Do you want to learn what it takes to become a lawyer/attorney? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements you need to become a lawyer/attorney online. Lawyers, also called attorneys, provide legal advice to individuals and businesses. Some lawyers are self-employed, while some work as partners in law firms.
The law field is vast and so many lawyers specialize in diverse areas. Areas of specialization include criminal law, family law, environmental law, medical malpractice, social and disability law and international law.
Apart from advising clients as to their rights under the law and helping protect the interest of their businesses; lawyers act as professional representatives for clients who are involved in court cases, by gathering evidence that will exonerate their clients.
Who is a Lawyer?
A lawyer is one who practices law by applying abstract legal theories and knowledge so as to solve specific problems, or represent the interest of those who had hired him by assisting and guiding them as to matters relating to the law.
Roles and Duties of a Lawyer
The duties and job description of a lawyer include:
- Interpreting laws, regulations and rulings for individuals and or businesses.
- Examination of legal data to determine the possibility of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit.
- Advising clients as regards personal and business transactions, legal rights and obligations, and the advisability in the prosecution and defense of lawsuits.
- Gathering of evidence that will be used in the formulation of a defense, or in the initiation of legal actions. Evidence could include the interview of clients, witnesses, suspects, so as to successfully ascertain the facts of a case.
- Presentation of evidence that will be used in either prosecuting defendants or defending clients in a civil or criminal litigation.
- Study the constitution, ordinances, regulations, statutes, decisions, and precedence from judicial bodies, to be used in determining the ramification of cases.
- Settlement negotiation in civil disputes.
- Perform functions such as management and administration as related to law practice.
- Helps with probation, as well as representing and advising the administrators and executors of estates.
- Helps in developing federal and state laws, and also interpreting laws and legislation.
- Conferring with colleagues in appropriate areas of legal issues, to determine and verify bases for legal proceedings, according to their specialties.
- Supervising paralegals, legal assistants, and other junior lawyers.
- Preparation and drafting of legal documents, like deeds, wills, leases, contracts, patent applications, mortgages, and contracts for clients and helping them understand the importance of such legal documents.
Tools and Equipment Used by Lawyers
Tools and equipment used by lawyers to carry out their duties include:
Compact Disc Players or Recorders: This is used to record, store and play back audio electronically. It is used by the lawyer to take record from witnesses, clients, and suspects and can be played back so as to sieve through and gather facts about a case.
Computer: A computer is a system unit where information is stored and retrieved as at when needed. It can be carried about and is often used by lawyers to quickly access files, and or new information on behalf of their clients while in court.
Digital Video Disc Player or Recorder: This is a visual digital recording, storage and play back device. It is used by lawyers to take depositions from clients, or witnesses and can be played in court for others.
Removable media/flash drives: These are data storage devices that are quite compact, and can carry large files. They can be used in any read or written removable readers. It is used by lawyers to carry or get data, especially when they do not want to carry their computer systems about.
Optical Character Recognition or Scanner: This is a system that recognizes printed or written text, images, and graphics by a computer, and can either be stored to be sent electronically to others or printed out. This can be used by a lawyer to send new information, evidence, or exhibit electronically to colleagues and opposing lawyer.
Photocopier: This is an electronic machine that makes paper copies of documents quickly. It can also be used to make paper copies of visual images. This can be used by a lawyer to make many copies of important documents which can be used in court.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDAs) or Organizers: This is a small computer usually the size of a palm that functions as a personal organizer; it also has internet access and can be used to send and receive emails. This device can be used by a client to quickly send or receive mails while on the go, and can also as a schedule planner.
Phones: Phones are electronic telecommunication devices which are used to connect and communicate with other people. Lawyers use phones to get to colleagues, clients, witnesses, opposing lawyers, and other vital people; schedule appointments, and carry out other activities.
Printer: A printer is an electronic device that accepts texts and graphic data from a computer system, and transfers the information to paper. Lawyers need to submit evidences to judges, and opposing lawyers; and these evidences are eventually printed from a computer system.
