How to Become an Employment Lawyer

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Employment law covers a variety of fields within the workplace, and offers one of the more stable legal fields in the profession. As long as people continue to be employed, there will be legal disputes. These disputes often come in the form of harassment claims, wage and hour disputes, safety violations, improper workplace conduct, immigration employment, whistle-blowing protection, and anti-union protection, just to name a few. To become an employment lawyer, the obvious first step is to attend law school.

Things You'll Need

  • Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
  • Take the Law School Admissions Test and register with the LSDAS to create a law school application profile. Before you can become an employment lawyer, you need to earn a juris doctor degree from law school, and before you can do that you have to apply. When selecting a law school, be sure to look at areas of concentration as well as specialty rankings through various law school profiles and reviews. Contact law schools to ask questions about their employment law program, but realize that just about every law school will offer some type of employment law concentration in their curriculum. Determining the best employment law program is dependent upon how you measure success: employment rate after graduation, median salary, faculty reputation, etc.

  • Keep an open mind while in law school. You may have determined that you want to be an employment lawyer, but there are different specialties within employment law. Some specialties may not interest you, and it is better to find this out in law school, before accepting a position after graduation. That being said, the primary objective of law school is to teach you how to think like a lawyer. Careers are not determined in the classroom, rather a foundation is built.

  • Apply for summer associate positions at multiple employment law firms for your summer breaks. Summer associate positions can be extremely competitive, so it is best to apply to as many as possible to ensure you have options when making your decision. If you apply to only the best firms and are not offered a position, you could waste an entire summer of valuable employment law experience. Consider splitting the summer into two 6 week summer associate positions at different firms. You will not be able to get as in-depth as you might in a 12 week position, but you will have two potential employers familiar with you and your work. Most post-graduation offers come from summer associate firms, making these opportunities extremely valuable.

  • Enroll in as many employment law electives as possible during your third year of law school. By this time you will have completed the core requirements for graduation, and you can select your curriculum. There are many employment law courses offered, and finding out your interests while still in school is a bonus. When you begin applying for full-time positions with law firms, look for firms or agencies that specialize in your intended field of employment law. For example, if you are interested in immigration law, consider looking into employment with government agencies that make and interpret the immigration laws, in addition to the private law firms who offer immigration counseling. Gaining experience in a government agency is a strong resume booster for future employment, and is best when done early in your career.

  • Study and pass your intended employer's state bar exam. You will not be able to practice law until you have passed this exam. Some employers may not offer you a position until you have completed the exam, while others will offer an attorney position contingent upon passing the bar exam.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are a good employee and talented legal mind, your best resource for landing a job as an employment lawyer is your summer associate firms. If they do not offer you a position, see if they would be willing to recommend you to another firm where you are seeking employment.

References

  • Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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