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Overall Score
(6.4 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

1.4 percent

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Best Social Services Jobs #7
The 100 Best Jobs #51

Not all lawyers are as fast-talking and cutthroat as they’re often depicted on television. A lawyer advises and represents individuals, businesses and government agencies in criminal or civil legal matters. To practice law, attorneys must receive a bachelor’s degree, complete three years of law school and pass a state-specific written bar examination. Lawyers usually carve a niche for themselves in an area of interest, such as intellectual property or divorce. A lawyer’s role isn’t confined to the courtroom: He or she may conduct research and analyze prior cases, solicit testimony from witnesses and draw up legal documents pertaining to lawsuits, appeals and deeds. Clients rely on lawyers to help exonerate them from both minor and major offenses. This line of work can be taxing, as lawyers often work long hours and must be able to interpret even the smallest details of the complex legal system.

The job market for lawyers has improved in recent years. Law firms remain the largest source of job opportunities, but many corporations are expanding their in-house legal departments, especially financial and insurance firms and health care providers The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 9.8 percent for the profession between 2012 and 2022, which is slightly lower than the average for all occupations. During that time period, an additional 74,800 jobs will need to be filled. This profession ranks No. 7 on our list of Social Services Jobs.


Lawyers earned a median salary of $113,530 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid earned more than $187,999, while the lowest-paid made approximately $54,310. The highest earners worked in the metropolitan areas of San Jose, Calif., Dothan, Ala., and San Francisco.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $168,010
Median $113,530
25th Percentile $74,880


Those interested in becoming a lawyer should prepare for seven years of education after high school. They must hold an undergraduate degree as well as a Juris Doctor degree from a law school before taking the written bar exam. This final requirement is administered by the state in which one hopes to practice law. The exams vary by state but usually consist of a written test that probes knowledge of state laws and ethical standards. An attorney’s informal education also never stops. A lawyer must be familiar with new legal codes and precedent set by local, state and federal legislatures and courts.

Reviews & Advice

John Farnan, board member of the National Lawyers Association, recommends: "Try to get your foot in the door. If you get an offer, consider taking it—even if it is not your 'dream job'—and build up your experience. Develop your contacts both inside and outside the legal field." Farnan encourages candidates to form and maintain relationships with friends in the field, prospective employers, and clients. After all, as Farnan says, "It is important to try and assess whether the lawyer would likely interact well with, and help retain and grow, existing firm clients and perhaps develop the capacity, down the road, to develop her or his own book of business."

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility poor Below Average
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility poor Below Average
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Last updated by Harriet Edleson.

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