Generally, an attorney's responsibility is to advise the client with an ongoing lawsuit on the legal procedures and provide strategies to resolve the case as early as possible. An attorney compiles necessary documents or any records for appeal and client's defense. Attorneys must acquire strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to mediate disputes and settle pending litigation for the client's best interest. In some cases, an attorney's procedure depends on any evidence and research presented during the trial period. An attorney is expected to present clients on legal proceedings, seeking justice and justifying the law.

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Attorney Responsibilities

Here are examples of responsibilities from real attorney resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Manage the death administration department with approximately thirty-five plus estates through trust administration, Medicaid estate recovery or probate.
  • Respond to subpoenas and pleadings in litigation and in regulatory inquiries and investigations involving corporate clients.
  • Represent employers before federal administrative agencies, including inspections, administrative litigation, court-enforcement actions and appeals.
  • Litigate personal injury, and general liability matters, worker's compensation, estate planning and litigation, environmental liability litigation.
  • Create and give a presentation regarding non- attorney ethics to division staff.
  • Comply with all agency policies and procedures, including those pertaining to ethics and integrity
  • Conduct internal EEO and wage/hour compliance audits, as well as investigations of sensitive workplace complaints.
  • Represent persons accuse of DUI at trial level in all judicial forums: federal; state; and municipal.
  • Provide zealous representation to hundreds of indigent clients charge with crimes ranging from DUI to arm robbery in suburban Atlanta.
  • Conduct training programs for managers and supervisors in labor/employee relations, EEO, contract administration, performance evaluation and employee counseling.
  • Participate in securities public offerings and private placements.
  • Defend securities firm against executive's wrongful termination claim.
  • Provide consultation and advice to agency regarding human resource matters and assist with civil service appeals.
  • Conduct depositions in relation to investigatory subpoenas, interview witnesses, and investigate unfair labor practices.
  • Assist in designing and implementing an internal grievance procedure for a non-union employer using an employee/management arbitration panel.

Attorney Job Description

When it comes to understanding what an attorney does, you may be wondering, "should I become an attorney?" The data included in this section may help you decide. Compared to other jobs, attorneys have a growth rate described as "as fast as average" at 6% between the years 2018 - 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the number of attorney opportunities that are predicted to open up by 2028 is 50,100.

An attorney annual salary averages $109,476, which breaks down to $52.63 an hour. However, attorneys can earn anywhere from upwards of $69,000 to $172,000 a year. This means that the top-earning attorneys make $100,000 more than the lowest-earning ones.

As is the case with most jobs, it takes work to become an attorney. Sometimes people change their minds about their career after working in the profession. That's why we looked into some other professions that might help you find your next opportunity. These professions include a law clerk, lawyer, housing counselor, and legal consultant.

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Attorney Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 19% of Attorneys are proficient in Litigation, Legal Research, and Law Firm. They’re also known for soft skills such as Analytical skills, Interpersonal skills, and Problem-solving skills.

We break down the percentage of Attorneys that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Litigation, 19%

    Experience with Commercial Litigation, Uniform Commercial Code/Contract disputes, Securities Litigation, Premises Liability, Workers Compensation and shareholder/partner litigation.

  • Legal Research, 9%

    Conducted legal research and assisted supervising attorney in all commercial litigation matters including employment contract litigation, breach of contract.

  • Law Firm, 8%

    Solo practitioner law firm primarily offering commercial and residential real estate related legal services - Responsible for all aspects of firm operation

  • Legal Issues, 6%

    Counseled clients on legal issues including government regulations, contract administration and enforcement, and their day-to-day operations.

  • Legal Advice, 5%

    Provide legal advice regarding strategic business decisions and draft and negotiate technology licensing and employment contracts for successful start-up company.

  • Juris, 4%

    Work with Word, Microsoft Outlook and JURIS computer programs

Some of the skills we found on attorney resumes included "litigation," "legal research," and "law firm." We have detailed the most important attorney responsibilities below.

