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What do lawyers do?

I've seen on TV shows where the lawyer is in court and defending someone, but I know that every lawyer doesn't actually do that all day. What is it actually like to be a lawyer, like what do they do all day? #lawyer #law #attorney

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Ching’s Answer

I have been asked this question many times by high school children and I always tell them the study of the law does not mean you must embark on the path to be a lawyer. The training you receive enhances your critical thinking, analytical thinking, and ability to see different perspectives of a given set of facts. All very useful skills to have in the real world.

As an in-house corporate lawyer, our days are taken up with a lot of reading (and typing) -- you could be reviewing contracts, documents, researching, drafting memos, policies etc. More importantly, you need to be committed to knowing the company you are working for to understand how to provide the legal support and counseling they need. What this means is that sometimes, your day may look like endless meetings with different groups discussing topics that are not exactly "legal" related but nevertheless, important to help you counsel your internal clients. At times, this may mean formulating strategies for the company, providing guidance, or even handling a crisis. A corporate lawyer, or any lawyer, needs to be very proactive and be able to lead calmly and sensibly even in the midst of chaos.

As you can see, there is no definitive answer to this question as a typical day will vary. But I hope I was able to share my perspective as a corporate lawyer. As Richard A indicated, choose an area you enjoy and the journey will be so much more enjoyable.

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Ronald’s Answer


Study of the law gives you insight into the underlying structure of civil society and government. While many lawyers prosecute laws or defend clients in litigation, some in a court, many provide analysis and advice for leaders in corporations and federal state and local government, or assume leadership roles themselves. I direct the contract and grants operations for the Library of Congress, ensuring that the funding Congress provides for the nation’s Library is wisely invested in the buildings, collections, events, and technology the Library provides. Understanding the law opens opportunities across the public and private sector that might not be readily apparent at first blush.

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Fiona’s Answer

It is not always what you see on TV!
There are many many different types of law you can practice. It often also depends where you are located. I practice in Hong Kong, and have been for the last 10 years, although I did my studies in New Zealand.
Here, the system is split up between solicitors and barristers (usually court work). Solicitors at the international firms would often specialise in corporate finance given Hong Kong is an international finance centre. This will involve e.g. mergers and acquisition deals, syndicated loan deals, debt market bond deals, initial public offerings etc. The local (smaller) firms may specialise in commercial, family, conveyancing matters etc.
They are vastly different in both the work nature and culture of the work place.

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Richard’s Answer

My wife is a bankruptcy attorney. From what she tells me, it depends what kind of lawyer you wish to be. Some appellate attorneys spend a lot of time researching and writing briefs (arguments to the Court). Others are trial attorneys and enjoy speaking in front of others. There are so many different kinds of specialties of lawyers. If you find your niche, you learn that one area. Choose the field that suits you best so you will be happy going to work every day.

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Estelle’s Answer

There are many different types of lawyers. Those that practice family law or criminal law, for example. The vast majority of these attorneys' time is spent researching cases and case law then discussing the nuances of the law with the opposing attorneys. They interview their client and anyone with important knowledge of the facts of the case. These interviews are sometimes recorded for the court. After researching and negotiating, they either reach an agreement out of court or go before a judge (with or without a jury).
Tax and contract law is more of the research and less of the discussion/interview time.

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Randolph’s Answer

The pros and cons of being a lawyer. I’ll start with the cons.
I am a divorce lawyer. I doubt anyone goes into law saying they want to be a divorce lawyer. I happened into this area because I had a very good friend that was one and mentored me at a time where I needed to find income.
As a divorce lawyer, I am in court on average I’d say twice per week. The other days I’m in the office preparing paperwork or talking to clients (or potential clients).
The major con of this profession is that my clients are at one of the worst parts of their lives. They have an ex that is trying to battle them in court for their kids or their money, or both. It can get really nasty and I hear the very ugly things people are doing to each other. Sometimes I am the only person they can talk to about their problems because they are too embarrassed to tell their friends and family. Regardless if they have support, I am the person they always need to vent with. I have different clients calling me at all different times complaining about the horrible thing their ex did to them or their kids. I then need to think of the best way to help them in their situation. Sometimes it’s just a letter to their ex’s attorney. Other times it’s filing a motion in court to make their ex do something or refrain from doing something. The constant battling can be very stressful.
An occasional con is when something needs to be filed and time is short. This is rare but once in a while there is the need to do whatever it takes to get things filed on time. For example, when there is a large trial, you need to prepare a trial brief (which explains your clients position on all issues), a witness list, an exhibit list, and you need to prepare all of the exhibits. Preparing the exhibit can take a lot of time because you have to go back and review the entire file to pick out the documents you think are important for the court to see. I’ve had to pull more than a few all-nighters for especially big cases.
The last con would be that sometimes it is difficult to get the clients to pay. This is especially true after I have performed my services and they don’t need me anymore. I may have been the hero when I was battling in court and getting them what they wanted, but when their case is done, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to pay. That is why attorneys try to get all of their money up front. But that is not always possible.
I hope I didn’t scare you off already because their are many pros to being an attorney as well.
The first obvious pro is the money. Attorneys can charge whatever they want. It’s really whatever the market will allow them. I charge $350 per hour. This rate has allowed me to have a very comfortable life style with nice vacations and not have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. Now my income varies from month to month depending on how many cases come in and other factors. But in some months I earn more than many people earn in an entire year. That is a definite pro!
Because I have my own practice, I make my own hours. This can be really fun sometimes. If I don’t have court and don’t feel like going into the office, I simply take the day off and do what I want. If I don’t have court in the morning, I can sleep in to whatever time I feel like going into the office. Really nice!
As for divorce law, as much as I told you how stressful it can be fighting the ex and battling in court, when everything is done it can be extremely rewarding to see my clients so happy that everything worked out and they are so thankful that I was able to help them get their lives back in order. Sometimes it makes me feel like all that studying and preparing to be an attorney was worth it. When I know I made a difference for the better in a person’s life, it is a really good feeling.
Lastly, a pro of being an attorney in general is knowing that no one can mess with you. Knowing the law is just a very powerful tool to have. Whether it’s myself, a friend or family having trouble with some company, for example, I simply write a letter and things get resolved. An attorney is one of the highest positions in society and there is instant respect and admiration from everyone you will come in contact with for the rest of your life. That alone is worth all of the hard work it took to get to this position.
I hope this helps you in your decision making. Good luck!!!