Where Do Lawyers Work?

Business

If you enter a finely furnished office or go inside a courtroom, these are the typical places where lawyers work. However, aside from the actual places that lawyers perform their legal services, where do lawyers work?

Let’s explore a few of the places where lawyers can get hired after graduating law school.

Government

Lawyers can work at one of the following three levels of government:

  1. Local government
  2. State government
  3. Federal government

Depending on where the lawyer works, there will be varying roles and responsibilities. Government lawyers may be one of the following:

  • Prosecutors
  • District attorneys
  • State attorney generals
  • Public defenders

Lawyers working for the government can work for almost every government agency that exists. From Homeland Security to the Environmental Protection Agency to the IRS, lawyers have plenty of career opportunities with the government.

In some situations, lawyers may be required to assist with legal research to pass laws or create government policies.

Average Salary for Federal Government Lawyers:  $110,720

Law Firm Attorneys

Many lawyers pursue careers with established law firms. They’ll start as an associate to develop their legal skills by working with expert attorneys that have been practicing for years. Law firms will choose their attorneys depending on the school candidates attend and the experiences they have.

After working at the firm for a number of years, an associate may be considered for partnership. Becoming a partner comes with considerable more responsibility while becoming a partial owner of the firm.

Average Salary for Lawyers:  $135,830

In-House Attorneys

In-house attorneys are those that are employed by a single client. The clients are typically large corporations requiring a go-to lawyer to be available for various in-house legal requirements. Many companies have their own legal department handling various legal situations the company faces. These in-house lawyers may be responsible for the following:

  • Addressing any of the company’s employment issues
  • Handling litigations with another law firm if the company is sued
  • Acting as a lobbyist to influence legislation in favor of the company

Working for a company or large corporation typically offers a higher salary and more flexibility with their time than other lawyers who work for themselves or at a firm. Find an in-house lawyer position may occur when a company continues to hire a lawyer from a firm and after building a relationship they offer a permanent position.

Average Salary for Legal Services in the Alcohol Industry: $179,950

Private Practice (Solo Practitioners)

Some lawyers may choose to start their own business after obtaining a few years of experience. Instead of becoming a partner at a firm, they start their own or become a solo practitioner.

Private practice is where many lawyers work and those who become solo practitioners tend to have significantly greater job responsibilities. In order for a solo lawyer to survive, they must perform their own marketing of their legal services. To find clients, some lawyers may get a website, start a blog, or use paid advertising methods.

Lawyers often bill their clients at an hourly rate or in increments of minutes (i.e. 10 minutes at a time). It is the lawyer’s responsibility to accurately track the time they provide to their clients in order to invoice them correctly.

Average Hourly Rate for Lawyers: $56.81

Public Interest Lawyers

Legal-aid groups, which tend to be private, nonprofit agencies, offer legal services to disadvantaged people. Lawyers found here aim to help poor people and other minorities with limited access to legal services.

The cases public interest lawyers (PBLs) focus on include:

  • Illegal discrimination
  • Environmental protection
  • Child welfare
  • Domestic violence

Occasionally, these lawyers may seek to change laws to improve society as a whole. While public interest lawyers are a vital resource to help people, the salary for these lawyers is minimal. Nonprofit organizations often struggle to maintain funding to assist people in need. This is why these organizations provide internships to students and those who recently graduated law school to offer hands-on legal experiences.

Median Entry-level Salaries for PBLs: less than $43,000

Academia

Not all lawyers licensed to practice law will pursue a career as a lawyer. You can find some lawyers who continue their studies and pursue higher education in various topics of law.

These lawyers (and also experienced lawyers seeking a break from their profession) can teach at law schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. Alternatively, lawyers who are practicing can pick up a side job as a teacher and publish their own personal research related to law.

Estimated Number of Lawyers (2016): 619,530

Judicial Clerkship

Here’s another common place you’ll find fresh graduates from law school. Judicial clerkships provide aspiring lawyers with a 1- or 2-year experience working with a judge. Each judge can have up to 4 clerks working with them. A clerk’s core responsibilities include:

  • Legal research
  • Document drafting
  • Developing opinions
  • Attend hearings and trials
  • Prepare trial memoranda
  • And many more legal tasks

Judicial clerkships provide law graduates with a chance to receive valuable experience which can help them find a position at a higher-paying firm. In some places, permanent positions may be available for clerks.

Reference for Lawyer’s Average Salaries: Bureau of Labor Statistics