day, regardless if you are dealing with a billion-dollar business, family law, or criminal case.
One more great reason to become a lawyer is the flexibility it offers. It is tough at the beginning, but as time passes, you can charge whatever you like.
In other words, different clients can pay different fees. A strong portfolio is important if you want to charge higher prices for your work.
Lawyers who have previous experience working in this field can earn good money. Although you might run into some difficult situations at first, after you have handled a few cases successfully, you will be able to charge whatever you like.
Freelancers who work for wealthy clients can easily make more money. A lot of the best-paid lawyers in today's legal fieldwork for big firms due to the large salaries they offer.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. He is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.