In a list of the most hated professions that are available in the United States and around the world from The Balance, lawyers ranked at #5. The only jobs that were ranked as being worse were dentists, used car salesman, school principals, and stock traders. There are many jokes out there which portray attorneys as being liars, thieves, and snakes – and those are from the least offensive examples that you can find online.
When you work as a lawyer, then your job is to represent and advise clients in criminal or civil cases. Attorneys will often specialize in a specific area of the law so that they can maximize the impact of their services. Numerous categories are available with this career option, including immigration, probate, divorce, injury, bankruptcy, and criminal law. Some attorneys preferred to be general practitioners who can cover every area.
Once a client hires you as a lawyer, then your job is to help them navigate the legal system. We often see attorneys arguing cases in court in the movies are on TV, but most of them rarely set foot in the courtroom. They will prepare paperwork, offer advice, and work in other areas of representation instead.
Here are some of the pros and cons of being a lawyer to consider.
List of the Pros of Being a Lawyer
1. There are numerous career options available to you in this field.
One of the best benefits of being an attorney is the fact that you can select from a wide variety of career options in the private or public sector. You can choose to represent the law in your community as a criminal prosecutor. There is also the option to become a criminal defense attorney so that you can work to protect innocent lives. You can even choose to become a public defender to help those who might be unable to help themselves.
There are several different areas of law in which you can specialize once you pass the bar as well. If you are passionate about real estate, domestic planning, or corporate law, then you can find work within the specific area that you love.
2. You can operate your own business as a lawyer.
How do you find work as an attorney depends on the amount of flexibility that you want to have in your schedule. You can choose to start your own business after graduating with a law degree, work in a partnership, become a public servant, work for a corporation, or become a junior lawyer in a large law firm. Some people like to work with multiple clients because that structure gives them a lot of social energy to enjoy. Others prefer to work with one client over a long time because the structure offers more job security and work consistency. It is all up to you.
3. There can be financial rewards to your work as an attorney.
Although attorneys are not making as much money in this generation as they did before, you can still expect to have an average annual salary above $110,000 per year. It is difficult to reach this level of income when you first graduate with your degree, but most lawyers can start to earn a reasonable living in five years or less.
You will not experience this benefit of being a lawyer if you decide to go into public service with your law degree. Public defenders make about 50% of the median for this career in the United States, while prosecutors can earn about 75% of the national average in most jurisdictions. Sometimes the satisfaction of helping someone navigate the legal system is worth more than what you earn on your paycheck each month.
4. It is a career opportunity which provides numerous intellectual challenges.
You will notice right away that your work as a lawyer will be mentally stimulating almost every day. There are complex legal theories, case law examples, and evolving statutes which you must navigate in order to reach a successful solution. You must implement your analytical skills daily to ensure that you are providing the best possible outcome for your clients. You will be solving problems, speculating on situations, forming hypotheses, and developing a legal strategy so that your client can win their case or settle for an amount which they feel is satisfactory.
5. You get to work in a job where arguing and debate takes the center stage.
There are some attorneys who will never argue a case in a courtroom because of the clients they choose to take. You will also find that there are trial lawyers who are in court almost every week because they are arguing a new case. If you enjoy the challenge of debate, especially in the adversarial justice system that is present in the United States, then this career could be the right choice for you.
Some attorneys relish the idea of arguing their legal theories and working to improve the case through their interpretation of the law. If that brings personal satisfaction, then you will love this career.
6. Attorneys work in a positive environment with real offices.
Most lawyers work with a government agency, corporation, or law firm where you have the privilege of working in an actual office. That means you have four walls, some privacy, and maybe even a window to enjoy while you are getting through your daily responsibilities. That means you can avoid the issue of being in a cubicle in the middle of the office where you must manage the relationships you have with coworkers along with the deadlines that you must meet.
Being an attorney means that you are afforded certain privileges that come with the prestige of this degree that other vocational opportunities do not have. You can have access to an expense account, set your own hours, and some lawyers even have a decorating budget they can access.
7. There is a lot of flexibility available in your daily schedule as a lawyer.
Even though some attorneys have unpredictable schedules, demanding quotas, and long hours to work each week, there does tend to be more flexibility in this career than in others which are available today. Some law firms even offer the opportunity to telecommute or work in alternative schedule to expand the amount of time that you can spend with your family. You might even have the option to hire a virtual assistant who can reduce your workload even further.
