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What are the advancement/growth opportunities of being a lawyer?

I love working with people with the intent of helping them through something. I'm also very passionate about the things I believe in, so that would be why I'm interested in being a lawyer. However, I prefer to always have an objective to reach and doing the exact same thing everyday wouldn't satisfy me. #lawyer

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Jenna’s Answer

If you want to do different things every day, and help people or businesses with their issues and challenges, then being a lawyer could be a good fit for you. It depends on what kind of lawyer you are regarding your advancement, or growth. There are opportunities to help people who can't afford legal services, which is called pro bono work, and it's a great way to help people and see results and grow your skill set, and it is highly recommended for any attorney. You can also take continuing legal education (CLEs) to learn about different areas of law, or learn more about the area you focus on. If you work in a law firm, how many hours you work (and bill) and the client you bring in will help determine your advancement. If you are an attorney in a company, the the organization will dictate how you can advance, and sometimes getting a new job is the best way to continue growing in your role. Government workers have a set of processes to follow regarding their advancement and training. It will be specific to the job you are in, but you will definitely have to spend lots of time and effort learning the law and how to be effective in your job, and then the opportunities for growth, advancement and satisfaction will present themselves. If they don't, then it might be time to consider moving into a new role.

Your answer is so thorough and helpful. Thank you! Autum C.

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Desiree’s Answer

I know what you mean! In 2 decades of practicing law, I have never ever done the exact same thing two days in a row. And quite a few days start with plan that gets completely re-prioritized and re-arranged by 10AM. But that also has to do with the type of law I practice and the employers for whom I've had the pleasure to work.

Some parts of the law can be very routine and repetitive - but even then you can find variety within the routine (e.g., each patent an Intellectual Property lawyer files is unique, even if the patent filing process is routine; each case a judge hears follows the same procedural rules, but facts & witness, are very different each time). I suspect "doing the exact same thing" depends greatly on how you choose to look at things!

Also, how you wish to help "people" will drive your advancement/growth: do you want to help children and spouses in family law practice with things like divorces, custody matters; do you want to help small - or large! - businesses succeed and expand in business or corporate law; do you want to help tenants - or landlords - in Real Estate law? There are so many different "people" (including companies, who under the law are considered people) to help and so many different areas of the law you can practice. And you don't need to answer once and for all - you can start your legal practice is one area, then change up and evolve as your interest/experience leads you to different paths. Sometime that requires a leap of faith - do you open your own law firm (you advance quickly when you're the boss!)? do you change law firms? do you go into the government? do you move in-house to a company who will be your only client? There are lots of opportunities if you are willing to work hard and learn new skills/areas of the law. And there are a wide variety of places in which you can practice law and which will effect the advancement path -- Jenna's answer is great on this point, so please do read that!!

Like any career, the more success you have, the more traditional options will be open to you. But your definition of "growth" may also evolve -- whether that's winning high profile litigation, closing big deal, patenting a life-saving medicine, reuniting a parent and child, or securing a visa for an immigrant.

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Glenn’s Answer

Jenna's answer is great advice. I would only add that one of the ways to ensure you work in different areas of the law throughout your career is to be a litigator or appellate attorney in a mid to large size firm. Transactional attorneys work with new facts in each case, but tend to work in one area of the law, becoming experts in that area. Litigators and appellate attorneys in mid to large size firms, who do only litigation or appeals, work on more of a "bathtub" process. For each case they learn the substantive area of the law applicable to their case (typically working with colleagues in the firm who are experts in that substantive area of the law) thus filling up the "bathtub" of their minds while they apply their litigation expertise to present the case to a judge or jury in the most persuasive way possible. And at the end of that case, they "drain the bathtub" and move on to another case in another substantive area of the law.

Litigation is stressful and challenging. So, as a litigator, it can be hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Appellate practice is also stressful and challenging, though a little less so than a litigation practice. But for those who thrive on variety and challenge, litigation and appellate practice can be a way to keep the practice of law constantly fresh and interesting.

But beware, there are also some kinds of litigation for which there may be very little novelty or variety. For example personal injury litigators, insurance defense litigators, family law litigators, and criminal law litigators tend to litigate in just one area of the law. For many of them litigation can become a cookie-cutter, cut-and-paste legal practice.

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DENNIS’s Answer

Hi Autum: Wow - tough question. Glenn's, Desiree's and Jenna's answers are all perfect. Advancement and growth in the law depend on how you describe those things. You can advance from Associate Attorney to Partner if you bring in business to the firm! Growth in the law can mean learning new things. I did plaintiff's personal injury and insurance defense work in New York City for 37 years. It changed all the time. You had to learn about medicine and construction and products and medications all the time. But advancement meant bringing in clients! The practice of law is what you make it. Follow your own passions and you will both advance and grow in the practice of law!