In a legal job, you'll argue on behalf of people, companies or governments when disagreements arise over the law.
Legal work involves researching and analyzing legal issues and then explaining the law to your clients. When clients decide to act, you'll deliver their arguments in court or by writing letters to the disagreeing parties.
In a small law office, an attorney's job might include criminal and civil cases. In a large firm, lawyers tend to focus on a specialty area of criminal or civil law, such as immigration law or personal-injury cases. Other attorney careers are in the public sector where jobs include working as a criminal or civil prosecutor, an investigator or a regulator.
In a paralegal job or legal assistant job, you'll help attorneys by doing investigations, research and administrative tasks.
Legal Job Market
Legal job opportunities are expected to grow 11 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is about the same as the average for all jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Demand for attorneys might fall because companies are using large accounting firms or paralegals to do the jobs attorneys used to do.
Legal jobs in the public sector are influenced by local, state and federal budgets. When those are cut, public legal jobs can decline. In addition, law schools are producing more lawyers than needed for the current number of legal job openings, so some recent graduates are having a hard time finding full-time legal employment.
Paralegal jobs will grow 18 percent, about as fast as other occupations between 2010 and 2020, the BLS says. Because paralegal salaries are lower than attorney salaries, law firms and corporations push to have paralegals do as much of the work as possible. However, when the workload drops, law firms want attorneys working on cases so they can bill clients, a practice that decreases demand for paralegals.
The median lawyer salary was $113,310 in 2011, the BLS says. The median salary for paralegals was $46,730 in 2011.
Those earning the most during their legal careers are usually partners, work at large firms or work in high-cost cities. Lawyers who own their own practices usually make less than partners, the BLS says.