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Law Related Careers

Lawyers aren't the only people who work in the legal profession. Listed below are other law related careers.

Law Clerk

Law clerks do research and other tasks for law firms, lawyers, or the courts (positions with judges are called "judicial clerkships"). A clerkship can be thought of as an internship where the clerk basically does everything a lawyer does except appear in court to argue a case. Clerks are responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work on a case; research, reporting, and summarizing for lawyers and courts.
To be a law clerk, individuals need at least a Bachelor's degree. Law clerks are usually law students who are working towards their degree and have not taken the bar. Working as a clerk is a great way to understand the profession - and also a way to get a foot in the door with a firm.

Judicial Clerkship

Law clerks who work for judges are called "judicial clerks." They perform many of the same duties as regular law clerks, except they work for a judge instead of a lawyer. Many judicial clerks have their law degree already, and some have taken and passed the bar.
Judicial clerks assist a judge with the research and reports needed to complete a case. Judicial clerkships are harder to obtain that the average law clerkship, so they usually go to the best and the brightest (or the most persistent!). Judges usually have many years of law experience, making them a very valuable mentor.

Police Officers

Law enforcement officers protect our lives and property by enforcing laws and helping out in other ways. They undergo training and are allowed to become police officers after graduating from the police academy (or equivalent institution outside of the US). Law enforcement officers can work on the local or state level, or at federal agencies such as the National Park Service, the FBI and US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Besides basic training in safety, emergency response, medical training, and more, law enforcement officers need a good understanding of the laws and rights pertaining to their job. Officers are well versed in civil and constitutional law; local ordinances; and criminal law. They apply the law in everyday life, so it is critical that the understand citizens' rights and the law in emergency or stressful situations.
Local and municipal areas accept applicants that have a high school diploma and who completed (or will complete) training; state and federal agencies almost always require at least a college degree to apply. Most municipalities go through the Civil Service system to hire employees, so individuals who want to be officers should pass the relevant exam to be considered.

Criminal Investigators & Detectives

The field of criminal investigation is, quite simply, investigating and helping to solve crimes of all types. Criminal investigators work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; for the military; and in private practice. The field covers all areas of crime, from homicide to cyber crime to tax evasion. Criminal investigation is closely related to forensic investigation, but forensics is based exclusively on physical evidence (DNA analysis, comparing carpet fibers, etc.), whereas criminal investigation encompasses other types on investigation.
Criminal investigators work for a police department or agency. Often, criminal investigators were police officers or other agents that have worked their way up in rank. Some investigators are self-employed private investigators, who are hired by individuals or companies to investigate potential crimes or wrong-doing. Detectives are plainclothes investigators for police departments.
The role of the investigator is to pick up a criminal case and work with a team to try to solve the crime and prosecute any perpetrators. They must be highly logical, organized, and quick-thinking. The job can be stressful, with long hours and emotionally difficult cases.
Most criminal investigators, detectives and special agents have at least a Bachelor's degree. They undergo training specific to their particular field, and usually have to complete continuing education courses throughout their careers.

Law Librarians

Law librarians are professional librarians who work in law offices or in law libraries (such as universities or for the Library of Congress). Depending on where they work, law librarians may be responsible for maintaining the book collection in an academic or government library; or they may be running research and organizing books and files for a law firm. Law Librarians must have an extensive knowledge of law, be very organized, and communicate well.
Most employers require their librarians to have graduate degrees (Masters of Library Science - MLS) from an institution accredited by the American Library Association. Some law librarians also have a law degree (usually a JD or an LLB). There are schools that offer a joint JD/MLS degree program. Reference librarians in academic libraries usually need to have both degrees; however, an MLS degree is sufficient for jobs in most law firms and with regular law libraries.

