Pur­su­ing a Ca­reer in Law

Lesotho Times - - Jobs & Tenders -

IF you are con­sid­er­ing law school, you are tak­ing the ini­tial step to­ward a po­ten­tially re­ward­ing ca­reer in the le­gal pro­fes­sion. A le­gal ed­u­ca­tion can be one of the most chal­leng­ing and ful­fill­ing en­deav­ours an in­di­vid­ual will pur­sue in their life­time.

There are many po­ten­tial rea­sons one may choose to at­tend law school. Learn­ing the skills of a lawyer and then us­ing them in prac­tice is the most com­mon rea­son.

How­ever, some may sim­ply be in­ter­ested in the com­plex­i­ties of the law and seek to learn more about it. Still oth­ers are mo­ti­vated to en­ter law school to ef­fect change through gov­ern­ment, in­ter­est groups, or other non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Like any other pro­fes­sion, not all lawyers are rich and suc­cess­ful. How­ever, the le­gal pro­fes­sion is gen­er­ally re­ward­ing both per­son­ally and fi­nan­cially. A per­son with a back­ground in le­gal ed­u­ca­tion can, in ad­di­tional to prac­tic­ing law, turn to other fields such as teach­ing, busi­ness, and ad­vo­cacy.

The Job of a Lawyer

Lawyers must be able to ex­am­ine le­gal is­sues, while keep­ing in mind the con­stantly chang­ing law and le­gal sys­tem. They also must be able to ad­vo­cate, to the best of their abil­ity, di­verse in­ter­ests. This also means ad­vo­cat­ing in­ter­ests with which they may not per­son­ally agree. Lawyers must have skills to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively, ver­bally and in writ­ing. At the same time, suc­cess­ful at­tor­neys must have the abil­ity to ef­fec­tively per­suade and ne­go­ti­ate.

Prac­tic­ing at­tor­neys, there­fore, are in­tri­cately in­volved in busi­ness deal­ings, po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions, and de­bat­ing some of the most dif­fi­cult is­sues fac­ing so­ci­ety. The work of an at­tor­ney of­ten in­volves avoid­ing and ne­go­ti­at­ing past con­flict. In this man­ner, the work of an at­tor­ney can be very in­ter­est­ing. You’ll find lawyers at work in the cen­tre of the big­gest deals in gov­ern­ment, busi­ness, and the non-profit sec­tor.

At­tor­neys find them­selves in a wide va­ri­ety of po­si­tions. Some be­come in-house coun­sel on cor­po­rate, gov­ern­men­tal, or in­ter­est group staffs. Oth­ers work for large law firms who rep­re­sent busi­ness clients. Still oth­ers work in smaller firms or open their own prac­tice. Other lawyers pur­sue ca­reers in academia or as ju­rists sit­ting on the bench. Sound like an in­ter­est­ing field? It is. But you should also go in with “both eyes open.” Peo­ple of­ten have in­ac­cu­rate views about prac­tic­ing law.

At­tor­ney In­come

Some view law school as an au­to­matic ticket to “big bucks.” Ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of Labour Sta­tis­tics, the me­dian salary for lawyers in 2006 was ap­prox. $102,000. This fig­ure, of course, in­cluded at­tor­neys in all fields and all lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence, and in all dif­fer­ent re­gions of the U.S. Start­ing lawyers at big, pres­ti­gious cor­po­rate law firms can make high six-fig­ure salaries.

The an­nual salary for large law firm part­ners who have been with the firm for many years of­ten eas­ily tops $500,000. And, of course, there are some high-fly­ing at­tor­neys who make mil­lions. How­ever, there’s a greater num­ber of “ev­ery­day” lawyers who work in smaller le­gal prac­tices and earn much more mod­est in­comes (start­ing salaries around $35,000. are not un­com­mon). Many of these at­tor­neys make a de­cent liv­ing at their trade, but they cer­tainly don’t qual­ify for a glam­orous life­style. And there are many other lawyers who, bur­geon­ing un­der mas­sive stu­dent loan debt, strug­gle to find jobs and pay their bills.

Be Re­al­is­tic

Some peo­ple have in­ac­cu­rate views of what lawyers do. Hav­ing seen tele­vi­sion pro­grams such as Law and Or­der, some may get the idea that all lawyers spend their time in the court room try­ing cases. This is not true for most at­tor­neys. Much of a lawyer’s work in­volves read­ing, re­search, ne­go­ti­a­tions, and dis­cus­sions. In­deed, some lawyers hardly ever set foot in a court­room. The job of many at­tor­neys is of­ten to study agree­ments and po­ten­tial sit­u­a­tions to avoid lit­i­ga­tion, not en­gage in it.

Fi­nally, some ap­proach law from an un­re­al­is­tic per­spec­tive. For ex­am­ple, many in­di­vid­u­als seek to prac­tice en­vi­ron­men­tal law based upon their deeply held be­lief in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

But they should know that a large num­ber of the po­si­tions in en­vi­ron­men­tal law in­volve rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of chem­i­cal com­pa­nies, in­dus­trial man­u­fac­tur­ers, and global oil cor­po­ra­tions - the very groups most en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists op­pose.

Still oth­ers en­vi­sion prac­tic­ing crim­i­nal law to pro­tect the in­no­cent from ar­bi­trary gov­ern­men­tal power. But these lawyers must re­al­ize that those who prac­tice crim­i­nal law rep­re­sent many peo­ple who are guilty of com­mit­ting heinous crimes, in ad­di­tion to the in­no­cent. Like all fields, a ca­reer in law has “pros” and “cons.”

On the whole, most lawyers find their work to be in­ter­est­ing and re­ward­ing. But you must be re­al­is­tic about what a ca­reer in law, or any other field, en­tails. — umassd.edu

BE re­al­is­tic about what a ca­reer in law or any other field en­tails.

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