What it is

The profession of providing legal advice, preparing legal documents, and representing people or entities in court or in negotiations. To be a lawyer per se requires admission to the bar of the state in which you wish to practice, which usually requires law school (although a few states do let people take the bar without attending law school). There are many possible areas of specialization, such as criminal law, estate law, family law, business law, and intellectual property law. Lawyers work in law firms, businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, even universities. Large law firms hire non-lawyers as paralegals to provide various kinds of support to their lawyers.

Starting points

The first choice to make is whether you want to be a lawyer per se, or do something related to law that does not require law school. Obviously if you want to be a lawyer, it’s probably law school for you.


Lawyers working in firms can eventually become partner. Corporate and institutional lawyers can become VP of Legal Affairs. Nonprofit lawyers can advance to Executive Director of their organizations. And there are many “escape routes” from the legal profession, for lawyers are very versatile. Their legal knowledge makes them well-equipped for business, teaching, politics, even media punditry.


Though political scientists have an edge, all humanities and social science disciplines provide excellent basic grounding for a career in law when followed by law school or other relevant professional development. The humanities and the social sciences share core activities with the legal profession: textual interpretation and argumentation.

Personality and outlook

Generally speaking, law is a competitive, entrepreneurial, fast-paced profession. Hard-chargers are likely to do well. However, there are areas of law that are slower-paced and less stressful where quieter souls can flourish.


Study for the LSAT. Read about law in the areas that interest you. Conduct informational interviews with lawyers and others in the legal profession, in a variety of settings. Take classes related to law. Investigate law schools and their placement stats: just like the PhD, the JD is no longer considered a guarantee of any particular type of employment.

Real Life Examples