Whether you are just beginning your legal career or an attorney to be looking for an opportunity to change what you’re doing, as a lawyer you have choices. Law is a wide field, and chances are there is a job title that will fit your needs and personality perfectly. All of these jobs deal with the law, but the day-to-day responsibilities, clients, and compensation can be very different.
Here are 14 different career paths within the legal field, and what every attorney to be needs to know about each one.
1. Criminal Defense Lawyer
When most people think of a lawyer, they jump to criminal law. If you dream of saying ‘objection’ in a courtroom, and you believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, you might be a good criminal lawyer. Keep in mind, however, that you won’t always win friends by defending the accused, and most criminal defense lawyers are not able to pull in the kind of money high-profile defense attorneys like Alan Dershowitz make.
Criminal defense attorneys spend their time doing legal research, meeting with clients, and presenting cases in court.
Every attorney to be should know that the average salary for a criminal defense attorney is $81,949.
2. Auto Accident Attorneys
Car accidents are dangerous and expensive, and when responsibility is in doubt, these cases often end up in court. An auto accident attorney is responsible for helping people who have been injured in a car accident seek compensation. This is a type of personal injury lawyer with a close focus on auto accidents. To get hired, it helps to have experience with these sorts of cases and a working knowledge of insurance law.
While auto accident attorneys are already a type of personal injury lawyer, some are even more specific. For example, a truck accident attorney specializes in trucks or larger transportation. As an attorney to be, keep the specialized paths in mind.
These cases can also require skills from other areas of personal injury law. For example, if an accident occurs while someone is driving for work, a workers compensation lawyer might get involved.
Auto accident attorneys work with clients, do legal research, and present personal injury cases in court.
The average salary for a personal injury lawyer is $50,000, but there is a huge variance, and earnings depend on cases.
A criminal prosecutor represents the government in criminal cases. They are responsible for putting criminals behind bars, but it’s not an easy job. You’ll need thick skin, good judgment, and an unwavering commitment to enforcing the law. To become a prosecutor, you’ll likely start as an assistant district attorney or assistant attorney general in your state. To get one of these positions, experience in criminal law or law enforcement is helpful.
An attorney to be will spend their time doing legal research, working with law enforcement, and arguing criminal cases in court.
The average salary for a criminal prosecutor is $68,574, although there are often significant bonuses.
4. Bankruptcy Lawyer
When the money runs out, you need a bankruptcy lawyer. This might seem like a depressing form of law, and it is true that, as a bankruptcy lawyer, you regularly meet clients who are going through a hard time. The rewarding challenge is to help them get out of the jam and get their life and business back on track.
Bankruptcy lawyers take on cases about Chapter 7, 11, or 13 bankruptcy, as well as related cases, like creditor harassment or debt consolidation.
The average salary for a bankruptcy lawyer is $75,497.
5. Real Estate or Property Lawyer
Real estate law can take many forms, covering the transactions themselves as well as land and zoning restrictions, property disputes, and landlord-tenant issues. An internship or experience with real estate law can help get your foot in the door with certain firms, but it’s not strictly necessary. Helping clients sort through a complex legal framework to buy or sell a property can be a rewarding challenge. As a property lawyer, you’ll help clients offload their mountain homes. At least you won’t be responsible for home pest control!
Real estate or property lawyers help clients work through complex requirements, and may also litigate in court.
The average salary for a real estate lawyer is $87,611, often with additional bonuses.
6. Divorce Attorney
Some of the thorniest and most personal arguments come out during a divorce. This form of law can be stressful, and even depressing, as you oversee the dissolution of marriages and the redistribution of shared assets. On the other hand, each divorce is a unique challenge and you are helping your clients get a new start. To get your start as a divorce attorney, it can be helpful to work at an existing firm before branching out and finding your clients.
As an attorney to be looking to be a family lawyer, divorce attorneys also deal with child custody, which can be tough legally and emotionally.
Divorce lawyers spend their time meeting with clients, as well as other professionals like psychologists, social workers, and financial professionals. They do legal research, draft motions, and present arguments in court.
The average salary for a divorce attorney is $75,141.
7. Entertainment Lawyer
Want to represent movie stars, musicians, and celebrities? You might be at home as an entertainment lawyer. Contract negotiations, agency agreements, and endorsement deals all require entertainment lawyers who know the industry and can aggressively argue for their clients. It can be a challenging and high-pressure position for any attorney to be, but the perks are in the glitz and glam.
To become an entertainment lawyer, it helps to understand and have connections in the entertainment industry. Many entertainment lawyers start out at law firms that specialize in entertainment law and branch out as they attend industry events and develop their own relationships in the industry.
The day-to-day work of entertainment lawyers involves drafting and reviewing contracts, providing legal advice to clients, and meeting and working with other professionals like agents and producers.
The average salary for an entertainment lawyer is $80,000.
8. Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Sometimes doctors are careless, resulting in poor care and dangerous or even deadly outcomes. Medical malpractice is serious, whether it is a surgical error or a misdiagnosis from a primary care physician. When this happens, medical malpractice lawyers hold them accountable. The standards to prove negligence is high and can be scientifically complex. A medical malpractice lawyer has a completely different skill set from a slip and fall attorney.
It can be rewarding to defend clients who suffered as a result of medical negligence and get them some kind of settlement to ease the difficulty. It can also be challenging for a prospective attorney to be. Doctors are usually well-represented, and proving negligence requires an ironclad understanding of medical standards of care.
Medical malpractice lawyers meet with clients, do legal and medical research, meet with medical experts and other professionals, and represent their clients in court.
The average salary for a medical malpractice lawyer is $95,000.
9. Corporate Lawyer
Businesses need lawyers, just like people do, and the disputes that businesses get into can be both interesting and challenging. Corporate lawyers deal with mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, labor law, and tax law, and provide legal counsel to business leaders. To get a job as a corporate lawyer, it helps to start at a firm that specializes in corporate law. An attorney to be can should make some industry connections and find a company that wants to work with them.
Corporate lawyers spend their time negotiating and drafting contracts, reviewing documents, and providing legal counsel and advice. They may meet regularly with business leaders, as well as other professionals, and may spend time arguing for their clients in court.
The average salary for a corporate lawyer is $121,367.
10. Tax Lawyer
The government always wants its share. Tax lawyers represent individuals or businesses to help them reduce their tax liabilities. If there is a dispute or audit, a tax lawyer represents their client in court, arguing against the local tax authority.
Tax lawyers often start by working at a firm or with partners who specialize in tax law. You could also find your industry connections and clients, with the right expertise.
Although tax lawyers may prepare tax returns themselves, they spend most of their time researching tax law and advising their clients. In tax disputes, they may also represent their clients in court or legal proceedings.
The average salary for a tax lawyer is $107,086
11. Estate Planning Lawyer
You know in movies when the lawyer gets the family together to bestow their inheritances? Well, estate planning lawyers do handle the distribution of a deceased person’s assets, even if they don’t always do it in a cinematic way with the whole family together. An estate lawyer is responsible for drafting and executing wills. They also handle issues around seniors and end-of-life care, like powers of attorney, and any disputes that arise from a will or trust. As an attorney to be starting as an estate planning lawyer, it helps to work at a large firm that specializes in estate planning and to make industry connections.
Estate planning lawyers provide advice to their clients about minimizing tax obligations so they can pass on as much of their estate as possible, draft wills and trusts, and negotiate or litigate legal disputes about wills and trusts.
The average salary for an estate planning lawyer is $91,425.
12. Intellectual Property Lawyer
Protecting an idea can be complicated, but it is essential. Intellectual property is some of the most valuable property that exists, despite being some of the hardest to define. An intellectual property lawyer works with patents, copyrights, and trademarks, to ensure that they are not infringed upon. To work as an intellectual property lawyer, it helps to start at a firm that specializes in intellectual property and build your expertise and connections in that area.
Intellectual property lawyers spend their time meeting with clients and advising them on copyright, trademark, and patent issues. They also negotiate and draft and file these documents, and defend them in court in cases of infringement. Although intellectual property can be a challenging legal area, it’s also well-compensated. You’ll probably be working with some big companies, who need their interests protected.
The average salary for an intellectual property lawyer is $145,567.
13. Constitutional Lawyer
The Constitution is a legal document, but one that is very open to legal interpretation. A constitutional lawyer presents legal arguments surrounding the Constitution, including civil liberties, individual rights, due process, and equal protection. Constitutional law regularly intersects with politics, as current issues motivate various interpretations of this foundational document. Constitutional lawyers work with elected politicians and government agencies to draft legislation or provide legal advice on government policies.
A deep understanding of the Constitution is essential, but so is a wider understanding of the political landscape and how constitutional law is applied. It helps to start out working with the government or in firms that specialize in constitutional law and to keep up to date on political and societal issues impacted by the Constitution.
The average salary for a constitutional lawyer is $82,319.
14. Immigration Lawyer
Immigration lawyers help people who are immigrating to the country navigate the legal framework of visas and permits. They also defend clients who are seeking asylum or fighting deportation. If you believe in welcoming more people from around the world into the country, you might be happy working as an immigration lawyer. You will need to be tough though – there are many challenges and setbacks, and you won’t win every case.
Understanding immigration processes and pitfalls can be helpful as you look for work as an immigration lawyer. Experience with a firm that specializes in immigration is also helpful, before finding your clients.
Immigration lawyers advise their clients on processes, fill out visa and permit applications, research immigration laws, communicate on behalf of clients with government agencies, and represent clients in court.
The average salary for an immigration lawyer is $72,050.
What Kind of Lawyer Do You Hope to Be?
There are so many different pathways within the legal profession that you never need to feel limited or stuck. When you reflect on your skills, your background, and how you want to spend your time at work, the right legal job title will come to you.
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