What is a Lawyer?

Outside of television shows or movies, you may have no knowledge of what lawyers are or what they do. While fictional depictions can be helpful, they are not always accurate. The following are a few commonly asked questions about lawyers.   

What exactly is a lawyer?

A lawyer (also called attorney, counsel, or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters. Today’s lawyer can be young or old, male or female. Nearly one-third of all lawyers are under thirty-five years old. Almost half of the law students today are women, and women may ultimately be as numerous in the profession as men.

What are a lawyer’s main duties?

A lawyer has two main duties: to uphold the law while also protecting a client’s rights. To carry out these duties, a lawyer should understand the law and be an effective communicator.

Is most of a lawyer’s time spent in court?

No. Most lawyers normally spend more time in an office than in a courtroom. The practice of law most often involves researching legal developments, investigating facts, writing and preparing legal documents, giving advice, and settling disputes.

What are the professional requirements for becoming a lawyer?

To understand how laws and the legal system work, lawyers must go through special schooling. Each state has enacted standards that must be met before a person is licensed to practice law there. Before being allowed to practice law in most states, a person must:

Once licensed in one state, is a lawyer allowed to practice law in all states?

Not automatically. To become licensed in more than one state, a lawyer must usually comply with each state’s bar admission requirements. Some states, however,

permit licensed out-of-state lawyers to practice law if they have done so in another state for several years and the new state’s highest court approves them. Many states also have provisions for lawyers to participate in specific cases in states where they are not licensed. The lawyer in such a case is said to be appearing pro hoc vice, which means “for this one particular occasion.”

If I have a legal problem, do I have to hire a lawyer?

Not necessarily – you may represent yourself. And, in some specialized situations, such as bringing a complaint

before a government agency (for example, a dispute over Social Security or Medicare benefits), nonlawyers or paralegals may be qualified to represent you. (Paralegals are nonlawyers who have received training that enables them to assist lawyers in a number of tasks; they typically cannot represent clients in court.) If you are in this situation, ask the government agency involved what types of legal representatives are acceptable.

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