Legal Administrative Assistant

Legal administrative assistants perform the administrative and clerical duties that help a law office run smoothly. Administrative assistants may answer phones; greet clients, schedule appointments, train new hires, do filing, and much more. They are essential to the operation of a busy firm or court. Law secretaries must have specialized training to prepare and process legal correspondence and to review law journals.
Legal administrative assistants may complete an Associate's degree program or a Bachelor's program and then gain certification to become an Accredited Legal Secretary, a Professional Legal Secretary, or a Certified Legal Secretary Specialist. Administrative assistants usually pursue continuing education courses to keep their skills up-to-date.

Paralegal Studies & Legal Studies

Paralegals and legal assistants perform many of the functions of lawyers, but are not allowed to present cases in court or give out legal advice. They help lawyers prepare a case and its proceedings, doing research and writing reports, and they are responsible for filing reports and keeping research organized. Paralegals also help draft contracts and prepare documents.
Paralegals are similar to law clerks, except that clerks tend to be students or interns on their way to being lawyers, whereas paralegals are specifically trained for this profession.
Paralegals are usually graduates of Associate's degree programs or are college graduates who took some paralegal courses. Many paralegals have a specialty, such as labor law, and even a sub-specialty, such as employee benefits and contracts within labor law. They may work under lawyers in a firm, or they can work for corporations (helping draft documents and explain the laws) or for public agencies and non-profit groups.

Probation Officers & Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers monitor offenders who are on probation. They make sure their charges don't break the law and that they comply with the conditions of their probation, such as house arrest or attending counseling. Probation officers also spend a lot of their time in court, investigating the cases of offenders and making recommendations on sentencing based on their findings. They sometimes testify in court as to their findings, and they confer with the offender and his or her family before and during the proceedings.
Correctional treatment specialists work with incarcerated prisoners to help them prepare for life after prison. They hold career counseling sessions and help prisoners prepare for future employment. Specialists coordinate other types of counseling as well, such as anger management and abuse counseling.
Both jobs require at least a Bachelor's degree in a field such as social work, criminal justice, counseling, or a related field. Previous experience in social work is very helpful and may be required. Most officers and specialists go through a training program to gain certification. An understanding of criminal and civil law, labor and employment law, family law, mediation, and correctional law is needed in the field.

Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is a broad and interdisciplinary subject. It is the study of crime, criminals, and law enforcement agencies, as well as the study of law and the criminal justice system. Stated another way, the field brings together the police, courts and corrections systems. Criminal justice looks at how criminals can be punished for what they do in a way that is fair (or "just") to both the victims and the criminal, and also is reasonable for the government.
Students can pursue criminal justice at the Associates, undergraduate and graduate degree levels. Most programs offer a general overview of criminal justice topics, including law, and then allow the student to focus on a specialty. Graduates are prepared for work in the criminal justice field.

Correctional Officers

Correctional officers oversee individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial, as well as criminals who have been convicted and sent to a correctional facility. They maintain a high level of security and try to prevent disturbances (such as fights, riots, escapes, and other emergencies). Unlike other types of officers, correctional officers have no law enforcement responsibilities outside of their workplace.
Correctional officers need a high school diploma to be considered for employment. Officers are usually trained on-the-job or at regional training centers run by the state. Courses include some instruction on law, and correctional officers work closely with law enforcement and court systems.

Court Reporter

Court reporters are professional reporters who provide real-time translation of court proceedings and other meetings where written accounts of what is said are essential. Reporters record what is said using special machines, either stenotype machines or stenomasks, which allow the user to quickly create a phonetic interpretation of what is said. Later, the reporter goes back and makes official records of the proceedings using software that interprets this phonetic shorthand. Court reporters are very important to the proper functioning of the courts, and are held to a high ethical standard.
Court reporting programs are typically two or four years. Students are trained in basic law and court proceedings, including ethics. They learn how to use stenotype or stenomask machines and the associated software and other technology.
Many states require that court reporters pass a certification test, and even in states that don't require it, it's a good idea. Some reporters are self-employed, and they have to buy their own equipment (stenotype machine, computer and software, etc.). Court reporters also can provide the transcription for closed-captioned television - in this case, stenotype machines are hooked into computers which instantly translate the record into words displayed on the screen.

