The practice of law is so closely tied to giving advice that lawyers are often called legal advisers. The term is also used to describe lawyers who work as in-house counsel for an organization. In either case, the job duties are similar and revolve around protecting the client from risk.
Legal advisers, like all lawyers, need specific skills and personal characteristics to be successful. A lawyer must be able to research and analyze large amounts of information, determine what is actually relevant to the case and present it to her client, and possibly a judge and jury. Her focus is to solve problems, so she must be able to look at all matters objectively, without letting her emotions affect her analysis. She needs excellent communication skills -- both oral and written -- to present evidence and write legal documents, and must also have good interpersonal skills to build trusting relationships.
It's All About Risk
Although a legal adviser’s specific job duties might vary from one organization to another, in all cases, her primary job is to identify potential risks to her clients and make recommendations to reduce or mitigate those risks. To be effective in this work, she must thoroughly understand the nature of the business she represents. She might need to recommend against taking on a potentially lucrative but unethical or illegal business opportunity, and must be able to justify her position in a way that business managers will understand.
The Business Routine
Other duties of a legal adviser revolve around the day-to-day aspects of doing business. She might draft business contracts or periodically review existing contracts. A lawyer is not necessarily an ethicist, but many legal questions have ethical or moral implications and the legal adviser must be prepared to speak to those in giving clients business advice. She might represent her organization in a business meeting or in court, mediate disputes or draft policies related to legal matters.
How to Get There
Like all lawyers, legal advisers must earn a bachelor’s degree, take the Law School Admission Test and complete three years of law school, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once she graduates, she must then take the licensing exam in her state, which is known as passing the bar. If her practice involves more than one state, she might need to pass the bar in each state where she practices. She will need continuing education to maintain her license. The BLS expects growth in this profession to be about average, at 10 percent from 2012 through 2022. The median salary was $113,530 in 2012.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Lawyers
- State of New Hampshire: New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct
- Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners: AFTE Legal Advisor
- U.S. Department of State: Practicing Law in the Office of the Legal Adviser
- Above the Law: What to Consider When Considering an In-House Counsel Position (Part 1)
- Photo Credit shironosov/iStock/Getty Images
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