Inside Attorney Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Overworked Public Defenders...
I was surprise at how fast you receive clients who depend on you to ensure that they receive their full constitutional rights. I was also surprised to find out vast amount of overworked public defenders." (Lawyer; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Law at Law School in Georgia in 2012

"Synergy Opens Doors...
Most people don't realize how important one's choice of undergraduate major is when seeking to build a career as an attorney. While it may seem to make sense to get a pre-law or liberal arts degree before entering law school, the reality of legal practice is that specialists are in high demand, and attorneys with backgrounds in science and engineering are positioned much more favorably to succeed." (Lawyer; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Alaska, male
School: Studied Law at Seattle University School Of Law in Washington; completed Professional degree in 2012

"More Book And Less Court...
I think people are surprised to know that being a lawyer is not like it is on TV. In fact, it is a lot of research and more time is spent in books than in a courtroom." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 16 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, male
School: Studied Law at Syracuse College Of Law in New York; completed Professional degree in 1997

"Poor Economy Adversely Impacts Legal Profession...
Most people are surprised that employment opportunities for attorneys are severely limited. For example, many law firms and other agencies have downsized their legal departments based on the economic recession. Many attorneys have been laid off, and the economy has not created enough new jobs to replace the downsized jobs." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, female
School: Studied Law at Washington University In Saint Louis School Of Law in Missouri; completed Professional degree in 2008

"Prosecutorial Power...
Prosecutors are given a lot of power. A LOT. We can resolve cases or refuse to offer a plea. We also have access to a lot of information." (Prosecutor; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Law at Suffolk University Law School in Massachusetts; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Looking For Flexibility...
I was surprised at how inflexible private sector practice can be. Government practice doesn't have the potential for high salary, but it's the best for those who need to have a flexible working environment." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Law at Oklahoma City University Law School in Oklahoma; completed Professional degree in 1998

"Legal Work Is Not Like A TV Show...
A lot of people have expectations of a legal career based on what we see in TV and movies, but those are not very realistic depictions. For most people, a legal career involves a lot of reading and writing, paperwork, talking to clients and witnesses, and overall, a close attention to detail. In short, to be successful you will probably have to spend long hours doing things that, while satisfying, are not necessarily exciting or dramatic." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 25 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, female
School: Studied Law at University Of Oregon Law School in Oregon; completed Professional degree in 1985

"Additional Skills Required...
I was surprised to find out that one needs a lot of skills that weren't taught in law school in order to be successful in this profession. Interpersonal skills and business skills are two examples." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, female
School: Studied Law at Boston University in Massachusetts; completed Professional degree in 2000

"Lack Of Jobs...
I was surprised by how few of my classmates have found work. After a year, less than 30% of my class is working a position higher than clerk." (Attorney; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, male
School: Studied Economics at University Of Alabama in Alabama; completed Professional degree in 2012

"I Have Found Satisfaction In The Rewards Of A Law Degree...
Passing the bar exam and being hired into a successful firm are definitely two of my greatest accomplishments and have proven far worth the work thus far. I would advise anyone looking into this field to conduct research and consider the many perks offered by such an avocation." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Political Science at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Money Not What It Use To Be...
The economy tanking and how it just drained all the money out of the legal profession." (Bankruptcy Attorney; 2013)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Law at South Carolina School Of Law in South Carolina; completed Professional degree in 2004

"Ethical Practices In Billing...
Something that has surprised me was the amount of unethical behavior that is prevalent internally. I always viewed lawyers as having strong moral fiber, but I've realized that they are every bit as likely as the average person to do what it takes to get ahead in their careers. I primarily mean that lawyers often bill hours that they did not actually work and inflate their billing in order to look better for promotions, etc. It is surprising and a bit unnerving because this behavior is almost expected of us." (Attorney; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Intellectual Property Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School Of Law in New York; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Law School Does Not Prepare You For Managing Business Of Law...
I have been surprised about how little prepared I was for being an attorney as far as the business aspect of the legal profession (i.e., attracting clients, finances, etc.)" (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Law at Oklahoma City University School Of Law in Oklahoma; completed Professional degree in 2009

"Law School Creates Lawyers, It Doesn't Open Doors...
First off, the old chestnut that "a law degree opens lots of doors" is patently false. A law degree qualifies you to sit for a bar exam and become an attorney. If you don't want to be an attorney, don't go to law school - it's not worth the money or the stress. That said, I'm shocked with the number of attorneys who act like they don't want to be attorneys. They lack civility with opposing counsel, they are unresponsive to clients, and they take little pride in their work. This can be very disillusioning for new attorneys. As with any career choice, do your research. The law is a harsh mistress." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Civil Litigation at Santa Clara University School Of Law in California; completed Professional degree in 2010

"Legal Field Is Not Emotionally Fulfilling...
I am surprised that this profession doesn't enable me to interact with people in a more meaningful way. It does, however, bring good stability." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in South Carolina
School: Studied Attorney - Law at The Charleston School Of Law in South Carolina; completed Professional degree in 2007

"Lots Of Opportunities...
I guess I was surprised at the range of jobs available after law school. It's not really as streamlined as I thought; there are lots of opportunities when you get a good law degree" (Legal Counsel; 2014)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in District of Columbia, male
School: Studied Law at Cornell University Law School in New York; completed Professional degree in 1987

"How To Become Totally And Mind Numbingly Bored...
I was surprised by how boring much of practicing law is. The paper work can be mind numbing. I was also surprised with how poorly the legal system works if you do not have a lot of money." (Lawyer; 2013)