  • The most important skills for an attorney to have in this position are analytical skills. In this excerpt that we gathered from a attorney resume, you'll understand why: "lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues" According to resumes we found, analytical skills can be used by a attorney in order to "analyzed discovery materials and consulted with in-house litigation team in preparation of pending litigation in u.s. district court. "
  • Another trait important for fulfilling attorney duties is interpersonal skills. According to a attorney resume, "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." Here's an example of how attorneys are able to utilize interpersonal skills: "leveraged excellent interpersonal skills to earn trust and gain credibility with clients, judges and professionals. "
  • Attorneys are also known for problem-solving skills, which can be critical when it comes to performing their duties. An example of why this skill is important is shown by this snippet that we found in a attorney resume: "lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the relevant applicable information" We also found this resume example that details how this skill is put to the test: "reduced litigation costs by selective use of alternative dispute resolution. "
  • A thorough review of lots of resumes revealed to us that "research skills" is important to completing attorney responsibilities. This resume example shows just one way attorneys use this skill: "lawyers need to be able to find those laws and regulations which apply to a specific matter, in order to provide the appropriate legal advice for their clients." Here's an example of how this skill is used from a resume that represents typical attorney tasks: "conducted legal research and drafted necessary legal documents for trial and appellate litigation. "
  • Yet another important skill that an attorney must demonstrate is "speaking skills." Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries, because they are speaking on behalf of their clients. This is clearly demonstrated in this example from an attorney who stated: "represented construction firms in litigation with municipalities and private owners. "
  • While "writing skills" is listed last on this skills list, don't underestimate its importance to attorney responsibilities. The skill is described by this resume snippet, "lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney." Here is an example of how this skill is used, "research and writing regarding community college charge backs, arbitration hearings, and property owner's responsibility for damaged sidewalks. "
  • See the full list of attorney skills.

    Before becoming an attorney, 39.6% earned their bachelor's degree. When it comes down to graduating with a master's degree, 5.4% attorneys went for the extra education. If you're wanting to pursue this career, it may be impossible to be successful with a high school degree. In fact, most attorneys have a college degree. But about one out of every nine attorneys didn't attend college at all.

    Those attorneys who do attend college, typically earn either a law degree or a political science degree. Less commonly earned degrees for attorneys include a business degree or a legal research and advanced professional studies degree.

    Once you've obtained the level of education you're comfortable with, you might start applying to companies to become an attorney. We've found that most attorney resumes include experience from Robert Half, DLA Piper, and Bank of America. Of recent, Robert Half had 142 positions open for attorneys. Meanwhile, there are 72 job openings at DLA Piper and 56 at Bank of America.

    If you're interested in companies where attorneys make the most money, you'll want to apply for positions at Thompson Coburn, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and The Bar Association of San Francisco. We found that at Thompson Coburn, the average attorney salary is $238,940. Whereas at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, attorneys earn roughly $237,704. And at The Bar Association of San Francisco, they make an average salary of $234,608.

    View more details on attorney salaries across the United States.

    We also looked into companies who hire attorneys from the top 100 educational institutions in the U.S. The top three companies that hire the most from these institutions include Private Practice, Law Office, and SOLO Wilderness Medical School.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious attorneys are:

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    What Law Clerks Do

    Law clerks are employees in a legal firm who handle clerical tasks for the office. They handle the office's official phone lines, answering incoming calls, and making outgoing calls. They also field office correspondence, often receiving incoming mail and distributing them to their addressees. They manage office documents and ensure that they are correctly filed and labeled in their respective storage bins. Law clerks help make office life more comfortable because they make sure that the office is running well. They also manage appointments and office calendars.

    In this section, we take a look at the annual salaries of other professions. Take law clerk for example. On average, the law clerks annual salary is $53,560 lower than what attorneys make on average every year.

    While their salaries may differ, one common ground between attorneys and law clerks are a few of the skills required in each craft. In both careers, employees bring forth skills like litigation, legal research, and law firm.

    These skill sets are where the common ground ends though. An attorney responsibility is more likely to require skills like "legal advice," "legal services," "appeals," and "trial preparation." Whereas a law clerk requires skills like "legal memos," "pre-trial motions," "family law," and "client intake." Just by understanding these different skills you can see how different these careers are.

    Law clerks tend to reach similar levels of education than attorneys. In fact, law clerks are 0.1% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 19.4% less likely to have a Doctoral Degree.

    What Are The Duties Of a Lawyer?

