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What Does A Lawyer Do?

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.

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

  • Manage legal statement books for Mexican multinationals as well as documents for corporate governance, shareholder agreements and articles or incorporation.
  • Draft, proofread and ensure filing and service of criminal motions.
  • Assist in coordinating litigation strategy with external counsel.
  • Provide legal counsel and represent indigent clients or eligible persons accuse of criminal offenses.
  • Manage legal statement books for Mexican multinationals as well as documents for corporate governance, shareholder agreements and articles or incorporation.
  • Draft guidelines for application of FDIC repudiation powers in various contexts, including master-software agreements and arrangements.
Lawyer Traits
Analytical skills have to do with gathering information from various sources and then interpreting the data in order to reach a logical conclusion that benefits the business.
Interpersonal skills involves being able to communicate efficiently with multiple people regarding your thoughts, ideas and feedback.
Problem-solving skills is the way that one is able to effectively solve a problem in a timely manner.

Lawyer Overview

When it comes to understanding what a lawyer does, you may be wondering, "should I become a lawyer?" The data included in this section may help you decide. Compared to other jobs, lawyers 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 lawyer opportunities that are predicted to open up by 2028 is 50,100.

A lawyer annual salary averages $121,347, which breaks down to $58.34 an hour. However, lawyers can earn anywhere from upwards of $62,000 to $234,000 a year. This means that the top-earning lawyers make $136,000 more than the lowest-earning ones.

As is the case with most jobs, it takes work to become a lawyer. 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 student attorney, senior attorney, assistant state attorney, and document review attorney.

Lawyer Jobs You Might Like

Lawyer Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 25% of Lawyers are proficient in Legal Advice, Law Firm, and Legal Documents. They’re also known for soft skills such as Analytical skills, Interpersonal skills, and Problem-solving skills.

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

  • Legal Advice, 25%

    Provide legal advice on employment, benefits, mobility and executive operations.

  • Law Firm, 11%

    Reported directly to partners of the law firm and supervised junior lawyers, paralegals and administrative assistants.

  • Legal Documents, 7%

    Researched, analyzed and interpreted legal documents applying the information to case preparation.

  • Civil Litigation, 7%

    Practice encompassed insurance defense, business law and transactions, and general civil litigation in State and Federal courts.

  • Real Estate, 6%

    Represented the Georgia Real Estate Commission in numerous administrative hearings and argued cases before administrative judges.

  • Counsel, 6%

    Represented clients seeking immigration counsel.

Some of the skills we found on lawyer resumes included "legal advice," "law firm," and "legal documents." We have detailed the most important lawyer responsibilities below.

  • Analytical skills can be considered to be the most important personality trait for a lawyer to have. According to a lawyer resume, "lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues" lawyers are able to use analytical skills in the following example we gathered from a resume: "examine legal data to determine advisability of defending or prosecuting lawsuit. "
  • While it may not be the most important skill, we found that many lawyer duties rely on interpersonal skills. This example from a lawyer explains why: "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." This resume example is just one of many ways lawyers are able to utilize interpersonal skills: "increased client base primarily through community involvement, volunteering, and focusing on the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. "
  • Another skill that is quite popular among lawyers is problem-solving skills. This skill is very critical to fulfilling every day responsibilities as is shown in this example from a lawyer resume: "lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the relevant applicable information" This example from a resume shows how this skill is used: "solved all issues related to labor law and workers compensation. "
  • In order for certain lawyer responsibilities to be completed, the job requires the skill "research skills." According to a lawyer resume, "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." As an example, this snippet was taken directly from a resume about how this skill applies: "research and use of legal databases and codes. "
  • As part of the lawyer description, you might find that one of the skills that might be helpful to the job is "speaking skills." A lawyer resume included this snippet: "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 skill could be useful in this scenario: "represented companies in labor law cases. "
  • Another skill commonly found on lawyer resumes is "writing skills." This description of the skill was found on several lawyer resumes: "lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney." Here's an example from a resume of how this skill could fit into the day-to-day lawyer responsibilities: "research and writing regarding contract, employment, real estate and commercial law matters. "
  • See the full list of lawyer skills.

    Before becoming a lawyer, 26.7% earned their bachelor's degree. When it comes down to graduating with a master's degree, 26.8% lawyers went for the extra education. If you're wanting to pursue this career, it may be possible to be successful with a high school degree. In fact, most lawyers have a college degree. But about one out of every nine lawyers didn't attend college at all.

    The lawyers who went onto college to earn a more in-depth education generally studied law and legal research and advanced professional studies, while a small population of lawyers studied business and legal support services.

    When you're ready to become a lawyer, you might wonder which companies hire lawyers. According to our research through lawyer resumes, lawyers are mostly hired by Credit Suisse, State of Montana, and Align Technology. Now is a good time to apply as Credit Suisse has 3 lawyers job openings, and there are 2 at State of Montana and 1 at Align Technology.

    If you're interested in companies where lawyers make the most money, you'll want to apply for positions at The Dewey, Shearman & Sterling, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. We found that at The Dewey, the average lawyer salary is $305,696. Whereas at Shearman & Sterling, lawyers earn roughly $251,324. And at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, they make an average salary of $251,150.

    View more details on lawyer salaries across the United States.