Career: 16 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Law; Civil Rights; Poverty Law at Northeastern University School Of Law in Massachusetts; completed Professional degree in 1996

"Some Really Stupid People Went To Yale...
I have been astounded by the number of attorneys I have met that went and did well in good colleges and law schools, yet cannot think critically. They simply do not think the way a good lawyer needs to think. They don't even know how to choose the right questions with which to begin an analysis. They should be paid to quit. We'd be better off." (Attorney; 2014)

Career: 22 years of experience, currently based in District of Columbia, female
School: Studied Law at George Washington University Law School in District of Columbia; completed Professional degree in 1992

"Not As Stressful As They Told Us...
I was surprised at how low pressure the profession can be at times compared to how law school made it seem. At the same time, I was surprised at how little we were taught in school that would be relevant to my career." (Attorney; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Montana, female
School: Studied Law at University Of Virginia School Of Law in Virginia; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Broad Scope...
I was surprised by the range of work done by a military lawyer. I can work on a court-martial, give advice on a law enforcement operation, and conduct legal or policy research, all in the same morning." (Lawyer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied I Got A JD (Law) From The UW. at I Attended The University Of Washington. in Washington; completed Professional degree in 2010

"I was surprised that most of my legal education seems to have taken place on the job, after law school. A lawyer gains so much practical understanding of the law and the profession by doing research, working through issues, drafting agreements and other documents, discussing issues with other attorneys and, yes, even attending continuing legal education programs. Also, I was pleasantly surprised at the collegial and professional way other (even opposing) attorneys and I have worked together over the years. The "shark" reputation is most definitely not deserved by most of the lawyers I have dealt with." (In-House Attorney; 2013)

Career: 20 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Law at Rutgers School Of Law in New Jersey; completed Professional degree in 1992

"I was surprised to learn how much of an attorney's work is client management. Unlike law school, where you spend the majority of your time reading, writing and researching, in real life you need to stay in reasonably good contact with your clients and manage their expectations about what might happen in any given hearing. There is also a lot of deal-making with the prosecution, more than I guess I really considered." (Criminal Defense Attorney; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, female
School: Studied Law at William Mitchell College Of Law in Minnesota; completed Professional degree in 2011

"My career has been very rewarding, but I was surprised that changes in the global economy, political change and changes in technology reduced the demand for lawyers. Many people download documents (which may or may not be correct) from the internet. Political change has resulted in changes in the law which reduced the need for lawyers." (Lawyer; 2013)

Career: 30 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Law at University Of Texas School Of Law in Texas; completed Professional degree in 1977

"So many lawyers are just bad. Law school and the bar were hard, I don't understand why so many lawyers just don't have it together." (Lawyer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, male
School: Studied Law at Stamford University in Alabama; completed Professional degree in 2012

"There are far less jobs available than I thought when I started school. A lot less research is required in criminal law than in other types." (Attorney; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Iowa, male
School: Studied Law at Drake in Iowa; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Research And Writing...
I am surprised there is a lot of research and writing to do in this profession. It has used my history skills quite a bit." (Lawyer; 2012)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied History at Brandeis in Maine; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"Tough Market For Lawyers...
1. I am surprised at how tough the current job market is for new attorneys. I am also surprised at how low the pay can be. I did not expect this or the long hours. This is especially concerning since law school is three years without any income, and most of my class left school with large debts. We have degrees, and not a great outlook on earning potential. 2. I am also surprised at how many attorneys there are in the work force. I am concerned about the competence of many of them. Law has not been what I expected at all. The field is not filled with brilliant people and high paying jobs. Instead, the jobs pay ridiculously low in many cases, and the intelligence of many attorneys HAS to be questionable. Had I known then, what I know now, I'm not sure I would have pursued a JD degree." (Patent Attorney; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, male
School: Studied Law at Northern Illinois University in Illinois; completed Professional degree in 2010

"Low Salary Compared To Student Debt...
I was surprised at how difficult it was to find a job as an attorney and at the low salary that I make, compared to what my student loan debt is. I was also surprised about how many cases never go to trial, but settle before the trial date through plea bargaining or negotiating." (Prosecutor; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Law at Ohio Northern University in Ohio; completed Professional degree in 2010

"More Writing Than Expected...
I was surprised about how much writing was involved rather than time in the court room. I did like the ability to learn about many different fields from banking to pharmaceuticals based on the case my firm is working on." (Lawyer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Law at Emory University in Georgia; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Classroom Skills Insufficient...
I was surprised by how genuinely stressful it is to start out as an attorney. All the other attorneys around you know a lot more than you do, and that isn't necessarily saying much because the skills taught in law school are not the skills used by lawyers on a daily basis. (With perhaps the exception of research skills, I have contacted my old legal research professor several times asking for help.)" (Public Interest Attorney; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Law at Salmon P. Chase College Of Law in Kentucky; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Cooperation Between Prosecution And Defense...
I was surprised by the tone the negotiations between prosecutors and defense counsel can take. I expected the conversations to be much more acrimonious, but it turns out that the familiarity and constant exposure leads to fairly reasonable discussion." (Public Defender; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Law at University Of California, Hastings College Of Law in California; completed Professional degree in 2012

"I was surprised how often other areas of the law -- administrative and corporate especially -- are relevant in constitutional cases. Like many, I assumed constitutional law was often distinguishable from broader legal practice. But it turns out the most important factor in becoming an effective lawyer in constitutional cases was developing a good, well-rounded approach to litigation generally." (Constitutional Lawyer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in District of Columbia, male
School: Studied Law at New York University in New York; completed Professional degree in 2005

"I was surprised that being a business lawyer was a lot harder than I expected. The work that I have to do is overwhelming but working with my clients is always a fun experience." (Business Lawyer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Washington, male
School: Studied Business Law at University Of Washington Law School in Washington; completed Master degree in 2010

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Contracts Specialist: "One aspect of my job that I dislike is that it involves being responsible for a lot of things at the same time. Sometimes a coworker will be unhappy with me for not completing something because I was working on something else that was just as important. Another aspect of the job I dislike is that I talk to about 20-30 people everyday and play a lot of phone tag. However, strangely enough, both of the things I dislike about my job actually contribute to why I love my job. I am so busy at work, keeping track of many things, and talking to many people, that my workday just flies by. It's so much better than a job where you are bored and watch the clock. I also love the fact that I get to read and write a lot in my job. I was in English major in undergraduate school, so I enjoy reading and writing. Another great aspect of the job is that it pays pretty well. With a few years of experience, you can make between $65,000 - $85,000 per year with good benefits." (2011)

Associate Attorney: "The best part of my job is having the opportunity to offer my advice to those Senior Attorneys who work for me (I was previously a Senior Attorney for 11 years). I enjoy engaging in legal discussions with some of the veteran workers and I also appreciate the opportunity to assist the newer attorneys in learning about the area of law that we practice. The worst part of my job is the pressure to complete a sufficient quantity of cases without sacrificing quality." (2011)

Intellectual Property Attorney: "For university teaching, the best part is seeing the students learn things they haven't known or understood before. The worst part is grading their papers and presentations, especially when they aren't finished on time. For lawyering, the best part is seeing the client prosper from the legal rights I've obtained for them from the federal government. The worst part is the drudgery of preparing the required materials, since anything legal has to be free of even the tiniest mistakes." (2011)

Attorney: "The best part of the job is to see the direction of the company overall and be able to assist in achieving our strategic goals and objectives. I like being involved in important decisions and counseling our businesses on ways to avoid costly litigation. I also enjoy teaching our employees on the importance of acting in an ethical and legal manner and providing them with advice on how to legally conduct business. The worst part of the job are the long hours and stress related to making decisions that are very important to the company. I often have to be available at all hours of the day and night, especially because we have operations in Europe and Asia, which are in very different time zones." (2011)

U.S. Army Judge Advocate: "The best parts of being a judge advocate are the challenging experiences and sense of meaningful accomplishment. Judge advocates serve the United States and its citizens and are duty-bound in their service. They are often given significant amounts of responsibility very early in their careers and often have significant impacts on decisions that greatly affect the United States and its reputation in the world. The worst parts of being a judge advocate are the times spent away from family and friends while deployed. Those times are not that frequent for judge advocates, however." (2011)

Attorney: "The best part of my career is helping people to resolve problems. I like helping people to protect their rights. I also enjoy meeting and getting to know my clients. Each client presents a unique problem. The worst part of my career is the adversarial nature of legal practice. In most cases, you have two or more people with a conflict. Suing someone means you are fighting against them in court and it means fighting against other lawyers. Another negative aspect is the paperwork involved." (2011)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is the people I meet. I get to help people that are in a very bad place in life and I try to get them to a better place in the long run. Especially in my work as a mediator and a collaborative lawyer, I can really work with a family to find the best resolution for them to continue being parents and friends even though they will no longer be an "intact" family. The worst part of the job is that it is a business and that we cannot help everyone. We need to make a living and sometimes that means we cannot take some clients that we would otherwise like to help. We do pro bono (free) work, but we do need to have paying clients too." (2011)

Attorney: "As I mentioned, searching the title and solving problems in the chain of title can be really challenging and interesting. Like many jobs, when things become a little too routine with not too many challenges, it can become boring." (2011)

Tax Lawyer/Financial Consultant: "Being in the consulting business sounds attractive to many people but they fail to realize that your client's have a high level of expectation regarding response time, quality of work, maintenance of expertise and you often cannot control the timing and intensity of projects. It requires multi-tasking skills and the ability to have your client's confidence that you will perform the necessary tasks to your client's satisfaction 100% of the time. It is very satisfying, yet stressful, professional employment." (2011)

Lawyer: "There is a tremendous amount of flexibility at my job, and I get to pick and choose the type of work that I wish to take on. It is extremely slow at times, however, which is frustrating. There is also a complacent sort of attitude where I work, perhaps in the government in general, which is not where a person like me would ideally be working, in the long term. I would like to be somewhere more fast paced where I feel like I am really enhancing my skills as an attorney." (2011)

Attorney: "By far the most satisfying part of my job is being able to help my clients. Condemnation is probably the second most invasive power the government has (after the power to tax). Helping my client get the most money he can get for a family farm, for example, is satisfying. On the other hand, some clients are a pain to deal with. No matter what you do for them, they won't be happy with the result. Some attorneys are a pain to deal with as well. A lot of attorneys have a tremendous ego that just annoys me to no end. The legal profession is becoming very competitive. I have a lot of friends from law school who, despite passing the bar exam, are not practicing attorneys because they simply could not find a job. Research your career before committing yourself to a particular profession." (2011)

Assistant Director Of Law: "The best part of the job is simply that I am always flexing my gray matter. This job requires one to be constantly thinking. It is like a game of chess at times. The worst part of the career is that it can be stressful because depending on one's specific niche, a lawyer may be under a lot of pressure when dealing with multi-million dollar cases or other matters involving serious injuries." (2011)

