A career as a criminal lawyer is one of the most highly regarded professions available today.
Criminal Lawyers advise and represent individual, businesses, clients, agencies or organizations who have been accused of criminal misconduct. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the lawyer profession whether it’s civil or criminal is expected to increase eight percent until 2026, with an added 65,000 new jobs in law opening up.
Those new jobs are particularly appealing to current criminal law students as well as legal professionals looking to make a change. However, before becoming a criminal lawyer and work in a legal workforce, there are various legal market quirks to be aware of, especially for criminal law students who are less seasoned than legal professionals already making their mark in the criminal Industry.
To help criminal law students prepare themselves to enter the workforce, the top legal market quirks are gathered below. Some quirks are need-to-know facts and some are updates on criminal industry practices; all are necessary for an aspiring lawyer to be aware of before entering the criminal industry.
1. Opportunities Outside of the Norm
After completing law school, you may be zeroing in on specific jobs, but don’t forget to look for opportunities outside of the norm as well. These different types of jobs include an in-house counsel position at a company, support staff at a law school, jobs in banks or even clerkships in government or nonprofit sectors.
2. Image Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Many who go into law may believe that criminal lawyers are treated and held in the public eye as in movies or TV shows: as defenders of criminals and injustice. While that may be the case some of the time, there is also a fair amount of poor public image, jokes about 10,000 lawyers being at the bottom of the ocean and quips about getting rich off of other people’s suffering are all also part of being a criminal legal professional.
3. Stress Is a Factor
For those still in school, it may be difficult to image the stress associated with different jobs at the professional level. For those aspiring to be a criminal lawyers, this is an important factor to consider when choosing which type of legal job to accept. High demands, changing laws and technologies and immovable deadlines are all part of the daily grind.
4. High Pay but Long Hours
According to a BLS report, the median pay for lawyers in 2017 was $119,250, quite high pay compared to other professions. So, while the high pay ideal may be true, it is also tempered by the fact that criminal lawyers and civil lawyers often work long hours in order to make meetings and deadlines. This is not something that many people factor in — that the high pay is partly due to a lessened amount of time for a personal life.
5. Glamorous Work Environment
Media does such an excellent job of glamorizing the careers of lawyers that it’s no wonder many newly graduated law students may be dreaming of a thrilling, high-powered life. While that may occur for some, most attorneys do their work outside of a courtroom, with a vast amount spent in research, the office or meetings. Instead of swanky parties or passionate courtroom cases, most trial lawyers are constantly engaged in research and writing reviews, drafts, memorandums or motions.
6. The Billable Hour System
Speaking of glamorous, let’s discuss the billable hour system which is in place at private sector law firms. Most clients pay by the hour, meaning that their lawyer needs to account for their billable time — in six-minute intervals. While the idea of filing work progress every six minutes seems tedious, it is necessary to make sure that law firms are compensated for all the time dedicated to each client.
7. Competition from Inside and Outside of the Field
Due to the high pay of the most sought-after legal jobs, competition can be intense within the field. While highly ranked law schools may produce graduates, who go on to have a better chance at those large corporate law firms, there is also competition coming from further afield. Professionals such as legal document specialists and resources such as virtual law offices also offer clients a range of services which may take away from those in more traditional law office settings.
8. Likeable Clients
More likely than not, you will not be able to choose which clients to take on. People who need lawyers are as diverse a group as there are types of people. There’s no one set demographic. Some clients may be polite, some may be rude. Some may be wealthy and arrogant while others may be very poor and innocent. It’s a lawyer’s job to give them the best representation possible, regardless of any bias.
9. Shifting Boundaries
Those not yet in a legal career may not be aware that many aspects of the legal profession are changing, including technology and outsourcing. Many technology platforms have changed the way lawyers operate and interact, especially with clients. Lawyers looking to stay relevant need to have cutting-edge tech skills because lesser legal work is being outsourced. The economic reality is that some legal work is being sent to other countries in order to make use of lower wage workforces, an act which is shifting boundaries and available jobs within the legal sector.
10. Goals vs. Reality
Many people go into law with good intentions. They want to make a positive change in the world around them and help stop injustice from flourishing. Their main goal, in some form, is this: to affect societal change for the better. What seasoned lawyers find over time is that actually, litigation isn’t about good winning over evil. Judicial decisions are mostly about being able to reach a compromise between all involved parties. This difference in the original goals many budding lawyers aspired to fulfil, and the actual reality of the job, may often be quite a surprise to many just starting out in their legal career.
Criminal lawyer is a popular choice among law students and professional lawyers as it’s a dynamic and exciting world. Appearing in court, working all hours with the clients, and being the sole of discretion are all part of being a criminal lawyer.
Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.