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Jack Long

Mr. Alburger

English III Honors

22 February 2018

Impacting the World With a Career in Law

Returning home after an exhausting day of working at the small business he owns,

Thomas opened the mailbox on his way inside. Anxiety and disbelief consumed him when he

noticed a summons to appear in court. Frantically reading each line over and over, reality finally

set in. The small business he had worked so hard to open now faced a lawsuit that would

collapse it and rob him of the money he so desperately needed to support his family. Not familiar

with any of the laws and unable to defend himself, he felt utterly hopeless. Thankfully, Thomas

found an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer to defend his business and walked out of the

situation unharmed. Through helping others in situations like this, lawyers have made a profound

impact on the world, and, with proper education and skills, aspiring lawyers will have the ability

to make the same level of impact while succeeding on a daily basis and in the future to come.

Historians can trace the origins of the modern lawyer all the way back to ancient

civilizations. Over thousands of years, the roles of lawyers have transformed, however, many

aspects have remained largely unchanged. Throughout modern history, lawyers have maintained

three main roles: the lawyer as a man earning a living, the lawyer as a part of the Bar serving a

function in the creation and maintenance of social order, and the lawyer as a professional man

(Hurst 594). These fundamental aspects may undergo modifications and revolutions, but as the

foundation of the major duties of the profession, they will never fully transform. For instance,
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lawyers, despite still serving the same general role of advising and representing clients, have

experienced a redefinition of the way they carry out their duty as a man earning a living.

Between the 1800's and the late nineteenth century, the most prominent role of a lawyer involved

situations of contention, making litigation the most common form of law at the time. However,

during the last several decades, the most notable and demanded function has become one of

administration (Hurst 595). Even though the path through which lawyers earn a living has

changed, the general principle of the work has not. A similar situation arises when evaluating

alterations to the duty of the lawyer as a professional man because, regardless of the transition

from litigation to administration, lawyers find themselves deeply involved in the court system.

All lawyers make an impact on the world around them, but the influences of certain

figures in history helped completely reshape not only the profession but also the world.

Alexander Hamilton, for example, became the first American lawyer known to have performed

pro bono work on a large scale. He also left his longest lasting and deepest impression through

writing some of the renowned ​Federalist Papers​ (Fowler 19). Hamilton’s pro bono work, which

in Latin means voluntary and without payment, redefined the culture of law in the United States

by making quality legal representation available to the poor, rather than just the aristocrats. This

helped the lower classes obtain a louder voice in society and propelled the country towards the

idea of true equality that it prided itself on. His ​Federalist Papers,​ which convinced several

Antifederalist states to ratify the Constitution, still make a profound impact by receiving regular

citation by the Supreme Court. In more recent history, the first African-American justice to sit on

the United States Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, played an important role in a number of

key civil rights rulings, such as ​Brown v. Board of Education​ (Ryan). Without the work of
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Justice Marshall, African-Americans would perhaps still have separate facilities from other races

and remain subjected to severe discrimination. Just as Alexander Hamilton did, Thurgood

Marshall gave immense assistance to the country in its goals of offering equality under the law to

everyone.

Becoming a lawyer requires an extensive amount of education, and the first step of this

schooling, acquiring an undergraduate education, sets up each aspiring lawyer to succeed in all

later progressions of the process. Almost all law schools accredited by the American Bar

Association (ABA) require applicants to have received a bachelor’s degree as their

undergraduate education (Bureau). In order to earn a bachelor’s degree, students must have

completed a course of study usually lasting three to seven years. Experts view English, public

speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics courses as most useful for

prospective lawyers (Bureau), however, law schools increasingly desire areas of study that will

add to the diversity of the student body (Taylor 40). This means that students now major in areas

such as biology, ecology, engineering, and chemistry, and have higher acceptance rates since

they add coveted variety and uniqueness in the class. Also, with students possessing expertise in

an array of fields, they begin practicing law more prepared to specialize in a certain area than

many of their counterparts.

