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What are the pros and cons of being a lawyer in the US?

I’m a middle school student who has been considering law for a while. Lately I’ve been wondering if it is the right path for me. What are the best and worst parts of being a lawyer in the US?, Is it worth it to be in school for that long?, and Are you happy with your job?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Jan’s Answer

The path to becoming a lawyer is a long one. It will require that you obtain an undergraduate degree in some discipline followed by law school which is a three or four year course of study (depending upon whether you attend law school on a part time or full time basis). In addition to attending law school classes you will have many reading assignments to complete for each class which means that, when you are not attending class, you will spend hours at night and on the weekends studying. After you complete your first year of law school, you may have an opportunity to work in a legal clinic operated by your law school where you will be supervised by law school faculty and/or experienced lawyers or may you would work as a legal intern in a law firm. Once you graduate from law school, you will have to take and pass a bar exam in the state where you reside to be able to practice law. This will likely be the most difficult exam youve ever taken. If you do pass the bar exam, you will have to find a job in a law firm or a company or a non profit depending upon the area of law that you are interested in. It is not always easy to find a job working as an lawyer because there are many lawyers and not enough job for those lawyers. The path to becoming a lawyer is long and difficult; however, it does provide one with an opportunity to help improve the lives of people which can be very gratifying.
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MacKenzie’s Answer

Hi Troy! Getting a law degree and obtaining your license to practice law will open more doors than you can possibly imagine. The education you receive and the skills you develop can lead you to so many different careers, not just what you think of as a typical lawyer. Some people don't ever practice law after going to law school but they have very successful careers, help people, and make a good living. Having your JD will make you stand out from the crowd so even if you aren't sure about practicing law, I think the education is worth it.

In the US there are three typical paths for lawyers - private practice, in-house counsel, and public service (prosecution, public defender, politics). I have been both a private attorney (working at a law firm) and an in-house counsel (working for a company). Both have their pros and cons with private practice requiring a ton of time, billable hours (meaning the time you work needs to be time that can legitimately billed to clients but this will only be a portion of the time you actually work), and a lot of networking to ensure you have clients. In-house means you only have 1 client (the company) and you can have a better work/life balance given you don't have billable hours, don't need to network as much to secure clients, and you have a bit more predictability with your work. Personally, I prefer in-house because it allows me to have my family time, great salary, and great benefits. Some areas of law that you can do in-house would be employment law, ethics and compliance, contracts, immigration, privacy, tax, and other types of business law. I practice employment law type issues like conducting internal investigations of misconduct (think police/detective force inside the company to make sure employees are following the rules) and I make sure the company is abiding by laws like EEO, ADA, and other laws that ensure employees are treated fairly and free from discrimination or harassment.

I think like any career there are pros and cons but getting your law degree is for sure worth the investment in time and money and I've really enjoyed my career and would encourage you to continue exploring whether it's right for you. Good luck!
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Brian’s Answer

One of the greatest joys of this profession is the ability to aid others using the knowledge you've gained from your education. The type of law you specialize in and your place of employment (for instance, a private firm or a corporate setting) can influence your working hours, which can be quite extensive. However, it's important to note that long working hours may not be exclusive to the legal profession, but a common aspect of many jobs.

Pursuing a legal career requires a significant time investment - four years for a bachelor's degree and another three for law school. However, in places like California, a bachelor's degree may not be a prerequisite for law school. It's worth mentioning that law school doesn't necessarily equip you with the practical skills of being a lawyer. Instead, it molds your mindset to think like a lawyer. The practical aspects of lawyering are learned on the job.

As for my personal experience, I can confidently say that I'm satisfied with my career choice. I work as a patent attorney.
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Troy
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Edward’s Answer

The best part is helping people. The worst part is the long hours.

Seven years of school is tedious and then you have to learn by doing.

But I've enjoyed my 54 years as a lawyer
Thank you comment icon You rock! This advice is very helpful. Troy
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