Legal professionals such as lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries work in a variety of settings and practice environments. While roughly a quarter of all legal personnel are employed in private practice, legal professionals are also employed in private industry, the government, public interest, the judiciary, and education.
The vast majority of lawyers, as well as paralegals, legal secretaries and other legal professionals, are employed in private practice. Legal professionals in private practice work for a law firm consisting of one or more attorneys. Three out of four lawyers are employed in private practice, either in law firms or in solo practices. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), 70% of all lawyers in private practice are employed in law firms with ten or fewer lawyers while medium and large firms account for only 2% of the entire U.S. legal market. Paralegals, legal nurse consultants and other legal professionals who work on a freelance, independent basis also fall in this category.
Private industry includes corporations, title companies, banks, insurance companies, real estate firms and other organizations that operate for commercial gain. Many companies have in-house legal departments that employ lawyers, legal secretaries, litigation support professional, paralegals and other legal professionals. According to the American Bar Association, 8% of lawyers are employed in private industry.
3. GovernmentAbout 8% of lawyers are employed by the government, according to the ABA. County governments employ district attorneys, public defenders and county counsel. The federal, state and local government also employs attorneys, legal secretaries, paralegals and other legal personnel in virtually every department and agency. As the nations' largest employer, the federal government hires legal personnel in a diverse number of departments, from the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation to the Judge Advocate General Corps. and the Environmental Protection Agency. Legal professionals employed by the federal government include federal prosecutors, law clerks, paralegals, court reporters and U.S. marshals.
According to LawCrossing.com,
the United States judiciary is one of the largest legal employers in the world with offices in almost every city, county, and the highest levels of state and federal government. 3% of lawyers and a small percentage of legal personnel are employed in the local, state and federal court systems. These legal professionals include judges, magistrates, law clerks, court deputies, deputy clerks, case administrators, court operations support specialists and courtroom administrative staff.
5. Public InterestPublic interest legal professionals work for non-profit organizations, legal aid offices and legal clinics. Public interest practice also includes charities, educational and public international organizations and private practices performing pro bono work. Public interest professionals generally service low-income or underserved populations, such as children and the elderly, and work to advance the public good rather than for commercial or personal gain. Public interest attorneys also work as public defenders representing indigent criminal defendants.
6. EducationOne percent of lawyers work in educational settings such as law schools, serving as law professors, administrators and deans.