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Attorney Career

Career Description

Attorneys act as both advocates and advisors in our society. As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal and civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in court to support their client. As advisors, attorneys counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest particular courses of action in business and personal matters. Whether acting as an advocate or an advisor, all attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances faced by their clients.

Common Work Tasks

  • Help clients prepare and file for licenses and applications for approval
  • Protect clients’ claims to copyrights, artwork under contract, product designs, and computer programs
  • Represent individuals who have been charged with crimes and argue their cases in courts of law
  • Assist clients with litigation, wills, trusts,  contracts, mortgages, titles, and leases
  • Advises the company they work for concerning legal issues related to its business activities
  • Investigate cases for the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies
  • Draft and interpret laws and legislation
  • Argue civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government
  • Establish enforcement procedures

Other Job Titles

Attorneys are also known by other titles, including:

  • Lawyer
  • Prosecutor
  • Judge
  • Legal Advisor

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Becoming an attorney usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law school applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admission. Acceptance by most law schools depends on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate an aptitude for the study of law, usually through undergraduate grades, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the quality of the applicant’s undergraduate school, any prior work experience, and sometimes, a personal interview. However, law schools vary in the weight they place on each of these and other factors.

Licensure and Certification
To practice law in the courts of any State or other jurisdiction, a attorney must be licensed, or admitted to its bar, under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. All States require that applicants for admission to the bar pass a written bar examination; most States also require applicants to pass a separate written ethics examination. Attorneys who have been admitted to the bar in one State occasionally may be admitted to the bar in another without taking another examination if they meet the latter jurisdiction’s standards of good moral character and a specified period of legal experience.  In most cases, however, attorneys must pass the bar examination in each State in which they plan to practice. Federal courts and agencies set their own qualifications for those practicing before or in them.

  Individuals planning careers in law should like to work with people and be able to win the respect and confidence of their clients, associates, and the public.  Perseverance, creativity, and reasoning ability also are essential to attorneys, who often analyze complex cases and handle new and unique legal problems.


The median annual salary for Attorneys is $106,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $146,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $52,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of attorneys are:

  • Legal Services - $124,230
  • Local Government - $87,130
  • State Government - $78,310
  • Federal Executive Branch - $119,730
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $143,830

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 84,000
  • Employment 2006 : 761,000
  • Employment 2016:  844,000
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