    We also looked into companies who hire lawyers 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 Offices, and Law.com.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious lawyers are:

      What Student Attorneys Do

      In this section, we take a look at the annual salaries of other professions. Take student attorney for example. On average, the student attorneys annual salary is $7,839 lower than what lawyers make on average every year.

      Even though lawyers and student attorneys have vast differences in their careers, a few of the skills required to do both jobs are similar. For example, both careers require legal advice, legal documents, and civil litigation in the day-to-day roles.

      These skill sets are where the common ground ends though. A lawyer responsibility is more likely to require skills like "law firm," "real estate," "trial preparation," and "employment law." Whereas a student attorney requires skills like "family law matters," "domestic violence," "fact investigation," and "irs." Just by understanding these different skills you can see how different these careers are.

      The education levels that student attorneys earn is a bit different than that of lawyers. In particular, student attorneys are 23.8% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a lawyer. Additionally, they're 48.6% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of a Senior Attorney?

      A Senior Attorney supervises all activities of junior attorneys and deals with all complex legal transactions. They identify legal issues and offer businesses and their customers optimum solutions, as well as ensure that businesses respond appropriately to any legislative changes.

      Next up, we have the senior attorney profession to look over. This career brings along a lower average salary when compared to a lawyer annual salary. In fact, senior attorneys salary difference is $27,108 lower than the salary of lawyers per year.

      Not everything about these jobs is different. Take their skills, for example. Lawyers and senior attorneys both include similar skills like "legal advice," "law firm," and "legal documents" on their resumes.

      But both careers also use different skills, according to real lawyer resumes. While lawyer responsibilities can utilize skills like "criminal cases," "contract law," "private practice," and "new clients," some senior attorneys use skills like "privacy," "regulatory agencies," "legal department," and "internal clients."

      On average, senior attorneys earn a lower salary than lawyers. There are industries that support higher salaries in each profession respectively. Interestingly enough, senior attorneys earn the most pay in the professional industry with an average salary of $123,750. Whereas, lawyers have higher paychecks in the professional industry where they earn an average of $190,921.

      In general, senior attorneys study at lower levels of education than lawyers. They're 14.5% less likely to obtain a Master's Degree while being 48.6% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      What technology do you think will become more important and prevalent in the field in the next 3-5 years?

      William Logue

      Director of Dispute Resolution Training Interim Director of Summer Programs, Quinnipiac University

      The pandemic has and will continue to accelerate the use of technology. Six months ago, few mediations or arbitrations were held by video conference. Now, the majority have moved in that direction. Being familiar with, and skillful in using, the new technology, and the role it can play in dispute system design, will be necessary. The adoption of online dispute resolution (ODR) and integration of artificial intelligence will move faster because of the pandemic and the new demand and increased user comfort level with technology. Show more

      What technology do you think will become more important and prevalent in the field in the next 3-5 years?

      Michelle Miller

      Associate Professor of Legal Studies, Quinnipiac University

      Of course, it has long been the case that attorneys and paralegals are not using actual books, even to do legal research, as Lexis and Westlaw have become ever more popular. However, over the past several years, smaller, less expensive, legal research products have been giving these two companies a run for their money, especially in smaller firms. No Legal Studies program can cover all of the technology that a graduate might encounter. This means that graduates must be willing to learn new research and office management programs, other than those they may have met at university. Show more

      How an Assistant State Attorney Compares

      An Assistant Staff Attorney performs a wide range of clerical and administrative work that requires knowledge of legal terms, documents, and procedures. They also communicate with clients to keep them informed on case progress.

      The assistant state attorney profession generally makes a lower amount of money when compared to the average salary of lawyers. The difference in salaries is assistant state attorneys making $53,665 lower than lawyers.

      By looking over several lawyers and assistant state attorneys resumes, we found that both roles utilize similar skills, such as "legal advice," "legal documents," and "civil litigation." But beyond that the careers look very different.

      Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from lawyer resumes include skills like "law firm," "real estate," "counsel," and "intellectual property," whereas an assistant state attorney might be skilled in "law enforcement," "criminal division," "felony cases," and "misdemeanor cases. "

      Interestingly enough, assistant state attorneys earn the most pay in the transportation industry, where they command an average salary of $66,802. As mentioned previously, lawyers highest annual salary comes from the professional industry with an average salary of $190,921.

      When it comes to education, assistant state attorneys tend to earn lower education levels than lawyers. In fact, they're 16.8% less likely to earn a Master's Degree, and 38.3% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of a Document Review Attorney

      A Document Review Attorney reviews various types of legal documents, such as contract and employment law, intellectual property, and commercial litigation, to identify any areas of risk or information that may need correction.

      Document review attorneys tend to earn a lower pay than lawyers by about $38,675 per year.

      While both lawyers and document review attorneys complete day-to-day tasks using similar skills like legal advice, law firm, and legal documents, the two careers also vary in other skills.

      While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "real estate," "criminal cases," "trial preparation," and "employment law" are skills that have shown up on lawyers resumes. Additionally, document review attorney uses skills like attorney-client privilege, e-discovery software, financial documents, and qc on their resumes.

      In general, document review attorneys make a higher salary in the professional industry with an average of $116,010. The highest lawyer annual salary stems from the professional industry.

      Document review attorneys reach lower levels of education when compared to lawyers. The difference is that they're 18.5% more likely to earn a Master's Degree less, and 46.0% more likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.