Labor Market Situation
The labor market for lawyers in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada is based on so many criteria. This refers mostly to:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as at 2014, lawyers earned $114,970 average per year and $55.27 hourly. As at 2012, 760,000 lawyers were employed, and by 2022 projected openings for lawyers are 196, 500; this is an average of 8 to 14% growth. There is no on-the-job training for lawyers and entry level is with a professional degree.
As at 2014, the number of solicitors that had been called to bar were 1,456. Out of this number, the females represented 49%. As at 2014, there were 15,716 barristers in practice, with only about 30% being females.
According to the Law Society of New South Wales National Profile, there were 66,211 practicing solicitors as at 2014. New South Wales had the largest proportion of solicitors by 41.6%, followed by Victoria with 24.5% and Queensland with 15.7%.
The number of immigrants that are lawyers are lower than 8% in this occupation, as compared to other occupations. In 2006, according to a census data; 72% of lawyers worked in the office of lawyers, while 16% worked in public administration. 43% of lawyers were self-employed in this period. About 45% of lawyers at this period were women, a percentage that has steadily been rising since 1991.
According to the Bureau and the Chambre des notaires du Quebec, lawyers work more in corporate and commercial, civil, family, and administrative law.
The employment growth average was a 2.1% with 23,700 lawyers employed between 2010 and 2012.
Facts and Figures
The facts and figures regarding the labor market in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada are:
- As at 2011, there were 1,225,452 lawyers/attorneys that were licensed in the United States.
- The legal system in the United States draws no distinction between lawyers that plead in court and those that do not. This is unlike what happens in the United Kingdom where only Barristers are allowed to plead in court and not the solicitors.
- The United States also does not delegate routine work to notaries public.
- Attorneys can be addressed by Esquire or its abbreviated form Esq.
- All lawyers must have a law degree, and pass a state’s written bar exam.
- Lawyers usually supervise paralegals and legal assistants.
- Criminal law attorneys are known as prosecutors and defense attorneys.
- Corporate lawyers are called in-house counsels and work for corporations.
- Legal aid lawyers work for disadvantaged people in non-profit or private organizations.
- Environmental lawyers deal with environmental related issues and regulations.
- Tax lawyers handle tax issues for clients.
- Intellectual property lawyers handle laws that relate to inventions, trademarks, creative works, and patents.
- Family lawyers handle legal family related issues.
- Securities lawyers work on issues that arise from the purchase and sale of stocks.
- Litigation lawyers handle lawsuits and legal disputes between parties.
- Trainee solicitors are now paid the national minimum wage as at 2014.
- Qualified solicitors earn from between £25,000 and £75,000; according to experience, location, specialist area, and type of cases.
- Partners in large firms or those that head an in-house legal department earn in excess of £100,000.
- Solicitors in large societies work for longer hours, on a regular basis.
- Most of the commercial firms are based either in Central London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol.
- Solicitors interviewing clients or appearing in court are expected to dress smartly.
- Solicitors might work part-time or have career breaks.
- Common law and statute are what comprises the legal system of England and Wales.
- Lawyers in United Kingdom practice as either barristers or solicitors.
- Barristers are specialists in courtroom advocacy, and are often self-employed. They generally work in groups which are known as chambers.
- Top Barristers usually become the Queen’s Counsel, and Judges.
- Solicitors work with clients directly, and also provide legal advice.
- Top solicitors usually become partners or senior partners in huge or big law firms.
- Australia produces an average of 12,000 law graduates per year.
- There are more graduates than there are lawyers.
- The three challenges facing lawyers in Australia are: inadequate technology, unreasonable clients and resistance to change.
- The number of graduates for law degrees has risen significantly to 50%.
- The most common practice areas for lawyers in Australia are family law, civil law, administrative law, corporate and commercial law.
- Most lawyers, according to a Barreau du Quebec survey, work in more than one field of practice.
- Lawyers spent only about 15% of their time in courts.
- The demand for lawyers, according to the survey, depends on the economic growth of the country, because the more businesses boom, the more likely there are to be business disputes.
