What Legal Careers are Available?
Presumably, you’re thinking about law school because some aspect of the law interests you. But there are so many different types of law – different fields (or “practice areas”), different types of law office (“practice settings”) – that it’s sometimes hard to get a handle on what your options might be. There are even law-related careers that do not require a law degree.
But let’s start with the careers lawyers pursue. To practice law in the US, lawyers must first attend law school, obtain a J.D. (this stands for Juris Doctor, not “Juris Doctorate” as commonly misstated) and then pass the bar examination in at least one state (normally the state in which the individual intends to practice). Bar admission requirements vary by state (PDF), but all include of these basic features.
There are many ways to describe the different types of law practice, but the following are the most common and useful categories and distinctions – click on each for more information.
- Transactional practice vs. litigation
- Private practice vs. public service/public interest
- Firm size: From solo to BigLaw
- Regional vs. national firms
- Legal careers not requiring a law degree