Corporate Attorney: "I like working with a team of colleagues, where we each bring certain expertise to our common task. Some of the best parts of my job also involve learning about the legal, political and economic systems of the countries in which our borrowers are located, and dealing with lawyers and business people in those countries. It can be very complicated to work out the terms of a loan to a borrower in places like Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Colombia or Thailand, and working through all the problems and considerations can be really interesting. The worst parts of the job can be when as a lawyer I have to disagree with my business colleagues about terms that can or can't be agreed to or steps that can or can't be taken. Part of my job is advising my colleagues what they cannot do or should not do, and this can be difficult. Drafting long contracts can also sometimes be tedious and require a lot of concentrated work effort, which can sometimes be very hard to do on short deadlines." (2011)

General Counsel: "I enjoy working on different types of technology and a wide variety of application areas - all from a combination of legal, business, and engineering perspective. I also enjoy working with outside lawyers in high pressure, but high value, situations. Unfortunately, management teams are not generally very sophisticated and periodically pressure you to perform activities that a)may unintentionally endanger the well being of the company, b) may be unethical and in contradiction with the canon of ethics required of all lawyers, and c) may not be optimal for the success of the company. In all cases, you must balance competing positions and achieve what the company expects of you while keeping your ethics intact." (2011)

Attorney: "The best part of the job is working with clients to help them make good decisions. My clients are generally owners of small, entrepreneurial companies and more often than not they are smart, dynamic people who are fun to work with. The worst part is digging through the mountains of information available to find an answer for a client and the constant worry that we have overlooked some critical piece of data that could change the advice we give." (2010)

Litigation Attorney Firm Partner: "The best part of being a lawyer is helping people who have been wronged by someone else. Lawyers fight for "justice" which means that we try to make things fair for people and hold people accountable for their mistakes. Another part of my job is explaining to people what their legal options may be in any given situation. While I can't always win, it is equally important for my clients to understand their legal options and make informed decisions." (2010)

Attorney: "The part of my job I like best is drafting documents or leases where both parties are seeking the same goal. It is productive and all parties are usually pleased in the end. In litigation, both sides are angry, there is more hostility and a lot more stress on both the parties in the litigation and the attorneys. Also, neither party is happy usually with the outcome. Even if you win, the client can complain about how long it took or how expensive it was. The legal system is far from perfect but it beats those of other countries. One thing I would change is the jury system. I think there should be some minimum qualifications to sit on a jury. As things stand, anyone off the street can be deciding your fate. And that's pretty scary." (2010)

Litigation Manager: "The best part of my job is doing arbitration and litigation. It is very interesting to have two parties reviewing the same information and reaching two different conclusions, and then watching as each side maneuvers to convince the other that its position is the right one. The worst part of my job is the mail. We get a lot of mail and it can be very time-consuming to figure out which piece of mail goes with each claim." (2010)

Family Law Attorney In Private Practice: "The best part of my job is that no day is like another. Every day is different and that makes the job both challenging and exciting. Each case usually has a new twist or challenge that makes it different, and thus the job is continually challenging and exciting. I also love that I get to meet people from all different walks of life. I also love that I get to really help people at one of the most difficult points in their lives come through a hard process with dignity and grace. The worst part of my job is that I am dealing with people at one of the most difficult times in their lives and they tend to be very emotional. It can be hard to work with them effectively. There is always an emergency aspect to the practice, with unexpected issues constantly coming up -- not to mention court deadlines that cannot be missed." (2010)

Assistant General Counsel: "The best part of my job, and I think of any job, is working with a diverse set of people with different skills to achieve a common goal. This is very rewarding. The most difficult part is that I often get involved in situations where the proper course of action is unclear and it takes a lot of research to figure out what the proper course ought to be." (2010)

Associate General Counsel: "The best part of the job is learning the different aspects of the agency and how it works. The worst part is the long hours." (2010)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is appearing in court and providing evidence in support of my client's position. Although it's never as exciting as it appears on TV, it's the best part of being a trial lawyer. You have to use so many skills to excel at trial work. You have to be able to think fast on your feet since you almost always encounter something that you did not expect. You also have to listen intently to what the witnesses are saying every minute so you can try to counter their testimony with a piece of evidence in support of your client's position. There is also the thrill of "winning" an argument. The worst part is losing a case after working so hard." (2010)

Trial Attorney: "The best part of the job is giving back to City employees who work hard to protect and serve their communities and protecting tax payers whose hard-earned tax dollars are at stake in these suits. If we win more suits, their taxes won't have to be raised. If we lose, they might have to be raised to produce more income for the City's purse. But my job is also stressful. I have a lot of pressure placed on me, and I work very long hours. Sometimes my schedule is hard to predict, and I find it difficult to take care of myself the way I should." (2010)

Attorney: "The worst part of the job is putting time entries down. As a lawyer at a law firm, you have to account for every minute of your time. This means that you need to write down every tenth of an hour which client you are working on so that the client can be billed appropriately. If you have a call with one client, and then draft a memo for another, you need to note how much time you are taking for each client. The best part of the job is individual freedom you have. You can make personal appointments when you want, come and go pretty much when you want, as long as you get your work done. I can do a lot of work from home if I choose to and I love the flexibility." (2010)

Attorney: "The worst part of the job currently is that there has been a significant market disruption, primarily due to poor underwriting of loans (banks originated loans that borrowers shouldn't have qualified for) and declining home prices, which have caused mortgage-backed securities to perform poorly. The best parts of the job are the interaction with clients in trying to put in motion the financial deal they'd like to create, and the intellectual challenges that go along with it." (2010)

