What is a lawyer?

A lawyer is a qualified legal professional. Specializations can be different: judge, lawyer, notary, prosecutor, bailiff, legal consultant, law enforcement officer, investigator, etc. The place of service and focus of activity determine the duties of a lawyer, but his work is always centered around the law. Representatives of this profession provide legal advice, research, collect and process information, protect and prosecute people, draft legal documents, draft laws, etc.

The origins of the profession date back to ancient Greece, when orators spoke on behalf of their friends or citizens at their request. They performed the role of legal advisers, but according to the then existing legislation, they were not entitled to any payment for their services. The first lawyers to receive remuneration for their work were ancient Romans. This happened around 204 BC when Emperor Claudius legalized this profession and lifted the ban on fees.

Salaries of a lawyer around the world

CountryMin. salary/yearAvg. salary/yearParalegalJudicial SecretaryProsecutorJudge
US59,664 USD122,952 USD65,827 USD56,194 USD66,208 USD240,000 USD
United Kingdom24,170 USD84,630 USD27,807 USD26,168 USD72,540 USD219,434 USD
Australia26,728 USD67,314 USD35,705 USD35,025 USD51,966 USD43,573 USD
Canada37,477 USD77,369 USD37,470 USD35,665 USD56,869 USD234,002 USD
Germany41,499 USD97,460 USD38,323 USD23,768 USD119,748 USD76,539 USD
France45,649 USD106,892 USD49,564 USD43,248 USD89,150 USD61,664 USD
Russian Federation3,037 USD7,087 USD4,050 USD2,025 USD12,149 USD30,373 USD
Czech Republic27,433 USD38,602 USD23,264 USD17,242 USD41,638 USD34,930 USD
China44,789 USD97,432 USD36,934 USD17,306 USD97,432 USD36,190 USD
Singapore62,681 USD136,377 USD29,298 USD30,983 USD273,192 USD69,716 USD

Advantages of the lawyer profession

  • Relevance of the profession. Lawyers are needed always and everywhere. A wide range of activities is concentrated in their hands: lawyers develop legislation, carry out reforms, govern the state, decide the fate of people, protect victims and innocents, establish justice, accompany transactions, contracts, and much more. As long as there are legal states, lawyers will also have work to do.
  • A large number of career options. There is a wide range of career options and jobs for lawyers in both the private and public sectors. You can choose a quiet office job and become a notary, or find a job in a court — a place full of events and important decisions. Also, lawyers work in government agencies as civil servants. Having gained experience, you can go independent and become a private lawyer and either take on quieter civil cases or, go for serious criminal cases. If a lawyer is passionate about real estate, internal planning, or corporate law, then work can be found in a specific area in firms and enterprises.
  • Intellectual growth. Working as a lawyer is a daily mental work. Responsibilities include constantly reading documents, writing lawsuits, drafting speeches, developing strategies and lines of defense in courts, searching and processing large amounts of information. In addition, a lawyer must navigate endless amendments to laws and the political situation in the world and in the home country. In short, constant self-development, self-education, and work practice accompany a lawyer throughout the career.
  • Prestige and respect. The legal profession is automatically associated with a complex legal language, difficult studies, the ability to speak beautifully and professionally, as well as possession of secret and valuable knowledge. Therefore, society at the very least respects lawyers, and in some cases is terrified of them. People often try to make friends with lawyers, because it is always useful to have a friend or acquaintance in jurisprudence. After all, knowledge of the laws is important not only for a professional but also for all citizens living in a state governed by the rule of law.
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Disadvantages of the lawyer profession