    A lawyer is a legal practitioner who specializes in understanding and interpreting laws and other legal matters. Their responsibilities revolve around providing legal counseling and advice, representing clients in different kinds of court proceedings, conducting research, collecting evidence, and coordinating with various experts. A lawyer must also manage and oversee the performance of assistants, paralegals, and other team members. Furthermore, there are instances when a lawyer must draft or manage documents such as contracts, trusts, deeds, and wills, assisting clients as needed.

    Next up, we have the lawyer profession to look over. This career brings along a higher average salary when compared to an attorney annual salary. In fact, lawyers salary difference is $6,332 higher than the salary of attorneys per year.

    Not everything about these jobs is different. Take their skills, for example. Attorneys and lawyers both include similar skills like "litigation," "legal research," and "law firm" on their resumes.

    While some skills are similar in these professions, other skills aren't so similar. For example, several resumes showed us that attorney responsibilities requires skills like "appeals," "real estate transactions," "law practice," and "insurance defense." But a lawyer might use skills, such as, "real estate," "civil law," "legal support," and "financial institutions."

    When it comes to the differences in education between the two professions, lawyers tend to reach higher levels of education than attorneys. In fact, they're 9.2% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 19.4% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

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    How a Housing Counselor Compares

    A Housing Counselor works directly with clients and organizations to support moderate and low-income clients in overcoming barriers to housing and financial stability. They represent the homeowner in interventions and/or mediation proceedings with the mortgage servicer, lender, and/or other stakeholders.

    The third profession we take a look at is housing counselor. On an average scale, these workers bring in lower salaries than attorneys. In fact, they make a $30,746 lower salary per year.

    Using attorneys and housing counselors resumes, we found that both professions have similar skills such as "litigation," "legal research," and "legal issues," but the other skills required are very different.

    There are many key differences between these two careers as shown by resumes from each profession. Some of those differences include the skills required to complete responsibilities within each role. As an example of this, an attorney is likely to be skilled in "law firm," "juris," "legal services," and "appeals," while a typical housing counselor is skilled in "in-house counsel," "social work," "crisis intervention," and "real estate."

    When it comes to education, housing counselors tend to earn similar education levels than attorneys. In fact, they're 3.4% more likely to earn a Master's Degree, and 20.7% more likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

    Description Of a Legal Consultant

    A legal consultant uses legal practice knowledge to enhance a law company's efficiency and profitability. Besides advising on the right solutions for customer productivity, marketing and development strategies, legal consultants also actively manage risks by consulting on program and legal-related issues. They help the parent law firm meet its objectives by analyzing problems and developing solutions. Other than negotiating, drafting, and reviewing legal documents, legal consultants also conduct legal research and analyze the right securities, insurance, and retirement plans.

    Now, we'll look at legal consultants, who generally average a lower pay when compared to attorneys annual salary. In fact, the difference is about $34,452 per year.

    While their salaries may vary, attorneys and legal consultants both use similar skills to perform their jobs. Resumes from both professions include skills like "litigation," "legal research," and "law firm. "

    Even though a few skill sets overlap, there are some differences that are important to note. For one, an attorney might have more use for skills like "appeals," "probate," "social security," and "law practice." Meanwhile, some legal consultants might include skills like "financial statements," "client relationships," "service agreements," and "confidentiality agreements" on their resume.

    In general, legal consultants reach higher levels of education when compared to attorneys resumes. Legal consultants are 7.9% more likely to earn their Master's Degree and 12.8% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

    What an Attorney Does FAQs

    What Are Career Paths In Law?

    There are many career paths in law, including being a prosecutor, becoming a judge, or being a paralegal. Here is a more detailed look at each of these career paths and others in law:

    • Prosecutor

      Prosecutors are lawyers who investigate, charge and prosecute individuals who they think have perpetrated a crime. Prosecuting in a strict sense is the act of taking these criminally charged individuals to court and trying to convince a jury or judge of their guilt. Prosecutors do this through their use of witness testimony and exhibits (materials, documents, etc.) specific to the crime in question or a crime scene.

    • Judge

      Judges are the top authority in criminal and non-criminal proceedings in courtrooms. They preside over hearings and listen to the arguments of opposing parties, a defendant's lawyers, and prosecutors.

      Judges apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

      The highest judges in the United States are Supreme Court Justices. Closely behind them in the judge hierarchy are the court of appeals judges and district court judges. All of these judges are appointed by the President of the United States and are confirmed by the United States Senate.

