There are almost as many attorney jobs as there are attorneys. Increasingly, the legal profession has been characterized by specialization, meaning that attorneys develop a set of unique skills which make them an expert in a narrow field of practice. Some lawyers frequently appear in court, while others almost never deal with a judge or jury in person. Even those attorneys who regularly argue in court must master other skills, including case research, witness interviews, and settlement negotiations.
Attorney jobs tend to be concerned with either criminal law or civil law. An attorney who focuses on criminal law will handle cases in which a person or group of people has been accused of doing something illegal. Burglary, murder, and extortion are all crimes that can result in trials handled by criminal attorneys. A criminal attorney may represent the party accused of the crime or the state, since crimes are defined as acts against the laws of the state.
An attorney who practices civil law, meanwhile, handles issues related to titles, leases, trusts, and contracts. Some of these cases have to do with the public interest, while others are related only to the interest of a particular party. There are a number of specialty attorney jobs within civil law. For instance, many lawyers focus on family law and deal with issues of child support and custody.
Other attorneys handle real estate cases, while others deal exclusively with bankruptcy proceedings. Frequently, an attorney will specialize in a single area of civil law so that (s)he can become expert in its intricacies.
The distinction between criminal and civil law is one way to categorize attorney jobs. Another is by the type and number of clients the attorney handles. Some attorneys open their own practices and handle whatever cases come their way. These practices operate much like other small businesses: they advertise and try to attract clients through referrals and positive word of mouth. Many people feel that obtaining a law degree is a guarantee of wealth, but some independent attorneys would argue otherwise. Of course, attorneys who open their own practices can decide who they want to represent and what types of cases they want to handle. Attorneys who work for large law firms may not have such autonomy.
Another way to practice as an attorney is as house counsel, or a full-time representative of a particular person or organization. These attorneys advocate for the interest of the client all the time as well as provide the client with legal advice. Businesses and governments often hire attorneys to serve as house counsel.
Attorneys who work for the government fulfill a variety of roles. Some help draft legislation, while others assemble lawsuits on behalf of government agencies. Government attorneys may argue cases in court, or they may help investigators obtain information about possible lawbreakers. District attorney, public prosecutor, and public defender are all examples of government attorney jobs.
Some attorneys enjoy the process of law school so much they decide to become professors. In order to become a faculty member at a law school, an attorney needs to have an excellent bar score and a degree from a top institution. It is also useful to have experience and expertise in a particular area of the law. For instance, some law professors teach constitutional law exclusively. In some cases, attorneys teach law on a part–time basis and spend the rest of their professional time practicing law outside academia.
Other attorneys take jobs as law clerks after they leave law school. A clerk works for a judge, performing research, conducting interviews, and helping to prepare decisions. Clerking is considered one of the best attorney jobs to take before entering practice, but most clerks only stay in their positions for one or two years.Finding Attorney Jobs
There are all sorts of ways to find your next job as an attorney. You can never know which method will be successful, so the best strategy is to pursue all the available means of finding your next job. You must remain vigilant and persistent in your job search because at any moment you might come across the opportunity that makes your career.
If you are still in law school, you have access to a wealth of job search resources. Almost every school has a specific office for helping students and recent graduates find work. Often, this is the same office that lines up summer internships for current students. The employees of this office are responsible for maintaining relationships with human resources workers at major law firms, so they will be the first to know who is hiring. Moreover, the employees in the career placement office will be well positioned to recommend you for a vacancy. It is a good idea to cultivate relationships in the career placement office from your first year of law school, but even if you have not done this, do not be afraid to knock on their door. After all, it is their job to help you find a job. At the very least, they can tell you where you should start looking.
For current or recent law school graduates, the other obvious place to start sniffing out potential jobs is among the faculty. By the end of your final semester of school, you should have developed strong relationships with some of your professors. If not, you can still do so by attending alumni meetings and law school events. Many law school professors have friends and colleagues in practice, and indeed, some professors practice law part-time themselves. At any rate, law professors are likely to be among the first to know about firms with vacancies. Moreover, law professors will know the specialties and focus areas of various law firms and will be able to direct you to the firm that best suits your strengths. Of course, you do not want to hassle your professors with continuous requests for job-search assistance. If a couple of inquiries are fruitless, stop asking and move on to another professor. Regardless of whether they know about any specific vacancies, professors should be able to tell you where to start looking.
Another great place to start job hunting is at a networking event. These types of events, at which professionals gather to share contact information and discuss business informally, happen all the time in towns and cities. Naturally, you should make sure ahead of time that an event will be relevant to your interests. Some networking events are designed exclusively for the legal profession; these will be the most helpful to you in your job search.
As you may have noticed, the top ways to look for an attorney job all have to do with making personal connections. Just as in other professions, most legal jobs are obtained through social networks. For many, this makes the process of looking for a job even more daunting. However, there are plenty of ways to make connections without being a social butterfly. For one thing, you can attend lectures on legal subjects at your law school or in your community. You will be certain to meet people there who are well connected in the field of law.
Another great way to make useful contacts is to join a volunteer or pro bono legal services program while in school. Not only will these activities give you some valuable experience in your chosen field, but they also will introduce you to others with similar interests. These people can be a great resource as you look for your first job.
In addition, many recent law school graduates who have yet to find a job make a living tutoring students for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). These positions can be very lucrative and are a great way to keep your critical thinking and reasoning skills fresh. In addition, parents of law students are often practicing attorneys and may have connections within the field. By cultivating these relationships, many law school grads find their first associate positions.
Though not a replacement for personal connections, the Internet can be another great resource. There are a number of great online and print job listings for attorney openings, including the job bank on this site. Do not be afraid to apply to dozens of different firms through the mail or over the Internet. However, keep in mind that firms usually take a long time to respond to applications and that delay does not mean lack of interest. The best way to handle job applications for listings you find online or in print is to follow up with a phone call and be as persistent as possible.