How to Become an Attorney
An attorney is a lawyer who is qualified to represent a client in a courtroom setting. If you have an interest in law and criminal justice, are an excellent public speaker, and really know how to get a convincing point across, then you might like to become an attorney.
Often, the terms lawyer and attorney are used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two terms. A lawyer is a person who is qualified to give out legal advice and assistance. An attorney is a lawyer who is able to represent a person in a court. While all attorneys are lawyers, not all lawyers are attorneys. In some parts of the world, an attorney is referred to as an Esquire, or in the higher courts, a Barrister.
Educational Requirements to Become an Attorney
If you would like to become an attorney, you will need to prepare yourself for at least seven years of schooling. It's also a competitive field, so you will need to get good grades to gain a place in law school, and also to get a good graduate job. Study hard in high school, and then apply for a place in a good college.
You should complete a four year undergraduate degree. There is no specific requirement for your major, but choosing an area in the humanities can help. Criminal justice, history, politics, and writing can all help to give you a strong knowledge base that will help you in graduate school. Some colleges run a specific pre-law program that may be of interest, although not essential.
After college you'll need to apply to law school. Entrance is competitive, and is based on your grade point average, admission essay, interview, and an examination (the law schools admission test or LSAT.)
It will most likely take three years to complete law school. You should take up as many opportunities as you can to take on an internship over the summer. Positions in the area of law that you want to work in are the best.
After you graduation law school you will need to sit and pass the bar exam in your state before you can start practice.
Attorney Job Description
An attorney's role is to represent their client in court. They may be defending a client against charges made, or presenting a case against another person and seeking damages or compensation. Attorneys can represent clients for many different areas such as DUI, Injury, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Social Security Disability, and Criminal cases.
The part of an attorney's job that we are more familiar with is in the court room, where an attorney will present arguments, question witnesses, and win over juries. However there is also much work that an attorney does outside of the court room.
Many attorneys work long hours. Working an 18 hour day is not unheard of. Keeping a strong work ethic up is important in this field. When researching a case they must know quite a good deal of information about their client, as well as the other persons involved with the case. Many attorneys will have a research assistant or investigator to assist them with this. They also must spend time developing their case, interviewing witnesses, and researching precedent.
Here are some of the tasks of an attorney:
- Appearing in court
- Meeting with clients
- Investigating the background of a client and others involved in a case
- Investigating the circumstances of a case
- Researching a case of legal defense
- Researching precedent
- Communicating with other lawyers, paralegals, and assistants
- Appealing decisions
Attorney Salary and Career Path
To become an attorney, your first step after passing the bar is to gain a position as a junior associate at a law firm that deals in trial law. To begin with, you may work as a researcher on cases, and have some dealings with clients or witnesses. After a while, you may get the opportunity to act as first of second chair on cases, and then eventually head your own cases and clients.
You may also work as a public prosecutor, or public defender. In this instance you will likely work for the district attorney's office, depending on where you live. Career progression is similar; however the pay is not as great as in the private sector. The current median wage for an attorney is $110,000 a year according to BLS.gov.
Some similar career paths to that of an attorney that you might be interested in include:
The path to become a lawyer is challenging. You will be required to go through a lot of schooling, and also compete to gain a place in law school, and later for a graduate job. However, law is an intriguing field where you will be face with plenty of challenges and lots of reward. Attorneys receive a high salary, and also have plenty of opportunity to improve themselves through professional development, and also through advancement and promotion.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics