Legal and Criminal Justice Careers
With the legal system playing an integral role in the daily proceedings of our society, it's no wonder that there is such a strong demand for law professionals in every sector. While this is true, more and more students are graduating from law school each year, making the competition in this industry strong. Earning a law degree or receiving a bachelor's degree in addition to paralegal certificate helps ensure a path to success in your chosen field.
Training to Become a Lawyer
As a lawyer you must have extensive knowledge of the practice of law to provide advice to your clients and represent them in criminal or civil trials. Most attorneys are in private practice working in civil law. Becoming a lawyer is competitive and there are many different specialized fields you can go into, including criminal law, environmental law, and intellectual property. A law degree typically takes three years to complete in addition to passing the American Bar Association exam at the end of your program.
Criminal Justice Attorney
With a Bachelor's degree and a criminal justice degree, you can represent clients who have been charged with crimes in a court of law. This type of law practice primarily involves criminal cases in which you may act as a public defender. Salaries will range dramatically for this type of litigation and entry-level criminal justice attorneys should expect a lower starting rate. Experience and a strong success rate in litigation can usually propel you into advancement or salary increases.
You can work for the state or in private practice as a criminal justice attorney. You will also work with contracts, leases, and perform litigation with a firm command of civil law. Median salaries for criminal justice attorneys are: Los Angeles: $93,000; San Francisco: $97,100; Chicago: $88,800; Detroit: $91,100; Austin: $80,500; Philadelphia: $87,400; Boston: $92,000; New York: $97,300
In addition to a Bachelor's degree and a law school degree, you will need specialized training in tax law specifically to become a tax attorney. You will often represent a company or organization in their dealings with taxing agencies, and you should be well versed in state and federal tax law. Tax attorney jobs are competitive and work experience in a law firm during law school helps ease you into this position. Advancement in a firm is usually dependent upon your work experience and your ability to develop a strong client base.
Median salaries are: Los Angeles: $133,900; San Francisco: $139,900; Chicago: $127,900; Detroit: $131,200; Austin: $115,900; Philadelphia: $125,900; Boston: $132,500; New York: $140,200
With a law degree and a bachelor's degree you can enter into family litigation, a field of law that involves the dissolution of marriage into separate properties. In addition to law school training, which gives you an understanding of legal proceedings, taxes, and contracts, you should have a firm grasp on numbers and marriage law. Most family law litigation exists in private practice.
Salary rates for this position are often determined by client demand and the reputation you establish among clients. The median salaries for family law attorneys are: Los Angeles: $161,500; San Francisco: $168,800; Chicago: $154,300; Detroit: $158,300; Austin: $139,800; Philadelphia: $151,900; Boston: $159,800; New York: $169,100
Real Estate Lawyer
With a bachelor's degree and a law degree, you should have a specialized body of knowledge pertaining to deeds, contracts, titles, mortgages, and zoning laws. Generally around 2 to 5 years experience with real estate law is helpful before participating in litigation procedures.
Particularly in cities where real estate is experiencing a rise in market value, real estate attorneys are in high demand and job prospects look good for the next several years. The median salaries for real estate lawyers are: Los Angeles: $116,600; San Francisco: $121,800; Chicago: $111,400; Detroit: $114,300; Austin: $100,900; Philadelphia: $109,600; Boston: $115,300; New York: $122,100
There are still opportunities to participate in the legal practice without obtaining your law degree or attending law school. In a paralegal job, you share many of the same responsibilities as attorneys, often assisting them with court documents, corporate meetings, investigating case facts, and trial preparation.
The training required for a paralegal job is usually the completion of a two-year program resulting in a paralegal certificate or a bachelor's degree paralegal program. Many colleges offer online bachelor's degree programs for paralegal study in addition to their traditional degree programs.
The median salaries for paralegals are: Los Angeles: $57,200; San Francisco: $59,800; Chicago: $54,700; Detroit: $56,100; Austin: $49,600; Philadelphia: $53,800; Boston: $56,600; New York: $59,900
While a law degree isn't required, being a legal secretary calls upon extensive knowledge of legal proceedings and documents such as subpoenas, summonses, complaints, and motions. In addition to administrative duties, legal secretaries must be adept with current software programs, creating spreadsheets, and dealing in legal correspondence. Often, as a legal secretary, you will assist in the research for cases by reviewing law journals, rulings, and legal databases.
Competitive training to become a legal secretary is usually a two-year associate's degree or a bachelor's degree and administrative experience. Most law firms prefer a solid background working with legal documents and understanding court procedures, so additional certification may be necessary.
The median salaries for legal secretaries are: Los Angeles: $37,200; San Francisco: $38,800; Chicago: $35,500; Detroit: $36,400; Austin: $32,200; Philadelphia: $34,900; Boston: $36,800; New York: $38,900
Whether pursuing your criminal justice degree or your paralegal license, online degree programs are an excellent way to jump into the field of law. Hundreds of universities offer online bachelor's degrees and paralegal degree options. It is critical to do plenty of research before entering any online degree program to ensure that they are indeed accredited and approved by national accrediting bodies.
Also, if you are already working within the legal profession but wish to further your education, online education may be the right solution. Job prospects are competitive within every facet of law, making work experience and a firm grasp of legal proceedings essential. With proper training and experience, the legal field offers numerous job advancement opportunities.