Planning Your Career as a Lawyer

You’re almost there and graduating in a couple of months with a law degree from the University of Chicago. After graduation, you’ll be taking some rest and head back to Salt Lake City. A local firm specializing has a vacancy for a foreclosure defense attorney on their team, and they want to have an initial conversation with you. But for the most part, it’s going to be rest and reconnecting with family and friends.

Reviewing for the bar is also on your mind, and you want to take it as soon as possible. After that, you plan on enrolling for an LLM program in another school. While staying in Utah seems appealing because you will be near your family and friends, you’re wondering what the world has to offer once you’ve been admitted to the bar. Trade and labor relations are areas of interest, and perhaps a posting with an international body like the UN would be good. Others have talked to you about becoming the best litigator. How does one sift through all these options of pursuing a legal career?

Here are some ideas to consider:

The Law Firm Industry

lawyers having a discussionThe number of businesses in the law firm industry is nearly 446,600, and it has generated $330 billion in revenue as of August 2019. Some suggest that about 1% of these law firms are classified as mega-firms that pay high wages.

If you choose to practice within the US, you will be joining more than 1.35 million lawyers, according to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association.

What Are Your Options?

The idea probably could have developed in your head while in law school. “I will be a criminal defense attorney,” or “I will become a politician and become a legislator.” But you know that plenty of things happen along the way that can change your directions. It’s good to consider early on the options you might run into:

  1. Narrow your choice to a specific major. If you’re still in school, try thinking about this already. The broad areas to choose from are:
    1. Civil or criminal defense practice for a firm, whether big or small
    2. Public practice (defense or prosecution)
    3. Government agency practice (noncriminal)
    4. International practice (e.g., UN, international NGOs, and regional bodies)
  2. Do your research. Basing your decision on lofty ideals like, “I want to defend the poor,” isn’t bad at all. But exercise some pragmatism as well and make an informed decision. Investigate what lawyers in each of these areas do. What are the work hours like? What are the salary levels? Are advance qualifications required?
  3. Think about how you will build your expertise. You obviously cannot be an expert in all fields of law. Plan on being in a work environment where you can become an expert in a field. If you want to be an expert on immigration law eventually, aim for a job in the Bureau of Immigration, for example. Is international trade law practice where you want to be? Build a career that will take you to the UN and WTO.
  4. Build your network. Shake hands and get people’s contact details. Build relationships with other people in the same profession. You never know what door those relationships may open for you in the future. Network. Network. Network.

You can enter the academe as a professor or become a judge. There are so many options. This essential list will start you on your journey in the legal profession.

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