For anyone interested in working in the legal field, the courtroom is full of exciting career opportunities.
Although legal proceedings are not always as dramatic as they are sometimes depicted on television and in movies, they are an integral part of our justice system.
Studying law can open several avenues as people with legal education and skills are in demand in almost all industries. A person can choose from a wide range of careers in the courtroom, and in this article, we will discuss some of the most popular types of careers available to someone with or without a legal education.
- Defense Attorney
- General Practice Lawyer
- Contracts Lawyer
- Corporate Lawyer
- Bankruptcy Lawyer
- Immigration Lawyer
- Correction Officer
- Litigation Paralegal
- Family Lawyer
- Personal Injury Lawyer
- Associate Attorney
- Employment Lawyer
- Court Reporter
- Court Clerk
- Court Interpreter
A judge presides over a legal trial, adjudicates between two or more parties, listens to both sides’ arguments, and is perhaps the most important person present in a courtroom. Judges are essentially the top-most officials found in federal, state, and local courts. The Judge’s position is not an entry-level job as one needs to be a lawyer with several years of experience to become a judge.
Judges use their advanced understanding of the law to analyze both sides’ arguments in a case and arrive at a decision after considering the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and evidence presented by both the parties. Judges need to have a Juris Doctor or J.D degree and must be licensed to practice as lawyers in their respective states. The annual median pay for Judges is around $133,800.
2. Defense Attorney
A defense attorney is a lawyer who specializes in defending clients accused of crimes or charged with committing a crime. Defense attorneys are usually experts in criminal law. They may also have in-depth knowledge of other law areas, as any successful defense attorney needs to have a multifaceted understanding of the law.
The average median salary for a defense attorney is around $97,480, while those in the top 10% can earn upwards of $180,000.
Prosecutors are among the most important legal officials in a jurisdiction as they are responsible for prosecuting or building a case against defendants in a criminal case. Role, function, and power of prosecutors vary across jurisdictions, but they serve as the prosecution’s or government’s attorney in most counties.
Prosecutors are also known as district attorneys, state attorneys, city attorneys in the U.S. While those working for the federal government are known as United States Attorneys and are usually appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. State or local prosecutors may be appointed by the executive or elected by local voters.
Prosecutors are responsible for presenting the case against defendants or individuals accused of breaking the law and initiating and direct criminal investigations against defendants in a case. You will need a Juris Doctor degree and pass the bar exam to apply for a prosecutor’s job.
The median salary for prosecutors is around $54,000 to $74,000, although some may earn up to $160,000 or even more.
Most people confuse paralegals with lawyers, but paralegals are not lawyers, although they work closely with lawyers. Paralegals conduct legal research for lawyers, find precedents that can be used in court arguments and motions to strengthen the case, and gather the facts. No lawyer can work without paralegals as they are often the invisible but significant part of the legal community who directly affect the outcome of a case.
Unlike most other jobs on this list, you do not need a law degree or pass the bar exam to become a paralegal. Most law firms ask for at least an associate degree and prefer to hire those with bachelor’s degrees in paralegal roles.
Paralegal salaries are in the range of $40,000 to $65,000, and one can earn up to $80,000 after some years of experience.
Recommended Reading — 9 Tips for Getting Your Paralegal Career off to a Great Start
5. General Practice Lawyer
A General Practice Lawyer does not have any specialized area of interest and can represent clients on a wide range of issues that may fall in different law areas. General Practice Lawyers are among the most common types of lawyers and are usually well versed in several law areas without specializing in any specific branch of law.
You will need at least a Juris Doctor or J.D. degree and pass the bar exam to become a General Practice Lawyer. You can expect to earn around $108,000, the median annual wage for General Practice Lawyers.
6. Contract Lawyer
A Contract Lawyer is someone who specializes in the legal issues surrounding contracts. Contract Lawyers play an essential role in several industries as they are the ones who draft a contract, suggest changes, or amend an existing contract. They are also responsible for finding legal remedies in case of a breach of contract and are essentially involved in most day-to-day transactions in the business world.