- Most people find it difficult to access the justice system, due to high costs and other related problems like finance. This has led to a more than 30% increase in legal aid by the government. The more people are able to access legal aid, the possibility of an employment growth for lawyers in the justice sector.
- Due to the glut in the justice sector, lawyers have diversified into fields that are not exclusive to them such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration, strategic planning, and consulting.
- In recent years, family law has grown.
Is The Demand For Lawyers on The Increase or Declining?
The demand for lawyers is in most countries dying, especially with the glut in the economy, and the rise of the internet. Clients, especially corporate firms, now question the need for a lawyer, and also the huge billable hours that lawyers give.
Also, the rise of internet users as well as legal sources over the internet has led to a dying profession. Internet users can almost get answers for most of their problems online, from free legal materials. The graduates being churned out from law school are also not helping matters as lawyers are now under more pressure to deliver and contribute to the company’s baseline.
The Impact of Technology and the Internet on the Profession
The internet has had an impact on all professions, and lawyers are not left out. The impact has been both positive and negative:
- Lawyers are able to quickly research on a case online in their offices without having to travel.
- They are also able to retrieve new information as regarding a case while in court, and use this in cross examining a witness.
- They can use the internet to network with colleagues in other specialties, firms and states.
- They can use the internet to advance professionally by taking online courses and examinations.
The internet has demystified the law profession, as users can gain answers to almost any legal question they require.
- The internet has also ensured that those who have not adapted are cut off as they are seen as a drawback to the firm or company.
- The internet has replaced the duties of offline lawyers, as most of the work that could have been done before by lawyers, are now being done through the internet.
Career Opportunities That Exist Within the Profession
Career ideas that exist within the justice sector for lawyers are:
- Equal Opportunity Representatives and Officers: They evaluate and monitor that there is compliance of equal opportunity laws, policies, and guidelines that ensure that employment practices give equal opportunities to religion, race, color, sex, age, origin or disability.
- Fraud Examiners, Analysts and Investigators: They obtain evidence, produce reports, take statements, and give testimony as regarding findings and resolution of fraud allegations.
- Judicial Law Clerks: They provide assistance to the judge by researching issues before the court and in writing opinions. They also assist the judge in making legal determinations.
- Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers: They conduct hearings that will help make decisions on claims that concern government related matters. They also determine the sanctions or penalties to be meted out, and if the government should accept or reject a claim settlement.
- Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators: They help resolve conflict and facilitate negotiation outside the court system through dialogue and by mutual consent.
- Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates: They advise, administer, and adjudicate justice in a law court. They also sentence defendants according to government statutes in criminal cases, or determine the liability of a defendant in civil cases.
- Post-Secondary Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers: They are teachers that combine teaching and research, and teach in courses like criminal justice, law enforcement administration and correction.
- Post-secondary Law Teachers: They are teachers that combine teaching and research and teach law courses.
- Sales Agents, Securities and Commodities: They are sales agents that connect buyers and sellers of securities, commodities and financial services in financial markets.
- Sales Agents, Financial Services: They sell financial services like tax, securities, loan advices and counseling to clients of financial institutions.
Professional Bodies in the Law Profession
The professional bodies that a lawyer must enlist in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are:
American Bar Association (ABA): It is a professional body that represents and advocates for its members at the national level.
The Law Society: This is an independent professional body for solicitors, which ensures that members abide by the highest professional standards and rule of law.
The Inns of Court: This is a professional association for barristers, and they perform supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members.
Law Council of Australia: This is a professional body that represents legal practitioners. They also provide statistics and information as regards law in Australia.
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA): This is a professional body that supports and advocates for its members.
Benefits of Becoming a Lawyer
The benefits gotten from being a lawyer are both tangible and intangible and they are:
- Prestige: The prestige for lawyers has been on for many generations. Lawyers are seen as those who have a wide area of knowledge and are like an authority; hence the high regards given to them.
- Intellectual Challenge: Being and working as a lawyer is intellectually challenging. Lawyers have to devise trial strategy, patent trade secrets, craft wills, form multi-million dollar mergers, and a host of others. Lawyers solve problems, are analytic and innovative thinkers, and their intellect is vital to the success of their career.
