What is a Lawyer?
A lawyer, at the most basic level, advises and represents individuals, businesses and government agencies in criminal or civil legal matters.
But the title "lawyer" can conjure contradictory notions. Are they the protectors of the afflicted, as "Law & Order" would have us believe? Or are they the crooks depicted in John Grisham's "The Firm"? Are they the smooth-talking smarty-pants billing their clients gazillions of hours from ergonomic chairs inside their sleek offices? Or are they the safeguards of our futures, the ones we trust to administer our wills? Are they victims of a shortsighted public opinion? Or are they simply the butt of many bad jokes? The jury finds this case ... complicated.
There's a little truth and a lot of exaggeration in all these portrayals of lawyers. In many cases, lawyers at well-known firms do make a lot of money. But most put in a lot of time and effort to earn those handsome paychecks. District attorneys, like the ones depicted on TV, do prosecute those accused of committing heinous crimes. But there are some lawyers who never step foot in a courtroom or utter a single eloquent remark in front of a judge. Those types of lawyers sit at their desks with mountains of paperwork completing research or writing contracts.
Lawyers may work privately for big firms or small practices, or they may work publicly for the government. In the public sector, lawyers can find jobs as district attorneys or public defenders, or they could even work for the federal government. In the private sector, many lawyers seek jobs at big firms, where they'll usually choose an area of specialty such as environmental law or tax, divorce or data privacy. And although the profession can involve a lot of time in a courthouse, it doesn't always. Lawyers also spend a lot of time conducting meticulous research, analyzing prior cases, soliciting testimonies from witnesses and drawing up legal documents. Clients contact attorneys for any number of legal issues and rely on their firm knowledge of the law as well as their discretion. A lawyer's work is often grueling, involving long hours at the office.
By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the profession will grow by 9 percent, which is higher than the average growth rate for all occupations. The BLS predicts 74,800 new jobs will open up by that time. While law firms will still be the biggest employers of lawyers, the BLS also finds that corporations will start hiring more of their own in-house lawyers to reduce costs.
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