    • Paralegal

      Paralegals have an important role in the realm of law. They do a wide range of tasks for lawyers, including assisting them with research for specific cases, and other administrative tasks.

      Some common duties of a paralegal are investigating the facts of a case, collecting documents from several different sources, researching legal cases, writing reports and other legal documents, drafting pleadings and motions to be filed in court, and assisting attorneys during trials.

      Paralegals also may prepare civil documents, such as wills, contracts, mortgages, and separation agreements. Often they must interview witnesses, and clients, and maintain communication with them.

      The unique aspect of paralegals relative to most other professions in law is that you only need to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies to practice as a professional.

    • Lawyers at law firms

      Many people on the legal career path choose to try to find work in law firms. There are many law firms of all sizes and these firms generally pay the lawyers working within them very well. There are three main types of positions at a law firm: associates, law firm partners, and managing partners.

      Associates are mostly young lawyers at a firm that are hoping to one day become a partner. Large-scale law firms generally have two tiers of associates: junior associates and senior associates.

      These titles are given depending on the individual merit and experience level of the lawyer. Most associates work, as such, for six to nine years before becoming a partner. Factors that partners weigh when considering if an associate should make partner include the associate's legal knowledge and skills, the size of their client base, and how well they fit into the company's culture.

      Law firm partners are professionals within a law firm that may also be referred to as shareholders, in that they are joint owners and operators of the firm. The types and structures of law firm partnerships can vary.

      Managing partners of a law firm are the highest officials of the firm. These consist of senior-level lawyers or founders of the firm. This is the position most lawyers are gunning for when they take a job at a law firm. However, it typically takes many years of hard work and dedication to obtain it.

      Managing partners are usually part of an executive committee composed of senior-level lawyers of the firm. They have the top authority in the firm and creative objectives and strategic visions for the company. Managing partners also play kingmaker in the sense that they, in a democratic effort, can make lower-level lawyers partners of the firm.

    • Requirements and qualifications for these career paths

      For all of these career paths in law, with the exception of a paralegal, you need to have a stellar academic record and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

      This is an infamously difficult exam that acts as the gatekeeper to law school. It is designed to test skills that undergraduate students may have not yet fully developed, such as the reasoning skills in the logic games section.

      Courses in law school include constitutional law, ethics, property law, criminal law, lawyer-client relationship, and civil procedure. If you make it through law school you then must pass the Bar exam which is even harder than the LSAT.

      The Bar exam requires an immense amount of critical thinking when answering the written questions. Philosophy, ethics, and many other esoteric topics may come into play when answering questions on the Bar exam. Not to mention you need to know your laws. The exam differs from state to state, but usually takes two days to complete.

      And make sure that you take the Bar exam in the state in which you want to become a lawyer, otherwise you'll likely have to take it again. The Bar exam is notoriously known to be difficult, with many law students needing to take it multiple times to pass.

      Once you pass the Bar exam, you can seek work in one of the many career paths of a lawyer.

    What Is A Professional Degree?

    A professional degree is a college or university degree that helps students prepare for work in specific fields, such as law, medicine, education, or engineering. The length of time it takes to get a professional degree can vary, depending on the area you are specializing in.

    Professional degrees come in the form of bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctorate degrees. Programs in professional degrees often put a great amount of emphasis on real-world training and the application of specific skills.

    Many also include the necessity of completing internship programs in the field as well. They also might include specific projects that mimic real-world projects in a particular profession and in certain cases, may even be utilized by the graduate once they enter the field.

    All of these facets of professional degrees give students the opportunity to gain real-world experience and skills and help to boost their resumes upon graduation.

    Certain professional degrees must be obtained before you can legally practice a profession, like those in law or medicine.

    What Is Law Firm Hierarchy?

    Law firm hierarchy is the structure of job titles at a law firm and consists of managing partners at the top and summer associates at the bottom. Here is a more detailed description of the roles in the law firm hierarchy, starting with the highest position and descending to the lowest position:

    What Is The Difference Between A Lawyer And An Attorney?

    The difference between a lawyer and an attorney comes down to whether or not you can practice law in court. A lawyer is someone who has gone to law school but doesn't practice law in court. In contrast, an attorney has completed law school, passed the bar exam, and can practice law in the courtroom.

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