Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
If you were to comprise a list of professionals that are among the most hated, at least in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, it’s more likely than not that lawyers would rank pretty close to the top.
The only professionals likely to outrank lawyers on the hated list would probably be used car salesmen, stock traders, and possibly school principles and dentists.
Jokes abound whereby attorneys are portrayed as thieves, liars, snakes. Many jokes use far more offensive terms than those.
Nevertheless, while many may despise lawyers and the practice of law-related work, in this article we focus on the pros and the cons of being a lawyer.
What Do Lawyers Do? (besides lie, and thieve 😉
Lawyers are licensed to practice law. Lawyers are obligated to uphold the law while also protecting the rights of their clients. Among the duties that are most commonly associated with being a lawyer include:
Providing legal advice and counsel
Researching and gathering evidence and information
Drawing up legal documents related to wills, divorces, contracts, and real estate transactions
Defending or prosecuting in court
It’s quite impossible for one individual lawyer to provide legal counsel to cover all areas of the law as the field of law is so broad and hugely extensive.
Lawyers specialize in one or two related areas of law.
Lawyer specializations include:
Accident and Personal Injury Law
Business and Corporate Law
Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
No matter what field of the law you practice in, there are, needless to say several advantages in this profession. Understanding the benefits of the work and the profession as a whole can help you in making a determination as to whether being a lawyer is a good move for you. Below, we discuss 11 benefits that being a lawyer can provide.
Pros of Being a Lawyer
Reason #1 Variety of options to build a career
When you’re a practicing lawyer, there are a variety of career options available to you, in the private as well as the public sectors.
After passing the bar exam, the area of law that you prefer to go into awaits.
Anything from corporate law to immigration law to family law, you’ll possibly find plenty of fulfillment in this career.
Reason #2 – Pros of being a lawyer – You can start your own business
After you gain a good level of experience as a practicing lawyer, it’s then up to you if you wish to set up on your own.
This will give you scope as to how you wish to operate. If, for example, you prefer to work together with numerous clients because you enjoy the social side of practicing as a lawyer, you’re at liberty to do so. If you prefer to work with a single client at a time, then that’s your call as well.
Reason #3 – Attractive salary
If you wish to earn a lucrative income then practicing as a lawyer is a good way to go about it. As of 2022, according to PayScale.com, US lawyers earn an average income of about $87,012 per year.
Sure, as a new lawyer, you’re not going to earn quite as much. But with experience and plenty of late nights, you can work your way towards it.
Reason #4 – Pros of being a lawyer – Intellectually stimulating
Daily lawyer duties will no doubt provide you with a whole lot of challenges and plenty of mental stimulation.
You might be responsible for advising clients. Interpreting laws and applying them to specific cases. Gathering evidence for a case and researching public and other legal records.
Otherwise, you may be researching case studies, writing legal strategies, and staying up to date with your field of law.
Reason #5 – High level of flexibility
There is a certain amount of unpredictability that some lawyers experience. For the most part, though, the career provides a good amount of flexibility whereby you can fit your own schedule into your daily routine.
Some law firms, particularly during these times of uncertainty, encourage their employees to work from home. This way, even though you do have regular work commitments, you can enjoy a good flexibility with respect to your time – if you wish to work from, say, 1 in the afternoon until 5, then from 10 at night until 12 midnight, then that’s up to you.
Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
Reason #6 – Adaptable skillset
You can, as a lawyer, develop your skills to the point that they become transferable to a different career. That may still be in the legal field or if you’re of the mind, it can be in a different industry.
If you do begin to consider other careers besides law, as an experienced lawyer, you may wish to consider the following careers, all of which have at least some necessity for a similar set of skills that a lawyer already has:
Reason #7 – Helping people in need
Because a large part of many fields of law involves seeking justice for your clients, there’s a lot of emotional-related rewards to be had.
For some, that in and of itself if more attractive than the financial aspect of being a lawyer. After all, what could be more satisfying than winning cases for your clients.
Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
Reason #8 – The work environment
Even at the beginning of a career in law, for most lawyers, they rarely need to spend time in a traditional office cubicle that most office workers will find themselves stuck inside.
Depending on your law field, you could find yourself working for a large corporation, attending meetings and going out for lunch with your clients or you may be working for a government agency that involves advising and representing clients in courts, dealing with issues with other government agencies, and working alongside colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case.
Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
Reason #9 – Perks related to the job
Besides the advantage of working in a pleasant environment, lawyers may also enjoy a number of work perks.
Some lawyers can take advantage of a budget for decorating purposes whereby they’re at liberty to make their working environment that much more conducive to productivity.
Others may be offered gym memberships, regular plush hotel accommodation, and support staff to help with the minimizing of workloads.
Reason #10 – Pros of being a lawyer – Debate and argument
Not all law fields involve arguing in court in front of a judge and jury, but for trial lawyers, a large percentage of their time is doing just that.
