The Practice of Law

Fields of practice. The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools describes the practice of law as "so diverse that it is not possible to describe the so-called typical lawyer." Most lawyers (around 73 percent) work in private practice; around 10 percent work for private industries and associations as salaried lawyers or managers; around 8 percent work for government agencies; around one percent work for legal aid or as public defenders; around one percent work in legal education; and the remaining 5 percent are retired or inactive.

Most lawyers are specialists who develop expertise in a particular field of law: corporate and securities law; criminal law; environmental and natural resources law; family and juvenile law; health law; intellectual property law; international law; tax law; or civil rights law. The legalization of American society has also increased the role of "cause lawyers" who practice public interest law.

Skills. Solo practitioners are more likely to be generalists who practice in several fields of law. Some lawyers are trial lawyers who spend a great deal of time preparing cases for the courtroom while others may not actually try cases. Because the practice of law is so diverse, the skills needed to be a successful lawyer are also very diverse. Working with juries requires skills that are not necessarily required to be a successful intellectual property lawyer. Lawyers who work as lobbyists or government relations practitioners in the for-profit corporate and not-for-profit organizational sectors use different skills that intellectual property lawyers.

There are many majors at FAU and in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters that can be successful routes to law school and a legal career.

This guide to pre-law studies in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters was prepared by Dr. Tim Lenz, professor of Political Science. Lenz teaches courses on American public law, and has been involved in the Law Advisors' National Council (PLANC). His advice to students is: Remember that, after choosing your major, you can help yourself by talking with your department advisor about your career plans and the best ways to use the undergraduate curriculum to develop the skills that the Law School Admission Test measures.