- Mental Stimulation: Making full use of one’s mental capabilities is what makes one a lawyer. A lawyer must be able to read tons of documents, comprehend, write and carry out an analysis on what he reads. A lawyer has to be able to understand many laws and their complexities.
- Multiple Career Options: An aspiring lawyer can choose to specialize in the aspect of law that meets his or her interest. An aspiring lawyer can specialize in criminal, family, business, civil and immigration law. He or she can also decide to be a public prosecutor or defender. Other career options are in becoming self-employed or corporate attorney.
- Financial Rewards: Lawyers earn lucratively. According to the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a lawyer’s average annual income was $112,760 as at 2012.
- Opportunity to help others: Lawyers take up pro bono cases; this means they charge no fees for their services, especially for cases they feel strongly towards. Lawyers also help individuals that are in need of legal advice to achieve successful resolution.
- Other benefits: Depending on the kind of cases they take on, lawyers have the opportunities to travel to different parts of the country to participate in depositions and trials. They also get the opportunity to rub shoulders with famous people like politicians, celebrities, sports figures and business leaders.
Factors That Discourage People from Becoming a Lawyer
There are factors that can discourage one from becoming a lawyer, and they are:
- Long Work Hours: Due to global law practice, lawyers have to be available round the clock for their clients. The competitiveness amongst lawyers isn’t also helping matters, as lawyers are being forced to spend more time on the activities of their clients especially the corporate clients. This might discourage those who want to become lawyers but do not want to spend long hours at work.
- Law School Debt: Regardless of the school where one gets their law degrees, tuition is considered high and most law graduates are always weighed down by debts accumulated by them when they were students. This could be discouraging to those that might want to become lawyers, since they would likely be plagued by debts after school.
- Competitive job market: The job openings for lawyers have fallen; the job isn’t as glamorous as before. There are now too many lawyers, and the increased competitiveness amongst them has led to some having to do less than the ideal jobs than they would have desired. Also most lawyers have found themselves without a job, and those with jobs have had their salaries slashed. This could discourage one from becoming a lawyer, as there is no guaranteed job to offset student loans after school.
- Pressure from clients: Due to the poor economy, clients no longer want to spend as much as they used to on lawyers. Also, clients are demanding value for every dollar spent, while also forcing lawyers to reduce their billing rates. Lawyers are also aware of the fact that most tasks can cheaply be performed by paralegals.
- High level of stress: Practicing law can be said to be highly stressful, especially as there are deadlines, pressure from clients, long work hours, rising business pressures, billing pressures, rising law school debt, and evolving legal technology. All these factors lead to a highly stressed lawyer and could be discouraging to those that might want to become lawyers.
- Job Dissatisfaction: According to a survey by the American Bar Association, depression and suicide are common among 44% of lawyers. This is due to the stress and pressure gotten from the job, especially from high level clients who might be famous or infamous.
How Much Do Lawyers Earn?
The average amount for lawyers/attorneys/solicitors in United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are:
In the United States, lawyers earn an average of $114,970 per year and $55.27 per hour.
In the United Kingdom, the average salary for a lawyer per annum is £43,264
In Australia, lawyers/attorneys earn an average of AU $69,051 per year.
In Canada, the average salary for an attorney or lawyer is C$71,777 per year.
How long does it Take To Become a Lawyer?
The length of time it takes before one can become a practicing lawyer is:
It will take 7 years before one can become a practicing lawyer in United States.
It will take a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 7 years before one can become a practicing solicitor or barrister in the United Kingdom.
It will take a minimum of 6 years and a maximum of 8 years before one can become a practicing lawyer in Australia.
It will take a minimum of 6 years and a maximum of 8 or more years before one can become a practicing lawyer in Canada.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Lawyer
The educational requirements before one can become a practicing lawyer/attorney/solicitor/barrister in United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are:
Undergraduate Degree: This is usually a 4 year degree in an accredited college or university. Students may not necessarily major in pre-law majors as applicants with different majors can apply for law school.
Taking the LSAT: Most college or university students who want to get an early start into law school can take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) during the summer of their junior year, or the fall of their senior year.
