20 Most Common Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer

20 Most Common Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: April 15, 2024 1:32pm CDT

20 Most Common Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer

Being a lawyer can be a gratifying career with many upsides and perks, but it’s not without challenges.

We wrote this comprehensive guide to provide you with a balanced view of the pros and cons of being a lawyer that you can expect if you choose to enter this ancient yet very much alive profession.

It covers and delivers more than just facts about what attorneys do in their roles or what you may expect from the average career advice post.

Whether you’re considering law as a career or simply curious about the legal lifestyle, this article will shed light on the top advantages of being a lawyer and the inherent drawbacks of becoming one.

For many, their first exposure to and curiosity about what it means to be a lawyer began with legal dramas like Law & Order or hearing the sounds of arbitration-based reality court shows like Judge Judy broadcasted on daytime television.

As the judge told fictional criminal defense lawyer Perry Mason in 1957, “You may proceed, counselor.”

Perry Mason TV show criminal defense lawyer inspired people to become lawyers

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Lawyer In 2024

Like any other job or career path, being a lawyer comes with its own set of pros and cons. Each is a factor to weigh when you are in the process of deciding to enter the legal field.

First, to make sure we are on the same page, let’s clarify the answer to

“What Does a Lawyer Do?”

In simple terms, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the job of a lawyer as being:

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Let’s begin with the positives of being a lawyer.

Pros of Being a Lawyer Infographic:

Pros of Being a Lawyer Infographic List
List of Pros of Being a Lawyer

We begin our exploration with some of the most commonly discussed benefits of being a lawyer, which form an integral part of our pros and cons list. The following are 9 benefits of the law profession.

1. High Earning Potential and Financial Rewards

According to the most recent statistics from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the median annual salary for an attorney in May 2022 was $135,740.

Lawyers have high earning potential

That is a very high salary for most people. The average lawyer makes over double what the average U.S. worker makes in a year.

Lawyer Salary Factors

However, it’s crucial to note that lawyer salaries can significantly fluctuate based on:

  • Attorney’s field of expertise
  • Geographical location
  • Level of experience
  • Job description
  • Employer’s stature
  • Company size
  • The economic outlook of the national economy, including that of the employer

You can read our updated list of the richest lawyers in America to learn more about how a law career can lead to immense financial wealth.

2. Job Flexibility and Diverse Career Opportunities

The legal field offers a lawyer benefits through an extensive range of career options, both within the public and private sectors, allowing attorneys to specialize in various areas of law.

Some of the most common areas of expertise and types of law that attorneys can choose to practice include:

Types of Law

This diversity facilitates lawyers to choose an area of career focus that aligns with their interests, passions, and societal concerns, paving the way for significant career growth.

Types of Law Lawyers Practice

Most lawyers work in private practice, and corporate and government attorney positions are the minority.

3. Work/Life Benefits of a Lawyer

Although not a guaranteed standard, many law firms offer very rewarding benefits packages and perks for their lawyers and employees.

For instance, some larger law firms offer all or part of the following:

Benefits Offered By Law Firms

  • Covering the cost of bar preparation and examination fees for new and relocating attorneys.
  • Bar association duesReimbursing moving expenses
  • Medical and dental coverage
  • Life insurance
  • Long-term and short-term disability payments
  • Paid time off (vacation days)
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • Career development programs
  • Gym and fitness club memberships
  • Parental leave
  • Offering access to CLE programs
  • Profit sharing
  • 401(K) contribution and matching plans

Companies hope to attract and retain the best lawyers by offering better benefits than the competition.

Health Insurance Coverage - benefit provided by law firms

Additionally, benefits often provide more value than the actual cost, making them cost-effective, especially with larger firms, as the cost per person is less the higher the number of lawyers receiving them.

4. Continual Learning and Intellectual Stimulation

By its very nature, the legal profession demands continuous learning and critical thinking.

Practicing attorneys routinely engage in complex legal analysis and research, providing an intellectual challenge with every unique case and client matter they encounter.

Lawyers must employ their full mental capabilities to formulate legal strategies to win and defend against lawsuits.

Additionally, although most in-house counsel and corporate lawyers don’t litigate cases in court, they remain focused on staying apprised of the law, which provides continuous intellectual stimulation and uses brain power.

Private industry lawyers who work for a company instead of a law firm advise their company on topics such as expertise in various legal areas, such as:

Corporate Lawyer Job Description

  • Obtaining and maintaining licensing
  • Regulatory compliance
  • General legal counsel
  • Review and make suggestions for how to comply with changes in relevant regulations.
  • Responding to cease and desist letters
  • Draft contracts
  • Assist with mergers and acquisitions
  • Advise company communications
  • Corporate governance
  • Advise, draft, and implement company policy
  • Manage underwriting at pre-settlement funding companies and search court filings

5. Career Longevity

Law is a white-collar profession that allows for prolonged career longevity.

