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What do lawyers actually do?

September 15, 2008

A while a go someone commented here on the blog that we do not write enough for people who are considering attending law school or who are in law school.  In an effort to provide information about what we as young lawyers actually do at our jobs, I asked a number of young lawyers the following: What area of law do your practice?  Describe what it is that you actually do at your job.  What do you like about it?  What do you dislike about it?  Here are some of the answers:

I am a civil litigator.  In other words, I sue people on behalf of clients and represent those sued by others.  Although my job technically includes trial, as a practical matter, I spend the majority of my time in “motion practice” – fighting over the validity of the claims, and in discovery, learning the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents’ case. I love my job because it allows me to intellectually address a problem in a rigorous, sequential way that is designed, at least in concept, to produce the truth.  However, I do wish that I got into court more often and that the law developed better mechanisms for screening truly meritless cases so that I could focus my attention on cases worth fighting over.

I practice commercial/business litigation, employment counseling and litigation.  I go to a lot of arbitrations and non-jury trials and hearings involving disputes between business and/or disputes between employer and ex employee or disgruntled employee. You take a lot of phone calls from clients with questions, you handle a lot of things after they have happened and try to address them for the future, you write a lot of letters, you write a lot of emails, you do a lot of legal research, you read the rules a lot to make sure what you do is complying with the rules of your court, you write discovery and briefs and motions sometimes.  I like the feeling of winning a case or obtaining a favorable settlement.  I dislike mostly everything else, meaning the feeling you get winning a case does not happen often enough to compensate for the drudgery that the practice of law is every other day that doesn’t happen.  Also, it’s very difficult in litigation to make a client happy, even when you win, because often they have to spend a ton to get the win.

I work for Westlaw. Before that I worked in legal publishing. It’s a challenging job, with lower starting pay but many benefits, such as flex time, less pressure, etc.

Domestic relations/family law – litigation of support cases, navigate client through the divorce process, adoptions custody battles, etc. I like adoptions, the area of law “makes sense” because it requires a human component. It can be sad to practice family law at times, which is the “dislike” part for me.

I am a staff attorney at a non-profit legal services organization that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Philadelphians, where I practice probate and real estate law.  I assist clients in obtaining legal title to their homes which they have a legal interest in but do not have title to.  Many of my clients have inherited their property from a now-deceased relative; others have entered into a rent-to-own agreement to purchase their home but never received legal title.  I speak with clients all day long and research their cases, to determine whether they actually have a good legal claim to their property.  One of the things I love about my job is that it is never boring; I am constantly challenged with new legal issues and fact scenarios.  The biggest drawback of my job (and most legal aid staff attorney positions!) is that there are always so many more clients who need assistance than we can possibly help, and it is always difficult to turn away clients who have legal claims but whom you do not have the resources to assist.

Business immigration – primarily a transactional job.  I consult with clients, review documents, draft petitions and applications to Dept. of Homeland Security both for work visas and green cards. I like that file lifecycle is somewhat finite and I am very rarely in an adversarial position (court). It can get tedious doing the same thing again and again and, like all law, there is a lot of writing.

I practice at a large firm in corporate litigation.  I used to be at a smaller firm where I got out o f the office more to depositions and court; however, there are benefits to big firm life.  On a daily basis, I usually speak with clients and opposing counsel; draft letters, research memoranda, and briefs.  Occasionally I take depositions or get to court to argue motions; however, unfortunately this is far less than I would like.

If you would like to add what you do at work, please do so in the comment section.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. andrew permalink
    July 17, 2010 3:36 am

    how often when you find yourself ideologically opposed to the argument of a potential client do you turn him down? i guess i’m asking how often you find yourself arguing for things you personally disagree with.

    also, are judges more likely to settle cases based on their personal ideological beliefs, or are they usually most influenced by the arguments both sides each bring up?


  2. FRAT permalink
    December 13, 2012 7:47 pm

    suck my….****

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