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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

  • $81,423

    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.


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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23,009 Staff Attorney jobs

District of Columbia Courts
Washington, DC
Staff Attorney

$81,422 Estimated

Dallas, TX
Staff Attorney

$72,735 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Midland, TX
Staff Attorney - Midland

$77,001 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Lubbock, TX
Staff Attorney - Lubbock

$77,001 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Fort Worth, TX
Staff Attorney - Family Unit

$72,735 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Denton, TX
Staff Attorney - Denton

$72,735 Estimated

Talent Strategies
Orange, CA
Staff Attorney

$95,181 Estimated

Uniontown, OH
Staff Attorney

$61,122 Estimated

Family Violence Appellate Project
Oakland, CA
Staff Attorney

$95,181 Estimated

Colorado State
Denver, CO

$81,422 Estimated

Kenaitze Indian Tribe
Kenai, AK
Staff Attorney

$81,422 Estimated

Musca Law
Vero Beach, FL

$61,694 Estimated

Family Violence Appellate Project
Oakland, CA
Staff Attorney

$95,181 Estimated

Community Legal Aid & Affiliate
Worcester, MA
Temporary Veterans Project Staff Attorney

$84,442 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Dallas, TX
Staff Attorney - Community Revitalization Project

$72,735 Estimated

Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
Dallas, TX
Staff Attorney - Community Lawyering Centers

$72,735 Estimated

Northwestern Legal Services
Erie, PA

$71,778 Estimated

State of Colorado
Denver, CO
Staff Attorney

$81,422 Estimated

RW Lynch, Inc.
Concord, CA
Staff Attorney

$95,181 Estimated

United States Courts
Washington, DC
Staff Attorney

$81,422 Estimated

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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 -
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
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Top Skills for A Staff Attorney


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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

What Kind Of Companies Hire a Staff Attorney

  1. Legal Aid
  2. Ryley Carlock and Applewhite
  3. Legal Aid of North Carolina
  4. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
  5. Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP
  6. United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  7. Arnold & Porter LLP
  8. Us Court of Appeals for The Federal Circuit
  9. Simpson Thacher and Bartlett LLP
  10. Legal Services
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