Attorney: "I really enjoy legal research and analysis. It is challenging and interesting to take an issue presented in a case before the court and try to break it down into something more understandable. We do this by stating the issue in simple terms, and then searching through a legal search engine online such as Westlaw or LexisNexis, trying to find out what other courts have said on this issue. Hopefully we will derive a lot information from this process. Then we take what other courts have said, analyze it, decide whether it fits with our understanding of the issue, and then apply the law to the facts of our case. The worst part of the job is that it is slow. There are not a lot of cases and often there are lulls." (2010)

Lawyer: "There are often long hours required towards the closing of the transaction. There may be various tasks required in a short period of time and this can be particularly stressful. Additionally, there may be various transactions that I am working on at the same time and multi-tasking is required. It is very rewarding, however, when the multi-million (or even billion) dollar transaction closes and I know that I had a significant role in its successful completion." (2010)

Lawyer: "The best parts of my job are 1., parsing complicated issues and crafting solutions to sticky problems and 2., negotiating. The worst parts of my job are that the work can be tedious and very stressful at times, as small mistakes can have very big economic consequences for your client, and the time pressure can be overwhelming. In fact, it's not uncommon during certain negotiations to work 18-hour days and then weekends." (2010)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is working with extremely bright people in order to complete complex securities transactions. The worst part of my job definitely is the long hours and the effect these have on other aspects of my life (less time with family and friends, less time to exercise, less time to enjoy life!) While the pay is usually good for someone in my position, it's tough to balance work life and home life in a way that contents me." (2010)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is knowing that my efforts can help children who are in need of society's protection. You work with a number of well-qualified and dedicated staff people who are committed to making life better for a lot of families. Not all cases end with a termination of parental rights; many parents, in fact, are able to utilize the services that the agency offers and can resolve the need for their children to remain in state foster care. The hardest part of the job is reviewing the cases as the social workers present them in the midst of a family crisis and the only resolution at the time is to petition the court." (2010)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is that I am constantly challenged and always fortunate enough to be working with talented, interesting, and successful people. The time flies by every day! The worst part is that the hours can be long, and on some days I spend much of my time sitting in front of a computer." (2010)

Attorney: "The best part of my job is being able to help people resolve problems they face in legal situations that are unfamiliar and intimidating to them. The worst part of my job is working with the North Carolina legislature when politics sometimes takes priority over what is right or best for the public, the State of North Carolina and my client. Some legislators are only interested in being re-elected and are not interested in what is best for the people they represent or the State of North Carolina. This is frustrating." (2010)

Attorney: "Being able to prevail and obtain the relief sought for a client is, of course, wonderful for both me and the client. For some of my clients, that means not being drained of what money they have by pointless or unwarranted litigations; for others it means not having a criminal conviction on their record. NOT being able to help - or not being paid after obtaining the desired result - is the worst part of the job. Neither is pleasant for an attorney or the client." (2009)

Vice-President & Head, Global Intellectual Property: "The best part of my job is working on cutting-edge technology. We get to see new products before they are sold to the public. It is also very fulfilling to work for a company that makes products that save lives all around the world. The worst part of my job is all the travel I have to do. I usually have to travel to other parts of the world at least once a month. While I may get to go to exciting places, it is hard to be away from my family so often." (2009)

Career Background


  Job Tasks
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Career Video

Career Tips

"Plan Ahead For Law School...
There are lots of different ways to be an attorney. I would advise learning as much as you can about the various opportunities within the legal field before you start law school, or even before you choose a law school. Different schools have different emphases or specialties, like environmental law, international law, and so forth. If you want to work in a particular kind of law, try to go where they focus on that area, and research what courses are available." (Attorney; 2014)

"Specialize And Specialize...
Find a niche and became very good at it." (Attorney; 2014)

"Find A Mentor...
If your starting out on your own, find a mentor and learn about managing a business." (Attorney; 2014)

"Secrets To Obtaining A Prosecutorial Position...
Trial advocacy during law school is a must. You should also aim for an internship where you get to actually practice and be in a court room." (Prosecutor; 2014)

"A Good Lawyer Solves Problems Five Ways To Sunday...
A lawyer's job is to solve problems, not make them worse. If you do not have a love of logic and an eye for detail, please don't come here." (Attorney; 2014)

"Take Care Of Your Personal Needs...
Time management is key. Stress is inevitable, but you can make it manageable. Also, listen to your body and try to sleep!" (Lawyer; 2014)

"Do An Internship Before Becoming Lawyer...
If you want to enjoy a profession as an attorney, you should get specific experience in the field first. Try interning at a law firm of interest to you to see what every day work would be like." (Attorney; 2014)

"Nothing Beats The Large Firm Experience...
Aim to secure a job with a mid-sized to large law firm before you graduate. The training, skills, and experience you will gain in these firms is unmatched. The smaller firms definitely don't provide the type of training you need to succeed in this professional." (Attorney; 2014)

"Snagging An Attorney Position Made Easier...
When searching for open attorney positions, consider all of your options. Attend networking events, surf job boards, keep in contact with former professors, and become active with your local bar associations. Advise everyone you know that you are actively seeking gainful employment in the legal profession." (Attorney; 2014)

"Specialize Early...
The surest way to succeed as an attorney is to specialize. Prepare during your undergraduate studies by getting a degree in science, engineering, or economics - these degrees open the doors to a career in the major legal specialties: Patent and Trademark Law, IP Law, and Tax Law." (Lawyer; 2014)

