Lawyers advise and advocate for people, corporations, and other institutions in a wide variety of legal matters. In civil and criminal trials, lawyers present evidence on behalf of their client. Non-trial lawyers advise their clients about their legal rights and obligations related to business and personal matters.
Education and Training
Lawyers interpret the law by studying the outcomes of past cases, legal literature, and other sources found in print material or by computer. All information shared with a client must remain strictly confidential. Lawyers hold positions of high responsibility and are obligated to conduct themselves according to a strict code of ethics. It is the responsibility of lawyers to represent their client's best interests while upholding the law.
Lawyers generally specialize in a particular aspect of law. The majority of lawyers work for private practices that specialize in civil and criminal law. Criminal cases occur when an individual is charged with breaking a law. Civil cases may involve disputes related to wills, trusts, contracts, mortgages, titles, leases, and civil rights. Other lawyers may become expert in legal domains such as tax law, real estate law, bankruptcy law, or corporate law. These lawyers may work for individuals, companies, or government institutions where much of their work involves providing legal advice as opposed to trial representation.
In the U.S., lawyers may need the following education and training:
On the Job
- a bachelor's degree from a 4-year college which should include courses in English, foreign language, public speaking, government, philosophy, history, economics, and mathematics
- a graduate degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (this degree usually takes 3 years to complete)
- Each state or jurisdiction requires that a person be licensed in order to practice law. In order to obtain licensing, candidates must possess a law degree (see graduate degree requirement above), pass a written bar exam, and pass a separate written ethics examination.
Lawyers may divide their time between the office, law libraries, and the courtroom. Sometimes lawyers meet with clients in homes, places of business, hospitals, or prisons. They may also travel to the scene of a crime, dispute, accident, or claim in order to review evidence related to a case. Lawyers may work very long hours.
Math on the Job
Lawyers must be able to organize facts and their relation to relevant laws in order to form a logical argument that best represents their client's interests. They do this by researching information relevant to a case, and then composing written or verbal arguments to support their client's interests. Lawyers must pay attention to detail and craft arguments that are strongly supported by the evidence that is available.