  • Career building. Due to high competition and a vague idea of ​​the career path, young lawyers are often lost and do not know where to go after graduation. Therefore, it is important to test your strength and train in different areas in order to determine the direction of your career, before you even graduate.
  • Difficulties in finding a job. Universities annually release thousands of young professionals to the labor market, which is already overcrowded with lawyers. Therefore, from the get-go it is difficult to find a job, not only because of a lack of experience but also because of the high competition among the same young graduates who are passionate about the profession. Moreover, enterprises are looking for already experienced professionals, which, despite a large number of lawyers, is a rare occurrence.
  • Constant stress. Responsibility for the fate of thousands of people lies on the shoulders of lawyers and judges. And when defending victims, a lawyer is faced with negativity at best and people's grief at worst. All this leads to a lot of stress and anxiety. Therefore, a lawyer needs to be able to abstract and not take everything to heart. At the same time, it is important to keep a balance, otherwise, there is a risk of becoming cynical and cold, or becoming too sympathetic and burned out. Besides, the “habitats” of lawyers are not the most rosy — lawyers, judges, and prosecutors spend a lot of time in courts and prisons. As a result, depression, mental health problems, and suicides are increasingly common among professionals[1][2].

Legal specializations

There are a large number of legal specializations: it can be anything from the law in the field of sports and entertainment to the protection of animal rights. The most common programs are jurisprudence, corporate, labor, and international law. Rarer but also promising programs could be:

  • Ecology and sustainable development field. Business development in the field of ecology, ethical products, and green building leads to high demand for lawyers of this specialization. Environmental requirements for business activities and insufficiently detailed regulation of this issue at the legislative level creates jobs for lawyers accompanying business and developing legislation.
  • Copyright law. The purpose of IP is to give people an incentive to make creative or scientific works that benefit society. The law guarantees profit from a work to its creators, and prevents the misappropriation of revenue and control over the proper use of the intellectual property.
  • Cyber law. Humanity has changed with the advent of the Internet and modern technology. Almost all spheres of life have migrated from paper and hard copies to virtual databases and websites. Consequently, relationships are now being built on the internet. The regulation of it at the legislative level is no longer the assumptions of the futurists, but long-term real practice. Illegal activity online is viewed as a criminal offense in many countries. This field is quite young and continues to develop, so the demand for highly specialized cyber law specialists is steadily growing.

A list of possible directions in jurisprudence can be found here. Descriptions of some of them, accepted abroad, are here.

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How to become a lawyer?

To become a lawyer you will need education. There is secondary legal education in colleges, but higher education in universities is preferable for a career and knowledge purposes. Jurisprudence refers to humanities and social sciences. Good lawyers are distinguished by intelligence and versatility. Therefore, a future lawyer needs to read a lot, be interested in the legislation of his country, follow the news and events at home and in the world. Sometimes a lawyer unexpectedly has to understand the legality of using lathes or what qualifies as smuggling of beauty products from China, so knowledge in a variety of areas does not hurt. Participation in debates is also useful to develop the ability to reasonably argue your case.

Specialized vocational law education

It is not really common for the countries to have a specialized secondary law education. In that case it is almost impossible to become a legalized lawyer after such education. The most feasible career would be a legal assistant or a paralegal. For example, there is no non-tertiary education in law in the USA, however elementary, secondary and high schools include law-related subjects in their curriculums.

However, many countries have developed VET (vocational education and training) education. For example, Australia has a lot of TAFE colleges that offer legal education. Graduates can find a job as paralegals, legal secretaries, legal services support officers, etc.

Higher law education

University studies are generally more difficult and demanding. Bachelor's degree in law usually lasts for 4 years. Common disciplines in the specialty of jurisprudence: constitutional, civil, criminal, labor, financial, tax, land law, civil and criminal procedure, and others. Every year the subjects become more specialized and complicated. In universities, students can independently search for a place to undergo internships, or they can choose from the organizations offered by universities. As a rule, general subjects are studied for the first year or even a semester, and then students independently choose a specialization. Practice begins immediately after the 1st year, often at the initiative of students.