"Priorities Are Key To Ensuring Happiness...
Decide ahead of time what your priorities are then look for a type of job that fits those priorities. You have to like what you do but you also have to you also have to figure out what you're wiling to sacrifice for that job." (Attorney; 2014)

"Connections And Opportunities...
Make lots of connections with employers even if it's not in your specific field because your skills are valuable in more fields than you think." (Legal Counsel; 2014)

"Do The "Ethical Hustle"...
Generating business is far more about who you know than what you know. Be aggressive, and hustle within the constraints of your ethics code. Get your name out there, and then polish it - the legal community is much smaller than one would think. A sterling reputation will attract business." (Attorney; 2014)

"I Suggested Potential Law Students To Put School First...
To be a successful lawyer you must first be a successful student, that means attending school, studying for exams, and always putting forth your best effort." (Attorney; 2014)

"Meet People With Connections Already...
Meet people in your law school. Find people that have meaningful work lined up post grad and get to know them well. These people and their friends are the ones that will have immediate work." (Attorney; 2013)

"A Good Support Staff Makes For A Happy Lawyer...
If you are going to be a lawyer, look to work at firms that offer you a great deal of support. You want a place where you have legal secretaries and paralegals to handle most of the paperwork for you. This will free you up to do the part of the job that can be enjoyable." (Lawyer; 2013)

"Finding Meaning In Work...
If you want to be a successful lawyer, it is important to maintain strong ethical practices and a sense of self. Staying true to what your purpose is and your desire for being a lawyer will help you overcome the various and multiple ethical dilemmas you will encounter in the field. It is easy to take the low road to get ahead, but it will be much more satisfying and will earn you more respect and prestige if you get ahead by truly working hard and not cutting corners like your peers might." (Attorney; 2013)

"Go To Cheap Good School...
Go to a cheap school and do not borrow to much. Also do not go to a 4th tier school or for profit law school." (Bankruptcy Attorney; 2013)

"3 Helpful Things...
To become a Contracts Consultant or Contracts Administration, there are three things that would be most helpful. First, a college degree is usually required, and I would recommend that you major in Business Administration or Accounting. The second thing I recommend is to take courses on contracts online. This can even be done while you are attending undergraduate school or during a summer break. Thirdly, I recommend becoming an intern at a company that has an open contracts position. Experience is very important." (Contracts Specialist; 2011)

"Are You Cut Out For Law School...
First, you must determine whether you are prepared for the rigors of law school. A great deal of time and expense must be devoted to the pursuit of a career as an attorney. Second, it is important to identify whether or not you would like to practice law as a litigator, or whether you would prefer the written aspects of the legal field. My strengths are in analysis and writing, so this job is ideal for me. Third, you should look for a job that challenges you and keeps your interest. Finally, you should work with people with which you share a mutual respect." (Associate Attorney; 2011)

"Effective Writing Necessary...
To be a university teacher or a lawyer, you need to learn how to write clearly and concisely, how to punctuate correctly, and the elements of correct grammar. Neither the law nor your students will forgive sloppy thinking and writing." (Intellectual Property Attorney; 2011)

1. Be a nice and ethical person. I think if you can get along with others, this will go a long way in helping your career. 2. Get involved in extra-curricular activities so that you can get to know your co-workers and colleagues outside of work. This helps build relationships. 3. Learn how to play golf." (Attorney; 2011)

"Get Military Experience...
1. Pursue a college degree in history, political science, criminal justice, or foreign relations. 2. Consider attending one of the military academies or participating in an ROTC program. 3. Pursue a law degree and apply for a legal internship with one of the military services. Also consider a study abroad program and other internships in criminal justice or family law fields. 4. Talk with current and former judge advocates. 5. Maintain a healthy, physically fit life style - run, run, run! 6. Keep up with current events around the world not just in your local town or state. 7. Learn a foreign language (e.g., German, Arabic, Chinese, etc.). 8. Study military history. 9. Seek leadership opportunities in your academic and extra-curricular activities." (U.S. Army Judge Advocate; 2011)

"Law Schools Want Good Writers...
1. Many people think that being able to argue well is necessary, but law schools are looking for students who are able to write well. So take courses that will improve your writing skills. More lawyers argue on paper than in the courtroom. 2. Develop your analytical skills or take courses that help your ability to analyze different situations. If offered, take a law course, such as business law. 3. Develop good moral character. Most lawyers are good people who do their best to help their clients in a professional manner." (Attorney; 2011)

"Nothing Like TV...
I would suggest that you start early in trying to obtain internships and work in a law office, even if it is an unpaid internship. Many people have the misconception that all lawyers spend their entire day in the courtroom and that life looks like "Law and Order" or "LA Law". There is nothing further from the truth. The practice of law entails a lot of paperwork and client meetings and there is a lot of work done outside the courtroom. It is not as dramatic as many people think it will be. You must also be prepared to work long hours." (Attorney; 2011)

"Practice Detail Orientation...
Try to be very detail oriented in everything you do, whether it's math or English, or history. When searching a title, you have to have an eye for the missing link, the little detail that will help you solve the problem, kind of like the CSI people on TV." (Attorney; 2011)

"Read What Your Clients Read...
Read as many financial publications as you can, even the ones that you don't think are very insightful but which have a broad readership base, so that you are reading what your client's are seeing, which will give you some indication of where future questions or suggestions might be headed. Attend industry functions for continuing education, working under the assumption that you are more likely to learn something by listening to your professional contemporaries than speaking on the topics that you are already competent in. Embrace change, particularly in businesses that are subject to financial regulations and oversight, as there will be change and depending on the political party in power at the moment your regulator might be more or less intrusive than your former regulator." (Tax Lawyer/Financial Consultant; 2011)