If you enjoy debating and argument, this could very well be the aspect of law that’s right for you.
In court cases, you’ll have the opportunity to present your own findings, debate interpretations of the law, argue legal theories, and prove legal points.
Reason #11 – Social standing
While not everyone shares the same view, many people consider lawyers as highly prestigious individuals. Typically, this is due to their high level of education and the amount of authority the command over others.
It’s a profession that is respected by many and the media tends to view it as glamorous.
Cons of Being a Lawyer
Reason #1 – It’s a career that carries with it a high level of stress
You’ll persistently face deadline after deadline as a practicing lawyer.
There’s billing pressures to take care of as well.
How about the long hours?
It’s no walk in the park when facing difficult clients.
Then there’s the pressures involved in persistently researching changes in the law.
And it’s based on these and other problem issues that no less than 44% of lawyers that are currently practicing said they would not advise anyone to make law a career.
Lawyers suffer from higher rates of mental health concerns, depression, and even suicide than most other professionals.
Reason #2 – Very long working hours
Particularly during the early years, lawyers are required to put on long working hours.
According to the Legal Trends Report for 2018, the average weekly hours worked by US lawyers was 49.6 hours. However, this pales in comparison to the average hours worked by Big Law attorneys in the US – up to 80 hours per week!
It’s a very competitive environment and for a law firm to land the best available work there are situations that call for a lot of time spent on business management and client development than billable hours.
Reason #3 – Education is expensive
In the majority of areas in the United States and in other countries, the cost of attending law school is greater than the rate of inflation.
In the US, it costs approximately $40,000 per year to attend an institution regardless that school in question has a less-than-stellar reputation.
As for attending one of the best law schools, you could be looking at more than $100,000 per year in total costs.
Here is a list of the tuition costs for the most expensive US law schools for 2019-2020:
Cornell University – cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020: $67,833
University of Chicago – cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020: $67,899
University of Pennsylvania – cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020: $67,998
New York University – cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020: $68,934
Columbia University – cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020: $72,360
And if you’re interested, Harvard University had a cost of tuition alone for 2019–2020 that was $67,080.
For new attorneys it’s not uncommon to be managing well over $250,000 in student loans.
To make matters even worse, new law graduates don’t always earn enough to repay this level of debt meaning that earning a law degree is not a guarantee to financial success – not like it used to be.
Reason #4 – Availability of self-service websites and products means that potential clients are spending less on attorneys
Because of the high cost of hiring an attorney and because of the availability of quality internet, there’s now a far higher availability of self-servicing legal products than ever before.
Legal clients have experienced plenty of billing hikes over the prior decade – hikes that have greatly exceeded inflation rates. Thus, more bang for the buck is an expectation.
More work output for the same cost means that billing rates must be reasonable, but of course this means that potential law firm profits are likely slashed.
It’s no longer the case that today’s market place will permit attorneys to bill at a top-dollar rate when self-service websites and paralegals that can perform the same tasks are far more affordable.
Reason #5 – A greater rate of legal work is outsourced to foreign countries where the cost of labor is much cheaper
Other countries nations have a lower standard of living than the likes of the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Thus, the cost of labor far cheaper for the same amount of work to be completed in other, less developed countries.
What this will lead to is that more work opportunities are dispatched abroad while lawyers in the developed countries listed above will either be out of work or have to get used to lower wages.
Reason #6 – A career in law has a poor public image
Many websites that publish jokes about lawyers have established a parental warning to state that the content is not suitable for minors.
How about an example joke about lawyers – a joke that is not too offensive…
“How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, they’d rather keep their clients in the dark.”
For those of you that do wish to pursue a law career, there’s no escaping the negative stigma that your choice of career will bring regardless of how good a lawyer and how caring of your clients you actually are.
Reason #7 – Technological advances
For most, the fact that the practice of law has been completely transformed because of technology is a good thing. It makes the workflow much easier to deal with for one thing.
On the other hand, for some, learning about technology and how to use it is no laughing matter.
Of course, these days, lawyers are more tech-savvy than ever before, but it doesn’t help that this commodity trend is now threatening jobs as lawyers are being replaced by technology.
Reason #8 – Clients can be problematic
As a lawyer, it’s not that you’ll have plenty of opportunity at your disposal to pick and choose your clients.
As in any kind of service related profession, there is no chance you’re going to like every client that comes your way.
All the same, you’ll be fully expected to provide the best legal representation that you can, irrespective of how repellant your client is to you.
Is Becoming a Lawyer Right for You?
There are, as you’ve seen, many pros and cons to becoming a lawyer.
But regardless of this, it’s up to you to make a decision – do the pros outweigh the cons? Or is it the other way around?
Do be sure to make a thorough evaluation of the situation. To make a poor decision about this can lead to a very costly outcome… and not only in terms of money.
If you’re about to enter college, you may find this article of interest: Pros and Cons of Renting Textbooks.
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