Represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents, or manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law.
Lawyers advise individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes, and represent them in court and legal transactions. Also called attorneys, lawyers inform their clients about their legal rights and obligations, and help steer them through the complexities of the law. They also advocate for their clients in court by presenting evidence and making legal arguments. Lawyers conduct research and prepare documents, such as lawsuits, wills, and contracts. They also oversee the work of paralegals and legal secretaries. Lawyers work for law firms, governments, and corporations. In government, prosecutors are the attorneys who file charges against those accused of violating the law, while public defenders represent individuals who cannot afford to pay an attorney. Lawyers who work in law firms often start as associates, and may advance to partnership, or part owner, in their firm. Those who do not make a partner after several years may be forced to leave, a practice known as “up or out.” Lawyers may specialize in a subject area, such as environmental law, tax, intellectual property, or family law. Most lawyers work in offices, and travel to visit clients or represent their clients in court. They generally keep full-time hours, and overtime is common. Attorneys may face heavy pressure at times— for example, during trials or when trying to meet deadlines. It usually takes three years of law school after college to become a lawyer. All states require lawyers to pass licensing tests called “bar exams” to practice law. Prior felony convictions may disqualify candidates from practicing law.
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