"School's Reputation Paramount...
1. If you are taking on debt to pay for law school, then I would think long and hard about the type of future you want. If you do not see yourself working in an industry where you will be paid well (e.g. non-profit), then I would avoid taking on six-figure debt. 2. Only go to a law school that is highly and competitively ranked. 3. If you get any kind of scholarships, rank the benefits of accepting the money relative to the rank of the school." (Lawyer; 2011)

"Take Courses That Are Tested In Your State Bar...
Law school is very different from college, and law school exams are likewise very different. Ascertain what your professors are looking for when writing your exams. Make sure you take courses that are tested on the bar exam in whichever state you want to practice law. Network at job fairs and join student groups. A career opportunity may be found this way." (Attorney; 2011)

"Take Lots Of Writing Courses...
The best advice I can give is to take a lot of writing courses. Most of what I do daily is write. So having quality writing skills is a must. Secondly, I would focus on classes that will challenge your oral skills because most lawyers also have to do a lot of speaking. Thirdly, it is never too early to network and meet people, because these same people may become your clients in later years." (Assistant Director Of Law; 2011)

"Talk To Transaction Lawyers First...
Try to speak with corporate transaction lawyers about what they do to be sure you're really interested in that kind of work (and legal work in general) before heading to law school. Law school is a big time and money commitment that should only be undertaken if you're sure you want to work in the field. If you're interested in international or cross-border finance or transaction work, you should be willing to start with US-based corporate transaction and finance work. The legal work is very similar, and you'll probably need a grounding in the US legal work before you can move on to cross-border work. If you're interested in being a corporate lawyer you should be sure you like to read, write, and work on your own for long periods of time. (And can bear to read through lots of tedious materials.) It can be helpful to have international experience, whether languages, work or study abroad, if you want to work in a company or agency that focuses on international or cross-border work." (Corporate Attorney; 2011)

"Technical Undergrad Degree Helpful...
I strongly recommend that you pursue an undergraduate degree in a technical discipline prior to law school, since it will help you understand the company and products better, as well as, enable you to more effectively communicate with other company employees at all levels. It is also extremely helpful to take business courses as electives in your undergrad program, or get an MBA, since your legal activities will be performed in partnership with the business objectives of the company and the background will make you a more knowledgeable and valuable adviser. Also look for opportunities in your employment to perform different tasks, and expose yourself to as many different areas as possible" (General Counsel; 2011)

"Accounting Always Comes In Handy...
Despite the dryness of the topic, gain some general knowledge of accounting. Understanding financial concepts will be valuable in every engagement you are ever involved in. Never be afraid to ask questions. People like talking about themselves and, given enough opportunity, they will reveal what they are most interested in accomplishing. Read a wide variety of books and periodicals. It will broaden your horizons, make you conversational in any setting and help you connect with people both on a professional and social level." (Attorney; 2010)

"Choose A Major You Can Leverage...
To become a lawyer you have to have a four-year college degree in ANY subject and then complete three years of law school. Getting into law school can be difficult but the two major requirements are good grades in college and a good LSAT (like the SAT for lawyers) score. I always suggest that people going to law school select courses in college that they enjoy and in which they will succeed. It is helpful to have a college major that gives you additional knowledge that you can use in the practice of law." (Litigation Attorney Firm Partner; 2010)

"Consider A Business Degree First...
A business background can be very helpful in the practice of law. Most undergraduates take pre-law-history or obtain a BA degree. Start your career by clerking with a small or large firm. Do not attempt to open your own law firm right out of school. During law school, clerk at several different firms and experiment with different areas of the law. You may be surprised at which you enjoy the most, and it may not be what you expected." (Attorney; 2010)

"Expose Yourself To Various Specialties...
If you decide to go to law school, make sure you take very good classroom notes, because sometimes it not possible to do all the reading that is assigned to you. You should consider what type of law you would like to work with and whether it's something you will find interesting. So take classes that deal with different types of law to give you a better idea." (Litigation Manager; 2010)

"Family Law Is Cross-Disciplinary...
The practice of family law involves being an little bit of an expert in a lot of different things. Take courses in tax and negotiation. Be very proficient on the computer -- especially in Excel. You will be amazed at how much you will use that program. Be very organized and pay attention to detail. If this is not your forte, take a class in developing good organization habits. Finally, when starting out, get as much court experience as you can. There is no substitute for actual court experience." (Family Law Attorney In Private Practice; 2010)

"Getting By Vs. Getting Ahead...
1. Learn to love to read. There is nothing more important in my work then knowing how to write clearly and stringently. 2. Hone your communication skills. No matter what you end up doing, you'll work with people you do not get along with. Learn how to accept that and still get along with them. 3. Cultivate self-discipline. You have to be able to push yourself and complete your work unsupervised. This is the difference between getting by and getting ahead." (Assistant General Counsel; 2010)

"Go Directly To Law School...
Since being a lawyer requires a graduate degree, you should try to go straight from college to law school without taking off time in between. It is very hard to find the time to go back to school once you have left. There is no need to pick a particular area of law where you would like to practice during law school, just pick the state you want to practice. Many opportunities will be available and being open to all will help you find the area you like. Last, look into government work as a lawyer. Starting off the salary is much lower, but after a career in government, the retirement and benefits really pay off." (Associate General Counsel; 2010)

