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Working As A Staff 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

  • $78,304

    Average Salary

What Does A Staff Attorney Do

Staff Attorneys are legal employees who work for a variety of organizations, often as full-time employees. They use their legal expertise to help deal with day-to-day legal issues with which their organization needs regular assistance.

How To Become A Staff Attorney

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

Education

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.

Licenses

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. 

Advancement

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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Staff Attorney jobs

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Real Staff Attorney Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Staff Attorney Neulion, Inc. Plainview, NY Jun 30, 2015 $161,699
Staff Attorney Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP San Diego, CA Nov 15, 2014 $160,000
Staff Attorney Kylintv, Inc. Plainview, NY Dec 22, 2014 $151,674
Staff Attorney Consumer Recovery Services Holding, LLC New York, NY Oct 01, 2011 $146,090
Staff Attorney Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP San Diego, CA Jan 03, 2012 $142,208
Practice Innovation Staff Attorney/Manager Cooley LLP San Francisco, CA Jun 20, 2016 $140,000 -
$175,000
Staff Attorney Salans LLP New York, NY Mar 15, 2011 $135,000
Staff Attorney Sidley Austin (Us) LLP New York, NY Aug 15, 2014 $135,000
Staff Attorney Baker Botts L.L.P. New York, NY Dec 12, 2016 $124,426
Staff Attorney Electronic Frontier Foundation, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 22, 2016 $123,900
Staff Attorney Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP New York, NY Sep 26, 2011 $123,250 -
$143,250
Staff Attorney Pravinchandra J Patel, P.C. East Meadow, NY Sep 05, 2011 $93,915
Staff Attorney Just Law International, P.C. Fairfax, VA Sep 23, 2015 $93,498
Staff Attorney Sidley Austin (Us) LLP Washington, DC Sep 01, 2015 $93,184
Staff Attorney Moore & Van Allen PLLC Charlotte, NC Aug 09, 2016 $92,500
Staff Attorney Smithfield Foods, Inc. Smithfield, VA Aug 09, 2016 $91,104
Staff Attorney Faith Center for Community Development, Inc. New York, NY Sep 01, 2012 $90,284
Foreign Staff Attorney Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP Atlanta, GA Aug 24, 2014 $90,000 -
$120,000
Foreign Language Staff Attorney Covington & Burling, LLP Washington, DC Jul 01, 2011 $90,000
Staff Attorney United Sikhs In Service of America Richmond, NY Jun 29, 2016 $80,300
Staff Attorney United Sikhs In Service of America Richmond, NY Jan 07, 2016 $80,300
Staff Attorney Morris, Manning & Martin LLP Atlanta, GA Sep 17, 2012 $80,000
Staff Attorney Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur LLP Columbus, OH Sep 05, 2011 $80,000 -
$120,000
Staff Attorney American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc. New York, NY Sep 28, 2013 $79,006
Staff Attorney Texas Riogrande Legal Aid, LLC Weslaco, TX Mar 11, 2013 $79,000
Staff Attorney Italk Global Communications, Inc. Austin, TX Sep 16, 2016 $78,000

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Top Skills for A Staff Attorney

CounselTrialPreparationDiscoveryExtensiveLegalResearchChildSupportFamilyLawCasesComplexLegalIssuesBankruptcyDomesticViolenceRealEstateLegalServicesDisabilityLegalAdviceSocialSecurityDocumentReviewLegalDocumentsAdministrativeHearingsFederalCourtLegalMemorandaSupervise

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Top Staff Attorney Skills

  1. Counsel
  2. Trial Preparation
  3. Discovery
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Advised the General Counsel on grant submissions and operations decisions to facilitate the functioning of a relatively new legal department.
  • Summarized transcripts and assisted with general trial preparation.
  • Drafted pleadings, motions, settlement agreements, and discovery requests and responses.
  • Conducted extensive legal research and assisted with the preparation of judicial opinions.
  • Appointed Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for criminal child support enforcement.

Top Staff Attorney Employers

Staff Attorney Videos

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