The second step of education, law school, equips students with the information and skills

necessary to practice law but presents some obstacles to hurdle when applying to them. The Law

School Admission Test, or LSAT, helps measure a student’s aptitude for the profession and

receives use by almost every law school in the country (Bureau). As a standardized test, this test

compares to the ACT and SAT of undergraduate admissions, and causes similar or even bigger
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headaches for the student. Despite the trouble it may cause prospective students, standardized

tests help give admissions offices a reliable measure of intelligence, whereas grade point

averages can vary greatly depending on the school the student attended for his or her bachelor’s

degree. The vast majority of regions across the country require lawyers to obtain a Juris Doctor

(J.D.) degree at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (Bureau). Once

successfully earning a Juris Doctor degree, students may have completed the education required

to practice law, but must still undergo several processes.

For most aspiring lawyers, the level of institution one attends holds importance because

of prestige, quality of education, value, and median starting salaries. According to the ​U.S. News

and World Report,​ Yale, Harvard, and Stanford rank as the top three institutions in the country

(“Schools”). As three of the most selective schools in the country, very few students receive

admittance, but the ones who do have the privilege, earn the respect of employers as soon as that

institution’s name appears on a resumé. With such prestige and reverence surrounding them,

graduates from these three schools often have significantly higher starting salaries than the

national average. For students in North Carolina, the top three in-state schools, Duke, the

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest, rank as eleven, thirty-eight, and

forty in the country, respectively (“Schools”). With such high ranking law schools, students in

North Carolina have access to an exemplary professional education while still remaining close to

home, a luxury many students from other states do not possess.

A student may finally practice law legally by receiving admission to the Bar and keeping

up with continuation of education requirements. In order to gain admission to the Bar,

prospective lawyers must pass an evaluation of character by an admission board and pass the bar
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examinations of each state he or she decides to practice in (Bureau). For instance, many lawyers

in the Charlotte metropolitan area take the bar examinations of both North and South Carolina,

due to the city’s location just miles from the state border. These additional tests for lawyers to

complete serve as very beneficial parts of the process of becoming a lawyer because they help

protect clients from coming in contact with a lawyer who will not properly represent them, and

ensure that each person retained all of the information learned in school over the years. In

addition to the bar examinations, almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing

legal education courses every year or every three years (Bureau). These continuation of

education requirements not only help lawyers remember information from law school but also

offer opportunities for them to expand their knowledge and even discover an area of law they

enjoy. While some lawyers may view the requirements as a hassle or pain, they have extreme

importance in ensuring that lawyers stay on top of their game.

Due to the high levels of education and training necessary to become one, lawyers earn

an average salary much higher than the national average. In May 2016, the average salary for

lawyers came in at $118,160, with the bottom ten percent earning less than $56,910 and the top

ten percent earning more than $208,000 (Bureau). This wide range of salaries could exist due to

differing pay by region, levels of experience, types of employers, and specializations of law. The

law school one graduates from could also greatly affect the person’s starting salary, depending

on how it places in the national rankings and how prestigious firms consider it. The top three

schools in the rankings by ​The Princeton Review​, New York University, University of Chicago,

and Harvard, all have median first-year salaries around $180,000 (Kauflin). This supports the

idea that the ranking of a law school affects salary in addition to the other factors, because the
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top three schools according to ​The Princeton Review​ have starting salaries about $60,000 greater

than the average.

Although working as a lawyer carries many benefits and rewards, daily life often

involves long hours, heavy workloads, and high levels of stress. Lawyers frequently work close

to ten hour days in the office, and even when they head home at night, the baggage of stress and

important responsibilities continues to linger over them (Hochman). Having the duty of keeping

an innocent person out of prison, ensuring someone receives compensation for a wrongful injury,

or even just guaranteeing a will properly distributes a person’s assets can put a great deal of

pressure on the lawyer. This extra burden to carry may greatly affect one’s family and social life

and tends to vary depending on the types of case and the required amount of time in the

courtroom. Brian Hochman, owner and head lawyer at Brian Hochman Law Office, says that

sometimes he attends a social event or one of his children’s games and struggles to concentrate

because he starts thinking about all the work he needs to complete (Hochman). Therefore,

before deciding to become a lawyer, one should thoroughly contemplate whether the reward of

helping others outweighs the stressful daily life.