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Legal programs of the best foreign universities 2020

1Harvard University65,875 USDUSA
2University of Oxford32,988 USDUnited Kingdom
3University of Cambridge26,872 USDUnited Kingdom
4Yale University57,700 USDUSA
5Stanford University21,450 USDUnited States
6London School of Economics 26,078 USDUnited Kingdom
7University of California at Berkeley44,000 USDUSA
8Columbia University72,352 USDUSA
9New York University 68,348 USDUSA
10University of Melbourne28,245 USDAustralia

Admission requirements

Requirements may vary depending on a country, university, and program. Most likely, you will need:

  • For bachelor’s — secondary education certificate, for master’s/PhD — bachelor's / master's degree (for some universities there are separate requirements for GPA);
  • Language certificate (English or local language). As a rule, higher language proficiency is required for law programs than for other specialties (C1, TOEFL or IELTS);
  • Motivation letter;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • LSAT exam results (Law School Admission Test) in the USA, Canada and some universities in Australia;
  • Interview, resume, etc.

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What qualities does a lawyer need?

You can learn almost everything, but in order to build a successful career, it is desirable to have certain inclinations and qualities. The future lawyer will benefit greatly from the ability to persuade and speak beautifully, as well as skills in writing and thoughtful reading. Such qualities as thinking on your feet, persistence, clarity and consistency of logic, good memory, high sense of responsibility, nerves of steel, and stress resistance are very important. Students should be able to search and analyze information, be thorough and diligent. Often, applicants enter the Faculty of Law because they know how to argue well, but this, although a good quality, is not the most important thing. In addition, lawyers must have a sense of professional ethics, as the law requires confidentiality. In turn, such traits as absent-mindedness, gentleness, sensitivity, disorganization, and excessive emotionality can hinder a future lawyer.

It should be noted that the profession of a lawyer is not suitable for everyone. It is important to have almost all the necessary qualities, good preparation at the university, and the desire to become a successful lawyer and achieve professional success. Otherwise, it is possible to remain a consultant, civil servant, or paralegal without any hopes for promotion for a long time.

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Where do lawyers work?

Lawyers work in both the public and private sectors:

  • Almost every state structure accepts specialists with legal education: ministries, courts, government bodies;
  • Private employers: law firms, manufacturing companies, factories, banks, etc .;
  • Lawyers can work for themselves: notaries or private attorneys.

Many students want to become lawyers thinking that they will often go to court. This is a misconception, since most of the work takes place outside the courtroom — in the office, reading and analyzing documents and laws, especially at the initial stage.

Please, note that in many countries, it is impossible to become a lawyer right after graduation. To do that, you need to acquire additional qualifications. For more details, read our article about legal education abroad.

Famous lawyers

Outstanding lawyers, famous for high-profile cases, enormous payouts, and remarkable charisma, have been many in the history of humanity.

One of them is the brilliant lawyer Fyodor Plevako. His court speeches are still being studied in law schools, and his name has become a household name. Crowds of people gathered to watch sessions with Plevako yet they always did not fit in the courtroom. All this was for the sake of the virtuoso oratorical talent and professionalism of a charismatic lawyer. Even the writer Chekhov admired the richness of his speech and the ability to accurately strike the heart with a word.

The United States has seen a plethora of phenomenal lawyers. In addition to numerous presidents with a legal background, one named Gloria Allred can be distinguished. The American lawyer is known for taking on high-profile and controversial cases involving the protection of women's rights. In a four-decade legal career, Allred has dealt with civil claims related to sexual harassment, illegal dismissal, and discrimination against women during employment. Allred has represented numerous clients in celebrity lawsuits, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Boreanaz, Scott Lee Cohen, Anthony Weiner, Sasha Baron Cohen.

Another famous American lawyer is Robert Shapiro. In 1994, he was a member of the Dream Team of attorneys who successfully defended athlete OJ Simpson against charges of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. He also represented other celebrities such as Johnny Carson, Christian Brando, and members of the Kardashian family. He later co-founded LegalZoom and RightCounsel.com, appearing in their TV commercials.

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