Contract Lawyers usually earn a median annual salary of $66,000, while those in the top 10% can expect to make upwards of $145,000. You will need to have at least a Juris Doctor degree to become a Contract Lawyer, and some clients may prefer to work with lawyers who are qualified to practice or have passed the bar exam.
7. Corporate Lawyer
Corporate Lawyers advise corporations on legal compliance, corporate law, tax law, accounting, intellectual property laws, bankruptcy proceedings, and securities law. Corporate Lawyers also play an important role in listing on a stock exchange and draft agreements and contracts in a mergers and acquisition deal.
Most corporate lawyers either work for big law firms, boutique firms, investment banks, or in-house counsel for companies.
A career as a Corporate Lawyer is a highly demanding one but pays well as starting salaries for Corporate Lawyers are usually in the $160,000 range, and Corporate Lawyers are among the most highly paid legal professionals. You will need a J.D. degree and will also have to pass the bar exam to become a Corporate Lawyer.
8. Bankruptcy Lawyer
Bankruptcy lawyers assist clients during court proceedings related to bankruptcy and insolvency. A Bankruptcy Lawyer may specialize either in personal insolvency or focus on the insolvency issues faced by corporations. As bankruptcy essentially involves debt reduction and a possible financial restructuring, a bankruptcy lawyer needs to be well-versed in finance and bankruptcy and insolvency law.
You will need a J.D. degree and must pass the bar exam to become a Bankruptcy Lawyer. One must also be astute financially and have a good grasp over commercial and business topics to become a bankruptcy lawyer.
9. Immigration Lawyer
Immigration Lawyers deal with issues related to immigration, visas, work permits, citizenship, and deportation. Globalization has increased the number of immigrants dramatically over the last few decades, and this has, in turn, increased the demand for the services of Immigration Lawyers.
An Immigration Lawyer may decide to specialize in any specific area of immigration law, such as work-related immigration, study-based immigration, or immigration via investment. As immigration lawyers deal with people from different countries and cultures, a person aspiring to become an immigration lawyer may also need to have intercultural working skills such as commanding over one or more foreign languages and understanding different cultures and customs.
You will need at least a Juris doctor degree to become an Immigration Lawyer. You may also need to pass the bar exam if you plan to present your clients in front of immigration courts and tribunals.
Immigration lawyers earn a median annual wage of $79,000, while the top 10% earn more than $100,000.
10. Correction Officer
Correction Officers are responsible for escorting defendants to and from the courtroom, and they also oversee detainees in rehabilitation facilities and prisons. Correction Officers usually work for local, state, and federal governments and are essentially government servants.
Unlike most other professions on this list, you do not need a law degree to become a correction officer. Many states allow those with associate degrees or even high school diplomas to become Correction Officers. If you plan to work in federal prisons, then you will need a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Most correction officers usually have at least associate degrees in addition to other professional certifications.
The median salary for Correction Officers is around $45,940, while in some states, this may be as high as $80,000.
11. Litigation Paralegal
Litigation paralegals assist lawyers in preparing for trials. Litigation paralegals are actively involved in every trial step, from investigation to filing appeals against a judgment. A litigation paralegal will often do most of the heavy lifting during pre-trial, trial execution, and post-trial. As a litigation paralegal, you may have to locate and interview witnesses, record witness statements, participate in depositions, take notes, gather documents and evidence, organize documents, create case investigation notebooks, and create a chronology of facts.
On average, Liitigation Paralegals earn around $55,000 on the lower end; while those with more than 5 years of experience can easily earn a salary of $70,000. While there are no strict educational requirements for litigation paralegals, most are expected to have a bachelor’s degree.
12. Family Lawyer
Family Lawyers usually deal with cases related to family matters and domestic relations. A Family Lawyer specializes in marriage, civil unions, partnerships, divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, annulment, visitation rights, surrogacy, adoption, juvenile law, paternity, child neglect, and child abuse cases.
Family lawyers play an important role in any legal issue surrounding family and may also be involved in disputes regarding wills and family trusts.
