Watching legal dramas on television is exciting and many people aspire to be awe-inspiring lawyers who stand up and deliver rousing speeches in court. But the path to becoming a practicing lawyer is too long and difficult for most. Luckily, there are several career paths in the legal industry suited to people with different skills and qualifications. If you are wondering whether you have what it takes to join this challenging and exciting industry, here are some career options to consider.
Needless to say, lawyers are the most well-known figures in the legal industry. They advise and represent clients in many matters and specialize in various areas of law. For instance, lawboss.com focuses on personal injury cases while other lawyers may work in corporate law or criminal litigation. To become a lawyer in the United States, you will need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree and take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to qualify for admission to a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). After three years of law school, you can sit the bar exam—a comprehensive test of legal knowledge and skills. If you pass, you can join your local bar association and apply for a license to practice law. Phew!
Paralegals are legal professionals who work as part of a law firm to help attorneys in many aspects of their work. The duties of a paralegal are extremely varied and can include researching legal precedent and case law, analyzing statutes and regulations, drafting legal documents, interviewing clients and witnesses, tracking time spent on a case, and organizing case files. Paralegals may also attend hearings and trials to assist their attorneys. To become a paralegal, you will need at least a high school diploma and complete a paralegal education program such as a certificate program or an associate degree program. Then, you learn on the job and gain work experience through internships or entry-level positions in law firms or legal agencies.
3. Law Clerk
While both law clerks and paralegals work in the legal field, their roles are quite different. Paralegals typically work for law firms or government agencies while law clerks work for judges or individual attorneys. Law clerks are responsible for conducting legal research on a variety of topics related to the cases they are working on and drafting legal documents such as briefs, memos, and opinions. They have to ensure that these documents are well-researched and formatted to meet the specific requirements of the judge or attorney that they work for. Many law clerks are fresh graduates from law school or part-time law students who clerk to receive on-the-job training that will enable them to move on to a higher position in the legal industry.
4. Legal Investigator
Legal investigators work alongside attorneys or law enforcement agencies to conduct research and gather evidence for legal cases. They are responsible for collecting evidence such as photographs, documents, and other items that may be relevant to a legal case. In addition, they may conduct interviews with witnesses to gather information about the alleged crime and its circumstances. After uncovering and verifying all the information possible, legal investigators analyze what they have gathered to help attorneys build their cases. While a degree in criminology is useful, practical experience in investigative techniques and strong research and analytical skills are crucial for candidates who want to take on this profession.
5. Court Reporter
A court reporter, also known as a stenographer, is a professional who creates a verbatim record of legal proceedings. Through the use of stenography machines and other technology, they ensure that an accurate record is kept of all legal proceedings so that lawyers and judges can refer to the information later. Aside from being skilled in using stenography equipment, court reporters must be good at transcription and able to work in a fast-paced environment. A thorough understanding of legal terminology and grammar is also essential. To become a court reporter, you typically need to complete a formal education program in court reporting at a college or technical school and obtain a certification or license to operate from your state.
Mediators are neutral third parties who help various parties in a legal dispute reach a mutually acceptable resolution without going to court. They specialize in facilitating communication and negotiation between these parties and are responsible for drafting a settlement agreement at the end of the negotiation. Mediators can be called in to handle different types of legal cases, including divorce and custody, business disputes, and personal injury claims. They may work as independent contractors or be employed by law firms or government organizations. Becoming a legal mediator typically involves a combination of formal education, mediation training, and experience as an intern or work in a related field such as social work.
The legal field is full of interesting and rewarding opportunities. Whether you want to be on the frontline as a litigation lawyer or provide essential support as a court reporter, there are plenty of career choices to explore. Aside from the positions mentioned above, there are numerous other ways you can be involved in the legal field. Find out more about the different options available by contacting an employment specialist at your local college or university and researching open positions at law firms and government agencies in your area.