What Are Career Advancement Opportunities for Lawyers?

Ultimate Guides

Are you wondering how to fast track your career in law? While there may be numerous career advancement opportunities for lawyers, knowing which ones to take can define a satisfying and lasting career in law.

To guide your decision making along with your career as a lawyer, here are a few highlights and considerations to keep in mind.

Classic Career Path for Lawyers

The common path for lawyers finishing their graduate studies and search for a firm to get hired will typically start as an associate working with other experienced lawyers. After a few years, some lawyers may be offered to become a partner of the firm.

Becoming a partner entitled lawyers with partial ownership over the law firm, additional responsibilities, and greater liabilities. Depending on the amount of time with the firm, partners came receive further career advancements such as becoming an executive partner or a managing partner.

Depending on a lawyer’s area of specialization, there may be opportunities to take on greater roles and responsibilities.

With the increasing amount of students graduating from law school each year with limited number careers available, competition is fierce. Lawyers who can’t maintain their positions as a partner may experience the “up and out.” This is when partners are forced to leave the firm because they were not able to contribute to the profitability of the firm.

Overall, this makes high-paying legal positions at prestigious firms extremely competitive. The selection process for these firms will often be limited to experiences and students graduating from specific schools.

However, those who do not obtain their ideal career as an associate at their law firm of choice can opt for alternative law careers.

Alternative Opportunities for Lawyers

After studying law for so many years, becoming an associate at a law firm is not the only option. Instead, law students can continue their education and pursue masters and doctorate degrees in areas specific to an area of specialization.

Pursuing an academic legal career can lead to a full-time position as a faculty member at a law school. Administrative and other teaching opportunities can also be found.

In addition, some lawyers may choose an internship. Internships offer freshly graduated law students with a chance to receive real experience while working with judges and other professional legal workers.

Another option may be to work for a corporation. While this is not a common path, some of the bigger corporations require a team of lawyers and legal support to keep their operations running smoothly.

Here is a suggestive list of alternative careers for lawyers:

  • In-house counsel for corporations/companies
  • Paralegal workers
  • Government lawyer
  • NPO / NGO lawyer
  • Real estate broker
  • Freelance attorney
  • Legal recruiter
  • Journalist
  • Politics
  • Insurance

Self-Employed Lawyers

Lawyers account for almost 800,000 jobs in America. The following is where those lawyers are employed:

Legal services (i.e. law firms) 48%
Self-employed lawyers 20%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 7%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6%
Federal government 5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Some lawyers who have worked with professional law firms and choose not to become a partner may pursue to form their own law firm. As seen in the chart above, 20% of all lawyers are self-employed.

Those who choose this career path can succeed by establishing a strong marketing plan and business strategy. Seeing their legal services as a business is a vital understanding of how to survive when competing against other self-established and long-lasting law firms.

Self-employed lawyers may place a heavy burden on solo lawyers who can’t afford to hire an assistant or secretary. However, some software products have been made available to handle various tasks such as accounting, invoicing, and other matter.

Other ways for self-employed lawyers to survive their first year as a lawyer would be to get a website, start a blog, and use paid advertisements.

Career Prospects for Lawyers

According to MyFuture, employment rates for lawyers are expected to grow 6% from 2014 to 2024. This prediction is based on the anticipated growth of other occupations in the United States which will increase demands for legal services. Individuals, businesses, and various levels of government will need legal assistance to support this growth and new demands.

Due to this increase in demand, the cost for legal services may consequently increase as well. This may cause law firms to reevaluate their staffing requirements and opting for law management software may prove to become a cost-effective solution.

Other methods to reduce costs while remaining competitive may lead to lawyers outsourcing their staffing to low-cost agencies. In addition, routine work can now be automated with various document programs dedicated to lawyers.