Law School: This is a Juris Doctor degree that ensures that the candidate can sit for a bar exam before they can become a lawyer. The law school must be accredited by the American Bar of Association (ABA). An accredited law school helps to increase the employment prospects of a candidate.
Bar Examination: This is a 2 day exam taken by law school graduates that intend to practice law.
Ethics Examination: Some states require lawyers to take the ethics exam that will test their knowledge of the professions codes and conducts.
Undergraduate Law Degree: After achieving an A-level result, and passing the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) before becoming an undergraduate, one must take a standard LLB undergraduate course for 3 years so as to qualify as a barrister or solicitor.
Training as a Solicitor: The candidate has to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) as either a one year full-time or a two years part-time course. This is a vocational course that prepares the student for a career in a law firm. Students are expected to have completed at least one vacation scheme at a solicitors’ firm either during their vacation or academic training.
Other career opportunities open to a lawyer in other industries are:
Training Contract for Solicitors: After the LPC, students are expected to get a training contract which is two years in an authorized solicitors’ firm.
Training as a Barrister: Chambers require only first class degree students. Intending barristers must first become a member of one of the four Inns of Court. One can only become a barrister after being ‘called to the bar’ by an Inn of Court. Being ‘called to the bar’ means completing 12 qualifying sessions.
Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC): This is a 1 year full-time or a 2 years part-time course.
Pupilage: This is an authorized one year pupilage training in a barristers’ chamber.
Tenancy: Obtain tenancy in a barristers’ chamber or be employed by an organization.
Undergraduate Law program: One must have finished secondary education before applying, and must be proficient in English Language.
University Law Program: The University offers law program that focuses on the different areas of law like taxation, criminal law, family law etc.
Internship: Law schools offer internship programs to students that want practical experience.
Practical Legal Training: This is for those who haven’t done an internship or a practical summer job.
Bar Exams: Without passing the bar exam, one cannot practice law in Australia.
Law Degree: Since Canada has two legal traditions, common law (British legal system) and civil law (French legal system); law students in all parts of Canada except for Quebec must have a degree in common law.
Law Schools judge applicants on the strength of their academic record. Common law schools require that their candidates take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Law Society: Admission into the law society is a licensing process for lawyers that want to practice. Only members of the law society can practice law, they must complete an apprenticeship program (articling for 1 year), attend a professional legal training course, and pass the bar exams.
Lawyers wanting to advance in their careers might take some courses or training like:
One can take the LL.M (Master of Laws) program that is for a year.
One can take the Master of Laws (LLM); this is a 2 years course either full or part-time.
One can take the Master of Laws (LLM); this course is 1 year in the minimum and 3 years in the maximum.
One can take the Master of Laws (LLM); this is a 1 year course.
How Much Does it Cost To become a Lawyer?
The cost of the course(s) is:
In the United States, an LL.M costs an average of $85,580
In the United Kingdom, an LL.M costs between £6,210 and £9,600
In Australia, an LL.M costs AUD $40,000
In Canada, an LL.M costs $13,561
Can One Get Trained online as Lawyer?
Yes, one can become a licensed attorney by taking an online course, although it could be a bit more difficult. Online degrees take 4 years to complete. Discussion classes are done online and exams are divided.
Regardless of this, bar exams still have to be written physically, and passed before one can become a practicing lawyer.
Career Opportunities Open To Lawyers
The career opportunities open to lawyers in other sectors/industries are:
- Legal Publishing: Lawyers always have to research, write and edit briefs and so become proficient. One can put these skills to use by becoming a legal publisher of contents. The law knowledge can be made available and shared even on the internet to users by contributing to legal newsletters online or writing copies for law firm websites.
- Education and Administration: Lawyers with legal experience can work in legal education institutions and teach paralegals, or lecture in continuing legal education organizations.
- Banking and Finance: Lawyers that have a background in securities and tax, finance and banking can leverage on that knowledge by securing lucrative positions in the banking and finance industry or sector as compliance specialists, fund administrators, escrow agents, trust examiners, insurance brokers, risk managers and bank probate administrators.