Legal Aid

Legal aid is provided for free (or at a reduced cost) to those citizens who cannot afford regular legal help. The purpose of Legal aid is to "level the playing field" of law, so that all citizens can have good legal advice and defense. Legal aid programs are paid for at the federal, state and local levels, and also by law firms that donate time, money and expertise.
Although attorneys are the ones that represent clients in court and are allowed to give legal advice, legal aid offices also employ counselors, mediators, secretaries, and law students to help out. These employees take new cases, develop and research cases, and help the lawyers who take cases to court or settlement.
Law students may work in a legal aid clinic as their internship, but they don't usually take courses specifically devoted to the subject. A clerkship at a legal aid firm is a great way to give back to the community, to learn about the legal process, and to get a job after graduation. Legal aid can encompass all areas of law, but most often it involves family law, healthcare law, labor and employment law, child law, and bankruptcy and financial law.

Security Guards

Security guards help maintain order, keep people safe and prevent crime in public settings. Security officers in the court system help ensure the safety of everyone in the court. Most courthouses have security personnel at the entrances that operate the metal detectors and make sure no one comes in with weapons or other dangerous items. They also patrol the court house to look for suspicious activity, and they are there to help in a security-related emergency. Guards may also escort defendants and monitor them during court proceedings.
During training or school, one would learn proper surveillance techniques (including how to use closed-circuit TV cameras); how to respond to emergencies of all kinds; how to assist law enforcement officers in keeping the peace of the court; mediation techniques to prevent conflict; how to use alarm systems; and more. Security officers must be very observant, particularly in court situations, and they have to carefully document everything that happens on their shift. If an incident occurs, the security officers will have to file a detailed report, just like police officers do.
After completing their training in a classroom setting, security guards can gain licensure. Armed guards have to undergo further training to be licensed, and their background checks will be more rigorous than other guards. Training may be on-site, but there are also many certificate programs through community colleges and technical schools.

Lawyer

For education prior to attending law school, usually a liberal arts education is beneficial; however, those with educational backgrounds in accounting, business, health care, engineering or philosophy majors become effective and successful attorneys as well. The most vital aspect of the undergraduate education for law school is receiving good grades in whatever field of concentration you choose, as well as developing your general communication skills. The most important function of an attorney is the communication of ideas, both verbally and in writing. Other skills that you should be working to develop include a good vocabulary, a good memory, ability to listen, ability to express ideas and thoughts concisely and articulately, be able to comprehend complex written materials, and more.
Sometime during the senior year in college, if going straight to law school, the LSAT admissions test, administered by the Law School Admission Council must be taken. Similar to the ACT or the SAT, the test is used by law schools in the admissions process. Law schools determine admissions on the basis of a formula computing grades and the LSAT tests score together, as well as other factors.
If you think you may be seriously interested in a law career, you may wish to consider contacting local law offices, legal service organizations or other law-related entities to see if they require any assistance, even as a volunteer, during what time you have available. Any exposure you can gain in the field will benefit you in your future career.
Law school routinely takes three years of full-time study; however, many of the law schools in Illinois accept part time students.
Applicants to the Bar in Illinois must: 1) be at least 21 years of age; 2) have a high school diploma or the functional equivalent; 3) complete 90 semester hours in attendance at a qualified university; and 4) successfully attend and graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Having met these requirements, the applicant must be of good moral character and general fitness to practice law, pass the bar examination and the "ethics test," register with the Illinois Supreme Court and be sworn in.