8. You will learn skills that transfer to other career options.
One of the most significant benefits that you can access with a law becoming an attorney can transfer over to an alternative career. There are several different legal careers which you can pursue if you decide that being a lawyer is not the right option. You can get into legal consulting, publishing, administration, banking, technology, and even human resource management with your education.
List of the Cons of Being a Lawyer
1. There are high levels of stress in this career.
Being a lawyer means that you will face numerous deadlines throughout your career. There will be billing pressures that your business must confront every month. You will be working long hours, face difficult client demands, and be continuously researching changes to the law as they occur. Because of these issues, 44% of today’s practicing attorneys say that they would not recommend this profession to someone who is debating what career path they should follow. Depression, mental health concerns, and suicide are all at higher rates in this industry compared to the general population.
2. You will work long hours as an attorney.
Lawyers are asked to put in long hours every week to support their clients, especially in the early years of your career. As rising workloads and shrinking staff levels occur, attorneys are working more today than ever before. Having work weeks top 60 hours is not uncommon in this field, and some are putting in more than 90 hours each week. Because it is such a competitive environment to find the best jobs, there’s more time spent on business management and client development than billable hours in some situations.
3. It costs a lot to attend law school for your education.
The cost of attending law school is outpacing the rate of inflation in most areas of the United States and around the world. You can expect to pay at least $40,000 per year to attend an institution even if that school has a less-than-positive reputation. If you want to earn a degree from one of the best law schools in the country, then you might pay over $100,000 per year for your educational expenses.
It is not unusual for a new attorney to open their practice or find a job through a partnership well trying to manage over $250,000 in student loans. New graduates do not always earn enough to repay this debt with the competitive market that is in place today, so earning a law degree is not the guarantee of financial success that it used to be.
4. Clients are spending less on attorneys thanks to self-service products and websites.
Most people and businesses are becoming more conscious of how much they spend when there is a need to navigate the legal system. After experiencing several years of billing hikes that have exceeded the rate of inflation, your clients will demand more value for the amount that they pay to receive your services.
This disadvantage keeps the billing rates reasonable, but it also cuts in to your potential profits. Today’s market will not allow attorneys to charge top dollar to perform tasks that a paralegal or a self-service site can complete.
5. More legal work is going to foreign countries with cheaper labor.
The trend to outsource legal work to other countries is not something that is going away anytime soon. Because other nations have a lower standard of living, the cost of labor is not as much there as it would be to complete the same work in the United States or other developed countries. That means you will continue to see more opportunities sent to regional delivery centers or lower wage workforces, which means many of the traditional positions which were ones available are now gone.
6. It is a career opportunity with a poor public image.
Just take a moment to look up jokes about lawyers through your favorite search engine. Many of them contain negative energy, and some websites that publish jokes even carry a parental warning saying that the humor may not be suitable for children.
“What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a lawyer on a motorcycle?” “The vacuum cleaner has the dirt bag on the inside.”
If you decide to pursue this career option, then you will never escape the negative stigma that attorneys have in our society. You could be the best lawyer in the history of the world and still hear jokes like this every day.
7. You cannot always pick and choose your clients.
If you want to make a living as a lawyer, then you will not have many opportunities to pick and choose which clients you decide to represent. People who need lawyers is not a single, simple demographic that you can evaluate for marketing purposes. You will find that they are just as many people who are wealthy, sophisticated, and arrogant as there are individuals who are poor, messy, and unlucky. If you work in criminal law, you may not even know for certain if your client actually committed the act that connected you to them in the first place.
You will not like all of them, but you will have to give each person your best representation to manage your reputation. If you are intolerant of people that you don’t like, then becoming a lawyer is not the right choice to make.
Are You Ready to Become a Lawyer?
The pros and cons of being a lawyer show us that you can make a tremendous difference in the lives of people if you can manage the investment which is necessary to get your foot in the door in the first place. You can choose to specialize in a specific area of law, work as a public defender, or pursue employment through corporate means once you earn your degree.
If you love this kind of work, then the negative stigmas that society has for attorneys will not be that bothersome. You will still have the high stress levels and long work hours with which to contend, but these challenges are manageable if you have a passion to help others navigate the legal system.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.