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Working As An Associate Attorney

  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $160,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Associate Attorney Do

Associate Attorneys help attorneys perform legal research, write briefs, and argue cases in court. They are involved in the process of preparing for trials and hearings, and they participate in the legal proceedings to gain experience.

How To Become An Associate Attorney

All lawyers must have a law degree and must also typically pass a state’s written bar examination.


Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA accreditation signifies that the law school—particularly its curricula and faculty—meets certain standards.

A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into most law schools, and courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics are useful.

Almost all law schools, particularly those approved by the ABA, require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test measures applicants’ aptitude for the study of law.

A J.D. degree program includes courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. Law students may choose specialized courses in areas such as tax, labor, and corporate law.


Prospective lawyers take licensing exams called "bar exams." When a lawyer receives their license to practice law, they are "admitted to the bar."

To practice law in any state, a person must be admitted to the state’s bar under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. The requirements vary by individual states and jurisdictions. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar exams, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Prior felony convictions, academic misconduct, or a history of substance abuse are just some factors that may disqualify an applicant from being admitted to the bar.

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take the bar exam in each state.

After graduation, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practices. Almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every year or every 3 years. 

Many law schools and state and local bar associations provide continuing legal education courses that help lawyers stay current with recent developments. Courses vary by state and generally cover a subject within the practice of law, such as legal ethics, taxes and tax fraud, and healthcare. Some states allow lawyers to take their continuing education credits through online courses. 


Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work with more experienced lawyers. After several years, some lawyers may be admitted to partnership of their firm, which means they become partial owners of the firm.

After gaining a few years of work experience, some lawyers go into practice for themselves or move to the legal department of a large corporation. Very few in-house attorneys are hired directly out of law school.

A small number of experienced lawyers are nominated or elected to judgeships. Other lawyers may become full-time law school faculty and administrators. For more information about judges and law school faculty, see the profile on judges and hearing officers and the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Other Experience

Law students often gain practical experience by participating in school-sponsored legal clinics, in a school’s moot court competitions, in practice trials under the supervision of experienced lawyers and judges, and through research and writing on legal issues for a school’s law journals.

Part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments also provide valuable experience. Some smaller firms, government agencies, and public interest organizations may hire students as summer associate interns after they have completed their first year at law school. Many larger firms’ summer internship programs are only eligible to law students who have completed their second year. These experiences can help law students decide what kind of legal work they want to focus on in their careers, and these internships may lead directly to a job after graduation.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues. As a result, they must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and propose viable solutions.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship, so that clients feel comfortable enough to share personal information related to their case.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the matter. Therefore, good problem-solving skills are important for lawyers, to prepare the best defense and recommendation.

Research skills. Preparing legal advice or representation for a client commonly requires substantial research. All lawyers need to be able to find what applicable laws and regulations apply to a specific matter.

Speaking skills. Clients hire lawyers to speak on their behalf. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries. 

Writing skills. Lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

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Associate Attorney Typical Career Paths

Associate Attorney Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • German

  • Italian

  • Portuguese

  • Russian

  • Chinese

  • Mandarin

  • Arabic

  • Hindi

  • Korean

  • Japanese

  • Urdu

  • Cantonese

  • Polish

  • Vietnamese

  • Hebrew

  • Gujarati

  • Greek

  • Romanian

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Real Associate Attorney Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Associate Attorney Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP New York, NY Apr 18, 2016 $340,000
Associate Attorney Michael J. Legamaro P.C. Chicago, IL May 04, 2016 $300,000
Associate Attorney Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP New York, NY Jun 09, 2016 $290,000
Associate Attorney Sidley Austin (Us) LLP New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $290,000
Associate Attorney Stikeman Elliott (Ny) New York, NY Mar 29, 2016 $290,000
Associate Attorney Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP New York, NY May 17, 2015 $290,000
Associate Attorney Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP Los Angeles, CA Feb 05, 2015 $280,000
Associate Attorney Paul Hastings LLP Palo Alto, CA Jun 22, 2015 $280,000
Associate Attorney Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP New York, NY May 11, 2015 $280,000
Associate Attorney Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP New York, NY Oct 31, 2015 $280,000
Associate Attorney Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP Houston, TX Jan 05, 2015 $280,000
Associate Attorney Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP New York, NY Sep 13, 2016 $280,000
Associate Attorney Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy & Worob, LLP New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $180,000
Associate Attorney Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP San Francisco, CA Nov 10, 2016 $180,000
Associate Attorney Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP San Francisco, CA Sep 01, 2015 $180,000
Associate Attorney (Awaiting Admission) Covington & Burling LLP Washington, DC Jan 11, 2016 $180,000
Associate Attorney Sidley Austin (Us) LLP Houston, TX Aug 23, 2016 $180,000
Associate Attorney-Global Finance & Debt Products Alston & Bird LLP Los Angeles, CA Jan 29, 2015 $175,000 -
Associate Attorney Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP Menlo Park, CA Apr 09, 2016 $175,000 -
Associate Attorney Sidley Austin (Us) LLP Chicago, IL Jan 10, 2016 $175,000
Associate Attorney Immigration Law Group LLP San Jose, CA Sep 04, 2015 $153,338
Associate Attorney Knobbe, Martens, Olson and Bear, LLP San Diego, CA Jan 25, 2016 $150,467
Associate Attorney Zhong LUN New York LLP New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $150,264
Associate Attorney Perkins COIE LLP Seattle, WA Jan 07, 2016 $150,000 -
Associate Attorney Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLP Irvine, CA Oct 09, 2016 $150,000
Associate Attorney Blakeley & Blakeley, LLP. New York, NY Feb 26, 2015 $150,000
Associate Attorney Perkins COIE LLP Seattle, WA Jul 20, 2016 $150,000 -

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Top Skills for An Associate Attorney


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Top Associate Attorney Skills

  1. Discovery Responses
  2. Pre-Trial Motions
  3. Real Estate Transactions
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Drafted discovery responses, oppositions to motions to compel, and oppositions to motions for summary judgment.
  • Argued pre-trial motions at the district and circuit court level.
  • General litigation, real estate transactions, matrimonial/family law, and personal injury.
  • Conducted formal and informal mediation in family law and personal injury cases with individual and corporate defendants.
  • Negotiated with opposing counsel regarding a wide variety of procedural issues.

Top Associate Attorney Employers

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