A Family Lawyer typically earns around $91,000, while those in the top 10% may earn upwards of $184,000. You will need a Juris Doctor degree and must pass the bar exam to practice as a family lawyer.
13. Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers deal with civil law cases that involve unintentional harm, such as cases related to car crashes, DUI driving, bicycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, motorcycle accidents, scooter accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful death.
A personal injury lawyer is involved in every step of a claim for damages and perform several jobs during litigation such as collect evidence, screen the merits of a case, present arguments in a trial, examine and cross-examine witnesses, negotiate with the other party for an out of court settlement or negotiate with insurance companies for an amicable settlement.
The median annual salary for personal injury lawyers is around $82,000, while those in the top 10% can earn upwards of $105,000. You will need a law degree such as Juris Doctor and must pass the bar exam of your respective state to become a Personal Injury Lawyer.
14. Associate Attorney
Associate attorneys are usually employees of a law firm who may or may not specialize in a particular law area. Most newcomers in a law firm are known as associate attorneys and work closely with senior attorneys and law firm partners on a wide variety of cases. Associate attorneys typically spend their first few years working in various departments within a law firm to get acquainted with different law areas.
Associate attorneys earn an average salary of $97,000, while those in the top 10% can easily make upwards of $180,000. Some big law firms pay a starting salary of around $160,000 to Associate Attorneys, and the salary increases with time. It would help if you had a Juris Doctor degree and must pass the bar exam to become an Associate Attorney.
15. Employment Lawyer
Employment lawyers typically deal with cases surrounding employment laws, workers’ rights, rights and duties of employers, and employer-employee disputes. Employment lawyers also work on wrongful termination, unpaid overtime, workplace discrimination, or harassment at the workplace.
The median salary for employment lawyers is around $177,000, while those in the top 10% can earn upwards of $225,000. You will need a Juris Doctor degree and must be the bar exam in your state to become an Employment Lawyer.
16. Court Reporter
Court reporters are responsible for recording everything said in the courtroom during a trial or legal proceeding. As court reporters need to produce a verbatim transcription of everything said in a court, they need to have excellent typing speed and often use specialized equipment to record everything quickly.
Court reporters usually have at least associate degrees and may need to have a bachelor’s degree in some states. The average salary for court reporters is around $58,000.
Bailiffs are responsible for providing security in courtrooms, and usually, their job involves maintaining order in the courtroom, escorting judges and court employees, and guarding the jury against outside contact. Most states require bailiffs to have at least an associate degree and some professional certificates.
Bailiffs are responsible for removing unwanted or unruly people from the courtroom when ordered by the judge. Many have previous experience working in law enforcement departments or local police departments. In some states, bailiffs work under the sheriff’s office.
18. Court Clerk
Court clerks manage administrative aspects of the courtroom and are responsible for preparing and issuing court orders. Court clerks also manage the court‘s calendar and docket. Court clerks also administer the oath to witnesses, jurors, and grand jurors, oversee non-judicial court personnel, have custody of the funds received and dispensed by the court, and manage the provision of services to the judges in the court.
There is no need for a law degree if you want to become a court clerk, as most states allow those with associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees to become court clerks. Court clerks earn a median annual salary of around $42,000.
19. Court Interpreter
Court interpreters serve as translators and interpreters in cases where the defendant does not speak or understand English. Court interpreters are responsible for explaining the legal proceedings during a trial to a defendant or any other participant in their native language.
A court interpreter needs to be multilingual and know at least one other language and English. Most states require court interpreters to have at least a bachelor’s degree and language certifications that attest to their advanced skills in another language. Court interpreters usually earn a median salary of around $47,000, while those in the top 10% can earn upwards of $100,000.
Studying law can open doors to several careers that may lead you to law firms, courtrooms, corporate boards etc. Contrary to popular perception, a degree in law does not have to lead you to only being a lawyer as there are several legal professions in addition to being a lawyer. We have included a wide variety of occupations in this list and not all require you to have to go to a law school.
If you want to work in a legal setting, but do not have a law degree, then you can explore other careers listed above such as a court reporter, court interpreter, paralegal, bailiff, etc.