While many aspects of law vary depending on the type one specializes in, the places

where they work generally remains constant across the board. Most lawyers work in private and

corporate legal offices, with many working in the office over forty hours each week (Bureau).

For that reason, prospective lawyers should feel comfortable with the fact that their routine and

life in the office does not involve much variation or adventure. Determination, patience, and love

for the profession make this somewhat monotonous place of work much more enjoyable and a

place where lawyers can work hard to achieve their goals. Even though almost all lawyers spend
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most of their time in an office, depending on the type of law, one may also spend a significant

amount of time in the courtroom. Brian Hochman, who practices general civil litigation, has to

work in the courtroom one or two times a month (Hochman). These monthly or bi-monthly

excursions provide a break from the office life, but may also incur even more stress because not

working in the office can mean getting behind on other assignments.

The categorizing of the various specializations of law often begins as two broad

categories and eventually breaks down into specific subcategories with unique job descriptions.

Types of practice first receive the label of either contentious, which involves disputes, or

non-contentious, which generally involves tasks such as writing wills and applying for patents.

Non-contentious types of law may also divide further into the categories of transactional or

non-transactional (“Different Types”). Prospective lawyers should consider which category to

work under carefully because people who struggle to deal with conflict would likely fail to find

success or happiness as a lawyer working on the contentious side of the profession. Even under

the somewhat broad subcategories of transactional or non-transactional, the type of work and

typical daily life differs greatly. For instance, areas of law underneath the contentious and

transactional categories usually face more strict deadlines, and therefore have less predictable

hours. However, transactional lawyers usually have to spend much less time studying legal

textbooks compared to employment, environment, and tax lawyers (“Different Types”). This

further shows that prospective lawyers should choose their specialization carefully because

people who do not enjoy reading would thrive more as a non-transactional lawyer. Similarly,

lawyers who take extended periods of time to work and despise tight deadlines would find

themselves more at home under the non-contentious and non-transactional areas.


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Modern trends in both society and politics have already begun to drastically reshape the

lawyer profession. Law firms have experienced the rise of new practice areas due to these trends,

such as ones dealing with transgender rights, cannabis, and gig economies (Baker & Sword).

This means that many lawyers, in the interest of keeping up with a rapidly changing world, have

to educate themselves on issues they previously had not even heard of. It seems that these trends

generally benefit the younger generation of lawyers, who have grown up more exposed to and

therefore more familiar with these new controversies. In fact, one of the most substantial modern

trends in law deals with the younger generation of lawyers, often referred to as “millennial

lawyers.” As the amount of these millennial lawyers grows, firms have implemented more

generous family-leave policies, better healthcare, and more flexible schedules in order to emulate

their more progressive ideology (Baker & Sword). While this gives firms additional expenses to

deal with, it provides their lawyers with more valuable and modern benefits, helping to keep

young people from transitioning to other careers that previously offered more liberal benefits.

Technology, perhaps the most significant and strongest stimulus for sweeping reforms

across the profession of law, has completely transformed some of the most integral parts of the

career. In Oregon, the judicial department used to handle fifty million pieces of paper a year, but

with technology such as electronic filing becoming extremely common, the amount of paper

used has dropped and made tasks much easier on lawyers (Baker & Sword). Now, instead of

having to sort through mountains of paper on desks and walls lined with filing cabinets, lawyers

can find a document by simply pressing a few keys and clicking a mouse. This saves the precious

time of lawyers, helps firms make more money, gives clients a better chance to win their case,

and also has beneficial environmental impacts. The ability to constantly communicate with
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others through technology such as smartphones with messaging and email applications has also

revolutionized the profession. Jason Montgomery, who works for Dole-Coalwell Attorneys, in

regard to the effects technology has on communication, said, “I've settled cases via text. Very

simple cases,” (Baker & Sword). Since good communication and relations with the client make it

easier to win cases, the ability to maintain continuous contact has had positive effects on lawyers

in regard to success. However, this trend has also added additional stress to the already heavy

burdens lawyers often deal with because responding to hundreds of texts, emails, and calls each

day can exhaust them even further.