Unlike blue-collar jobs, which may require physical stamina and strength, the practice of law does not require lawyers to do physical labor as part of their employment, contributing to their longevity in their careers.

Lawyer with career longevity

Instead, it demands experience and intellectual prowess.

That continues to facilitate attorneys working for several decades and remaining employed well past the average retirement age. While construction workers have to build structures to fulfill their jobs, lawyers do not.

Depending on the role, a lawyer can do their job by only speaking to clients to answer their questions or directing employees on what to do on their behalf, such as filing a claim in court.

6. Wheelchair Accessible Sedentary Career

The white-collar characteristics of a lawyer’s job also allow for people who have significant physical disabilities to effectively fill the role, embodying the essence of helping people despite their own challenges.

There have been many prominent lawyers who were paralyzed and rode in wheelchairs.

Lawyer Charles Ruff using a wheelchair

For instance, Charles Ruff, the criminal defense attorney who acted as White House Counsel and defended President Bill Clinton during his 1999 impeachment trial, was paralyzed as a young man from a viral illness suffered abroad and relied upon a wheelchair.

On the subject of lawyers being able to do their job despite physical disability, Charles Ruff told the Washington Post,

Law is a sedentary profession.

7. Helping Others and Making a Social Impact

Through advocacy, lawyers can make a difference inside and outside of court, assisting people who find themselves dealing with a diverse list of challenging life situations.

Whether representing a criminal defendant in court, providing spouses who want to adopt a child with family law advice, or helping a business navigate complex regulatory landscapes, attorneys are making a difference, profoundly impacting and benefiting people’s lives and solving problems.

The impact of their work can span generations as well as help society at large.

This concept that the many positives of being a lawyer also include the ability to do good by helping people when they need it most is backed by the following words of insight from attorney Adam Loewy, owner of the Loewy Law Firm:

One significant pro of working as a lawyer is the profound impact we can have on individuals’ lives.

In my personal injury practice, I’ve had the opportunity to help clients through some of their most challenging times.

I get a deep sense of fulfillment not only in advocating for their rights but also in contributing to their journey toward healing and justice.

This aspect of making a tangible difference and being able to turn a profession into a means for positive change in the lives of others is very gratifying to me as an attorney.

Along the same line, Riley Beam, Managing Attorney of Douglas R. Beam, P.A., also shares this same sentiment about the upsides of being a lawyer, which includes advocating and making a difference for clients with the following reflections based on his own career experience:

As a personal injury and criminal defense lawyer, I’ve had the privilege of standing up for our clients against powerful corporations and insurance companies.

The trust and appreciation from clients affirm the meaningful role we play in their lives. While viewing this as a mere ‘pro’ of the profession is tempting, it goes beyond that.

It’s about the opportunity to advocate for individuals facing difficult situations, to navigate the complexities of the legal system, and to be a voice for those who may not otherwise be heard.

Knowing you’ve positively impacted someone’s life adds a sense of fulfillment to the practice of law, transcending the concept of it just being a job that includes a list of pros and cons.

8. Prestige, Influence, and Respect

People commonly look upon lawyers as experts who have the capability and knowledge to navigate the intricate legal landscape and know what the laws are off the top of their heads.

This influence, combined with assumed expertise and an air of professionalism, extends beyond the courtroom and paves the way to other prominent networks and opportunities (career and social) for lawyers.

People are less likely to question a lawyer who speaks with an air of authority due to their being a lawyer.

Lawyers have the advantage of prestige and respect

This phenomenon is also an advantage enjoyed by law school students who meet certain education requirements. People are inclined to think someone is competent and knows what they are talking about when they are enrolled in law school.

9. Development of Communication Abilities and Adaptable Skills

The legal profession necessitates strong communication, negotiation, and problem-solving skills.

These honed abilities are not only essential within the legal field but are also valuable transferable skills to various other sectors, including business, politics, academia, and even dating.

Downsides of Being a Lawyer Infographic:

Cons of Being a Lawyer Infographic List
List of Cons of Being a Lawyer

Now, let’s discuss the cons of being a lawyer and what can make a career in law not a good choice for you, as the benefits can only take you so far. The following are 11 drawbacks concerning the legal profession.

1. Expensive Legal Education and Student Debt

The pursuit of a legal career is a costly endeavor, with expensive education requirements due to the rising costs of college and law school, whether private or state-funded.

High-cost of law school student debt

With both college and law school tuition fees escalating rapidly, many new attorneys are burdened by considerable student debt, complicating their financial stability as they embark on their legal careers starting with three years of law school.

2. Bar Exam Cost

To be able to practice law in a state, lawyers have to pass that state’s bar exam (when reciprocity between state bars is not an option.), which comes with one or more fees.

The exact cost for the bar exam depends on the state. However, the average cost among states for lawyers to sit the bar exam is several hundred dollars.

Most states charge a laptop fee, which averages around $125.

While a bar exam might not be the most expensive compared to law school, its costs are definitely not affordable.

3. Bar Membership Dues

Practicing lawyers are required to pay bar membership dues as a part of their professional obligations to remain in good standing. Each state has its own bar, and the annual fee amounts will vary from state to state.

Some provide discounted rates for attorneys who have only been practicing law for a few years.

The various costs and different renewal processes can be frustrating for attorneys who aim to practice law in multiple states and jurisdictions.

4. Highly Competitive Job Market

The legal industry is a highly competitive field, with numerous law school graduates competing for a scarce number of positions.

This intense competition can persist for decades, well beyond the initial interview for a sought-after role within a prestigious law firm.

Con of Competitive Lawyer Job Market

Law firm hierarchies, office politics, backstabbing among junior associates, and jockeying for partner status are known issues that many lawyers will have to contend with time and time again during their law careers.

5. High Levels of Stress

The legal profession is notorious for its high-stress environment. Lawyers often face sizable workloads and must meet tight deadlines, contributing to the high stress they experience.

Attorneys may face lawyer burnout as they are often thrust into high-stakes situations that amplify work stress and adversely affect their mental and emotional health.

6. High Rate of Lawyer Substance Abuse

In recent years, it has become more common knowledge that, unfortunately, a disproportionate percentage of lawyers have behaviors of alcohol and substance abuse, a lot of which can be attributed to the high pressure of the job and career path.

The company culture at some law firms can be described as work-hard-play-hard.

In many ways, this attitude can encourage substance abuse and problematic drinking, especially among novice lawyers buckling under the pressure of the job and wanting to gain the acceptance of their colleagues.

7. Long Working Hours

Many attorneys, particularly those in large commercial law firms, face the challenging work of being expected to put in hours well beyond the typical 40-hour work week.

Con: Lawyers Have Long Working Hours

The demanding workload of attorneys often disrupts work-life balance, which can strain personal relationships and diminish their overall enjoyment and quality of life.

Having to work long hours is a common drawback of being a lawyer and is nearly expected to be the reality for those working as part of big commercial law firms.

8. Difficult and High-Maintenance Clients

When practicing law, dealing with demanding and hard-to-please clients is part of the job. Lawyers must adeptly handle a diverse array of personalities, each bringing their own set of unique challenges and potential frustrations.

For example, some clients may wish to fire their lawyer whenever they receive legal advice that displeases them, regardless of the facts.

These scenarios often lead to ethical dilemmas, as clients can have unrealistic expectations and may unfairly blame their lawyers when outcomes don’t align with their desires.

9. Higher Ethical Standards

The legal profession demands strict adherence to ethical standards, including ethical codes and bar guidelines.

Lawyers are expected to act with integrity, honesty, and fairness. Failing to uphold these standards can lead to severe professional consequences, including disbarment.

10. Cost of Errors

Mistakes in legal practice can lead to significant professional consequences, impacting not only clients but also the lawyers involved.

Even seemingly minor errors and small missteps in ethical dilemmas can result in lawsuits, license suspension, disbarment, and a tarnished reputation among peers.

The story of former lawyer Eric C. Conn and his SSA fraud scheme contains many examples of this.

11. Stigma and Negative Stereotypes

Despite the prestige associated with the profession, lawyers often face a negative stigma fueled by misconceptions or negative media portrayals of them being money-driven or “ambulance chasers” eager to sue.

Con: Lawyer Negative Stigma

This stigma can impact a lawyer’s personal life and professional relationships, depending on the circumstances.

For instance, individuals may be hesitant to enter a business transaction with a lawyer for fear of it being “a set up” by the lawyer who intends to sue them if things go awry.

In Summary About the Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer

While pondering whether becoming a lawyer is worth it, it’s evident that the potential advantages and disadvantages of being a lawyer are multifaceted and can be amplified (both the good and the bad parts) by a person’s unique circumstances.

However, the benefits continue to outweigh the downsides, as evidenced by the more than 1.3 million lawyers practicing in the U.S. alone (data from the American Bar Association national survey).

Still, like with any significant life decision, aspiring lawyers must carefully consider these aspects to make an informed choice about whether the career path in law is the right fit for them, pondering the question, “Should I be a lawyer?”

Thank you for reading this article by Author and Strategy Director Aaron Winston (The Legal Funding Expert).

We encourage you to explore the Express Legal Funding company blog further. It includes hundreds of helpful resources and unique perspectives that law school students, experienced lawyers, and legal clients can all benefit from learning more about.

New updates: Express Legal Funding blog

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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