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Never Give Up
published October 13, 2008
If you're interested in the rights of others and have a good mind, solid organizational skills, and some legal experience, you can help others and find a solid career as an advocate. Of course, it is not always easy, at first, to get a paying job as an advocate, but there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that will allow you to become an advocate and gain experience before ultimately moving into a paid advocacy job.
What Is an Advocate?
The term "advocate" refers to someone who advocates on the behalf of another party. Specifically, advocates usually work within the legal system in some capacity, although they may also work outside its parameters in some cases.
Advocacy jobs are available everywhere and take on a number of different areas, including children's rights, family negotiations, accident or crime victims’ needs, and so on. Every area of the legal profession needs advocates to work on victims’ behalf.
Most formal advocacy jobs require that you have a least some legal experience or that you're in law school and in the process of becoming a lawyer. Oftentimes, law students help tenants settle disputes with landlords. Others may even undertake cases involving individuals who have been wrongly convicted of crimes in the hopes of proving the innocence of these wrongly accused individuals. In such cases, of course, the students are supervised by a law professor and take on the cases as part of the students' training and education to become lawyers.
Depending on the scope of the work required, advocacy jobs may start at relatively modest pay (sometimes very modest pay). It can be quite easy to become an advocate, though. If you're willing to volunteer, for example, you can advocate in any number of areas for any number of individuals, including battered women, abused children, tenants, and so on.
In some cases, volunteer advocacy jobs can lead to paid advocacy jobs based upon experience. These jobs are not necessarily listed in any central location; rather, they're part of a network whereby those who have become legal advocates move into paid positions after a time spent volunteering.
Some areas employ legal advocates specifically to act as mediators in disputes, rather than utilizing lawyers and judges. Oftentimes, for example, advocates work to mediate and resolve legal disputes that may not have the substance go to trial. Lawyers and judges, meanwhile, are often significantly overbooked such that using legal advocates for lesser cases is both cost-effective and time-saving. Minor disputes, for example, that might otherwise have to wait for months or longer to be resolved in the traditional legal system can be resolved far more quickly through mediation instead.
Because advocates work on behalf of someone, advocates always work in partnership with other people. An advocate's job is to work on someone's behalf as his or her representative. However, the advocate also works in tandem with that person so that he or she can determine what needs are to be met and what the person he or she is advocating for wants. For this reason, advocates do not stand alone in making decisions. Rather, they stand with their clients and ultimately must do what their clients want.
Advocacy jobs are as varied as the legal system itself. In some cases, you may become involved as an advocate on a purely volunteer basis. For example, if you volunteer at a homeless shelter to help clients find lodging, your volunteer status may be because the organization doesn't have the money to pay a formal advocate. In such cases, experience requirements are usually much lower, and the job itself can even be learned through on-the-job experience alone.
If you are interested in becoming an advocate, it may be helpful to volunteer first in the area that you are most interested in. From there, volunteer advocacy jobs can often become paid jobs. Some advocates, too, eventually find a niche they are particularly interested in, and go to school specifically to become lawyers in that particular area.
Frequently Asked Questions
A career as a child advocate is rewarding. No matter how you choose to work, you have many possibilities. You can be a lawyer or a social worker. In this career field, no matter which direction you choose, you will be providing a voice for a population that would otherwise have none.
Advocacy jobs are far-reaching and are involved in many different areas of the legal system in some capacity. Everything from advocating for children to advocating for environmental concerns can be accomplished by those who function as advocates. Some advocacy jobs are formal and require a law degree, while others simply require a passion and knowledge for the subject at hand and a willingness to learn. If you're interested, find an area that interests you and begin by volunteering. Being an advocate can be a very rewarding experience.
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