Judge

The Illinois Constitution provides that eligibility to become a judge of the state court system of Illinois includes United States citizenship, an Illinois license as attorney-at-law, and residency in the geographic area that selects the judge.
Candidates for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court, for most seats on the Illinois Appellate Court, and for Illinois Circuit Court Judge are nominated in the primary election and elected in the general election. The Illinois Supreme Court appoints a small, designated number of Appellate Court Judges. All Associate Judges of the Circuit Courts of Illinois are appointed by the Circuit Judges of each circuit.
Supreme Court Judges and Appellate Court Judges are elected for 10-year terms. Circuit Court Judges are elected for 6-year terms. Associate Judges are appointed for 4-year terms.
Elected judges may seek additional terms by running for retention on the non-partisan portion of the ballot in general elections. Voters are given the option of voting "yes" or "no" to retain a judge in office for another term. To win retention, a judge must receive 60% "yes" votes. Associate Judges may seek reappointment through the vote of the Circuit Judges. To win reappointment, an associate judge must receive 60% of the votes of the Circuit Judges.
The Illinois Supreme Court may fill vacancies in elected judicial positions by appointment until the vacancy is filled by election. This includes vacancies for the elected positions on the Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and Circuit Court.
The State of Illinois is divided into 5 districts, which are subdivided into 22 judicial circuits. The first district (Cook County) elects 3 Supreme Court judges. The other 4 districts each elect 1 Supreme Court judge. Each district elects a number of appellate court judges. Every county of the State of Illinois elects at least 1 Resident Circuit Judge. Each circuit, as a whole, elects a number of at large Circuit Judges.

Court Clerk or Bailiff

Court clerks administer oaths in courtrooms, take responsibility and custody of physical evidence introduced at trial, and help in the general administration of the trial by providing assistance to the judge and the attorneys. Court clerks should not be confused with the Clerk of the Court, usually an elected position. The Clerk of the Court is responsible for the court complex and is custodian of all court records, maintains dockets, collects fees, keeps minutes of court proceedings, files documents like licenses and wills, etc.
Bailiffs are often law enforcement officers, assigned to a courtroom to keep peace and assist the judge, courtroom clerks, witnesses and jury, and whose duties vary according to jurisdiction and judge but often include maintaining order in the courtroom. See "becoming a law-enforcement professional" above.

Mediator

Mediators do not decide cases; rather, mediators facilitate decisions between parties to help reach a fair and equitable settlement acceptable to both sides of an issue. Resolving disputes through mediation, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, is becoming more and more popular as an economical and efficient means to settle disputes outside of the courts. Mediation is a voluntary procedure that requires full disclosure of all facts related to the dispute at hand. A mediator's role is to assist in discussions and help elicit as much information as possible.
Mediators should undergo specific training in mediation procedures and practices, through a trained and qualified organization. Mediators are held to strict standards of confidentiality, as are lawyers, though there are no official licensure or registration procedures. The Mediation Council of Illinois has set professional standards of practice for mediators, which states that "Mediators should hold either a bachelor of law degree; a J.D. degree, a master's degree, or equivalent training or experience in mental health or related disciplines. Mediators shall be in good standing in the professional organizations of their disciplines." In addition, their standards state "Mediators shall have undergone at least forty hours of training specifically in mediation, led by qualified mediators and/or by a recognized training organization before representing themselves to the public as mediators."

Other Careers

Forensic Scientist, High School Law/Government/Political Science Teacher,
Human Resources/Personnel Director, JAG Officer (Judge Advocate General) or Military Lawyer, Legal Nurse Consultant, Legal Researcher (Lexis/Nexus, Westlaw), Legislator or Other Elected Official, Lobbyist, Transportation Security Screener/Customs Officer, Victim Advocate.

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION ACCREDITED LAW SCHOOLS IN ILLINOIS

DePaul University Law School, Chicago
Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago
Loyola University Law School, Chicago
Northern Illinois University College of Law, DeKalb
Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago
Southern Illinois University School of Law, Carbondale
The John Marshall Law School, Chicago
University of Chicago School of Law, Chicago
University of Illinois College of Law, Champaign

 

 


 
 
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