- Human Resources Management: Lawyers who have worked in law firms can work as human resources managers by recruiting legal talent and staff, or law firm administrators and legal staff.
- Dispute Resolution: Lawyers that have strong negotiation, strong communication and conflict resolution skills can become arbitrators, mediators and conflict resolution analysts. Dispute resolution is a process where arbitrators collaborate with dispute parties, so as to reach a mutual resolution that is agreeable.
- Legal Consulting: Legal consultants share their expertise to law firms and businesses on law related issues, which could range from legal software, legal marketing, trial strategy and strategic management.
Skills Needed To Become a Lawyer
The skills and personal traits needed by a lawyer to carry out his/her duties are:
- Communication Skills: Lawyers need good oral communication skills, by speaking clearly and audibly, so as to be effective while in court and also make convincing arguments to the juries and or judges.
Apart from being good at speaking, lawyers must be able to listen so as to correctly analyze information from their clients, or follow a testimony.
- Good sense of Judgment: Lawyers must have a good sense of judgment by being logical. This means that they should be able to spot weaknesses from clients, witnesses, opposing lawyers, and even themselves; and make a quick decision on how to ensure that they can use it to their favor, by deciding on the best course of action for their clients.
- Analytical Skills: Lawyers need to organize and analyze information gotten while preparing for a case, so that it can be presented in the best logical manner. For example, lawyers must decide amongst which precedents or judgment would best advance the case for their clients.
- Interpersonal Skills: Lawyers need to be able to read the body reaction of people, from the clients, witnesses, to the jurors. The reading would enable them decide which approach is best to advance the case for their clients.
- Perseverance: Lawyers need an enduring spirit, especially as they have committed a lot towards getting their degrees, passing the bar exams, and handling cases. This skill helps them especially when they have to invest a lot of time in carrying out researches, preparing documents, and interviewing witnesses.
- Collaboration skills: This is working well in a team and the ability to function well in a group so that different collective efforts, strengths, and skills are used to achieve a goal.
- Writing Skills: Lawyers must be able to write in such a way that others especially their colleagues can understand. Sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances, a lawyer might need a colleague to help in handling a case; a well written report of the case will ensure that the colleague has less of a hassle.
Tips and Advice for Becoming a Lawyer
A professional constantly seeks for ways by which he can advance in his field; this is the same case with a lawyer. Below are quick tips which can be used by lawyers that want to advance in their careers.
- Challenges are what make any professional stand out. Lawyers who want to advance have to proactively seek new assignments and cases, especially those that are challenging.
- While lawyers should always take on cases especially to hone their skills, the business aspect shouldn’t be forgotten. Lawyers through their cases must contribute to the bottom line of the company, in terms of financials.
- Lawyers shouldn’t feel limited in their scope of work. They should always look for ways by which they can perform excellently outside the scope of their work. This could be done by ensuring they reach across to colleagues in other specialties, and try to help out.
- A lawyer should be able to manage time, this means that he must develop and implement a better and efficient work process, so that he is able to use up time at his pace.
- A lawyer should always network, meet up with commitments and go for outside assignments, so as not only to raise the profile of his company, but his as well.
- No lawyer should rest on his or her educational oars; there should always be room for educational advancement as well as obtaining specialty certifications.
- A lawyer who is serious about his or her career should always set career goals and milestones, and then exceed the set goals. The set goals do not have to be carried out in isolation, management could be carried along so that the right support and encouragement can be given.
- A lawyer must be able to write, but a great lawyer or one who is looking to advance, must hone his or her writing skills, so as to perfect it.
- Being technologically relevant is a must for any lawyer that wants to advance. Technology has now been incorporated into the corporate world, any one that wants to move up the ladder, or advance has to show proficiency in technology.
Lawyers work full time, with many working for long hours, carrying out researches and reviewing documents, especially those who work in large corporate firms and private firms. Lawyers also have to travel to represent cases in lawsuits and trials. Due to the fact that lawyers always work long hours, they rarely have time for themselves and personal needs and as a result, they are most often depressed and this acts as a strain for most of their families.