Lawyers often act as both advisor and advocate on their client's behalf. As advisors, lawyers will counsel a client on how the facts of their situation relate to the law as it stands. As advocates, a lawyer will represent their client whether in a courtroom or in a business environment. In court, it is the job of the lawyer to advance your case and defend your interests whether in court or in the business environment.
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A litigation attorney (sometimes called a trial attorney) will represent clients in legal disputes. The resolution of the dispute may involve going to court, mediation or negotiating a settlement. The day to day activities of a litigation attorney include interviewing clients, visiting crime scenes, providing legal advice, performing research on past cases in preparation for court, drafting legal documents (discovery, pleadings, motions and briefs) and attending court to put forward arguments in favor of their client before a judge and/or jury.
A Corporate attorney (also known as a transactional lawyer) will give clients advice as relates to personal or business contract. The corporate attorney will assess existing documents, give clients counsel on what needs to be changed and what is acceptable, prepare and submit documentation to the appropriate government agencies on behalf of a client , perform legal research, draft various legal documents (contracts, legal opinions, resolutions and escrow trust agreements) as well as supervise transaction closings. Unlike litigation attorneys, corporate attorneys spend more time in the boardroom and within their offices and rarely if ever attend court.
To become a lawyer, you must complete a minimum of seven years post high school education. This includes a 4-year undergraduate program followed by 3 years in law school (4 years if in a part-time law program). You will also be required to pass a bar examination for each state in which you want to practice. The majority of states will also require you to pass an ethics examination. A lawyer can only start to practice once they have received the license from the state.
Like any other profession, you can find lawyers of differing backgrounds and personalities. There are however a number of skills that are common to the majority of successful attorneys. Exceptional written and oral communication skills are one fundamental trait, for corporate attorneys but even more so for litigation attorneys who must be able to eloquently and convincingly present their client's argument. Strong analytical skills are important as well as the ability to organize and manage multiple clients, contracts and cases simultaneously. You will also need a strong work ethic since lawyers often have to put in long hours just to make sure they serve their client the best way possible. As an attorney, you must respect client confidentiality and follow best practice as far as ethics is concerned.
As you start looking for legal vacancies, it is important to note that approximately 75% of all lawyers work in private practice either in a law firm or in individual practice. The rest work for the government either as prosecutors or judges in the judiciary. Lawyer salaries vary widely and are dependent on several factors such as location, niche of law and the existing demand for lawyers of that niche. Starting salaries can be as high as $160,000 for attorneys in large law firms in big cities such as New York or Boston but for many, particularly in the public sector (district attorneys, public defenders) the salary is much less.
Overall, the job market for lawyers is projected to grow due to an increasing demand for legal services so there should be plenty of vacancies legal for some time to come. However, globalization is has had an impact on vacancies legal in the Western countries such as the US especially in corporate attorney positions. Some legal services can be and have been outsourced to countries where the cost of engaging a lawyer is much cheaper.
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