"Hone Reading And Writing Skills...
In order to get into law school, you need to have excellent grades in college. So work hard to get the best grades you can. Also work in the legal field in any legal office or department as a clerk or receptionist to see if the law is something you want to pursue. Lastly, read and write as much as you can as these are the skills you will use most." (Attorney; 2010)

"Internships Can Set You Apart...
When attending law school, worry as much about building your resume every semester with internships as you do about your grades and class rank because everyone in the middle gets lumped together and you need something to separate yourself. Consider the type of law you want to practice before going to law school. These days there aren't as many jobs available as there were a few years ago. Also consider the large gap in salaries. Don't look at the average salary of a law school graduate. Understand instead that corporate lawyers making very large salaries inflate the average dramatically, even though the kinds of jobs they have are getting harder and harder to come by." (Trial Attorney; 2010)

"Invest In Determining Your Specialization...
Take as many law courses you can in high school and college. It is really important to learn everything you can about the different practices so that you will know what type of law you want to practice. Make sure you do something that you will be happy with. There is more to life than money. There are different types of law and practice of law. Follow your heart more than the money. Get involved in activities outside of school to help make you a better-rounded person." (Attorney; 2010)

"Learn To Write Well...
Take a writing course in college. Being able to write clearly and concisely is much more important in legal writing than being able to write with flowery description. Also, if you are going to work at a big law firm doing corporate work for big financial institutions, it is very helpful to have a strong background in finance so that you can understand what your clients are trying to do. Take finance classes in college and law school." (Attorney; 2010)

"Writing Skills Paramount...
To be a clerk, the most important skill is writing. Editing and proofreading are also important, but writing is crucial. It would be helpful to take as many writing courses as possible. It would also be helpful to try to write and publish an article, going through the collaborative editing process that would occur in a clerkship. It is very important to be able to work with others, and being able to handle people who are difficult to work with is essential." (Attorney; 2010)

"Overwhelming At First...
There is a fairly steep learning curve in this profession. In the beginning most assignments seem overwhelming but with time and experience it gets much easier. As a junior associate you are often required to work long hours. However, once you move up in rank your hours will decrease as there are associates more junior to you. Have an open mind after law school regarding what type of law you are going to practice. Don't choose an area just because you are more familiar with it from law school. Be open to learning about something new." (Lawyer; 2010)

"Philosophy Courses Can Help Analytical Skills...
Do not worry much about what your major is as an undergraduate. There really is not a "pre-law" curriculum that's especially effective as a background for law school, and as an undergraduate you should really take classes that interest you. That said, I think that philosophy classes can be extremely helpful in honing your analytical skills. Being a good lawyer requires you to "think like a lawyer" and philosophy really stresses good analysis and cogent argument. In addition, if you intend to be a business lawyer, some basic accounting classes can be helpful. Try to maintain a network from your school. Enjoy yourself in law school as much as you can. You won't have much free time once you get into the real world." (Lawyer; 2010)

"Take Philosophy, For Example...
I would advise anyone who truly wants to be an attorney to take courses in college that strengthen analytical thinking skills. I found philosophy courses extremely helpful in developing these skills. Courses that make you a better writer are extremely important as well. You need to be able write as an attorney. Finally, and maybe most importantly, make sure you really want to be an attorney before attending law school. There can be more minuses, often, than pluses in the law field. It is not an easy job to have, but it can be fulfilling as well." (Attorney; 2010)

"Volunteer In A Child Advocacy Org...
Working in child welfare is very demanding and difficult. I would strongly suggest that you visit the court house and arrange to observe cases as an intern. Volunteerism in an agency that works to protect children or in the "Children in the Law" program would help you to familiarize yourself with the day-to-day work that such agencies do. The court-appointed special advocate, otherwise known as the CASA, is a volunteer who assigns advocates to the children named in the petitions and presents a written report to the court on the progress of the family. These advocates are required to appear in court and testify." (Attorney; 2010)

"Weigh Your Options Within Law...
If you decide to pursue a career in the law, consider your many different options before settling on exactly what your legal career might be. Many people who've been raised on "Law and Order" think they want to do trial work, but this is definitely not for everyone. There are lots of other options as well -- employment work, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property -- as well as various types of jobs for which a legal background is useful even if not always required, such as teaching, politics, non-profit work and working for a law firm, a company or a government agency." (Attorney; 2010)

"What It Takes To Be A Good Lawyer...
In order to be a good lawyer you will need to have a command of the English language, be able to analyze facts and problems, and be able to communicate clearly and effectively verbally and in writing. You will also need a desire to help other people solve problems they encounter in their lives. Being able to solve complex problems and to convince others that your position is fair and reasonable under the circumstances is important. You also need to enjoy reading and writing." (Attorney; 2010)

"Don't Expect To Become Wealthy...
1. Make sure law is the career you want. Law school's quite expensive. 2. Do not enter the profession with the expectation of becoming wealthy. 3. Be prepared for having to do highly detailed work based upon a great deal of research, often in a short amount of time. Writing skills are quite important. 4. Be prepared for stress. Other people's welfare is affected by what you do, or <I>don't</I> do. 5. Understand that results are likely to be both abstract in many cases and delayed." (Attorney; 2009)

"Major In Science Or Engineering...
1. Keep up on science news. You will be amazed how new developments are being made every day and you will learn a lot about different areas of technology. 2. Learn another language. Preferably, from a large European or Asian country (German, French, Chinese, or Japanese). 3. Take as many science courses as you can in college. (In fact, a major in either science or engineering is required to become a patent attorney.)" (Vice-President & Head, Global Intellectual Property; 2009)