Lawyers often are the punchline of many jokes; however, being a lawyer has its benefits. It takes years of hard work and intensive study to become a lawyer; therefore, very few people would choose this career if there were not several excellent benefits of being a lawyer. For those who work hard, the rewards of being an attorney outweigh the cost of achieving your law degree and license to practice law.
The benefits of being a lawyer depend on several factors; however, seven of the most common benefits of being a lawyer include:
The benefits of being a lawyer include being able to select from a wide variety of career options in the public and private sectors. If your calling is to make the world a safer place for you, your family, and everyone else, you may choose to become a criminal prosecutor. On the other hand, if you believe our criminal justice system is grounded on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and everyone has the right to competent legal counsel, you may choose to become a public defender. Of course, some people believe this but choose to be a criminal defense attorney in the private sector because private attorneys tend to earn a great deal more than attorneys in the public sector.
In addition to criminal defense, you may choose from many areas of law including domestic law, real estate, corporate/business law, bankruptcy law, immigration law, or estate planning. If there is a law that covers a particular subject, you can choose to specialize in that specific area. You can also choose to become a sole proprietor who handles several areas of law for many clients or a corporate in-house attorney working for one client.
2. Financial Rewards and Emotional Rewards
Among the many benefits of being a lawyer, the financial rewards and emotional rewards are at the top of most college-bound students seeking to study law. Lawyers have the opportunity to earn a lucrative income. The average annual income for an attorney in the United States is $114,970 per year as of 2014 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. The highest 10% of attorneys earned more than $187,200 per year. Salaries of experienced, specialized attorneys can be much, much higher depending on the field, geographical location, employer, and level of experience.
Of course, money is not the only reason why people choose the legal field as their career. The emotional rewards of being an attorney can be even more satisfying than the financial rewards. If you are passionate about your chosen field of law and you believe your top priority is your client, assisting people to achieve a positive outcome for their problem is extremely satisfying. An attorney usually sees a person during one of the worst moments of their life; therefore, it can be extremely rewarding to help this person find a successful resolution to their problem.
3. Mental Stimulation and Intellectual Challenges
Another one of the many benefits of being a lawyer is the mental stimulation an attorney experience when working through complex legal theories, statutes, and case law to find a solution to a legal question. Most lawyers possess exceptional analytical skills including reading and writing skills. Practicing law allows you to use your mental skills each day in effective ways to solve problems for your clients. Because each case is unique, you must use your full mental capabilities to research, speculate, hypothesize, and formulate legal strategies to effectively solve problems for your clients.
4. Argue and Debate
Some lawyers never argue a case in a courtroom or they argue very few cases in court. On the other hand, some trial attorneys are in court almost every week arguing a new case. If you enjoy the challenge of going up against another attorney to argue legal theories and points to prove your allegations are correct, becoming an attorney will give you ample opportunity to argue and debate legal theories and various interpretations of the law.
5. Work Environment
For many, the work environment is one of the benefits specifically considered when choosing a career. Most lawyers work in law firms, government agencies, or corporations where they are afforded an actual office with four walls rather than a cubicle in the middle of a “bullpen” from a cubicle. Although things have since changed with the need for social distancing and the ease of working remotely. Being a lawyer typically includes the benefit of having a certain level of prestige that affords you certain benefits that other employees may not receive (i.e. office, ability to set hours, expense accounts, decorating budget, etc.).
6. Skills that Transfer – Alternative Legal Careers
The benefits of being a lawyer do not stop at “being a lawyer.” The skills you learn in law school and in the early years of your practice easily translate into alternative legal careers. Sally Kane wrote about several alternative legal careers in an article published on About.com. Alternative legal careers Kane explores in her article include legal consulting, legal technology, legal publishing, education, administration, banking, finance, dispute resolution, and human resource management.
Unpredictable schedules, demanding billable quotas, long hours, and very few days off have been a major complaints of many attorneys. The desire to achieve a better work-life balance has encouraged many firms to work with their employees to provide more flexibility as an attorney. Many law firms are now offering telecommuting, alternative work schedules, tiered pay scales, expanded family leave including maternity and paternity leave, reduced billable hours, and virtual assistants to reduce workload. The benefits of being a lawyer are increasing as law firms and other employers see the value of providing additional flexibility for their employees in increased productivity and efficiency.
What Do Attorneys Say About the Benefits of Being a Lawyer?
The ABA Journal asked for responses to the question, “Why I Love Being a Lawyer.” The responses were varied ranging from helping others to being self-employed and earning a substantial income. The American Bar Association posed a similar question in its Woman Advocate Litigation Section. The answers to the question, “What Have You Found Most Rewarding Being a Lawyer?” are also just as varied as those in the ABA Journal.
For each attorney, the answer to these questions will depend more on the person than on the chosen career. If you are passionate about your career, you are likely to be more satisfied and happy. Regardless of the benefits of being a lawyer, you must like what you do in order to truly enjoy being an attorney and find satisfaction in what you do for others.