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colleges offer programs related to this career near San Jose, CA

Career Overview

Chances are, one of your high school teachers made your class participate in debates. Perhaps you remember having to choose which side of the debate you would be on, and researching the topic thoroughly to prepare yourself to speak for your side. If you found this experience exciting, pursuing a career as an attorney could be for you. Attorneys advise and represent people on legal issues and disputes.For instance, if your brother owned a business and an ex-employee sued him claiming he didn't pay them their full wages, he could contact you for legal counsel. As an attorney, you would advise him on the best way to handle his situation since it is your job to fully understand the law and how it applies to any given situation. If you both decide it's necessary, you would go to a hearing with him to help him present his side of the story.Your research and analytical skills would come into play immediately. You might start off by asking him, "Do you have documentation that proves you paid this employee for all the hours they worked?" These papers would serve as important testimony; each piece of evidence collected would help you build a case to help defend your brother against a seemingly false accusation.As an attorney, you will act as a both an advocate and an advisor. As an advocate, you will represent people in trials by presenting a case in support of your client - just as you would for your brother if his employee took him to court. As an advisor, you will counsel clients about their legal rights and obligations, and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. If your brother really had been sued by his former employee, this is where you would have played your advisor role to help him understand what he should do to best handle the situation.While shows on TV tend to show attorneys who spend the most of their time in court, this is not always the case. You could spend a great deal of your time filing legal documents such as lawsuits, appeals, contracts, deeds, and more. Furthermore, you will also spend time going over these documents with your clients so that they understand what they are signing. Just as you wouldn't sign a contract without reading it, your clients don't want to sign anything that legally binds them without fully comprehending what it says.It is important to note the difference between a lawyer and an attorney, especially since both titles are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, anyone who has graduated from law school is considered a lawyer. This means you could turn to them for legal advice, but they are not qualified to represent you in a court of law. An attorney is someone who can legally practice law because they not only finished law school, but they also passed the bar exam.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
9.4 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Bachelor's Degree Juris Doctor Degree

The first step towards becoming an attorney is to complete your bachelor's degree. There is no specific major required, but many students choose political science, philosophy, economics, or history. If it helps you decide, pursue the major that most interests you. This could help you down the road if you find that you want to work in a specific type of law. For instance, if you wish to work in criminal law, majoring in criminal justice could prove to be helpful.Once you have completed your bachelor's degree, you must apply to law school in order to pursue your Juris Doctor degree. Many students choose to start this process during the final year of their undergraduate career. During this time, you will need to take the LSAT's, acquire recommendations, write essays, purchase official transcripts, and more depending on the requirements of each individual school you apply to. After you've gotten into law school, it will take you three years of thorough study to complete your Juris Doctor degree. Law school is challenging, but once you're done, you have one last step until you officially become an attorney.Once you graduate from law school, you must take the State Bar exam in the state you have chosen to practice law. This test essentially proves that you know the law inside and out. Once you pass, you are officially an attorney - legally able to practice law in the state you have decided to work. The journey to start this career is not easy, but if you find that law is your passion, it can certainly prove more than worth the hard work.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Communication Skills
Analytical Skills

Career Opportunities

When it comes to pursuing a career in law, it's important to choose a specialty that you're most interested in. For example, if you are passionate about the environment, you may choose to major in environmental studies and then attend law school in order to specialize in environmental law. If that doesn't interest you, there are many other types of law including business (corporate) law, civil rights law, criminal law, entertainment law, and many others.

Criminal Law

Criminal law focuses on actions that are deemed illegal and fall under criminal code. For instance, murder, burglary, and cases of assault are all considered criminal law. If you choose to defend people accused of crimes, you will be known as a defense attorney. On the other end, if you choose to defend the victim of an alleged crime, you will be known as a prosecutor. At the end of the day, it's up to you to do all that you can to protect your client using the evidence you find.

Entertainment Law

Entertainment law mostly focuses on Intellectual Property Law, but it is more particularly focused on rights and royalties issues to media in the arts, music, television, cinema, or athletics. For example, as a sports lawyer, you would make sure compliance with regulations for professional or amateur athletes is maintained. Furthermore, you may also represent athletes for contract deals. In these cases, it would be your responsibility to make sure athletes understand what they are agreeing to when they sign a contract.

Work Environment

As an attorney, you would complete your work in your own private office at a firm and sometimes law libraries. Occasionally, you will travel to gather evidence and other important documents for a case you are working on.Working as an attorney is a full time job. Due to the extensive research often needed to build proper cases, you may need to work well over 40 hours per week. With the help of paralegals, sometimes these hours can be cut back and work can become a bit less stressful.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013