Considering a Career in Law
A career in the field of law can encompass many aspects of society such as business, government, human and civil rights, international relations, medicine, law enforcement, politics, entertainment, sports and the arts, as well as jurisprudence and academia. If you have a passion for legal thought, strong oral and written communication skills, and a propensity for drawing thoughtful conclusions by analyzing fine details and complex information, then a law career may be for you. When contemplating a law degree, ask yourself: Why do you want to become a lawyer? How will earning a J.D. satisfy your interests? How would membership in the legal profession serve your long-term goals? Considering an advanced degree is an expensive proposition, especially when taking into account both tuition cost as well as lost income during the three years you are in law school. Plan to do some research in terms of what you can reasonably expect to get out of a law degree both academically and professionally.
Salaries and work hours vary widely across the profession. The average starting salary for an entry-level associate is between $65,000-$70,000*. While a corporate lawyer at a top law firm may currently earn between $135,000-$160,000 in the first year out of law school, he/she may also have to work twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week. Government lawyers and those who work in-house for a company or organization usually have more reasonable and predictable work schedules, but earn a lower starting salary. Most of those interested in public interest law can expect a starting salary under $50,000. Lawyers entering a solo practice earn varying amounts depending on their legal expertise and the region where they practice. In addition, many people trained as lawyers work in jobs where their legal training is of value but they are not actually practicing law.
*(NALP-The Association for Legal Professionals' Jobs & J.D.'s: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates-Class of 2010)
Realities of a Legal Career
An important step in making your decision is to learn about the significant changes in the market for new lawyers in recent years. Today’s graduates can expect a more competitive legal job-search process and the prospect of working in a field not directly related to law; approximately 51% of the Class of 2010 took a position in private practice (according to the NALP Graduate Employment Survey for the Law Class of 2010). Therefore, make it a priority to explore various career options for using your legal training. Think about broad categories such as law, government, education, health care, and technology, and consider how the skills you gain from a legal education—such as research and writing, analysis and logical reasoning, knowledge of substantive law and legal procedures, and time management—will be utilized. Be sure to meet with your House prelaw tutor to consider non-legal careers for lawyers.