The development of technological advancements in the modern age of law has also given

rise to new, internet-based competition for traditional law firms. LegalZoom, an online legal

service provider that assists clients with writing wills, dealing with incorporation papers, and

various other standard contracts, began offering representation in 2001 after its founding by

Brian Lee, Brian Liu, and Edward Hartman with help from Robert Shapiro, one of the defense

lawyers in the famed O.J. Simpson murder trial (Fisher). Since the company provides its services

online, accessibility gives it a huge edge over traditional firms with the ability to access a wide

base of customers. Also, exclusively online operations and specialization in basic documents

allow customers to use its services at a lower cost compared to law firms. However, LegalZoom

has recently come under a wave of lawsuits from an envious legal establishment, accusing it of

misleading consumers and practicing law without a license (Fisher). While these suits raise

concerns over the legitimacy and dependability of LegalZoom’s services, one might theorize that

the accusations simply aim to wipe out the threatening competitor.


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With so many modern trends and innovations affecting the profession, the future of law

involves a marked amount of uncertainty. The law industry currently suffers from a surplus of

lawyers and a shortage in the demand for services, but many firms continue to see steady

increases in revenue (Baker & Sword). Whether or not prosperity for firms will continue as this

deficit of available jobs worsens presents itself as perhaps the most worrying question regarding

the future of law. The Bureau of Labor Statistics attempts to answer this question by predicting

nine percent growth in the industry over the next ten years, a number close to the average for all

occupations (Bureau). The future of the profession beyond ten years remains a subject open to

rumination and discourse. Without obtaining additional information as to which technological

innovations may transform the industry next, foretelling the future of it remains difficult..

No matter what happens in the decades to come, lawyers will continue to change the

course of the world through their influence on impactful court decisions and representation of

people in need. Students who take the correct steps throughout the entire process of becoming a

lawyer can expect a busy but rewarding life and if determined enough, may have a chance to go

down in textbooks like some of the most notable lawyers in history.


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Works Cited

Baker, Linda and Katy Sword. "Lawyers Are Back." ​Oregon Business Magazine​, vol. 40, no. 5,

May 2017, pp. 32-39.

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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,

Lawyers, on the Internet at <​https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm​>

"Different Types of Law." ​Lawyer 2B​, 18 Oct. 2013, p. 8. EBSCO​host,​

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Fisher, Daniel. "Entrepreneurs Versus Lawyers." ​Forbes,​ vol. 188, no. 7, 24 Oct. 2011, pp.

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Fowler, Russell. "Alexander Hamilton: Pro Bono Lawyer." ​Tennessee Bar Journal,​ vol. 50, no.

10, Oct. 2014, pp. 18-20.

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Hochman, Brian. Personal Interview. 1 February 2018.

Hurst, James Willard. “Lawyers in American Society 1750-1966.” ​Marquette Law Review​,

Marquette University, June 1967,

<scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2502&context=mulr.>
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Kauflin, Jeff. "The Best Law Schools for Career Prospects in 2018." ​Forbes.Com​, 31 Oct. 2017,

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Ryan, James. "Thurgood Marshall." ​Thurgood Marshall​, 8/1/2017, p. 1. EBSCO​host,​

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"Schools of Law." ​Best Graduate Schools​, Jan. 2017, p. 60.

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Taylor, Kelley R. "Law Schools Change or Waive LSAT Admission Requirement to Expand

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