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LAW AND LITIGATION

Jobs in the legal field go beyond just lawyers and judges. There are many different kinds of opportunities to work in law or litigation, and many of them don't even include law school. Find out more about the career possibilities in this fascinating industry.

Law and Litigation

Mention the words "law" or "litigation," and you're likely to think about attorneys and judges in a courtroom. However, jobs in law extend far beyond these star players. There are a variety of professionals who work in the background to ensure the wheels of the legal sector turn smoothly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are just a few of the professionals who work alongside attorneys in law offices across the country:

  • Paralegals
  • Legal secretaries
  • Record clerks
  • Bookkeepers

In addition, the U.S. Courts say there are more than a dozen career possibilities within its system. These include the following occupations:

  • Case administrator
  • Court interpreter
  • Court reporter
  • Jury administrator
  • Judicial executive

While lawyers and judges typically have high levels of education, many other legal careers require only post-secondary training or an undergraduate degree. For example, paralegals only need an associate degree and still had a $46,000 national median income in 2013, per the BLS. Meanwhile, the data also shows that legal secretaries had a median income of $42,390 in 2013, and depending on their employer, these professionals may not even need a degree.

Typical duties for legal professionals

As with other industries, jobs in law are diverse. Depending on the particular position, an individual with a legal job may work directly with attorneys, clients or both.

  • Paralegals: Also known as legal assistants, these professionals play an essential role in law offices across the country. They may conduct research and interviews, summarize depositions and draft documents on behalf of a lawyer. The BLS reports jobs for paralegals should grow 17 percent, which is faster than average, from 2012-2022.
  • Legal secretaries: As with other secretaries, legal secretaries may answer calls, make appointments and conduct general administrative duties. In addition, they may prepare court forms, search for legal documents and retrieve court decisions. Jobs for all secretaries and administrative assistants are expected to grow 12 percent from 2012-2022, per BLS estimates.
  • Court interpreters: Sometimes called judiciary interpreters, these individuals work across all judicial levels and may be called upon to work in both civil ligation and criminal cases. Not only do they work in the courtroom, but their duties may also be used in quasi-legal settings such as hearings, interviews and medical examinations. The BLS says interpreters and translators, in all settings, are expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations from 2012-2022, with job growth expected to be 46 percent during that period.

Common areas of practice for jobs in law

While all attorneys and legal professionals share similar attributes, their work may be vastly different depending on their area of practice. Depending on their specialty, some attorneys may make regular appearances in a courtroom while others may never step in front of a judge.

Here are a few common areas of practice for legal professionals.

  • Litigation: Some law offices focus on litigation. They represent clients in personal injury cases involving medical malpractice, workplace injuries or other civil matters.
  • Business law: Corporate lawyers frequently work as in-house counsel and may oversee all legal aspects of business growth and maintenance. They, and their assistants, may be responsible for helping with acquisitions and mergers or addressing issues of liability and government regulations.
  • Criminal law: Legal professionals who work on criminal cases may be either bringing charges in the case of a crime or defending an alleged perpetrator. Court recorders, clerks and interpreters may also play a role in these cases.
  • Intellectual law: Those specializing in intellectual law may draw up patent applications and work on behalf of companies to prevent trademark infringement.
  • Family law: Law offices and legal staff involved in family law may represent clients involved in divorce, domestic disputes or child welfare cases. Once a court order has been entered, case workers or legal administrators may be responsible for ensuring the order is executed.
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Conclusion

Other areas of practice include bankruptcy, education, environmental law, entertainment, real estate and more.

There are many law programs to choose from, and choosing the right one is an important decision. If you're interested in jobs in law, you have plenty of options beyond being a lawyer or working in litigation.

Careers in law and litigation offer the flexibility for professionals to undertake meaningful work in the legislative and judicial branches of the legal system.

Sources

1. Fields of Law, Brown University, http://www.brown.edu/academics/college/advising/law-school/fields-law/fields-law
2. The Career of Legal Secretary, Legal Secretaries International, http://www.legalsecretaries.org/career_guidance.html
3. FAQs about Court and Legal Interpreting and Translating, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators, http://www.najit.org/certification/faq.php#judiciary
4. Careers in Law Offices, Craig Stalzer, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, September 2014, http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/article/careers-in-law-firms.htm
5. Explore Career Possibilities, United States Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/Careers/CareerProfiles.aspx
6. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Legal Secretaries, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436012.htm
7. Interpreters and Translators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm
8. Paralegals and Legal Assistants, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
9. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, , "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm