Job Overview

Alternate Titles: Lawyer, Counsel

Attorneys, also called Lawyers, act as both advocates and advisors in our society. As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal and civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in court to support their client. As advisors, they counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest particular courses of action in business and personal matters. Whether acting as an advocate or an advisor, all attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances faced by their clients.

The more detailed aspects of an Attorney’s job depend upon their field of specialization and position. Although all are licensed to represent parties in court, some appear in court more frequently than others. Attorneys may specialize in a number of areas, such as bankruptcy, probate, international, elder, or environmental law. Most Lawyers are in private practice, concentrating on criminal or civil law. In criminal law, Lawyers represent individuals who have been charged with crimes and argue their cases in courts of law. Attorneys dealing with civil law assist clients with litigation, wills, trusts, contracts, mortgages, titles, and leases.

Lawyers sometimes are employed full time by a single client. If the client is a corporation, the Lawyer is known as General / In-House Counsel and usually advises the company concerning legal issues related to its business activities. These issues might involve patents, government regulations, contracts with other companies, property interests, or collective-bargaining agreements with unions. These individuals must ensure that the company is in compliance with the law at all times, and will provide expertise on any relevant legal matters.

A significant number of attorneys are employed at the various levels of government. Some work for State attorneys general, prosecutors, and public defenders in criminal courts. At the Federal level, attorneys investigate cases for the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies. Government lawyers also help develop programs, draft and interpret laws and legislation, establish enforcement procedures, and argue civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.

Other Lawyers work for legal aid societies—private, nonprofit organizations established to serve disadvantaged people. These Lawyers generally handle civil, rather than criminal, cases.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook