Many career opportunities for lawyers exist in modern societies and are found in fields ranging from private firm practice to work in politics and advocacy. The majority of lawyers handle legal matters on behalf of corporations and individuals in the private sector. In most nations, a sizable number of additional career options for lawyers involve the practice of law on behalf of the public, as prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and law clerks. Significant numbers of men and women who are trained as lawyers also find careers in other fields where a law degree is a valuable credential but not strictly required.
Large numbers of lawyers make a living through work in the private sector, and the career options for these lawyers vary widely based on the type of legal practice. Lawyers employed by large corporations or very highly-regarded private firms can command sizable salaries but are often expected to put in very long hours and may not always have good opportunities for career advancement.
Some lawyers choose to pursue careers either as independent attorneys or as members of smaller law firms. These career opportunities for lawyers typically provide less compensation but also involve less stress and lighter workloads. Lawyers in this sort of practice often have more freedom in choosing cases and clients, and job security in these sorts of positions may be greater, as competition for them is often less vigorous.
Legal aid societies employ lawyers to work on behalf of underprivileged clients. Career opportunities for lawyers in this area are numerous, but such work is not generally highly paid. Lawyers with a strong sense of civic or social responsibility may prefer this type of work, however.
Substantial numbers of lawyers are employed by governmental agencies. Some career opportunities for lawyers in governmental work involve either the prosecution of offenders on behalf of the state or work as public defenders for clients who lack the means to procure legal representation. Other lawyers are employed by the government in a more advisory capacity and are responsible for aiding in the development of legislation and shaping public policy.
Most, but not all, legal systems rely on men and women who have been trained as lawyers to fill the ranks of judges and law clerks. Appeals court judges are advised and assisted by staffs of trained law clerks. Such career opportunities for lawyers may be immediately available to promising young lawyers, especially those from prestigious law schools. In other cases, lawyers accumulate experience in private or public practice before moving into careers in the judiciary.
Not all men and women trained as lawyers work directly in the legal field. Political candidacy and advocacy are common career options for lawyers. Legal training can also be very helpful for men and women looking to build careers in business, where legal matters are often vitally important.